Section 8: Statistics, links and further reading

It should be noted that war statistics are subject to constant revision and numbers can vary year to year.

Australia’s wars and warlike operations

Since the 1850s, when the Australian colonies became self-governing ahead of Federation in 1901, Australians have served in at least 21 wars and warlike operations (Note: ‘Warlike operations’ is the modern term for those operations qualifying for the Australian Active Service Medal. Date ranges noted are for Australian warlike service within these conflicts).

North Taranaki War 1860–61
Victoria dispatched HMCSS Victoria to New Zealand, with some of its sailors attached to the Imperial Naval Brigade.

Sudan War 1885
New South Wales dispatched a contingent of 758 men, who reached the Sudan just as the war was winding up.

Boer War 1899–1902
The Australian colonies and, after Federation, the Commonwealth, sent about 16,500 troops to South Africa.

Boxer Rebellion 1900–01
New South Wales and Victoria dispatched about 560 naval and military personnel to China.

First World War 1914–18
About 416,809 enlisted, with about 340,000 (army and navy) serving overseas, mostly in Europe or the Middle East.

Second World War 1939–45
Nearly one million served (about 560,000 overseas) in the Middle East, Europe, Atlantic, Asia-Pacific, and Australia.

Malayan Emergency 1948–60
About 7,000 served, a few with British forces early on, then with a RAAF deployment from 1950 and Army from 1955.

Korean War 1950–53
More than 17,000 served, with Australia the second country (after the US) to commit to the defence of South Korea.

Thai-Malay Border (or Malay Peninsula) 1960–66
Several hundred troops patrolled the border area against insurgents during 196064, with RAAF flights until 1966.

Vietnam War 1962–73 and 1975
About 50,000 served ‘in country’ and about 10,000 in logistic support during 196273. A small group was involved in the emergency airlifts of 1975.

Confrontation (or Konfrontasi) 1963–66
About 3,500 served against Indonesian forces in southern Malaysia and its Borneo states (Sabah and Sarawak), and Brunei.

Thailand (Ubon) 1965–68
A few hundred airmen and troops served in and around Ubon, north-east Thailand, in a Vietnam War-related defence role.

Namibia 1989–90
More than 300 served with the UN Transition Assistance Group.

Gulf War (Kuwait) 1990–91
Nearly 1,800 (mostly naval) personnel served during the liberation of Kuwait, after the Iraqi invasion of 1990.

Cambodia 1991–93
About 600 served as UN peacekeepers in signals, mine clearance, policing and support roles, and others in non-warlike periods.

Former Yugoslavia (Balkans) 1992–97
A small number, mostly on exchange with British forces, served in UN and NATO forces; others later in non-warlike periods.

Somalia 1992–94
A small number served in UN units, and a further 1,500 served with the US-led Unified Task Force during 1993.

Rwanda 1994–95
More than 630 peacekeepers served during the two rotations classed as warlike; others in non-warlike periods.

East Timor 1999–2003
More than 5,000 served in the Australian-led International Force East Timor and later operations; others in non-warlike periods.

Afghanistan, 2001–present

Currently, there are approximately 400 ADF personnel in Afghanistan with an additional 650 in the broader Middle-East Area of Operations on land and at sea. The Prime Minister has stated that approximately 35,000 Australians served in Afghanistan.

Iraq, 2003–2009
More than 20,000 personnel served in Iraq as part of Australia’s contribution to the United States-led force.

Iraq, 2014–present

Operation OKRA is Australia’s contribution to the military action against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. About 600 ADF personnel make up the Air Task Group (ATG) and the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG).

On 5 February 2016 the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs announced the appointment of Craig Stockings as the Official Historian for the official histories of Australia’s involvement in the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and East Timor. It is expected that work will begin on this project during June 2016 and will take approximately seven years to complete.

Statistical information

Gallipoli facts and figures is a compilation of statistics which includes:

  • the number of enlistments in 1914, and per month for 1915 and 1916
  • information on the recruiting marches carried out between October 1915 and January 1916
  • the number of Anzacs who served at Gallipoli and the number of Australian casualties per month from April 1915 to January 1916 and
  • the number of fatalities for each nation involved.

Prisoner-of-war death rates: some comparisons’ contrasts the number of Australian prisoners of war (POWs) in the First World War and the Second World War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. It also compares the death rates among the prisoners of the Japanese from different allied nations.

The Australian War Memorial’s Australian military statistics webpage has links to a number of statistical surveys of Australia’s involvement in war and peacekeeping.

The Australian War Memorial’s information sheet, Australian war casualties, is a tabular summary of casualties in all theatres of war, derived from the Roll of Honour at the Memorial.

Determined to protect Australia’s interests by participating in the Paris Peace Conference that concluded the First World War, the Australian Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, claimed to speak for 60,000 war dead. He could also have added that he represented 156,000 wounded, gassed or taken prisoner out of a total of 416,809 enlisted men, according to the official statistics recognised by the Australian War Memorial. A recent book, however, questions these figures.

In Those we forget: recounting Australian casualties of the First World War, David Noonan arrives at a markedly different casualty count. By utilising statistical samples, he calculates that while only 379,000 men enlisted, and approximately 318,100 embarked for war, the death toll sustained by the Australians was between 61,900 and 62,700. These figures differ noticeably from those provided by official sources.  His analysis also disputes the accepted number of wounded, suggesting that there were between 208,100 and 209,100 Australian hospitalisations for wounds. Furthermore, argues Noonan, if one considers post-war deaths attributable to service in the conflict and includes those Australians who died while in the service of foreign militaries and the merchant marines, the death toll rises by approximately 10,000 men.

To date there has been a muted response to Noonan’s figures, but his analysis illustrates that even a century after the start of the Great War, it remains a conflict characterised by controversy.

Useful links for further information on Australia’s military history

A list of Australian Victoria Cross recipients and biographical information about them, can be found in the Parliamentary Library online publication, Index of Victoria Cross recipients by electorate, or on the website of the Anzac Day Commemoration Committee.

Australia’s First and Second World War Official Histories have been digitised and are available on the website of the Australian War Memorial, as are a selection of Australian Army war diaries for both world wars, the Korean War and South-East Asian conflicts.

Department of Veterans’ Affairs: Commemorations pages and links to its other commemorative websites; the Australians at War film archive—‘designed to film and record the stories of over two thousand war veterans as a permanent asset for posterity’; and the Australians at War website—dedicated to those Australians who have served their nation during the past one hundred years.

The Australians at War pages on the Australian War Memorial’s website have links to an overview of Australian military history, information on military organisation and structure, and an online encyclopaedia.

The three services have webpages devoted to their histories: the Royal Australian Navy page includes historical information, feature articles and the history of former ships; the Australian Army has a page which includes links to army history information and unit associations and a traditions page; and the Royal Australian Air Force has a page with links to the history of the RAAF. is a website that provides an overview of the First World War.

Australia’s War 1939–1945 provides an overview of key areas where Australians served during the Second World War.

The website of the National Archives of Australia has links to defence service records.

Roll of Honour

The Australian War Memorial maintains the Roll of Honour which commemorates members of Australia’s armed forces who have lost their lives in wars and warlike operations. A common misconception is that the Roll of Honour is only for those killed in action. Names are, and always have been, inscribed on the roll irrespective of the cause of death, be it battle, illness, accident, captivity, or other causes.

There are currently 102,819 men and women recorded on the roll. The following figures have been taken from the Australian War Memorial’s information sheet, Australian war casualties.

Note that updates to the Roll of Honour occur every year on Remembrance Day, and as a result the statistics above may not align with other sources of casualty figures.

Conflict Number of deaths
New Zealand Nil
Sudan 9
South Africa 589
China 6
First World War 61,527
Second World War 39,651
Australia (North Queensland Coast, bomb and mine clearance) 4
Japan (British Commonwealth Occupation Force) 3
Papua and New Guinea 13
Middle East (UNTSO; Operation Paladin) 1
Berlin Airlift 1
Malayan Emergency 39
Kashmir (United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan) 1
Korean War 340
Malta 3
Korean War (Post-Armistice service—ceasefire monitoring) 16
Southeast Asia (SEATO) 6
Indonesian Confrontation 21
Malay Peninsula 2
Vietnam War 521
Thailand 2
Irian Jaya (Operation Cenderawasih) 1
Western Sahara (MINURSO) 1
Somalia 1
Bougainville 1
East Timor 2
East Timor (Operation Astute) 2
Afghanistan 42
Iraq 2
Solomon Island (RAMSI—Operation Anode) 1
Indonesia (Operation Sumatra Assist) 9
Fiji 2
Total 102,819

Other lists can be found below.

First World War Nominal Roll—those who served overseas in the Australian Imperial Force, 1914–18.

Second World War Nominal Roll—an index of servicemen and women who served during the Second World War.

M Lumb, Commonwealth Members of Parliament who have served in war, Research brief, 10, 2006–07, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2007 and its companion publication Commonwealth Members of Parliament who have served in war: Colonial wars and the First World War, Research Paper, 2014–15.

Sixty-four Australians won the Victoria Cross during the First World War. A list of all Australian Victoria Cross recipients can be found in the Parliamentary Library online publication, Index of Victoria Cross recipients by electorate.

The most recent recipients of the Victoria Cross for Australia are Corporal Daniel Keighran  and Corporal Cameron Baird (who was killed during the action for which he won the VC). Both men were serving in Afghanistan. Corporal Baird is the 100th Australian to receive a Victoria Cross.

Arthur Graham Butler—Queensland
Arthur Graham Butler— Queensland

Arthur Graham Butler was born on 25 May 1872 in Kilcoy, Queensland to parents William and June. After travelling to the UK where he studied medicine at St John’s College at Cambridge, he returned to Australia to work in Kilcoy, Gladstone and then Brisbane. Having married Lilian Mills in 1904, he later joined the Australian Army Medical Corps in 1912 and enlisted in the AIF on 20 August 1914.

Serving as the 9th Battalion’s regimental medical officer, Butler went ashore at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and became the only medical officer during the campaign to be awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Departing the peninsula in October, Butler transferred to France in April 1916 as deputy assistant director of medical services for I Anzac Corps. Later that year he commanded the 3rd Field Ambulance, having been promoted to lieutenant-colonel, and served at Bullecourt, Buire and the Menin Road.

Butler spent the final years of the war collating the AIF’s medical records and as commander of the 3rd Australian General Hospital in Abbeville, France. Upon returning to Australia he returned to private practice before relocating to Canberra as the medical officer at the Royal Military College. Butler had also been tasked with writing the official war history of the Australian Army Medical Service, with the third and final volume published in 1943. He died on 27 February 1949, at 76 years of age.


C.M. Gurner, ‘Butler, Arthur Graham (1872–1949)’, Australian dictionary of biography, website, accessed 25 March 2015.

‘Arthur Graham Butler’, The AIF Project, website, accessed 25 March 2015.

Books on the First World War held in the Parliamentary Library

The Parliamentary Library holds a wide, and recently updated, collection of books about many aspects of Australia’s involvement in the First World War. Senators and Members and their staff are encouraged to contact the Library with requests about books relating to any matter discussed in this publication.


For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.

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