It should be noted that war statistics are subject to
constant revision and numbers can vary year to year.
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
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 1960–64, 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
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.
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.
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.
A small number served in UN units, and a further 1,500 served with the US-led
Unified Task Force during 1993.
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.
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.
More than 20,000 personnel served in Iraq as part of Australia’s contribution
to the United States-led force.
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.
facts and figures is a compilation of statistics which includes:
- the number of enlistments in 1914, and per month for 1915 and
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Firstworldwar.com 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
The website of the National Archives of Australia has links
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
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
||Number of deaths
|First World War
|Second World War
|Australia (North Queensland
Coast, bomb and mine clearance)
|Japan (British Commonwealth
|Papua and New Guinea
|Middle East (UNTSO;
|Kashmir (United Nations Military
Observer Group in India and Pakistan)
|Korean War (Post-Armistice
|Southeast Asia (SEATO)
|Irian Jaya (Operation
|Western Sahara (MINURSO)
|East Timor (Operation
|Indonesia (Operation Sumatra
Other lists can be found below.
World War Nominal Roll—those who served overseas in the Australian Imperial
Second World War
Nominal Roll—an index of servicemen and women who served during the Second
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.
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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