5 June 1919
British North Russian Relief Force arrives in Russia
Although no Australian units fought in the civil war that
followed the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, a number of Australian servicemen
volunteered to fight in the British units that went to Russia to assist the White
Russian forces. The British had sent the North Russian Expeditionary Force in
1918 (which included nine Australians). When this force had to be withdrawn
in 1919, the all-volunteer North Russian Relief Force was raised and sent to
assist the safe withdrawal of the first force. The NREF included 100 to 120
Australians, all of whom had been discharged from the Australian Imperial Force
prior to enlisting. These forces were withdrawn from Russia by 27 September
Two of these Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross—Corporal
Arthur Sullivan and Sergeant
J Grey, A
‘pathetic sideshow’: Australians and the Russian Intervention, 1918–1919, Australian War Memorial, October 1985.
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN)
played a role during this conflict, mainly in the Black Sea. A general
description of this can be found in G Swindon, ‘Semaphore:
RAN in Southern Russia 1918–20’, Semaphore,
28 June 1919
Treaty of Versailles signed
The Paris Peace Conference of 1919–20 commenced
on 18 January 1919 and although the most important issues were decided during
the first six months, negotiations did not end until 21 January 1920,
some days after the founding of the League of Nations and the entry into force
of the Treaty of Versailles (or, as it was more properly known, the Treaty
of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Germany, and Protocol). Australia played a role in the negotiations (perhaps
its first on the international diplomatic stage) with Prime Minister Billy
Hughes leading an Australian delegation which included Deputy Prime Minister Sir
Joseph Cook and the solicitor-general, Sir Robert Garran. Hughes did not
always make himself popular with other leaders. Hughes
insisted that Germany pay the entire cost of the war
(this did not happen) and advocated the removal of the racial equality clause
from the charter of the League of Nations (which clashed with the White
Australia policy) and that Australia be granted a mandate over the former
German colonies in New Guinea.
J Cotton, Australia in the League of Nations: a centenary view, Research paper series, 2018–19, Parliamentary Library, Canberra,
Shaggy Ridge, New Guinea
Shaggy Ridge is a long ridge line which is the highest
part of the Finnistere Ranges in what was then north-eastern New Guinea. It
is steep and difficult terrain and during December 1943 and January 1944 it
was the scene of intense fighting as the attacking Australians pushed towards
the north-east coast attempting to wrest the Huon Peninsula from the
Japanese. During the second half of January 1944 the 18th Brigade, commanded
by Brigadier Frederick Chilton, took part in Operation Cutthroat. The aim of
this operation was to capture Kankiryo Saddle, at the northern end of the
Ridge. The Japanese defenders contested this advance with great vigour. When
the 18th had taken Kankiryo Saddle the Japanese continued to fight from
Crater Hill, which overlooked the saddle. By this time they were all but
surrounded, and by 31 January those who had not been killed or wounded,
retreated. The 18th Brigade suffered 46 deaths and 147 casualties. The Japanese
are thought to have suffered up to 500 casualties.
D Dexter, The
New Guinea offensives, Australian War Memorial, 1961, pp. 680–755;
Australian War Memorial, Shaggy Ridge operations;
Department of Veterans’ Affairs, To
Shaggy Ridge, Australia’s War 1939–45.
E Campbell, ‘The hell of Shaggy
Ridge’, Australian War Memorial website.
28 March–9 May 1944
First Victory loan launched
First Victory Loan aimed to raise a record £150 million for the war
effort. During the course of the war there were
four Liberty Loans, four Victory Loans
and one Austerity Loan. These were designed to supplement the Government’s
borrowing and to reduce pressure on inflation.
Loan’, The West Australian, 18 January 1944, p. 2.
3 June 1944
Last major air combat by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in the
Second World War
South of Biak Island, fifteen P-40 Kittyhawks from No. 78 Squadron attacked
15 Japanese aircraft (12 fighters and three dive-bombers) and succeeded in
shooting down seven fighters and all of the dive-bombers with the loss of one
P-40 and its pilot, Flight Sergeant William Harnden. This was the highest number of aircraft shot down
by Australians in a single encounter in the South West Pacific during the war.
6 June 1944
Relative to the total numbers
of people involved in the D-Day landings—170,000 soldiers and 190,000 naval
personnel—Australian involvement was small. Approximately 3,300
Australians took part in the
D-Day landings. This number comprised some 2,800
RAAF personnel serving in six squadrons, 500 members of the RAN serving
directly with the Royal Navy, and 13 army officers on attachment to the British
Army. Fourteen Australians were killed on
The Australian War Memorial
will focus three
last post ceremonies on the D-Day landings. These ceremonies will be held
on 3–5 June 2019.
5 August 1944
Prisoner of war breakout at Cowra
On 5 August 1944 Japanese
prisoners of war housed at the detention camp in Cowra, NSW, attempted to escape.
Many of the POWs were armed and the guards opened fire on the would-be
escapees. Some 231 prisoners were killed, along with four Australians. Private BG Hardy and Private
R Jones, two of the Australian soldiers killed in the breakout, were
awarded the George Cross for their actions.
S Bullard, Blankets
on the wire: the Cowra breakout and its aftermath, Australia Japan
Research Project, Australian War Memorial, 2006.
Australian War Memorial (AWM),
National Archives of Australia
breakout, 1944—fact sheet 198, NAA.
Leyte Gulf, October 1944
Australia’s main contribution to the campaign to retake
the Philippines involved the RAN and the RAAF. Many of Australia’s casualties
in the campaign were the result of kamikaze attacks, the majority of which were
against the Country Class heavy cruiser HMAS Australia.
The Americans decided that the initial attack would be at
Leyte Island for the simple reason that they had identified that Japanese
defences there were weak. The target date, named ‘A-Day’, was set for 20 October
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs provides some background
to Australian involvement on its Australia’s
War 1939–45 website:
As the naval invasion fleet approached Leyte, at
its forefront was a hydrographical survey group plotting and marking the
approaches to the beaches. It included the Australian frigate HMAS Gascoyne
and Fairmile motor launch HDML 1074 laying buoys to mark the approach
channels. The ships that followed delivering American troops included the
three Australian landing ships, or LSIs (Landing Ships, Infantry), HMA Ships Kanimbla,
Manoora and Westralia. As well as the Americans on board, they
carried landing craft to ferry the troops ashore. On board also were several
Australian soldiers who served in landing craft liaison teams. Protecting the
force were many more Allied warships including the Australian cruisers HMA
Ships Australia and Shropshire and the destroyers HMA Ships Arunta
and Warramunga. The warships bombarded enemy positions on the shore
before sailing further out to sea to protect the flanks of the invasion
fleet. In the days that followed, the Allied ships endured repeated air
attacks as the Japanese reacted to the landing. The Australia became
the first Allied warship struck by a kamikaze
(suicide) aircraft when it was rammed on 21 October. Thirty of Australia’s
crew, including Captain Emile Dechaineux DSC, were killed or died of wounds.
Another 64 men, including a soldier who was a member of a liaison team from
the Army’s 1st Australian Naval Bombardment Group, were wounded; 26 of these
were classified as seriously wounded with burns and shrapnel wounds. Badly
damaged, the Australia was escorted out of the battle area by the Warramunga
for repairs. The Shropshire and Arunta stayed on battle station
and took part in the Battle of Surigao Strait, part of the wider Battle of
Leyte Gulf, in which the Allied naval forces defeated the Imperial Japanese
Navy’s attempt to attack the invasion fleet.
R Nichols, ‘The first kamikaze attack’, Wartime, 28, 1 October 2004.
Royal Australian Navy, ‘HMAS Australia (II)’, RAN
15 November 1944
Australian Government approves sending Australian Women’s Army
Service members overseas
Members of the Australian Women’s
Army Service went to Lae, New Guinea, and served in the forward area for
the first time. Members of the Australian Army Nursing Service and the
Australian Army Medical Women’s Service were already serving in New Guinea.
6 June 1969
Battle of Binh Ba, South Vietnam
Binh Ba, located six kilometres
north of the Australian base at Nui Dat was the site of a battle between an
Australian Ready Reaction Force and a combined force of Viet Cong guerrillas
and North Vietnamese Army troops who had occupied the village. The enemy were
driven off after more than a day’s fighting.
B Davies and G McKay, Vietnam: the complete story of
the Australian war, Allen & Unwin, 2012,
pp. 439–448; A Ekins and I McNeill, Fighting to the finish: the
Australian Army and the Vietnam War 1968–1975, Allen & Unwin and the
Australian War Memorial, 2012, pp. 210–230; Department of Veterans’ Affairs,
Battle of Binh Ba June 1969, Australia
and the Vietnam War.
There will be a national
service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Binh Ba held
at the Australian Forces Vietnam National Memorial on Anzac Parade in
Canberra on 6 June 2019.
11 June 1999
Australian Defence Force (ADF) commitment to East Timor
Indonesian President Jusuf
Habibie allowed a referendum on self-determination to take place in East
Timor on 30 August 1999. The United Nations, with Portuguese assistance,
formed a mission to East Timor on 11 June 1999—the UN Assistance Mission to
East Timor (UNAMET)—to assist the plebiscite. Australia provided military air
transport for UN officials during the referendum, as well as air-lift support
to the UN officials and staff of the non-government organisations during 6–8
September 1999, after violence marred the province following the referendum. (P
Dennis, J Grey, E Morris and R Prior (with J Bou), eds, The
Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, 2nd edn, OUP, Melbourne,
2008, pp. 191–193; 528–529).
The UN, with Australia’s
extensive diplomatic assistance, responded to the crisis by establishing an
Force East Timor (INTERFET) to restore order and security in East Timor.
Australia’s initial deployment to East Timor under INTERFET—commanded by
Major-General Peter Cosgrove—began in Dili on 20 September 1999. INTERFET
also included contributions from other countries in Southeast Asia, while
some, such as Malaysia, expressed displeasure with Australia’s involvement in
East Timor. At the time, the INTERFET mission was Australia’s largest single
military deployment since 1945, peaking at 5,500 ADF personnel (out of a
total of 11,500).
UNAMET officially ended on 25
October 1999, to be replaced by the UN
Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), which included an Australian
contribution of about 1,600 ADF personnel. UNTAET
officially assumed control of East Timor on 23 February 2000 and was in
turn succeeded by the United
Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET).
P Londey, Other
people’s wars: a history of Australian peacekeeping, Allen & Unwin, Crows
Nest (NSW), 2004, pp. 231–261.