Both World Wars had a huge impact on Australia. A proud member of the British Empire in 1914, Australians still saw England as the 'mother country'. When she went to war, August 14, 1914, Australia was with her all the way. At the time most people in Australia were either British immigrants or first generation Australians whose parents had come from Britain so the prevailing sentiment is easy to understand.
With a small population, Australia, never-the-less, made a significant contribution to troop numbers. Western Australia alone sent 32,231 volunteers into battle during WWI. This was 33% of all men aged 18 to 41. It exceeded the expected number by 400%. The rate of Australian deaths in ...view middle of the document...
The Germans and their allies recorded 15,404,477 but these figures are estimates at best.)
By the time World War Two broke out Australians saw themselves in a different light. Home was no longer England, it was Australia and the people saw themselves very much as an independent nation. Even so when Britain declared war on Germany, Australia was again standing by her side (something Britain should have remembered when she entered the Common Market and abandoned Australia!)
Western Australia had the highest enlistment rate of any state in the country with 280 men per 1000 joining up.
The Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC) was formed in 1940 and by July of that year there were 132 units with a total of 4167 men scattered across the state. Also in 1940 an R.A.A.F. regional Headquarters was set up at Fremantle.
Australia was at no great risk of attack until the Japanese entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7th 1941.
In April of 1942 the 3rd Corps was formed with the specific job of defending W.A. in case of an attack by the Japanese. The Corps consisted of an armoured division based at Mingenew and two supporting infantry divisions with a total of between 50-60,000 men. During the same year an American submarine base was developed at Fremantle with others later starting up at Albany and Exmouth. By July of 1942 a total of 19 American submarines were operating out of Fremantle alone.
A Catalina air reconnaissance squadron was based at Matilda Bay and although Perth was a long way beyond the range of any enemy bomber, blackouts were instituted with typical official stupidity. (The Perth Heritage Aviation Museum houses a wonderful specimen of a Catalina and many other warplanes.)
The fear of attacks by Japanese planes was realised when Darwin was attacked but towns in northern W.A. were also at risk. Most women and children were evacuated to the south and in the end most main tows suffered air raids. Places bombed included Wyndham, Derby, Port Hedland, Carnot Bay, Broome, Kalumburu, Onslow and Exmouth.
A training camp was established at Northam and after 7 months instruction troops were sent off to their assigned...