Australias War Essay, Research Paper
Australia s economic and military contribution to the World War 1 allied victory.
England entered the First World War on August the 4th 1914, after Germany refused their demands to respect Belgium s neutrality in the war. Australia also entered the war in 1914 for the simple reason it was a British colony, not a sovereign state and it had no choice but to be 1 involved in the war.
According to Beaumont (1995), Australian s felt a deep attachment to England and the outbreak of the war was greeted and embraced in Australia, with great public enthusiasm2. This enthusiasm was due among other reasons to the fact that many of the Australian immigrants and culture had originated from Britain. This deep attachment to the mother country motivated Australia to contribute to and become involved in the allied war effort on many different levels.
One of the main contributions Australia made to the allied war effort was its military involvement. Australia s first military contribution was its rapid recruitment, formation and dispatch of a military contingent, shortly after the outbreak of the war. Within weeks a force of 20,000 troops, which had previously been promised to the British, was formed, by a flood of volunteers (many thousands of who were rejected because they did not fit the standards of fitness).3 Three months later on the 1st November, 20,000 members of the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) and two NZ brigades where sailed to Egypt for training. The troops spent four and a half months training in Egypt, until they were sent to the Gallipoli peninsula on the 25th of April 1915, to fight the Turkish. Due to a navigational error the Australian troops landed one mile off course of their intended landing zone, and where faced with unexpectedly perilous and steep terrain. The Australian troops dug in to the steep beach slopes, establishing a tenuous foothold and despite attempts by both sides to overrun the other, a stalemate situation ensued which continued for the rest of the year.
The Gallipoli campaign or the battle at Anzac cove has received the most attention and recognition of any campaign of the AIF during the war. After this campaign the AIF became more recognised and after Gallipoli the potent Anzac legend was forged . 4 The Anzac legend was another contribution that Australia made to the war effort. The Anzac legend portrayed the Australian soldier as a superb fighter who was deeply loyal to his mates. 5 This supposed ascendancy or eliteness of the Australian troops would have given the British troops serving with them a boost in moral and instilled confidence in the allied soldiers fighting along side them.
After Gallipoli the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was reorganised over a three-month period and expanded from two to five infantry divisions. Beginning on March 1916 all of these divisions were progressively transferred to the Western front in France, to relieve pressure on the strained French troops. On the 19th of July the 5th Division where committed to a diversionary attack at Fromelles in which they suffered 5,533 casualties in a single twenty-four hour period. On the 23 July 1916, the 1st Division of the AIF attempted to capture the German stronghold at Pozieres on the Somme. Although previous attempts by British troops to capture the hamlet had failed, the Australian troops initially succeeded in capturing their objective. 7
The 1st division where then heavily bombarded by German Artillery and the 2nd and 4th division where brought in as reinforcements. The campaign lasted for 45 days until the AIF where relieved in which time 23,000 casualties were incurred.
In 1917 the Australians began the year with an offensive against the Hindenburg line at Bullecourt in April and May in which they eventually captured part of the German lines and unusually held it for nearly a year, at the cost of 7000 casualties. 8
On the 7th of June the 3rd division of the AIF, attacked Messines. The attack was well planned from above and under the command of the competent Australian Major General John Monash, the outcome resulted in the first major victory for the AIF.
In the third battle at Ypres under the command of General Haig, the Australian forces were able to make successful assaults at Polygon Wood, Menin Road and Broodseinde Ridge, gaining considerable ground. This successful assault were referred to by Geoffrey Serle as the greatest A.I.F success yet . Through the incompetence of Haig, the campaign was continued in treacherous weather conditions and the campaign ended up costing the lives of 38,000 Australian soldiers. The total casualties for the year amounted to 76,836.
In March 1918 the German s began their finally great offensive, aimed at winning the war before the Americans, who had joined the allies in April 1917, arrived with sufficient troops that would inevitable force Germany s capitulation. Australia missed the opening stages of the German offensive but when they rejoined the front line in April they quickly set about helping to slow the surging German forces.
In May, Major General John Monash was appointed commander of the Australian Corps. Monash s proved himself to be a competent and meticulous planner in his first operation as Corps commander, by combing the use of infantry, artillery, tanks and aircraft, to capture the Hamel spur on the 4th of July.
Under the command of Monash the AIF accompanied by Canadian troops took 30,000 prisoners and made impressive gains in ground until they were withdrawn on the 5th of October, to regroup and in preparation for the next year.
The AIF was no longer required though as Germany collapsed and signed the armistice on the 11th of November.
The main military contribution, Australia made to the allied victory was the large amount of manpower. From a population of less then 5 million, (4,474,944 according to the 1911 census conducted on the 3rd of April, including full blooded Aboriginals. 6) 416,809 men had enlisted for service overseas, of whom 331,000 actually left Australia. The total casualties of the war included 58,961 dead, 166,811 battle casualties, 4,098 prisoners of war and missing, 87,865 sick and 218 from other causes. Other less publicised and glorified military roles that were under taken by Australians in the First World War, was its naval support, air force, women nurses and the light horse divisions.
At the outbreak of the war the Australian navy, which was only three years old was placed under the command of the British Navy. In its first major voyage in November 1914, the escort cruiser HMAS Sydney, destroyed the German raider Emden while escorting the first AIF troops to Egypt. Much of the Australian naval force duties were rather monotonous and unglamorous. They were involved mostly in escorting British merchants threatened by enemy submarines and denying passage to the enemy. These unglorified duties played an integral role maintaining British naval supremacy and protecting its trade links. 9 The small Australian airforce consisting of only 3000 men, also saw its first involvement in a war, but unlike the RAN it maintained a separate recognisable national identity. Its duties were also unglamorous mainly in supporting infantry and observational capacities.
Another and less glorified Australian military involvement was that of the Australian light horsemen, who remained in the Middle East after the withdrawal from Gallipoli in December 1915, where they made a huge contribution. The light horsemen fought a totally different type of war to their countrymen serving on the Western front. The light horsemen fought a mobile war, in which they had to survive in conditions similar to the Australian outback, extreme heat, harsh terrain and water shortages. 10 The light horsemen campaign began in 1916 where they helped allied troops defend the Suez Canal. In 1917, alongside allied troops they a captured Gaza and Jerusalem from the Turks. In 1918 they had taken control of Lebanon and Syria.
Their campaign ended on the 30th of October 1918, when the Turkish sued for peace.
Australian women also contributed in a more passive way by volunteering as interpreters, drivers, cooks, nurses and drivers. Although most were rejected by the government, because of the stringent social ideologies at the time, many women nurses were accepted and sent to work under artillery bombardment in France.
Much of the Australian contribution to the war effort was in the form of military assistance, but they also helped Britain on an economic level.
Once war broke out in 1914 most Australian industries responded quickly and to the best of their somewhat limited capabilities. 11 England lost many of its international trade links with other countries during the war so Australia tried to counteract this loss by and provided supplies to England. Australia supplied England with raw materials such as wool and marketing agreements were also made for other primary products such as meat, bacon, jam, etc. 12
The Australian labour Prime Minister W.M. Billy Hughes was also helping the allied cause on the home front. He maximised the amount of Australian volunteers in 1915 by exploited the emergency of the war and conducted a war census which supposedly revealed 600,000 men, who were available for military service. 12
He also tried to introduce conscription twice in Australia, to provide the allies with more Australian troops.
The Great War claimed the lives of over 8,300,000 soldiers, and almost as many civilians. Australia lost around 58,961 troops and had over 160,000 battle casualties this was proportionately the highest casualty rate of any army in the war, and certainly the most costly war effort ever for Australia. 14
According to Beaumont the Australian s role in many battles has been some times exaggerated and been overstated but it is widely agreed that the Australian s made a significant contribution to the final allied victory. 15
It can not be refuted that Australia supported the allies with every facet in its, at the time meagre power, and substantially contributed to the allies final victory.
1 Australia s war, 1914-18 p.1
Australian war memorial
3 Australia s war, 1914-18 p.2,4,6
4 Australia s war, 1914-18 p.10
5 Beaumont p.149
6 Reading 1.4
7 Beaumont p.17
8 Beaumont p.21
9 Beaumont p.27
Australian war memorial
11 Beaumont p.97
12 Beaumont p.99
13 Beaumont p.15
14 website trenchs on floppu
15 Beaumont p.25