Curtin brings home troops | National Museum of Australia
British officers, including Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, are Stanley, who was principal historian at the Australian War Memorial for 20 "There is very strong sympathy for the World War II veterans they our relationship with the region and will be analysed and interpreted with greater candour.". II for Australia's international relationships? Britain. British and Australian forces inflict defeats on Italian forces in North Africa. Japanese Many can be viewed online through the Australian War Memorial website. source 2 A . Explores the effect WW1 had on Australia's sense of identity. One man in five had been born in Britain; many enlisted in the hope of . The Anzac Illusion: Anglo-Australian Relations during World War I by Australian War Memorial Museum and website commemorating the sacrifice of Australians in war.
Australians hidden in well protected positions along the road opened fire with machineguns, rifles and grenades, and detonated explosives on a wooden bridge, sending timber, bicycles and bodies through the air.
But the Japanese "bicycle infantry" kept coming, taking devastating casualties as row after row of men were mowed down, according to the official version of what became known as the battle of Gemas on the Malayan now Malaysian peninsula. During two days of fierce fighting the Australians killed or wounded more than Japanese while taking minimal casualties, according to official records. British officers, including Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, are escorted to the formal surrender of Singapore.
But today's 70th anniversary of the fall of Singapore has reignited controversy about one of the darkest periods in Australia's history, which destroyed the vestiges of its innocence as an outpost of the British empire and forced a shaken nation to reassess its place in the world.
The historian Dr Peter Stanley says there are several misconceptions about the Allied attempts to repel the Japanese during their nine-week, kilometre advance from Thailand to Singapore between December and Februaryincluding the battle of Gemas.
Advertisement Stanley says the Australian ambush at Gemas on January 14 and 15, which stopped the Japanese only briefly, forms part of the mystique surrounding the fighting and subsequent capitulation of the entire Eighth Division, which shocked Australians at home.
Australia in World War One
But there is evidence that up to a third of the Australian force became stragglers [deserters]," Stanley says. The report sparked outrage in Australia. The prime minister, Paul Keating, echoed the views of many when he called the allegations "beyond the bounds of decency and credibility". Keating laid blame for the defeat squarely on Britain's doorstep. But the ignominy was compounded by the British historian Peter Elphick, who wrote in his book Pregnable Fortress that official files refer to damning indictments of the Australians, including "mass desertion, looting, rape and murder".
According to Australia's official war records, many troops in Singapore had been shocked by the apparent lack of defences on the island, which Britain had portrayed as impregnable. The men were battle-weary and the Australians had lost almost men fighting in Malaya since January 14, Hundreds of others were sick or wounded. Depleted Australian, British and Indian troops could not hold the Japanese after they landed in Singapore on January By February 14, the records say, the Japanese had captured Singapore's reservoirs and pumping stations.
As bombing, fighting and shelling continued, many Allied troops "wandered around aimlessly and the hospitals were crowded and overflowing". Through the s and s Curtin and the Labor Party had refused to endorse the Singapore strategy whereby Australia supported, financially and militarily, the construction of a large British naval base at Singapore as the primary line of defence against potential Japanese expansion into the South Pacific and South Asia.Indigenous Australia at the British Museum
The next day Australia declared war on Japan, the first declaration of war Australia had ever made independently of Britain. On 15 FebruarySingapore fell to Japanese forces and the defensive strategy that Australia had invested so much into over the previous 15 years was in ruins.
Military history of Australia during World War II - Wikipedia
More than 15, of these soldiers were captured, of whom more than would die as prisoners of war. Initially these troops were to be deployed to the Netherlands East Indies, present-day Indonesia, to help British troops create a defensive line against the Japanese advance.
At this point Churchill insisted the Australian troops redeploy to Burma.
Compared to defeating Germany, defending Australia from Japan was of little importance to Britain. On 17 Februarytwo days after the fall of Singapore, the Pacific War Council the inter-governmental body controlling the Allied war effort in the Pacific met. Curtin replied the next day: National Library of Australia, obj Curtin and Churchill clash This led to furious communications between London and Canberra with Curtin emphatically stating on 22 February that the troops should immediately return to Australia.
Military history of Australia during World War II
Amazingly, Churchill then gave instructions to the British Admiralty, who were transporting the Australian division, to change the course of the troopships and sail for the Burmese capital, Rangoon. Curtin and his war cabinet were shocked and enraged; Churchill had gone too far.
Curtin replied to Churchill the following day, demanding that the soldiers be returned to Australia immediately.