A Chronology of Australian Armed Forces at War 1939-45

A Chronology of Australian Armed Forces at War 1939-45

A Chronology of Australian Armed Forces at War 1939-45

A Chronology of Australian Armed Forces at War 1939-45


In September 1939, there were 5440 officers and men in the Royal Australian Navy, with a further 4819 in the Naval Reserve. There were around 2800 officers and men in the regular Army, and about 80 000 in the Citizen Military Force (Militia). The Royal Australian Air Force had 3104 regulars and a Citizen Force of 552.

This gave a total of approximately 11 344 regulars and 85 371 reserves—a grand total of 96 715.

During the war around 993 000 enlistments were recorded (726 543 of them in the Army), meaning that around 1.09 million—or just over 15 per cent of the population of 7.1 million—served in the Armed Forces. Added to this were the thousands who served in the Volunteer Defence Corps, the Volunteer Air Observation Corps, the Voluntary Aid Detachments, the Australian Women's Land Army, the Women's Australian National Service and the Militors.

After the war it was found impossible to accurately determine how many Australian men and women served outside Australia during the period of hostilities. Many thousands (especially in the Army's 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions) embarked for overseas service more than once, and many departures were not recorded. There were also those who were discharged, for whatever reasons, only to re-enlist—sometimes in the same Service, sometimes in another.

It was also impossible to determine just how many Australians were serving in British forces when war broke out (there were some 450 aircrew in the Royal Air Force alone), how many were in Britain when the war began and enlisted there, or how many proceeded to Britain during the war to join up. Random perusal of school honour rolls and the like suggested that there may have been several thousand in these categories, including students, nurses, men gaining overseas experience in professions or trades, employees of overseas branches of Australian firms, and so on.

The Central Army Records Office arrived at the following approximate total of Australians who served overseas by adding to the number of 'Returned from Active Service'

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.