A Chronology of Australian Armed Forces at War 1939-45

By Bruce T. Swain | Go to book overview

The chronology

1939

1 September

Europe: Germany invaded Poland.


3 September

– Great Britain and Australia declared war on Germany.

Melbourne: Lt-Cdr E.A. Feldt RAN was appointed Staff Officer (Intelligence) at Port Moresby. Feldt organised and directed the Coastwatcher organisation in Papua, New Guinea, New Britain, New Ireland and the Solomon Islands until he was relieved because of ill health in 1943.


4 September

Canberra: The Chiefs of Staff Committee, comprising the chiefs of staff of the three Services, was formed to provide advice to the government on operational matters and strategic considerations. A larger body, the Defence Committee, which comprised the chiefs of staff, an officer of the secretariat of the Department of Defence and, on occasions, the Controller-General of Munitions, the Controller of Civil Aviation and the Chairman of the Principal Supply Officer's Committee, advised the government on overall defence policy.


5 September

Canberra/London: The Prime Minister, Mr R.G. Menzies, sent a cable to the Australian High Commissioner in London, Mr S.M. Bruce, summarising Australia's position, and stating that until Japan's position was made clear it would 'be useless to discuss the sending of [an] expeditionary force [overseas]'. Menzies thought that Australia might reinforce Singapore or the Middle East, but 'any suggestion at present of sending troops out of Australia would be widely condemned'. The Prime Minister therefore approached the sending overseas of an Australian expeditionary force cautiously, and the government was also hesitant about releasing ships of the Royal Australian Navy for service outside home waters.


6 September

Canberra: In Federal Parliament, Mr E.J. Ward (Labor) said:

Australia, with its huge territory and sparse population, cannot afford to send men out of this country to take part in the conflict overseas. They will be required here to defend Australia … I believe that if we defend Australia, we shall do all that can reasonably be expected of us.

West Indies: HMAS Perth (Capt H.B. Farncomb RAN) was assigned command of the Oil Fuel Protective Service in the West Indies.


8 September

Victoria: The destroyers HMAS Vampire (LtCdr J.A. Walsh RAN) and HMAS Voyager (Lt-Cdr J.C. Morrow RAN) departed Melbourne to join HMAS Sydney (Capt J.W.A. Waller RN) at Fremantle.


9 September

UK: The first units of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) embarked for France.


15 September

Canberra: The Prime Minister announced that the Government would create a force of one infantry division and auxiliary units —20 000 men in all—to serve either at home or abroad. The new formation was to be named the 6th Division, there being four

-1-

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