Starting with the arrival of British Army units in 1788, this period covers the emergence of military units in each of the Australian colonies prior to Federation, including contributions to both the New Zealand Wars during the 1860s and to the Sudan in 1885.
Between Federation and WWI, the Australian Commonwealth raised an Army. Compulsory Military Training, the visit of Lord Kitchener and establishment of the Royal Military College at Duntroon were all key developments of this period.
The Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was raised in late 1914 to serve overseas in support of Empire. Sent initially to Egypt, Australian troops fought at Gallipoli, in Palestine and on the Western Front.
After WWI, Australia’s reduced appetite for war resulted in rapidly shrinking Defence budgets. Misplaced trust in the British Singapore Strategy, chronic underfunding and lack of equipment and training left Australia seriously exposed to threat on the outbreak of WWII.
From the advance across North Africa against Italian and German forces in 1941 and the fall of Malaya and Singapore to the Japanese in 1942, Australian troops of the Second AIF and later, the Militia, fought a long and gruelling war through North Africa, Syria, Greece, Crete, Malaya, New Guinea and the South-West Pacific.
Japanese defeat in WWII led to Australian troops joining the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) in Japan, while in September 1947 the Australian Regular Army was formed. Australia joined a multinational force on the Korean peninsula to fight North Korean and Chinese Communist forces in a short, but bloody war between 1950 and 1953 that has technically not ended.
As part of a British Commonwealth response, Australian units deployed to Malaya to counter guerrilla activity by communist Chinese insurgents in Malaya. Australians also deployed to Borneo during Konfrontasi between Indonesia and Malaysia to support the establishment of the Malaysian nation.
Commencing in 1962 with the deployment of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV), the Australian Army commitment to the Vietnam War lasted until 1972. Based mainly in Phuoc Tuy province, the Army’s commitment included artillery, infantry, special forces and armoured elements.
Sending troops to UN peacekeeping operations since 1947, the Australian Army has a proud history of contributing to security and stability missions around the world under UN Mandate. Peacekeeping engagements remain an important role for Army.
The Australian Army History Unit is proud to make available Unit histories. Unit histories are valuable resources for researchers. They provide unique insights into the formation, purpose and functions of Units - particularly during war periods.