Australia's War 1939-1945

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Special features

  • Rats of Tobruk

    Indigenous soldier thumbnail

    On 3-5 January 1941, Australians fought their first major land battle in World War II when men of the 6th Division AIF, with other Allied troops, engaged Italian forces at Bardia which was captured with over 40,000 prisoners taken. more ...

  • Air War Europe

    RAAF pilot thumbnail

    When war broke out in Europe in 1939, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircrews were among the first Australians to head overseas to Britain's aid serving in both Australian and British squadrons with the Royal Air Force (RAF). more ...

  • ‘Ali Baba’ Morshead

    Morshead portrait thumbnail

    ‘Ali Baba’ Morshead, so called by Lord Haw Haw, led the 9th Australian Division in both Tobruk and El Alamein. In October and November 1942, the units of the 9th Division took part in ‘the greatest battle ever fought in the Middle East’. more ...

  • Frank Hurley

    Frank Hurley thumbnail

    Official war photographer during two World wars, Hurley was famous for his composite prints and 'showy' film techniques. Images of Australian troops in the Middle East are mingled with evocative images of the local people in the midst of war. more ...

  • Indigenous Service

    Indigenous soldier thumbnail

    What role did Indigenous Australians play in World War II? Although they were not classed or treated as Australian citizens, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women fought and died for Australia during World War II. more ...

  • Kokoda Track

    Kokoda trail thumbnail

    In repelling a Japanese invasion force, which landed on the north coast of Papua in July 1942, more than 600 Australians were killed and some 1680 wounded. It was perhaps the most significant battle fought by Australians in World War II. more ...

  • HMAS Sydney

    HMAS Sydney thumbnail

    One-third of the RAN’s officers and men lost during the war were lost on 19 November 1941 when the Sydney was sunk with all hands by the German raider Kormoran heavily disguised as the Dutch freighter Straat Malakaa. more ...

  • Nurses Recovered

    Nurse Portrait thumbnail

    After the sinking of the Vyner Brooke on 14 February 1942, 12 of the 65 Australian Army nurses on board drowned or were killed in the water. The rest struggled ashore, but some were captured and machine-gunned by the Japanese. more ...

Main Feature

Sunday May 31, 1942
  • Japanese midget submarine

    Australia Attacked!

  • Kutabul sunk

    In May and June 1942 the war was brought home to Australians on the east coast when the Japanese attacked Sydney Harbour from the sea...

    In the late afternoon of 31 May 1942, three Japanese submarines, I-22, I-24 and I-27 each launched a Type A midget submarine for an attack. more ...

Midget Submarine animation still

Read the full story of the Japanese submarine attack on Sydney Harbour, May 31 1942.
This MovieTone newsreel 'Japanese raid...' indicates how the attack was reported. War special video still

Main Feature 2

Coastwatchers 1939-1945

Coastwatcher FRONTLINE!

Japanese midget submarine

Approximately 400 Coastwatchers served in Australia, New Guinea and the Pacific islands during World War II. Read their story. more...

Play with simulated version of the Coastwatchers’ 3BZ Teleradio Transmitter port of the teleradio sets that also included a receiver and a loud speaker. more...

War Art

Surrender painting

Victory: Japanese Surrender!

The Japansese surrender ceremony which took place at Bougainville on 8 September 1945 was depicted by artist Geoffrey Mainwaring. View this painting.

Read about the Victory in Europe and the Pacific. more...

More Australia's War Art 1939-1945 ...
  • 'Bardia' painting thumbnail
  • 'The Mad Mile' painting thumbnail
  • 'Parit Sulong' painting thumbnail
  • 'St Andrews Cathedral, Singapore' painting thumbnail
  • 'Darwin, 19 February 1942' painting thumbnail
  • Australian Anti-Aircraft battery painting thumbnail
  • 'Stretcher Bearers, Owen Stanleys' painting thumbnail
  • 'One Sunday afternoon in Townsville' painting thumbnail
  • '455 Squadron Beaufighters' painting thumbnail
  • 'Bobdubi Ridge thumbnail' painting
  • Drawings of Ivor Hele thumbnail
  • 'Grenade throwing, Bobdubi Ridge' painting thumbnail
  • 'Bomber Crew' painting thumbnail
  • 'A Sunderland crew comes ashore' painting thumbnail
  • 'Kamikaze attack on HMAS Australia' painting thumbnail
  • 'Smoko time with the AWLA' painting thumbnail
  • 'RAN at Colombo' painting thumbnail
  • 'Corporal John Edmonson' painting thumbnail
  • 'HMAS Parramatta' painting thumbnail
  • 'Vickers machine gun crew' painting thumbnail