[Ringed with menace,
James Northfield. Leaflet, AWM ARTV09061]
[Promotional advertisement, 1942. Australian Leaflets 1939-1945 AWM 7/1/2]
[Drawing, brown crayon with watercolour and pencil, 34.1 x 47.2 cm, AWMART21350]
[Screensound Australia, National Screen and Sound Collection]
'All in' - The Australian homefront 1939-1945
[Images 514615_0001 – 0008.
Item 13, Series MP1472-1 NAA]
View pdf of images
... there will still be Australians fighting on Australian soil until the turning point be reached, and we will advance over blackened ruins, through blasted and fire-swept cities, across scorched plains, until we drive the enemy into the sea.
(Prime Minister John Curtin in a radio broadcast, 14 March 1942)
Despite, or maybe because of, their vivid memories of the horrors of the First World War, many Australians continued their day to day lives with little or no change during the early years of World War II. They battled with rising prices and unemployment but unless they had relatives serving overseas, they had not yet sensed any real danger.
By the middle of 1941 the war had started to hit home. The failure of the Greek campaign, the battle casualties and the indications that Japan might enter the war increased Australian feelings of vulnerability. Many factories had turned to war productions, from widgets to warships, and many civilians were engaged in voluntary work. In August Prime Minister Robert Menzies relinquished his position to Arthur Fadden, the leader of the Country Party, and in October the leader of the Labor Party, John Curtin, became the new Prime Minister. On 7/8 December 1941 Japan entered the war and Japanese forces began their advance.
[Photolithograph on paper 24.8 x 31cm;
image 23.4 x 29.8cm. AWM ARTV01114]
In February 1942, many Australians thought that the Japanese would invade Australia. Anticipating enemy air attack, blackout restrictions were introduced and air raid warning instructions issued. Barbed wire was also strung across many east coast beaches.
[Photolithograph 45.7 x 30.6cm AWM V1084]
To face this threat all Australians, men, women and children, were urged to put their backs into the war effort. Indeed, the adult population was mobilised for war. Women took new roles in essential industries working in what had previously been male-dominated areas. By the end of 1942, thousands of women had also joined the women's auxiliary services - the WAAAF (Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force), the AWAS (Australian Women's Army Service) and the WRANS (Women's Royal Australian Naval Service).
Other men and women joined voluntary organisations such as the Red Cross or they helped to erect and patrol coastal defences or spot aircraft and shipping. School children collected bottles, newspapers, old tyres or anything else that could be recycled for the war effort. There was an unprecedented demand for food and other products like cotton, not only for the troops overseas and the people at home, but also for the American troops who were starting to arrive in Australia in large numbers. In June 1942, rationing was introduced, and ration books were issued for food and clothing. Two months earlier, in April, the government had launched 'Austerity' war loans to raise money for the war effort. Everyone was encouraged to go 'all in' to support Australia and Australians at war.
'Keep your head down'
Air Raid Precaution officials in conjunction with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade issued a series of air raid precaution instructions with accompanying photographs so that all Australians would be prepared for Japanese air attacks. This series of instructions was forwarded to daily and weekly newspapers for publication.