photo
Australia's War 1939 - 1945
title

Dakota en route to Kunming China, Roy Hodgkinson, 1945
[Watercolour on paper,
36.2x33.7cm. AWM ART27553]
455 Squadron Beaufighters
attacking shipping off Norway,
1944.
Ray Honisett, 1969
[Oil on canvas, 152.2x274cm.
AWM ART28455]
Four of the Australian members of 'Tulip Force', British Military Mission 204, based in China during 1941-1942. From left to right: John Leake, George Carr, Ron Croton, Maurie Kimbell.
[AWM P00763.001]
RAN at Colombo, Roy Hodgkinson, 1945.
[Charcoal drawing, 52.9 x 67.4 cm. AWM ART22775]


Little-known operations 1939-1945

Several thousand Australians served in locations remote from the main areas of Australian operations during World War II. They served in places like China, Russia, the Faroe Islands, Madagascar, Burma, the West Indies, Iraq, Kenya, the Azores and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).

Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN) personnel were the more likely to serve in far-flung locations. For instance, the crew of HMAS Perth spent the first six months of the war escorting tankers between Trinidad in the West Indies and Venezuela in South America as well as duties in the western Atlantic. HMA Ships Napier, Nizam and Norman participated in the invasion of Madagascar in 1942. Other RAN personnel served in British and Allied ships including convoy escorts from the South Atlantic to the Arctic and even a mini-submarine raid in Indo-China (Vietnam).

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Pilot Officer John Jenkins, 20 Squadron RAF, in the cockput of his Hurricane aircraft, Monywa, Central Burma, March 1945.
[AWM SEA0180]

Aircrews trained under the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) could be sent literally anywhere with Royal Air Force (RAF) units. Most served in Europe and the Mediterranean but others, such as Flying Officer John Richard Hutchins, served in diverse locations. Hutchins became the only Australian serviceman lost off the coast of Brazil after his RAF Transport Command aircraft crashed. Several thousand Australians served with squadrons in India and Burma.

Members of some Australian Army units also spent time elsewhere. The 7th Division Cavalry Regiment was in Cyprus in 1941 and the 16th and 17th Infantry Brigades served in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) during 1942. Others were posted to special duties in even smaller groups, such as the officers and men from the 8th Australian Division sent to China with 'Tulip Force' during 1941-1942.

 

 

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Some of the Australians serving with 'Tulip Force' together
with Chinese officers at Chiu Chia Kai, Kiangsi province,
China, October 1942.
[AWM P00762.008]
Mission 204 - 'Tulip Force'
A small group of Australians from the 8th Australian Division was posted to the Bush Warfare School in Burma in 1941. The men were trained in demolition, ambush and engineering reconnaissance during October and November. The two officers and 43 men became part of 'Tulip Force', a top-secret mission to train Chinese guerrillas to fight the Japanese. The British provided equipment, supplies and the remainder of the men. In February 1942, the men travelled in trucks up the Burma Road towards China for 18 days, covering more than 3000 kilometres. From there they travelled another 800 kilometres by train into China before trekking into the mountainous border region to join the Chinese 5th Battalion commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Chen Ling Sun. They travelled with eight tonnes of equipment and their explosives were packed into small square coolie baskets and carried with them.
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[NAA Cablegram No S49 Item A5954 Box 573]

The Australian Minister in Chungking, Sir Frederick Eggleston, visited the men in their camp at Kiyang at the end of May. After his visit to Kiyang, the Australian Minister sent another cable to Australia recommending that the men remain there.

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Australian aircrews flew in RAF Sunderland
aircraft operating from a base on the
Brahmaputra River in Burma.
[AWM SUK13085]

The Australians remained in the mountains with the Chinese guerrillas until September 1942, when the project was abandoned. The Australians did not participate in any of the Chinese guerrilla activities; they suffered from malaria, dysentery and typhus; and they had no confidence in the Chinese commander under whom they were to serve.

 

 

Australia at war 3 September 1939
Libya and the Siege of Tobruk 1941
Greece and Crete April-May 1941
Syria and Lebanon June 1941
Malaya December 1941 to Moresby May 1942
Australia under attack 1940-1945
Coral Sea, Kokoda, Milne Bay May-September 1942
El Alamein October-November 1942
The Home Front 1939-1945
The Coastwatchers 1941-1945
Australian prisoners of war 1940-1945
Little-known operations 1939-1945
Papua 1942-1943
The Japanese retreat March 1943-January 1944
War at sea 1939-1945
Air war Europe 1939-1945
Bougainville, Borneo, New Britain, New Guinea 1944-1945
8 May 1945/15 August 1945
Australia at war 3 September 1939
Libya and the Siege of Tobruk 1941
Greece and Crete April-May 1941
Syria and Lebanon June 1941
Malaya December 1941 to Moresby May 1942
Australia under attack 1940-1945
Coral Sea, Kokoda, Milne Bay May-September 1942
El Alamein October-November 1942
The Home Front 1939-1945
The Coastwatchers 1941-1945
Australian prisoners of war 1940-1945
Little-known operations 1939-1945
Papua 1942-1943
The Japanese retreat March 1943-January 1944
War at sea 1939-1945
Air war Europe 1939-1945
Bougainville, Borneo, New Britain, New Guinea 1944-1945
8 May 1945/15 August 1945
Some RAAF aircrew flew over the 'Hump' route from airfields in India to China. They crossed the Himalayas, often in treacherous weather, carying much needed supplies for China's armies fighting the Japanese. Dakota en route to Kunming China, Roy Hodgkinson, 1945
[Watercolour on paper, 36.2x33.7cm. AWM ART27553]
455 Squadron Beaufighters attacking shipping off Norway, 1944. Ray Honisett, 1969.
[Oil on canvas, 152.2x274cm. AWM ART28455]

During late 1944, 455 Squadron RAAF was based at Dallachy airfield in Scotland together with Canadian, New Zealand and British Beaufighter squadrons. From there they made raids on German shipping up and down the Norwegian coast and into the fjords in order to prevent the Germans from bringing back reinforcements from occupied Norway to bolster their retreating armies.

Two Australians, Flying Officer Austin Hakewell and his navigator, Pilot Officer Gordon Sides from 455 Squadron were killed in an explosion on 5 December 1944 over Orsta Fjord on the coast of Norway. They were in one of 3 Beaufighter bombers that attacked three German merchant ships off the town of Orsten. A German minesweeper apparently opened fire at their aircraft, which received a direct hit and exploded in mid air.

After the war, Gordon Sides’ family travelled to Norway where they unveiled a memorial stone to Gordon. On the stone, overlooking the waters of Orsta Fjord, they placed these words:

Our beloved boy Frederick Gordon Sides Australian Air Force lost in Orsta Fiord 5 December 1944. Erected by his sorrowing parents and sister on their visit from Australia June 1947. A tribute to his friend Austin Hakewell.

[‘Lost in Orsta Fjord’ in Royal Australian Air Force: Artworks from the Collection of the Australian War Memorial, Commonwealth Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Canberra, 2002.]
Four of the Australian members of 'Tulip Force', British Military Mission 204, based in China during 1941-1942. From left to right: John Leake, George Carr, Ron Croton, Maurie Kimbell.
[AWM P00763.001]
RAN at Colombo, Roy Hodgkinson, 1945.
[Charcoal drawing, 52.9 x 67.4 cm. AWM ART22775]

Numerous Royal Australian Naval (RAN) vessels maintained a presence in the Indian Ocean between 1942 -1945, and during 1942, at least 13 corvettes – all built in Australia – served with the British Eastern Fleet, sweeping for mines and hunting for submarines between Ceylon and the Red Sea.