[By permission of the National
Library of Australia PIC/6524]
[National Archives of Australia, hereafter NAA, 581/1 A5954/69]
[NAA, 581/1 A5954/69]
Australia at war 3 September 1939
[Lithograph 50.8 x 63.2cm. AWM V6766]
On 3 September 1939, Prime Minister Robert Gordon Menzies announced that Australia was at war with Germany.
Fellow Australians, it is my melancholy duty to inform you officially, that in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her and that, as a result, Australia is also at war. No harder task can fall to the lot of a democratic leader than to make such an announcement.
[From speech made by Prime Minister Robert Gordon Menzies, 3 September 1939: Screensound Australia, National Screen and Sound Collection, Screensound Title No: 387919]
After Great Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, Australia raised a volunteer force, the Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF), and sent the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions of the AIF overseas to support Britain. Despite long-held fears that
[Photolithograph 60 x 49cm. AWM V332]
When Japan entered the war in Malaya on 7/8 December 1941, the 8th Division AIF, together with a few Australian ships and aircraft, were there with other British Empire forces. In early 1942, the 6th and 7th Divisions from the Middle East together with RAN ships were ordered back to Australia to fight the Japanese in the Pacific. The 9th Division stayed in North Africa until early 1943 while many Australian airmen serving in both the RAAF and the Royal Air Force (RAF) remained to fight in Europe.
The First Casualty
Probably the first Australian casualties after the declaration of war on 3 September 1939 were serving members of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). A pilot and his observer were killed in a flying accident while ferrying a Wirraway to Darwin, where 12 Squadron RAAF was based for coastal patrol missions.
5 September 1939
The Anson and five Wirraways arrived at DARWIN at 10.30 hours from Daly Waters. Unfortunately the arrival of the Wirraways was marred by a fatal accident. Flying Officer AV Dolphin of Recruit Training Depot, Laverton who was ferrying Wirraway A20-5, stalled and crashed onto aerodrome and both he pilot and observer, No. 1 Corporal JOHNSON, H W - Air Observer, No. 12 Squadron were killed. Three air searches were carried out.
[Operations Record Book of 12 (General Purpose) Squadron RAAF. AWM64 Item 1/74]
28 September 1939
The first Australian to be killed in action was probably Wing Commander Ivan McLeod Cameron, who was serving with Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) at the outbreak of war. Wing Commander Cameron, 110 Squadron RAF, was on a reconnaissance flight over Germany on 28 September 1939 when his Bristol Blenheim bomber, serial N6212, was intercepted and shot down by a German pilot, Feldwebel Klaus Faber, of l/JG I, Luftwaffe. The Blenheim crashed near Kiel, Germany. Wing Commander Cameron is buried at Reichswald Forest Cemetery, Kleve in Germany. [Dennis Newton, First Impact, Maryborough, 1997, p.49]
29 September 1939
Flying Officer John Tulloch Burrill Sadler, 144 Squadron RAF, was probably the second Australian killed in action. Flying Officer Sadler, who was serving in the RAF, was the pilot of a Handley Page Hampden bomber, serial L4121, part of a formation of five aircraft on a bombing mission on 29 September 1939. All five aircraft were intercepted and shot down between Heligoland and Wangerooge in Germany. Sadler, who has no known grave, is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial in England. [Dennis Newton, First Impact, Maryborough, 1997, p.49]