Australia's involvment in the Pacific War

Discussions on WW2 in the Pacific and the Sino-Japanese War.
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Barry Graham
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Post by Barry Graham » 02 Mar 2006 01:07

The Australian Army - both AIF and Militia - unnecessarily lost many good and experienced men in the assaults on Gona and Sanananda
And it was the 39th Militia Battalion that made the breakthrough at Gona under the astute leadership of Lt. Cnl. Ralph Honner.
Remarkably the battalion was disbanded - hardly a fitting tribute to the heroes of Isurava.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 02 Mar 2006 12:31

I find it ironic that American militia are carpeted here while at the same time Australian militia could not even serve outside Australian territory.

MacArthur was dismayed by a country that did not address this issue in 1942 and as such was running two armies then.

Most AIF criticisms at that time centred around the wharfies in Australia refusing to help with the war effort.The crowds at the Melbourne Cup in November 1942 also suggests that some civilian Australians lived in denial of the fighting further north.

Blamey's private criticisms of the Americans at the time followed his usual maxim,blame the infantry when things go wrong(as remembered by those of the AIF 21st Brigade and the infamous "running like rabbits" speech).

When Eichelberger took over the command at Buna from Harding US moral and performance did pick up.An example below:

http://www.pacificwrecks.com/people/vet ... tcher.html

At Sanananda,Brigadier Porter's own criticisms of his militia 30th Brigade suggests that 'citizen soldiers' were out of their place in this environment of offensive,close fighting against well entrenched Japanese.The lack of support by the US Navy in "mopping" up the enclaves of Buna,Sanananda,Gona
was also noted and later corrected by MacArthur in his future campaigns.

American casualty rates at Buna,Sanananda were 20%,double the rate at Guadalcanal.

PS My uncle served with the 2/14th at Kokoda,Gona.

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Post by alf » 02 Mar 2006 23:00

Thats a good post, Peter.

The role of the Militia "choco's" in Australia is mixed, why weren't the "choco's" brought into the AIF fold? Individual men could join, the "rainbows", but usually they were retained within their Militia Units, a weird setup. If I recall rightly, Curtain had to pass legislation in 1943 to allow the "chocos" to move into what is the Indonesian side of New Guinea today So much for total war and Australia fighting for its survival.

This "2nd Army" still continues in today in theory. I remember during the Vietnam days how the Militia Units were fully manned until the draft stopped and they emptied at an unbeliveable rate the following day - I remember a friend writing and telling me how the Melbourne University Regiment went from 1300 soldiers to 75 the day after the draft was abolished.

Sorry I wandered off topic :) , There is a lot of focus on the 39th Battalion which is justifable because of their stand at Isurva ( and how the wounded returned to the fight to help). But at the same time of the war, the 41st Battalion was near useless, fit only for garrison duty. The 58th got the nickname the "greyhounds" as they ran so fast from the battlefield they trampled some of their own wounded. The 61st at Milne Bay fought manfully and can take pride in the fact that the first defeat of Japanese land forces was inflicted at Milne Bay.

The 39th and 61st Battalions fought well, the 58th and 41st didn't. Yes I know of the "grievences" of some of the 58th believng they were press ganged from Sydney. It took to long a time for those men to be integrated, hence the 58ths initial poor performance. To long to allow such a luxury of "peacetime" grievences in total war.

The poor training and morale of these Australian Militia Battalions is something skirted over, hidden behind the skirts of the 39th courage. Most of the problems came from poor leadership, poor training and poor equipment. If I recall rightly, the 39th set off with WW1 Lewis Guns, the Intelligence Officer scrounged Bren Guns for them.

To many good officers, NCO's and soldiers left the Militia and joined the 2nd AIF at the start of the war, but even that excuse is simplistic. By 1942 there were a plethora of combat hardened and experienced troops within the 2nd AIF ripe for promotion, but integration between the 2 armies was way to slow. Snobbery from the AIF looking down on the Militia was a large part of the problem.

A "what if"might have been how would Brundell White organised the Australian forces if he had survived? Blamey didnt do a very good job, he allowed the 2 armies to co-exist and not integrate. And MacArthur? Well for him Australian troops were just a handy tool that he picked up or disgarded as needs be. As the war moved on, he disgarded more and more.

Curtain and Blamey did not serve Australian troops interests from late 1943 onwards, to many casualties in back waters that didn't matter. The war passed Australia by in 1943 and we got left behind mopping up. Look at Clive Caldwell, our top ace, no air to air combat (or kills) past August 1943. Stationed in areas, where no Japanese aircraft operated in range of his Spitires. A complete waste.

I had a lot of rellies fighting up in New Guinea and the islands to :), some AIF (dad and two uncles), one in the Militia ( the blacksheep of the family :P ), he was in the 61st at Milne Bay.

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Post by Peter H » 03 Mar 2006 05:40

Alf,

I think the calibre of the commanding officer also affected the performance of his militia unit.In my view 'bad' troops only exist with 'bad' commanders.

Ralph Honner of the 39th proved an excellent commander of the 39th after both Lt Col Owen and the B Company Commander, Capt Sam Templeton had been killed.Owen himself was a good soldier,a survivor of the Rabaul fighting.Templeton had reportedly also fought in the Spanish Civil War.

More on Honner here:

http://www.awm.gov.au/people/218.asp

http://www.awm.gov.au/people/timeLine_218.asp

Have you got any details of John Grant MC who commanded the 61st?


Phil Rhoden(1914-2003) of the 2/14th also deserves a mention:
Reflecting on the 2/14th Battalion’s attack at Manggar Airfield as part of the
Balikpapan operations in July 1945, Lieutenant Colonel Phillip ‘Phil’ Rhoden
recalled that he refused to ‘rush in’, despite pressure from his superiors to
do so. Instead, he bided his time, concentrated his battalion and progressively
seized limited objectives, employing his considerable fire support to full effect. It
was a strategy designed to save lives, and characteristic of Rhoden’s approach to
command.

Rhoden’s military career began with the Melbourne Grammar cadets and led
to a militia commission in 1933. A solicitor in the family firm at the outbreak of
war, Rhoden initially continued to serve with the 14th Battalion, but in 1940 he
volunteered for the Second AIF. He quickly gained a reputation as one of the most
efficient and conscientious officers of the 2/14th Battalion, and led its A Company
through the campaign in Syria and Lebanon.

After Syria, Rhoden commanded HQ Company, and by the time the 2/14th
was advancing to meet the Japanese drive along the Kokoda Track, he was second in-
command of the battalion. In this role he faced his greatest challenge as a
commander. After the loss of the commanding officer during the withdrawal from
Isurava, he was required to take in hand the ragged remnants of the battalion and
lead them through the vicious and dispiriting fighting around Brigade Hill. He was
only twenty-seven.

In March 1943, Rhoden was appointed to command the 21st Training Battalion.
He returned to the 2/14th as its permanent commander during the Ramu Valley
campaign and led it until the end of the war. Reserved in character, Rhoden earned
the trust of his troops through professional competence and placed great store in
keeping even the lowest ranks informed of the larger significance of their actions.
Rhoden resumed his legal career after the war and returned briefly to part-time
soldiering as commander of the Melbourne University Regiment between 1948 and
1951. He retained a close relationship with the men of the 2/14th. He regarded these
relationships as the greatest joy of having commanded a battalion.

Phil Rhoden—calm, conscientious, self-effacing (he described himself as ‘just a
plodder’)—was a man who embodied the epithet ‘an officer and a gentleman’. He
was also a member of a rapidly fading and most distinguished club. Close to 270
men commanded Australian infantry battalions during World War II; only half a
dozen remain with us. With his passing we lose one of the quiet heroes of Kokoda.
Article in Army ,2003.

Regards,
Peter

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 03 Mar 2006 06:20

Chas Butler of the 2/14th also died last month:

http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common ... 62,00.html
They simply don’t make ‘em like Chas Butler any more.

A KOKODA Track hero who defied death in New Guinea in World War II — then on the MCG honour board for decades — has fought his last battle.

Captain Chas Butler, of the 2/14th AIF Battalion, died at a Camberwell nursing home on Saturday after a long illness.
Charles Gamble Doria Butler, 88, was one of the last officers alive in Victoria from his old battalion, which fought the Vichy French in Syria in 1941 and was the first AIF unit sent to New Guinea in 1942.

With his distinctive eyepatch, he was one of the characters of the Anzac Day march until 2004.

One of his jokes was to take visitors to the MCG and point to the honour board, which had his name inscribed as one of the fallen during World War II.

He was mistakenly listed as missing at the end of the war when he was in Britain for treatment after he lost an eye in New Guinea.

Mr Butler was among the 2/14th men who tramped in to help militiamen of the 39th Battalion in the legendary Kokoda Track battle at Isurava village in August 1942.

He was in the thick of battle at Isurava the day Sgt Bruce Kingsbury won the Victoria Cross.

During a fighting withdrawal from the village, then-Lieutenant Butler was among 47 men cut off by the Japanese and forced to go bush.

It took an epic six-week journey of living rough in the New Guinea jungle to cross back to Allied lines.

Then late in November 1942 during savage fighting at Gona, Capt Butler was severely wounded in the face.

As he lay near death, he famously told his commander and mate Lt-Col Rhoden: “I’m all right, Phil, but it looks like I’m going to be a one-eyed Melbourne supporter.”

And that he was.

Mr Butler had been ill with cancer recently.

“He carried the legacy of Gona, the scars and the bullet in his body, with him to the end, never complaining,” 2/14th Association secretary Ross Wilkinson said.

Butler(left) with the remnants of his cut off unit:
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Post by alf » 04 Mar 2006 23:32

Peter H wrote:Alf,

I think the calibre of the commanding officer also affected the performance of his militia unit.In my view 'bad' troops only exist with 'bad' commanders.

Ralph Honner of the 39th proved an excellent commander of the 39th after both Lt Col Owen and the B Company Commander, Capt Sam Templeton had been killed.Owen himself was a good soldier,a survivor of the Rabaul fighting.Templeton had reportedly also fought in the Spanish Civil War.
I am in total agreement Peter, a battalion reflects its CO to an amazing degree. If my memory serves me right, Templeton was killed early on in the fighting (wandering off solo) , Owens at Kokado and Honner did not take over to Isuavra, so there was a another CO for most of the retreat.

The point I was trying to make though was that by mid 1942 in a situation of total war for Australia, the Militia forces were not fully integrated into the command structure of Australia's war plan. They seem to be an aftert thought. When the 6th and 7th Divvys came home, the Militia Battalions should have been strengthed by their experiences, indeed the Parliament should have legislated for them to become part of the AIF and either the 8th Divvy reconstituted or the 10th Divvy formed as an AIF Divison.

This "attitude" that the Militia were seperate and also somehow "second rate" and could only fight in some areas was a luxury that beggars belief in hindsight. I usually disagree with MacArthur opinions of Australia :D but he was exactly right on this point. If the 39th had not turned out to be "those ragged bloody heroes" then perhaps things would have been exposed post war, rather than swept away.

I do remember that 6 experienced AIF junior officers were given to the 39th and the 58th during the battle. The 39th put them into the rifle companies to bring experience and the 58th put them in to Battalion HQ to bring "brains". The 58th ran, the 39th fought and fought and fought.

A telling point though is, it was the 2/14th that brought up mortars with them at Isuvra. That was the first time in the campagain that the Australians had any support weapons. The 39th was denied mortars by Port Moresby as being inoperable in jungle conditions, so they were subjected to mountain gun and mortar fire during the retreat to which they could not respond. Again in total war to have such blatant stupidity existing in the upper echelons of Australia's High Command beggars belief. The Port Moresby command had been in place since about March but had done nothing beyond the Harbour till sending a company of the 39th over the Track in July. No recon, no testing of weapons and tactics. no contingency planning. What would Moreshead had done there, in that time?

Truly the best brains had gone to the 2nd AIF and the Militia was left with the dregs and the dugouts at the upper levels of command.

There is an author lurking in so many of us, the role of the Militia in 1942-43 is an area that is of particular interest of mine :)

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Post by Barry Graham » 05 Mar 2006 01:30

I think the interim commander of the 39th was Cameron.

The Militia even had a more generous pay scale than the A.I.F. which didn't encourage the Militia to transfer.

The distribution of the A.I.F. officers was unbalanced.
The 39th got the most (8 comes to mind) and as you say they were placed in the rifle companies.
The other battalions in the brigade got fewer officers and wasted their talent.

There had been a recon of the track before the 39th set off but it was by a junior officer in the days of Morris and the report was ignored.
What is really telling is that command in Port Moresby took no heed of the local volunteers.
Keinzle had an intimate knowledge of track and the terrain.
Even the supply predicament and difficult deployment conditions experienced by field officers such as Potts and Allen were ignored.

After his experience leading the 39th Ralph Honner was ordered to present to Blamey.
Thinking Honner was a newly-arrived officer he asked him how long he had been in New Guinea!
And this was the man who had led his front-line troops - Blamey didn't even know who he was!

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Post by edward_n_kelly » 14 Mar 2006 01:58

Barry Graham wrote:
The Australian Army - both AIF and Militia - unnecessarily lost many good and experienced men in the assaults on Gona and Sanananda
And it was the 39th Militia Battalion that made the breakthrough at Gona under the astute leadership of Lt. Cnl. Ralph Honner.
Remarkably the battalion was disbanded - hardly a fitting tribute to the heroes of Isurava.
T'was their fate to be the "junior' battalion from their state......

And a triumph of good leadership in the face of inadequate training .....

Edward

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Post by Kokoda » 20 Mar 2006 01:51

And it was the 39th Militia Battalion that made the breakthrough at Gona under the astute leadership of Lt. Cnl. Ralph Honner.


Honner's tactic in finally taking Gona was quite brilliant.
He knew that an artillery barrage always indicated an infantry assault, and that by the time that assault began the Japanese had time to get back from their shelters into their prepared M.G. posts, etc.
So Honner marched his brigade through their own artillery barrage - and fell upon the Japanese before they had a chance to resume their defensive positions.
He deemed this tactic less dangerous than charging across open ground against the almost invisible M.G. posts - which had cost so many unnecessary lives - and he was proven right.
Most AIF criticisms at that time centred around the wharfies in Australia refusing to help with the war effort.The crowds at the Melbourne Cup in November 1942 also suggests that some civilian Australians lived in denial of the fighting further north.
This was not really the fault of the Australian public - they were simply not informed of the seriousness of the situation in New Guinea in August/September 1942.
This was because the only information the press was allowed to print came from "Doug's Communiques", which continued to describe the battles such as Isurava and Brigade (Butcher's) Hill as "patrol skirmishes". Correspondents such as Chester Willmott were justifiably irate that their accurate reports on the real situation were not made public.
The facts were even withheld from the government!

It was not until the Japanese reached Ioribaiwa Ridge, from where they could see the lights of Port Moresby (no blackout!) and the Coral Sea that MacArthur finally acknowledged that the Japanese actually were making an overland advance on Port Moresby - and not simply conducting a "reconnaissance in force" or "securing the flanks" of their new airfield at Buna.
MacArthur did not even go to Port Moresby until October 1942 - by which time the Australians had advanced almost to Kokoda. Even then, he saw no more of the territory in which the Australians were fighting than what could be viewed from Ower's Corner.
And, of course, when Kokoda was retaken, MacArthur's communique said that it had been secured by "Allied" troops.
But at the same time of the war, the 41st Battalion was near useless, fit only for garrison duty. The 58th got the nickname the "greyhounds" as they ran so fast from the battlefield they trampled some of their own wounded.
The 39th and 61st Battalions fought well, the 58th and 41st didn't.
It was not the 58th Battalion - it was the 53rd. Losing their commander soon after their arrival at Isurava did not help their situation much.
They were subsequently merged with the 55th Battalion to form the 55th/53rd, which later fought at Sanananda and on Bougainville.
There was no 41st Battalion on the Kokoda Track - in fact, there was no 41st Bn at all.


The third battalion to be deployed on the Kokoda Track was the 3rd, which came under the 25th Brigade for the advance up the track. They made some initial mistakes, but eventually played their part effectively.

Isurava was the turning point in AIF/Militia relations. When the first troops of the 21st Brigade arrived, they had nothing but the utmost admiration for what the 39th Battalion had done - and how they continued to fight.

From early 1943 onwards the Militia battalions fought effectively and well: the 29th Brigade (15th, 42nd and 47th Bns) from Wau to Salamaua, the 15th Brigade (24th, 57th/60th, 58th/59th Bns) from Nadzab to Madang, the 4th Brigade (22nd, 20th/46th, 37th/52nd Bns) from Gusika to Fortification Point, the 8th Brigade (4th, 30th and 35th Bns) on the Rai Coast, the 7th Brigade (9th, 25th, 61st Bns), 11th Brigade (26th, 31st/51st, 55th/53rd Bns), 15th Brigade (24th, 57th/60th, 58th/59th Bns), 23rd Brigade (7th, 8th and 27th Bns - commanded by Brigadier Potts, who had led the 21st Brigade's heroic strategic withdrawal down the Kokoda Track and was then "banished" to Darwin by Blamey) and the 29th Brigade (15th, 42nd, 47th Battalions) on Bougainville and the 4th Brigade (37th/52nd Bn), 6th Brigade (14th/32nd, 19th, 36th Bns) and 13th Brigade (11th, 16th, 28th Bns) in southern New Britain.
In fact, quite a few Militia battalions became AIF battalions because of the number of volunteers (as opposed to conscripts) in their ranks, and many Militia volunteers who were offered postings to AIF units refused because of the pride they felt in their parent battalions.
I do remember that 6 experienced AIF junior officers were given to the 39th and the 58th during the battle. The 39th put them into the rifle companies to bring experience and the 58th put them in to Battalion HQ to bring "brains". The 58th ran, the 39th fought and fought and fought.


The 39th Bn received more ex-AIF officers than the other two battalions of the 30th Brigade, and they in fact joined the battalion prior to its deployment on the Track. Among these were:
Captain Symington (ex-2/16th Bn), who took command of "A" Coy;
Captain Dean (ex-2/27th Bn), who took command of "C" Coy;
Captain Jacob (ex-2/10th Bn), who took command of "C" Coy after Dean was killed, and was himself accidentally killed on 30 August; and
Captain Bidstrup (ex-2/10th Bn), who took command of "D" Coy".
Only Captain Merritt of "E" Coy had had no combat experience, yet he proved himself a worthy commander.
....and either the 8th Divvy reconstituted....
The 8th Division could not be "reconstituted" because, technically and adminstratively, it still existed - despite most of its troops being POWs.
Both Lt-Col Owen and Maj Cameron were ex-8th Div officers, who escaped from Rabaul.
Fortunately, Cameron was in command of the 39th Bn for only a very short period - between the death of Lt-Col Owen and the arrival of Lt-Col Honner - otherwise the battalion might well have been wiped out. It was his ill-conceived 4-company attack on Kokoda (to which all his company commanders were opposed) that led to the battalion sustaining further casualties, including Captain Dean.
It was also he who branded "B" Coy as cowards after 11 and 12 Platoons had withdrawn from Oivi (after being almost completely surrounded by the Japanese, and losing Capt Templeton) and 10, 11 and half of 12 platoons had abandoned Kokoda to the some 900 Japanese attackers. It was during this escape from Kokoda that many of the "B" Coy men simply became lost in the darkness and the jungle; Cameron accused these men of "going bush", although all eventually rejoined the battalion.
Subsequently, Cameron wanted "B" Coy sent to the rear, but the more astute Honner gave the Coy the "position of honour" at Isurava - guarding against an assault from the high ground on the left flank.
Had "B" been sent out of action, the 39th might well have been over-run at Isurava before the 21st Brigade companies arrived.

It was tragic that Honner's career came to an end when he was severely wounded while leading the 2/14th Bn between Nadzab and Madang on 4 October 1943, otherwise he might well have reached the rank of Major-General - at least Brigadier - by the end of the war.

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Post by edward_n_kelly » 20 Mar 2006 05:32

Barry Graham wrote:I think the interim commander of the 39th was Cameron.
Not from 39 Bn - ANGAU ?
Barry Graham wrote:
The Militia even had a more generous pay scale than the A.I.F. which didn't encourage the Militia to transfer.
AIF pay was highter than that of the AMF - by 6d a day for a private. Have comparative payrates around the place somewhere.....
Barry Graham wrote: The distribution of the A.I.F. officers was unbalanced.
The 39th got the most (8 comes to mind) and as you say they were placed in the rifle companies.
The other battalions in the brigade got fewer officers and wasted their talent.
A reflection on their respective COs perhaps ?
Barry Graham wrote: There had been a recon of the track before the 39th set off but it was by a junior officer in the days of Morris and the report was ignored.
What is really telling is that command in Port Moresby took no heed of the local volunteers.
Keinzle had an intimate knowledge of track and the terrain.
Even the supply predicament and difficult deployment conditions experienced by field officers such as Potts and Allen were ignored.

After his experience leading the 39th Ralph Honner was ordered to present to Blamey.
Thinking Honner was a newly-arrived officer he asked him how long he had been in New Guinea!
And this was the man who had led his front-line troops - Blamey didn't even know who he was!
Not unlikely. Depends on how the appointment was arranged, how he (Blamey) was briefed and how good a memory he had on the day (I think his performance was deteriating under pressure fromMac and the Oz government - not that I think he was a "real bright spark" at the best of times except as a staff officer - he was not a commander). Remember he had about 1,000 officers in the "front line" at any one time of which about 100 plus were BN COs and higher (and the frontline covered the arc from Western Australia to the Solomons at the time).

Edward

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Post by Peter H » 20 Mar 2006 11:56

'Doug's Communiques' were agreed to by the Australian Government---in the words of the AAP London editor Australian censorship was"the most dangerous in the world,outside the Axis countries.."

In a November 1941 broadcast Blamey told Australians "you are leading a carnival life."

Horner in his book on Blamey has him likening Australians to " a lot of gazelles grazing in a dell near the edge of a jungle,while the beasts of prey are working up towards you."

Curtin's third anniversary of the outbreak of WW2 speech(September 1942):
If we do not strip ourselves to save our country then the enemy will do it with a ruthless efficiency and with a maximum of misery that can only have a counterpart in the imagination....Today Port Moresby and Darwin are the Singapores of Australia.If those two places fall ,then,inevitably,we are faced with a bloody struggle on our soil when we will be forced to fight grimly,city by city,village by village,until our fair land may become a blackened ruin.

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Post by Pips » 20 Mar 2006 22:04

Your absolutely right Peter.

On the Home Front Australians behaviour was really quite poor and very self-centered. One just has to look through the various newspaper clippings available at the AWM to see how greedy and self-seeking most folks were. It was a marked contrast to those fighting.

Also evident via the War Memorial is the tone of disgust for their fellow citizens in many soldiers diaries when home on leave. And perhaps the strongest condemnation is reserved for those men sitting safely in 'protected' jobs whilst claiming how rough the war was on them through rationing etc.

The behaviour of Australians at home is rarely spoken ot written about, other than Darwin. It's not a chapter in our history that we can be proud of.

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Post by edward_n_kelly » 21 Mar 2006 00:03

Pips wrote:Your (sic) absolutely right Peter.

On the Home Front Australians behaviour was really quite poor and very self-centered (sic). One just has to look through the various newspaper clippings available at the AWM to see how greedy and self-seeking most folks were. It was a marked contrast to those fighting.

Also evident via the War Memorial is the tone of disgust for their fellow citizens in many soldiers (sic) diaries when home on leave. And perhaps the strongest condemnation is reserved for those men sitting safely in 'protected' jobs whilst claiming how rough the war was on them through rationing etc.

The behaviour of Australians at home is rarely spoken ot (sic) written about, other than Darwin. It's not a chapter in our history that we can be proud of.
Yet it is also the same civilian society that put just under a million personnel into uniform (including 6 out 8 of my father's and mothers siblings - including my father and mother - of which 2 were POW - one in Crete and one in Singapore - the other two were young mothers who were managing farms while the husbands were away).

There was a much more severe regime of "people control" in Australia than just about anywhere else in the world. You certainly worked where you were told to - in or out of uniform.

Edward

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Post by Pips » 21 Mar 2006 05:52

edward_n_kelly wrote: There was a much more severe regime of "people control" in Australia than just about anywhere else in the world. You certainly worked where you were told to - in or out of uniform.

Edward
People control? If that be the case Edward how do you explain that there were more strikes held in Australia during the war years than in either Britain or the US? Australians did not have their cars confiscated as happened in Britain, nor did they have their personal movement restricted. Australians didn't suffer constant bloackout's - except when the APO workers went on strike, didn't suffer the same degree of food privations as the English did. That the black market so flourished in Sydney and Melbourne that it caused a national scandal, and almost brought down the NSW government.

There's no argument that the number of Australians that volunteered for Service is outstanding, given the small population we had. Sadly they were very much the cream of the crop, and many of those left behind did little to add to Australia's reputation.

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Post by edward_n_kelly » 21 Mar 2006 08:25

Pips wrote:
edward_n_kelly wrote: There was a much more severe regime of "people control" in Australia than just about anywhere else in the world. You certainly worked where you were told to - in or out of uniform.

Edward
People control? If that be the case Edward how do you explain that there were more strikes held in Australia during the war years than in either Britain or the US? Australians did not have their cars confiscated as happened in Britain, nor did they have their personal movement restricted. Australians didn't suffer constant bloackout's - except when the APO workers went on strike, didn't suffer the same degree of food privations as the English did. That the black market so flourished in Sydney and Melbourne that it caused a national scandal, and almost brought down the NSW government.

There's no argument that the number of Australians that volunteered for Service is outstanding, given the small population we had. Sadly they were very much the cream of the crop, and many of those left behind did little to add to Australia's reputation.
Not all cars were confiscated in Britain. I know of at least one "Roller" that was sent back for repairs in 1938 ("joy riders" smashed it up - two the "joy riders" were later KIA and won MMs) and returned in 1950.

As to employment conditions of Australians. Every man and Woman over the age of 18 (and under 65?) was required by law to register for employment. Some woman were automatically excused on the basis of looking after children or invalids. All others were directed as to where they could work and all were required to work there unless giving good and sufficent reason 9and they were then "posted" elsewhere). They could be directed into uniform (males). Numbers were 'demobbed' starting in early 1944 because of the need for labour on the "home front" and the over comitment to uniformed service.

There were obligations on employers to notify chnages to their workforce (so that people could not just "disappear").

There were also obligations on employers as to wages and conditions under which they could be prosecuted.

Shortage of "warfies" was one of the serious shortages and particularly in the working of Darwin Harbour in 1942/3. it was got around by conscripting gangs from down south, putting them in uniform and posting them to Darwin as units (Docks Operating Companies RAE). An interesting perspective on the "warfies" in WW2 is at The wharfies and World War Two (though considering its origin it should be taken with a grain of salt but contains much that is factual.

There was no abrrogation of the right to strike but there was control of when/why/how it was to be conducted.

Blackouts were not compulsory in Australia until 1942 and relaxed progressively in 1944. Too many were being injured and maimed for a lack of return in its enforcement.

Actually have you read Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 4 – Civil ? In particular I commend Volume III – War Economy, 1939–1942 Chapter 7 – Labour in Wartime Industry and Chapter 14 – Manpower, and just about all of Volume IV – War Economy, 1942–1945.

Edward

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