Australian Rifle Platoon (Early & Mid War)
Almost a million Australians served in the Second World War. Australians fought in the campaigns against the Germans and Italians in Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa; against Japan in south-east Asia and the Pacific. Even Australia came under direct attack as Japanese aircraft bombed towns in north-western Australia and Japanese midget submarines penetrated Sydney harbour.
The Australian Army saw its first combat of the war in 1940, when the 6th, followed by the 7th and 9th Divisions joined the Allied operations in the Mediterranean and North Africa.
Following early successes against Italian forces, the Australians suffered defeat with the Allies at the hands of the Germans in Greece, Crete and North Africa.
In June and July 1941 Australians took part in the Allied invasion of Syria, a French possession and under control of the pro-German Vichy government.
Between April and August 1941 14,000 besieged Australians of the 9th Division held out against repeated German attacks on the Libyan port of Tobruk.
After the relief of Tobruk, the 6th and 7th Divisions departed from the Mediterranean theatre for the war against Japan.The 9th Division remained to play an important role in the Allied victory at El Alamein in October 1942 before it also returned home to prepare for the war in the Pacific.
By the end of 1942 the only Australians remaining in the Mediterranean were airmen serving either with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) No. 3 Squadron or in the Royal Air Force.