We've created this poster to commemorate those who served in the Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) during World War II. Airmen were among the first Australian service men to deploy overseas in support of the United Kingdom. When the war ended, the RAAF was flying operations against Japanese forces in the south-west Pacific. This poster was released for the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Display our poster to help remember and recognise the contributions of all Australians during the war.
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"Fellow Citizens – the war is over"
Prime Minister Ben Chifley,
15 August 1945
On the morning of 15 August 1945, Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley made a nation-wide address. Japan had accepted the Allies' surrender conditions. The Second World War was over. Victory in the Pacific (VP) Day was declared a national holiday on this day and is commemorated every year. Around the country, people poured into the streets in celebration. For years they had lived with rationing and austerity, they had worked hard and for long hours, been anxious for loved ones on active service and feared a Japanese invasion. They had seen the country change as thousands of women enlisted in the armed forces or joined the civilian workforce to labour on farms and in factories. Tens of thousands of United States servicemen had been based in or passed through Australia, clear evidence that traditional ties to Britain were weakening. The war had left people exhausted. Its end was met with relief and unbridled joy.
The Melbourne press reported revellers waging 'a battle against any show of dignity, or austerity and gloom'. A young boy saw a neighbour in a line of singing revellers, a lady who never missed Mass and always seemed serious but who on VP Day celebrated as she had likely never celebrated before, knowing that her son would soon be coming home. In the New South Wales country town of Dubbo, said a Sydney paper, people behaved in a manner 'that would be deemed incredible in normal life.' On the far side of the country in Perth, some 100,000 people crowded into the city.
There were conga lines, civilians and men and women in uniform dancing together, strangers embracing, streets littered with confetti, flags flying. Police ignored games of two-up and the kind of revelry that would normally invite arrest. An elated population was swept up in celebration. Chifley announced a two-day holiday. He thanked the service men and women of the Allied nations, and he thanked the millions who had worked so hard for the war effort on the home front. The Australian people, said Chifley, 'may be justly proud of everything they have done'. On a day that could never be entirely without sorrow, he also asked Australians to remember the dead and the bereaved. Some 40,000 Australians had lost their lives in the winning of this victory. On 16 August, crowds gathered around the country for thanksgiving services, and to more sombrely remember those who would not be coming home.
VP Day brought an end to years of fighting and the return home of hundreds of thousands of Australians from theatres of war around the world. It meant the passing of a half-century darkened by global conflict and financial depression, and the dawn of an age both prosperous and fraught with peril – as the Cold War begun in the Second World War's shadow dominated the half-century that followed.
Department of Veterans' Affairs 2020
Essay on the Royal Australian Air Force in the Second World War
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) personnel trained and served around the world during the Second World War. RAAF airmen were among the first Australian servicemen to deploy overseas in support of Britain when the war began. When it ended, the RAAF was flying operations against Japanese forces in the south-west Pacific.
In the war against Germany and her European allies, RAAF personnel flew in the Battle of the Atlantic, in fighter operations over England and western Europe, the bomber offensive against Germany and the campaigns in the Mediterranean. While RAAF personnel continued to serve in Europe until Germany's surrender, in December 1941 on the far side of the world the air force also began operations against Japanese forces.
The RAAF was in action against the Japanese on the day the Pacific War began. Australian airmen fought in defence of Malaya, Singapore, the Netherlands East Indies (present-day Indonesia) and Rabaul in the Pacific war's opening months, and by mid-August 1945 the RAAF had played a significant role in the campaigns over northern Australia, Papua and New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Borneo.
On VP Day Australian airmen were scattered across the South West Pacific theatre. Some were already home. Among air force veterans, reactions to the news of Japan's surrender were mixed. One thought it 'an anti-climax really. There was no reason to celebrate … as a staff officer you are not supposed to run around and have high jinks and all that'. For others, celebration was the order of the day. There was, said one airman, 'a lot of jollifying going on … we had our own celebrations in the mess … We had enough grog there to have free grog for several weeks'. Of Bougainville, another said, 'God you should have seen the island … It was alight with tracers and searchlights … cannons or the anti-aircraft guns would go off, and there was a lot of jubilation'. Another veteran remembered simply, 'a great sense of relief' and thinking only, 'Thank God it is over'.
More than 215,000 men and women served in the RAAF during the Second World War, and some 10,000 lost their lives, more than half in the war against Germany. Many of the survivors looked back on their years in the RAAF pleased that they had played their part in the war. In the words of an RAAF nursing sister; 'We who have had the privilege of serving with the RAAF feel a great deal of pride'.