United Kingdom

United Kingdom cover

This commemorative publication is a part of the series; Australians in World War II. This resource focuses on Australians who served Britain, or operated from British airports and ports, during the war.

ISBN: 978-0-9925839-7-2
Series: Australians in World War II
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In 1940, when members of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) arrived at their camp on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, they found reminders that their parents' generation had been there before them, during the First World War. The previous Australian occupants of the camp had carved the Rising Sun badge and a map of Australia into the nearby chalk hills. In the earlier war Britain had been 'Blighty', visited by more than 260,000 Australians training for, or resting from, service on the Western Front. The Second World War took a different shape and, for Australia, the fighting in the Middle East and the Pacific was the main focus. Nevertheless, approximately 34,000 Australians served at least for a short time in Britain, or operated from British airfields and ports, and what they lacked in numbers they made up for in the variety of wartime tasks performed. From nursing during the Blitz to escorting Atlantic convoys, flying fighter sweeps over France or landing on the D-Day beaches in Normandy, there was hardly a military or naval assignment, or a battle, where Australians were not present. The cost was high: 5400 Australians died in air operations in Britain and in western Europe, and 300 died serving on land or at sea.

Australia House

The London office of the Commonwealth of Australia was opened on 3 August 1918 and soon became a popular destination for Australians in the city during the last year of the First World War. In the Second World War Australia House served the same purpose, and was on the front line during the Blitz. An observation post was placed on the roof, and on 30 June 1944 a V-I rocket exploded nearby, blowing out every window in the building.

Overseeing the activities of Australia House was the High Commissioner, Sir Stanley Bruce, a Gallipoli veteran and Australia's Prime Minister from 1923 to 1929. Serving as a kind of embassy for Australia (which was still a dominion of Britain), Australia House was the liaison office between the British and Australian governments in wartime. Australian Prime Ministers visited Australia House during the war — Robert Menzies in 1941, and John Curtin in 1944. Both toured England, meeting Australian troops.

For the Australian service personnel in London however, Australia House was best known for its social events, held in the Boomerang Club in the basement. The club served 200 meals a day for soldiers, sailors and airmen, Gracie Fields sang there in 1943 and in the same year the Boomerang Club provided Christmas dinner for 900, during which twenty-two turkeys and eleven hams were consumed.

The 2nd Australian Imperial Force in the United Kingdom

The third Australian Imperial Force convoy left Australia in November 1939 bound for the Middle East, but was diverted to help garrison Britain, which was threatened with invasion. The Australians began disembarking at Gourock, near Glasgow, on 17 June 1940. The force was 8000 strong, almost half of the 6th Australian Division. The Australians were sent to a tented camp on Salisbury Plain. Brigadier Winter, who was with the convoy, was appointed to command the AIF in Britain. On 4 July 1940 King George inspected the men and a week later the AIF suffered its first battle casualty when a German aircraft strafed the camp, wounding Private Arthur Webb of Adelaide, South Australia. Training was completed in September and the Australians were given the role of mobile reaction force, to deal with any German parachute landings in the region. None came, and with victory in the Battle of Britain and the arrival of winter ending the possibility of a German cross channel invasion, the Australians were sent to the Middle East at the end of the year.

Britain had also asked its Dominions for specialist non-combat troops. Three companies of Australian Foresters, numbering about 600 men, arrived in July 1940 and as 6th Division elements were leaving Britain a new Australian force came: the Railway Construction and Maintenance Group, 300 strong. Based at Longmore in east Hampshire, they built storage sidings and maintained strategic railway tracks.

The foresters included many volunteers from Commonwealth and State forest services. War is a great consumer of wood and the foresters were set to cutting timber in Northumberland, and later Scotland, working in snow, which most of the men had never seen, in the unusually harsh winter of 1940—41. The specialist foresters, assisted by Italian prisoner of war labourers, produced ten million metres of sawn timber in three years in Britain.

In Dumfries in 1942 the Australian Foresters won the 'championship of Britain', an axeman-ship and sawing competition, against their New Zealand counterparts. The New Zealanders were defending the title, having won in 1941. The hero of the day was Sapper Ian Harrington, from Beech Forest, Victoria. Though he had been in bed sick the day before, he easily won the two main events for the Australians, setting the team on the road to victory. The Australian High Commissioner, Sir Stanley Bruce, came from London for the event.

From 1943 the Foresters, the last large body of AIF troops in Britain, began returning to Australia.

A small AIF headquarters and liaison office was maintained in London under Brigadier-General Wardell. It was enlarged in January 1945 to deal with the thousands of AIF prisoners of war (POWs) that began to arrive in Britain from liberated POW camps.

Diggers save woman — fire after air raid The Argus, 30 August 1940
Ronald Monson — London

Bravery and presence of mind of three Melbourne Diggers saved the life of an elderly woman when her cottage was set on fire by an incendiary bomb yesterday.

Privates Fred Marshall, of Exhibition St, Footscray; Allan Allaway, Leeds St, Footscray; and Alfred Hanson, Somers St, St. Kilda; were travelling in a small car which they had bought for £3 while on leave in Bristol.

Bombers dropped a high-explosive bomb and several incendiaries close to the car, which was put out of action by the shock.

The men saw a small cottage ablaze from end to end and heard a woman in the front of the house calling out, 'My poor mother'. Marshall rushed in, closely followed by the others, and disappeared into the smoke. Marshall said later, 'In the passage I found an old woman lying on the floor with flames all round her. My escape through the front door was cut off. I dragged the woman toward the back door, where I had to grope to find the bolt, and then discovered the door was jammed. I expected the roof to fall in at any moment, but succeeded in kicking down the door, and got the lady outside. The others lost touch with me in the smoke, but found their way out of the back door after making sure there was no one else in the house. The house next door was blazing and I rushed into it, but it was empty'.

Australian Army Nursing Service

Except for the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS), members of Australian women's army, navy and air force services did not go to Britain in any significant numbers. A Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force contingent was sent, but arrived after the war in Europe had concluded.

The 124 AANS members, the staff of 2/3rd Australian General Hospital (AGH), arrived at Gourock and Liverpool from May 1940. Six sisters were posted to the Tidworth Military Hospital on Salisbury Plain, where they assisted in providing medical care for the AIF force there. During the Battle of Britain the remainder established 2/3rd AGH at Hydestile, Surrey, 50 kilometres south of London. Bombs fell near the hospital and staff often worked wearing helmets and respirators. There were constant gas and fire drills. Sister Florence Cowan wrote of the experience:

The constant alerts, at night the throbbing roar of bombers passing over, bound for London. I crouch under a bed, one of three, vainly trying to shrink, while the rising scream of a bomb tears down — for that very bed it seems. The floor shudders, the dull roar hits one hard as metal, the building rattles, and then the tension disappears in laughter.

From November 1940 to March 1941 the AANS were embarked at Liverpool for service in the Middle East, which had been their intended destination when they left Australia.

The Royal Australian Navy in British Waters

From its earliest days the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) regarded itself virtually as an integral part of the Royal Navy (RN). During the Second World War RAN ships based in British waters were directly under Admiralty command. There was also a long term loan agreement whereby RAN members served in RN ships, gaining valuable experience in all facets of sea power. When the war began some 500 Australians were on loan with the RN, but with the arrival of Australian ships operating from British ports such as Liverpool in 1940, the number of RAN personnel in the theatre of war rapidly increased. The heavy cruiser HMAS Australia performed convoy escort in the Atlantic and sailed as far south as the Cape of Good Hope and as far north as Bear Island in the Arctic Ocean.1 Five new 'N' Class destroyers — HMA Ships Norman, Napier, Nepal, Nestor and Nizam — all Australian manned, were built in Britain for the RAN. The destroyers served in the Atlantic on escort duties before moving to other theatres. Nestor took part in the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck in May 1941 and later that year sank the German submarine U-127 off Cape St Vincent. The crew of the heavy cruiser HMAS Shropshire, which was given to the RAN to replace the Canberra, sunk in the Pacific, spent three months at Chatham in Kent while the ship was refitted. All told, some 2500 RAN personnel served in HMA ships based in British ports in the first three years of the war. By 1943 all had been recalled to fight in the Pacific against the Japanese.

As RAN ships were leaving Britain the number of Australians serving in RN ships and shore bases increased. By the end of 1943 total RAN strength was 35,359, including 2404 serving with the RN in Britain.2 They were spread thinly throughout the service, and there were few places or tasks where a representative of the RAN could not be found. Including those serving in RAN ships early in the war and those on loan who returned to Australia and were replaced, about 6000 RAN members served, at least for a short time, in Britain during the Second World War.

Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve

The Royal Navy drew most of its loan personnel from Australia from the ranks of the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RANVR). Of the 500 Australians serving with the Royal Navy at the start of the war, more than 400 were members of the RANVR. It became clear by 1940 that, although there was no shortage of applicants, there was limited demand for naval volunteers in Australia, not least due to the lack of instructors and training facilities. Consequently RANVR personnel were sent to Britain, where the demand was greater. Among the most useful were the 268 officers and ratings who had, by September 1941, gained their anti-submarine qualifications at the training establishment HMAS Rushcutter. As the RN was particularly short of personnel trained in this speciality, these men quickly found themselves en route to Britain. One in five anti-submarine specialists involved in the Battle of the Atlantic were trained in Rushcutter.

Dominion Yachtsmen Scheme

At the request of the Admiralty, the RAN began a separate 'Yachtsmen Scheme' in June 1940. Some 500 volunteers, preferably with yachting experience, were selected and sent to the United Kingdom for training as members of the RANVR. The scheme divided these wartime recruits into two age groups. Those over thirty were required to pass the navigation tests for a Yachtmaster's Certificate, and were granted commissions before they left Australia. The younger volunteers reached Britain as ratings and entered HMS King Alfred, a training establishment, to complete the courses for their commission. They then served in everything from battleships to the smallest landing craft, sometimes in command, or as first lieutenants. They were also shore based instructors in navigation, anti-submarine warfare, gunnery or salvage.

HMS Glowworm and HMS Hood

With a small number of RAN personnel serving in many RN ships it is unsurprising that some would be lost early, when the tide of war favoured the Germans. The first two to die, of ninety-five RAN members to perish in RN ships, were lost when HMS Glowworm was sunk off Norway on 8 April 1940 by the vastly superior German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper. In a heroic action which earned her captain the Victoria Cross (VC), Glowworm, already fatally hit, rammed and damaged the much larger ship.

The two Australians were Lieutenant Commander James Kenneth MacLeod and Able Seaman Ronald Bampton. MacLeod was born in Warrnambool in 1890 and Bampton was from Lithgow. Bampton enlisted in the RAN in 1935 and served in HMA Ships Yarra, Waterhen, Albatross and Hobart. In 1939 he went to Britain for training in anti-submarine warfare. On completion of his training, in January 1940, he was posted to HMS Glowworm.

MacLeod joined the RAN in December 1913 as a 23-year-old Engineer Sub- Lieutenant. During WWI he was in HMAS Encounter, seeing service in German New Guinea and the Pacific. MacLeod then spent three years in HMAS Australia with the British Grand Fleet in the North Sea. MacLeod stayed in the Navy until 1928, when he resigned and became an Engineer Officer in the Merchant Navy. Recalled for duty in 1939, he was appointed to Glowworm in December 1939. As the ship's Engineer Officer he was below when Glowworm's boilers exploded, so had little chance of survival. Only 31 of Glowworm's complement of 149 were saved.

In September 1940 four young Australians — John Shannon, Ian Startup, George Hall and David Hall (not related) — joined the RANVR via the Yachtsmen Scheme. Within days of their enlistment they were on their way to Britain in the liner Strathnaver. Arriving in October 1940 the four recruits joined hundreds of 'Hostilities Only' ratings undertaking basic training at HMS Collingwood, near Portsmouth. In January 1941 the four Australians were drafted to the battlecruiser HMS Hood. At that time, Hood was the most famous warship in the world. Displacing almost 45,000 tons and equipped with a main armament of eight 15-inch guns, she had been the symbol of British sea power since her commissioning in 1920.

When intelligence was received of a breakout into the North Atlantic by the Bismarck, Germany's newest and biggest battleship, HMS Hood and the battleship Prince of Wales sailed from Scapa Flow, Scotland, in pursuit. In the early hours of 24 May 1940 Hood engaged Bismarck in the Denmark Strait, near Iceland, and after a battle lasting only ten minutes accurate German fire caused a catastrophic magazine explosion and Hood broke in two and sank. Of her crew of 1418, only three men survived. All four Australians aboard perished. The loss of Hood stunned the English speaking world and sent a shockwave through the Royal Navy. In the days that followed every resource available to the Admiralty was committed to the hunt for the Bismarck. On 27 May she was sunk.

The Battle of the Atlantic

Some 5000 Australians qualify for the Atlantic Star, the campaign medal for the Battle of the Atlantic. The Battle of the Atlantic is one of the best known of World War II, yet it was not a single battle, engagement or action — it was a five year long struggle between Allied and Axis naval and air forces for control of the sea lanes crossing the Atlantic Ocean, most importantly that from Britain to North America. Atlantic shipping provided Britain with a lifeline without which it would have been starved into submission. Without the ongoing and ultimately successful battle for control of the sea, essential supplies, equipment and troops could not have been carried from North America to Europe. Nor would it have been possible to win the war in the Mediterranean or conduct the amphibious landing at Normandy that eventually drove the Germans out of Western Europe. It is not overstating the case to say that losing the Battle of the Atlantic meant losing the war.

Submarine Hunting in the Atlantic

Lieutenant Commander Alan Turner RANR

I was born in Australia but served on British destroyers in the anti-submarine branch. They sent us over to England, where I served on two ships, the destroyer Montgomery and a minesweeper. The Montgomery was a four stacker and we did convoy escort from England to Canada, the sole purpose of our existence. It was harrowing at times, as we were losing merchant ships. There were just enough escorts to escort the convoy, but you couldn't leave it. If you went chasing U-Boats you left a gap. The convoy work was quite monotonous really. Sometimes your convoy was untouched and other times they would zero in on it. You are stooging along on your station in the convoy and then suddenly there is a ship torpedoed.

I was an operator of the Asdic (a device for locating submarines by sound waves). I was listening to the echoes, an echo would go out underwater and hit something and come back. An actual sub gave a good metallic echo and a good operator could tell the difference. A non-sub, as we used to call them, could be a shoal of fish, a mud bank or a wreck and would give a furry echo and there was no movement, so you worked out there was nothing happening under there. The U-boat captains themselves were very cunning, brilliant some of them. Prien, Kretschmer and Schepke were the German submarine aces. You hated them, but you had to admire them.

The Montgomery sank an Italian sub. They were easy. We surprised it on the surface not far out in the Atlantic. The Italian crew were cocky, but also glad to be out of the war. But in the majority of sub sinkings there were no survivors, they just went straight down. You had to produce evidence of a kill to satisfy the admiral. You had to have part of a body or part of a U Boat. You couldn't say because you got an oil patch you'd got a submarine, because they had a habit of discharging oil to throw you off. It was only in May 1943 we started to get on top of them.

It was an honour to be with the Royal Navy. Their captains were highly competent and the men were typical Pommies, cheerful. The Royal Navy officer was trained at Dartmouth and expected a lot of their crew, and got it. When I was a sailor on one of their ships I worshipped the captain. That's how the Royal Navy was. There was a war on and they didn't have time to muck about with red tape. It was a great event, I loved the sea, I was 18 when I left home and I saw the world.

Lieutenant Commander Arthur Henry Callaway

Callaway was born in April 1906 at Woollahra, Sydney. Educated at Bondi Superior Public School, by 1923 he was a clerk with Rosenfeld & Co. Pty Ltd, merchants. He joined the RAN in July 1924 as a midshipman and in April 1928 transferred to the RANVR with the rank of Lieutenant. Having specialised in anti-submarine warfare, Callaway was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander on 23 June 1939. He was mobilised in September and served in HMAS Yarra until March 1940. Lent to the RN, in November he sailed for Britain. In June 1941 Callaway assumed command of HM Trawler Lady Shirley, which was based at Gibraltar. On 4 October Lady Shirley was searching for a merchantman lying damaged west of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic when she spotted a submarine on the surface. The submarine dived and Callaway dropped a pattern of depth charges and was surprised to see the submarine U-111 surface in his wake. He immediately turned his ship to bring the four-inch gun to bear and, if necessary, to ram the U-boat. Several members of the ship's crew were killed and wounded by fire from the submarine's deck gun, but the submarine was badly damaged and was scuttled. Lady Shirley became the first RN vessel commanded by an Australian to destroy a U-boat. For his part in the action Callaway was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), but he did not survive the war. On 11 December 1941, while on patrol in the Straits of Gibraltar, Lady Shirley was torpedoed by U-374 and sank with all hands.

Lieutenant Commander (later Captain) Stanley Darling, RANVR

In the Atlantic, the English Channel and the North Sea during World War II, at least six submarines were sunk by ships commanded by Australian officers. Among them, and perhaps the most distinguished graduate of HMAS Rushcutter, was Lieutenant Commander (later Captain) Stanley Darling, RANVR.

Stanley Waldron Darling was born at Bellerive, Tasmania, in 1907. He was educated at The Hutchins School and studied engineering at the University of Tasmania. In 1931 he was a radio announcer with the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) at Hobart. Later the ABC sent him to America to study acoustics.

By the outbreak of World War II, Darling was a Lieutenant Commander in the RANVR. His background led him naturally towards the use of Asdic equipment and Darling was one of the specialists loaned to the Royal Navy in August 1940. After commanding anti-submarine vessels varying from trawlers to frigates on convoy escort in the Atlantic, Darling was given command of the new frigate Loch Killin. She was equipped with the Squid, which used a mortar to throw a depth charge ahead of the ship, so that the ship did not have to pass over her submerged target and lose its Asdic signal.

In 1944 Darling joined Captain Johnnie Walker's Second Support Group, which was deployed in the South Western Approaches and English Channel to keep the seas clear for the Normandy landings. On a single patrol in 1944 Darling sank two U-boats and assisted in the sinking of two more. He was awarded his first Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for 'courage, resolution and skill' in destroying U-333 in the Channel on July 31 1944, and a Bar for forcing U-736 to the surface and sinking her on 6 August. Darling detected U-736 at close range; he turned towards her and, slowing to establish Asdic contact and set his weapons, fired the Squid. The depth charges' explosion set off two torpedoes coming from the U-boat. The massive blast a few yards from Loch Killin blew U-736 to the surface and, as a fountain of water settled around both vessels, Loch Killin ran over the German submarine.

On April 15 1945, Darling sank U-1063, the last German submarine to be lost in the English Channel.

Australians in Midget Submarines

In 1942 some RAN personnel in Britain responded to a special call for volunteers. The work was said to be hazardous and that only single men and good swimmers should apply. On arrival at Kames Bay, on the west coast of Scotland, the volunteers learned they would be training to operate midget submarines. The first operation was to sink the German battleship Tirpitz, which was well defended in Kaafjord in far northern Norway, and which repeated air attacks had failed to damage. Of twenty four crew in six X-craft, five were Australians, three of them X-craft commanders — Lieutenants Brian McFarlane in X8, Ken Hudspeth in X10 and Henty Henty-Creer in X5. Two more Australians, Lieutenant Max Shean RANVR and Sub-Lieutenant William Marsden RANVR, were in X9 and X8. The six X-craft were towed by oceangoing submarines to the operation area, but Shean's X9, being towed by HMS Syrtis, parted its tow and disappeared with her three-man passage crew. Shean, who was aboard Syrtis at the time, was sent into the water to clear the fouled line from the ship's propeller. With his diving suit lost in X9, Shean had to dive into the frigid Arctic waters wearing overalls weighted with steel bars, but he completed the task successfully.

X8 had to be scuttled because of explosive charge troubles, but the crew was saved. On the night of 21—22 September 1943 the remaining four X-craft entered the fjord. Plagued by equipment failure, Hudspeth in X10 was unable to reach the Tirpitz, but regained the open sea and rendezvoused with the towing submarine. Henty-Creer's X5 was last seen breaking the surface 700 metres from Tirpitz. It was fired on and disappeared, and its exact fate remains a mystery. Both of the other attackers, Lieutenants Basil Place in X7 and Donald Cameron in X6, reached the Tirpitz and laid explosive charges that put Germany's greatest battleship out of action until March 1944. Place and Cameron were each awarded a Victoria Cross and Hudspeth a DSC. The removal of the threat presented by Tirpitz to Russian and Atlantic convoys for seven months was of immense strategic benefit.

Australians in Commando Raids

Commando raids were staged from Britain against the German held western coast of Europe. Three Australians participated in what is now known as 'the greatest raid of all'— the 28 March 1942 attack on St. Nazaire. In 'Operation Chariot' the Royal Navy and British commandoes destroyed the Normandie Dock in St Nazaire harbour. It was the only dock on the Atlantic coast capable of repairing large ships and its loss would force German capital ships in need of repair to return to Germany.

The obsolete destroyer HMS Campbeltown left Falmouth, Cornwall, accompanied by eighteen smaller craft. She crossed the English Channel, entered the Loire estuary and was rammed into the Normandie Dock gates. The ship was packed with delayed-action explosives that detonated later that day, putting the dock out of service for the remainder of the war.

Lieutenant Cecil William (Bill) Wallach from Melbourne, a volunteer in the Yachtsmen Scheme, was in one of the small ships, motor launch ML 270, which escorted Campbeltown to its target. On the run into the harbour, just after midnight, the success of the mission was threatened when a German searchlight illuminated Campbeltown, allowing coast defence guns to concentrate their fire on it. Wallach, under fire himself, shot at the searchlight and knocked it out. 'I was down to about 10 rounds, but I got it. She [HMS Campbeltown] then had a clear run ... straight to the gates and straight in.' ML 270, badly hit and with no steering, limped back up the Loire estuary before being abandoned and the crew picked up by a Royal Navy destroyer.

Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships

The Royal Australian Navy supplied gunners to Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships (DEMS). The guns were installed aboard merchantmen to give some measure of protection from submarines, aircraft or S-Boats (Schnellboot as German motor torpedo boats were called). DEMs were equipped with a combination of old naval guns from 3- to 6-inch calibre for surface action, and 12-pounder quick firing high angle guns, automatic 40 mm Bofors, 20 mm Oerlikon and machine guns for anti-aircraft work. About 300 Australians served in DEMS in the Atlantic, or on routes from Britain to Australia and Britain to the Soviet Union. DEMS sailors usually served in detachments of between six and ten men, depending on the size of the vessel and type of armament carried. An exception was the sixty Australian and British DEMS sailors aboard the passenger liner Queen Mary, which ferried American troops across the Atlantic.

DEMS sailors were the first RAN members to become prisoners of war. Jack Daly, from Sydney, who was sunk twice on merchant ships during the war, was one of them. The German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee captured the merchant ships Doric Star and Tairoa off the south-west coast of Africa in early December 1939. Both were bound from Australia to Britain with contingents of Australian DEMS sailors aboard. Graf Spee's prisoners were transferred to the German tanker Altmark. The destroyer HMS Cossack intercepted Altmark on 16 February 1940 in southern Norway and freed all her prisoners, including Daly.

Another DEMS sailor was Robert Lamb. His experiences on the Britain to Australia route were by no means unusual. In May 1942 he had seven days leave in London after arriving in the Port Adelaide. In a pub Lamb met another DEMS gunner he had not seen since the start of the war. Their leave was cut short when the two were drafted to the Port Auckland, which sailed from Ellesmere near Manchester, bound for Brisbane. In the Atlantic they were shadowed for several days by a Focke Wulf Fw200 Condor, a long range German aircraft. Sitting out of Port Auckland's armament's range, the Condor reported their position to German submarines. Each evening, as it left, the Condor would flash a 'good night' message to Port Auckland. Eventually the submarines, directed by the Condor, gathered and attacked. In avoiding torpedoes Port Auckland was damaged in collision with another ship. Returning to Southampton for repairs the ship was attacked in the English Channel by German S-Boats, which Lamb and his gun crew engaged. Repairs completed, they set off for Australia once again. In the Atlantic there was another U-boat attack. A nearby ship exploded, ship and body parts raining down on Lamb and his gun crew. Port Auckland escaped once again and arrived in Brisbane in September 1942.

Rendering Mines Safe

Lieutenant Hugh Randall Syme

Some of the RAN's most decorated personnel did not serve in ships. In Britain during the Second World War one of the most hazardous tasks was mine disposal. German ships and aircraft laid mines along the coast and in harbours and it was the task of a handful of RAN officers to render them safe. Eight RANVR officers were awarded the George Cross (GC) or the George Medal (GM) for gallantry and devotion to duty in mine disposal work. The George Cross is second in the order of wear and takes precedence over all other orders, decorations and medals except the Victoria Cross.

A highly decorated Australian mine defuser was Hugh Syme, GC, GM and Bar, of the RANVR. Born in 1903 at Kew, Melbourne, Syme was a keen amateur sailor. He joined under the Yachtsmen Scheme, passed a navigation test and was appointed a probationary sub-Lieutenant in September 1940. Syme was sent to England, trained at HMS King Alfred at Hove, Sussex, and was among the first group of Australians to serve in the Rendering Mines Safe Section of HMS Vernon at Portsmouth. Syme was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in December 1940. German bombing and air raids ensured the team had plenty of practice disarming unexploded mines and bombs. Lieutenant Syme rapidly developed a reputation for bravery, especially in dealing with previously unknown types of German mines. His George Medal was awarded for 'consistent courage and coolness' in dealing with a series of ten unexploded mines. One exploded while it was being turned to get at the fuse, but Syme escaped uninjured. Another mine, hanging by its parachute cords in a house at Manchester, also had to be turned. As Syme was unable to do this by hand, he attached a rope from the mine to his car and used the power of the engine to turn it.

Syme was awarded the George Cross and George Medal and Bar for a string of successful mine recoveries. In January 1943 Lieutenant Syme left Britain, returning to Australia to command a bombdisposal section.

Lieutenant Commander Leon Goldsworthy

Leon Goldsworthy, GC, DSC, GM became the RAN's most highly decorated member for his extraordinary courage and skill in rendering German mines safe. Goldsworthy was born in 1909 at Broken Hill, New South Wales. In the years before the war, he was engaged in business in Western Australia. Initially rejected by the navy because of his small stature, he made a second attempt to enlist in March 1941 and was accepted as a probationary sub-lieutenant in the RANVR and was sent to England to complete his training. There Goldsworthy volunteered for the Rendering Mines Safe Section of HMS Vernon, at Portsmouth. He quickly proved himself a skilled officer who was able to use his pre-war training in electricity and physics to good effect. His work often required him to defuse mines underwater, wearing a bulky diving suit that made the slow, steady movements required in this work very difficult. On 13 August 1943, Goldsworthy defused a German mine in the water off Sheerness using a special diving suit which he had helped to develop. In September and October 1943 he defused two mines, one under a Southampton wharf and the other in the River Thames. For this he was awarded the George Medal. In April 1944, Goldsworthy disarmed an acoustic mine that had lain in water off Milford Haven, Wales, for two and a half years. In September 1944 he received the George Cross for his work in recovering and defusing mines since June 1943.

Before the Allied invasion of France, Goldsworthy was involved in the selection and training of men for port clearance. In January 1945 he was awarded the DSC for his bravery and leadership in clearing Cherbourg Harbour, Normandy, which was urgently needed to supply the Allied invasion force. On one occasion he disarmed a new German 'K' type mine in 15 metres of water under shellfire. After his work in France, Goldsworthy served with the United States Navy in the South Pacific. By war's end he had rendered more than 300 mines safe.

Motor Torpedo Boats

Royal Navy Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB) and Motor Gun Boats (MGB) protected British coastal shipping and attacked that of the Germans. German S-boats were their opponents who laid mines off British harbours, often leading to clashes between the two light coastal forces. In the thick of it was Lieutenant William Leverrier Fesq, RANVR, from Strathfield, New South Wales. Fesq was based with the 64th Flotilla at HMS Dolphin, Gosport, Hampshire. He was first lieutenant of MGBs and MTBs in 1942 and 1943. In 1944 he became commanding officer of MTB 739.

Nicknamed 'dog boats,' the Fairmile D type MTB displaced 100 tons and was 35 metres long. It was capable of 30 knots and had a crew of twenty-one. In addition to torpedoes, an MTB could be armed with 6-pounder guns, Oerlikon guns, or machine guns. The MGB was without torpedoes, but had a heavier gun armament.

On 6 April 1943 Fesq sank a German armed trawler off Ramsgate, Kent. In another engagement, fought on the night of 14 February 1944 off the Nore, a sandbank at the mouth of the Thames estuary, Fesq damaged four German S-boats attempting to lay mines. In May 1944 he was awarded a DSC for an engagement against a much superior force: 'The King has approved the award … for gallant and distinguished service in light coastal craft in a successful engagement with the enemy which resulted in the disabling and setting on fire of a trawler and an E-boat (the Allied name for S-boats) and damage to three other E-boats'. Fesq remained in command of MTB 739 until the end of the war.

Australians in the Merchant Navy

The term Merchant Navy refers to a nation's commercial shipping and crews. During World War II Merchant Navy ships carrying valuable cargoes were at just as much risk as warships, but without the warships' advantages in design and weaponry. Possibly as many as 2000 Australian merchant seamen manned hospital ships or served in ships which delivered supplies to Britain either directly from Australia or across the Atlantic from Canada and the United States. Others served on the Arctic convoys from Britain to the Soviet Union and a small number sailed with the merchant navies of Britain, the United States, Norway and Canada. More than ninety Australian merchant seamen were killed sailing on routes to and from Britain.

Ships that sailed independently, rather than in convoys, ran a greater risk of being torpedoed. The greatest single loss of life to Australian merchant seamen in World War II occurred on one such occasion, when SS Ceramic was sunk mid- Atlantic on 7 December 1942, after having separated from its convoy. Among 641 passengers and crew there were 38 Australians — all merchant seamen, DEMS gunners, or servicemen on passage to Australia. At midnight on 6—7 December, in cold weather and rough seas, U-515 hit Ceramic with several torpedos. Ceramic 's engine room was damaged, stopping her engines. The crippled liner stayed afloat and her complement abandoned ship, launching eight lifeboats. Three hours later U-515 fired two more torpedoes which broke the ship's back and sank her. By now a heavy sea was running, capsizing some of the lifeboats. Next morning U-515 returned to the position of the sinking to look for Ceramic 's Master, as he could provide valuable intelligence about Allied shipping. But the storm was now almost swamping the U-boat's conning tower, so the captain took the first survivor he came across, a British sapper of the Royal Engineers, then left the scene. None of the other survivors were ever seen again. Thirty-three of those who died are listed on the Australian Merchant Navy Memorial in Canberra.

Australian War Correspondents in Britain

When the war began, Australian journalist Ronald Monson was already in London. Monson, who had covered the Spanish Civil War, reported from Britain and France for the Sydney Daily Telegraph and the Melbourne Argus. Journalists John Hetherington, Guy Harriot and Reginald Glennie soon joined Monson in Britain. In early 1940 the Minister for Information, Sir Henry Gullet, decided there should be an official correspondent to the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. A panel was assembled to judge applications for the position. The panel included Charles Bean, Australia's First World War official correspondent. Kenneth Slessor, poet and journalist, was selected for the post. Slessor was awarded an annual salary of 500 pounds, and given a uniform and a portable typewriter. He arrived in Britain in June 1940 and sent home graphic accounts of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz, as well as comforting stories about the Diggers in England.

Another Australian war correspondent who spent time in Britain during the war was Reginald (Chester) Wilmot. After covering the war in New Guinea and the Middle East he joined the BBC, arriving in Britain in early 1944. Wilmot landed in Normandy in a glider with the 6th Airborne Division on D-Day, soon becoming one of the most famous Allied war correspondents in Europe. He reported from the battlefields for the remainder of the war and was present at Lüneberg in May 1945, when German forces surrendered to Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery.

The Blitz

Kenneth Slessor — London, 10 September 1940

Suddenly the sailor grabbed me by the arm. 'Good God!' he yelled. 'Look at the sky.' It was like a cloud going over the sun. The sky became dark with planes. The next thing we knew, hell seemed to be coming down in lumps. There was a terrace house opposite me and I saw it vanish. Buildings don't blow up that way, I thought. They just seemed to lift off at the roots and rise in the air and fall flat.

A Football Match

Kenneth Slessor — Salisbury, 23 September 1940

Australian soldiers played their first football game of the season yesterday … after a good deal of preliminary argument and expostulation, during which the New South Welshmen and the Queenslanders almost came to blows with the Victorians and South Australians in defence of their rival codes, it was agreed to play Australian Rules. Several hardened rugby enthusiasts left immediately with sneers on their faces, while a group of soccer partisans watched gloomily … It was in fact a curious mix of all four Australian codes, since the rugby diehards stubbornly insisted on tackling and the soccer players on dribbling.

The AIF and Marriage

Kenneth Slessor — Salisbury, 8 October 1940

Lieutenant A. H. Moncrieff of Adelaide, now with the AIF in England, is waiting anxiously for a reply to the cable he sent to Australia 30 days ago. He is waiting with more than the usual urgency because the answer will either change the course of his life or confirm him as a bachelor. On 10 September he cabled an Australian girl living in Adelaide and asked her to marry him. So far he has received no reply. But he told me today he is confident of the result. 'I know there is a lot of delay in the cable service and I'm waiting patiently for her to say yes'.

The Royal Australian Air Force in Britain

When the war began, 440 Australians were stationed as aircrew in Britain. Five and a half years later, at the time of the German surrender in May 1945, there were 15,500 members of the RAAF in Britain and Western Europe, of whom 12,300 were qualified aircrew. Australians were in three British functional commands — Bomber Command, Coastal Command and Fighter Command — and were further divided between Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) squadrons and British squadrons of the Royal Air Force (RAF).

There was a single Australian squadron in Britain when the war began: No. 10 Squadron, flying Sunderland aircraft with Coastal Command. Another thirteen Australian squadrons were raised for service in Britain after the war began. It was not always possible for the supply of air and ground crew to meet demand, so Australian squadrons were not always fully manned by Australians. In No. 10 Squadron the Australian component was usually almost 100 per cent, but in No. 464 Squadron, for instance, it was well below half— only a third of the men killed flying with the squadron were Australians.

Empire Air Training Scheme

In 1939 the British government realised it did not have enough aircrew for the anticipated rapid expansion of the RAF. Pre-war plans identified a need for 50,000 aircrew annually, but Britain could only supply 21,000. To overcome the problem, the British government asked the Dominions to jointly establish a pool of trained aircrew who could then serve with the RAF or the Dominion's own squadrons. While each Dominion conducted its own elementary training, advanced training was conducted in Canada.

Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) stated that Australian aircrew were, as far as possible, to be assigned to squadrons of their own nationality. These squadrons, raised in Britain or in the Mediterranean theatre of war, became known as 'Article XV Squadrons'. The scheme was so successful that it led to an oversupply of trained aircrew. In the first six months of 1944, some 5000 trained Australian aircrew arrived in Britain, but only 2000 could immediately be allocated to operational squadrons. Later in the year Australia's contribution to EATS was wound back, until the scheme ended in October 1944.

Australians serving with British squadrons were spread far and wide. On 1 January 1945, 2621 RAAF aircrew were serving in 214 different RAF squadrons, and in half of these there were fewer than ten Australians per squadron.1 Australia sent a much larger number of aircrew than ground crew to Britain and as a consequence suffered a higher than normal percentage of losses. By war's end more than 5300 Australian airmen and almost one hundred ground crew members had died, in action or from other causes, in Britain and Western Europe.

RAAF Overseas Headquarters

Unlike the RAN and the AIF in Britain, the RAAF established a large headquarters, however RAAF Overseas Headquarters (RAAF HQ) was not set up in London until December 1941, under Air Chief Marshal Richard Williams. Previously the British government had accepted the responsibility for reception, payment and allocation of Australians to squadrons as required. When Williams arrived at the headquarters at Kodak House, Kingsway, he found it was not entirely clear where some of the 3800 RAAF personnel then in Britain had been posted. Beginning with sixty staff, RAAF HQ began to track them down, as well as establish all the conventional sections of a headquarters: postal, historical, liaison, reception and repatriation among them. When RAAF personnel were at last under some measure of RAAF control, the next task was to ensure as many Australians as possible were posted to Australian squadrons. This aim was only partly achieved, as less than two thirds of all RAAF personnel in Britain served in RAAF squadrons.

RAAF Ground Crew

To keep a squadron airworthy required specialists, highly skilled tradesmen. A squadron needed mechanics to service engines; armourers to service guns and replenish ammunition; fitters and riggers to service and repair airframe, control systems and instruments; and electrical fitters to service and repair the wireless and other electoral devices. Each fighter squadron needed 130 ground crew and bomber squadrons up to 260. A typical fighter squadron might have eighteen fitters, eighteen flight mechanics, eighteen flight riggers, twenty-two fitter-armourers or armourers, six electricians, eight wireless mechanics, fourteen wireless operators, two carpenters, two coppersmith and metal workers, one fabric worker, one instrument maker and one instrument repairer. While the most experienced men worked at repairing unserviceable aircraft, the rest would provide the servicing party, which refuelled, rearmed and did maintenance checks, such as tyre pressure and wireless and oil level checks, on airworthy aircraft. Australian squadrons in Britain contained a mix of RAF and RAAF ground staff and, like aircrew, some Australian ground staff served in British squadrons. By 1944, there were 2700 RAAF ground staff serving in both air forces.

Flight Sergeant Oswald Edward Ferguson, No. 10 Squadron, RAAF

Killed on Active Service, 30 June 1944

Oswald Edward Ferguson was born in Goulburn, New South Wales, on 9 March 1911. After schooling, Ferguson joined the New South Wales Railways, where he undertook a five year apprenticeship as a fitter and turner. Ferguson stayed with the railways until January 1939, when he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force as a flight rigger. On completing training at Laverton in Victoria, Ferguson was remustered as a metal rigger, then later as a fitter, gaining the rank of Flight Sergeant.

In November 1939, Ferguson embarked at Sydney. Arriving in England, he was one of the original members of No. 10 Squadron. A popular member of the squadron's ground staff, Ferguson worked as a fitter on the squadron's Sunderland aircraft at Pembroke Dock in Wales and at Mount Batten, Plymouth.

Ferguson served with the squadron for four and a half years, repeatedly refusing the opportunity to return to Australia. His single-minded determination to prevent delays by working very long hours led to a consistently high standard of aircraft serviceability, which was recognised when he was awarded a Mention in Despatches.

In 1944 Ferguson was further recognised by being awarded the British Empire Medal. On 30 June 1944, whilst on sick leave in London, he was killed by a V-1 flying bomb, not yet having attended the award ceremony for his medal. On 12 March 1945 his son Graham, aged ten, was presented with his father's British Empire Medal at Admiralty House in Sydney.

Bomber Command

The majority of Australians who flew from British bases served in Bomber Command, the RAF's strategic bomber force. Eventually eighty-four operational squadrons strong, the command was organised into several groups on the basis of their role, the type of aircraft they operated, and the locations of the airfields from which they operated. For more than five years Bomber Command waged an air offensive against Germany and Italy, mostly by night. Launching air raids of more than 1000 aircraft, mainly four-engine bombers such as the Lancaster, Bomber Command dropped almost 1,000,000 tons of bombs during the war.

More than 12,000 RAAF personnel served with Bomber Command. Although their numbers amounted to less than 2 per cent of Australia's World War II enlistments, the 3486 Australians who were killed with Bomber Command accounted for almost 20 per cent of all Australian combat deaths in the war. The squadron with the greatest losses — 1019 men — was No. 460 Squadron RAAF, which operated Vickers Wellington and then Avro Lancaster bombers from England. In late 1943 and early 1944, during the peak of the bomber offensive against Germany, the bomber crews suffered a loss rate of nearly 5 per cent on each raid, so there was little chance of surviving an operational tour of thirty 'ops'.

Further details about Australians in Bomber Command can be found in another book in this series: Australians in World War II: Bomber Command.

Coastal Command

Coastal Command was responsible for air operations over the seas around Great Britain. This included the protection of Allied shipping and the destruction of enemy vessels and submarines in British waters, as well as those operating far into the Atlantic Ocean. Three RAAF Squadrons served with Coastal Command: Nos 10 and 461 Squadrons (Sunderland Flying Boats) and No. 455 Squadron (Hampdens and later Beaufighters). Well over 2000 Australian personnel served in Coastal Command squadrons. These crews were responsible for the destruction of numerous German and Italian submarines. To protect their submarines, the German Air Force operated large formations of long range fighters over the Bay of Biscay. Many of the poorly armed and slow-flying planes of Coastal Command were shot down. Despite heavy losses in aircraft and crews, Coastal Command helped break the German submarine blockade of England, and played a major role in Germany's final defeat. Some 408 Australians died while serving in Coastal Command.

No. 10 Squadron RAAF

No. 10 Squadron was the only Australian squadron to serve continuously for the duration of World War II in Europe. Formed at Point Cook in July 1939, a small group of squadron personnel proceeded to the United Kingdom for training on the new aircraft, which they would then fly back to Australia. However, when the war began the Australian Government ordered the squadron to remain in Britain. The squadron was initially based at Pembroke Dock in Wales and was brought up to strength with drafts of personnel from Australia. Part of 15 Group, Coastal Command, it became operational in February 1940. The squadron's primary role was to locate and destroy German submarines, but its flying boats also proved useful for air-sea rescue and transport missions. In 1940 No. 10 Squadron predominantly escorted Allied convoys passing through the north-western Atlantic Ocean. The Bay of Biscay became the focus of the squadron's operations in 1941, where it hunted German submarines moving from bases in France to the Atlantic. In 1942 the squadron was moved to Mount Batten, near Plymouth in southern England. The squadron's most intensive period of operations, mainly submarine hunting, was in 1943, and it set a record for the number of patrol hours flown in a single month, reaching 1143 in February 1944. No. 10 Squadron returned to convoy escort duty in 1945, ceasing operations in June, having sunk six German submarines and lost nineteen aircraft on operations. One hundred and sixty-one Australians died serving in No. 10 Squadron.

No. 461 Squadron

No. 461 Squadron, which formed in England in April 1942 around a nucleus drawn from No. 10 Squadron, also flew Sunderlands. Patrols commenced in July, and by September eight German U-boats had been attacked and several damaged. In May 1943 the squadron sank its first submarine. The sinking of the squadron's second submarine, U-461, in the Bay of Biscay on 30 July 1943, was described by the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Dudley Marrows:

Three German supply submarines were proceeding on the surface, loaded with fuel, ammunition and supplies intended for the submarine Wolf Packs roaming the central Atlantic. All were sunk, but the one I got was coincidentally the same number as my aircraft, U-461. The submarines were manoeuvring in formation, keeping their bows pointing towards the attacking aircraft, putting up a formidable barrage of cannon and machine gunfire. I decided that the only thing to do was to go in as low as possible. We went in, jinking violently, with all 30 guns of the three submarines firing at us. Shrapnel was hitting the fuselage like hail. Just skimming the swell tops, I had to pull up to clear the submarine as I dropped my depth charges. We just cleared the conning tower.

The explosion of the depth charges blew the submarine in two. Marrows could see some survivors in the water, so flew back and dropped a dingy to them. Fiftythree of the U-boat crew died, but fifteen lived.

On 16 September 1943, Marrow's Sunderland was set upon by six Ju 88s — twinengine German combat aircraft. Marrow and his crew battled them for an hour, shooting down one, but the Sunderland lost three engines in the fight and was forced to land in a 5-metre swell. The aircraft sank but all the crew was rescued by the Royal Navy.

Australians in RAF Liberators

Some 560 Australians flew in Coastal Command's B-24 Liberator squadrons on 'very long range missions' which cost seventy-three Australian lives. The tasks included submarine hunting in the mid-Atlantic or the Bay of Biscay, meteorological flights, and escorting convoys to Iceland and Norway. Round-trip flights of 3200 kilometres were common. Australian Warrant Officer George Henderson described one such mission in his diary:

Got settled down hoping for a nice quiet trip. Sherry (the pilot) was eating lunch when he sighted a U-boat conning tower. Mighty yell, sandwiches and everything flew all over the place. Went straight into the attack as the sub was diving. Dropped four depth charges slightly ahead of the swirl and stooged around to wait for results. Large patch of oil came up and appeared to be spreading. Carried out baiting tactics but nothing further observed … attack officially assessed as 'U-boat possibly slightly damaged'.

No. 455 Squadron RAAF

No. 455 Squadron, an Article XV squadron, originally flew with Bomber Command, but transferred to Coastal Command in April 1942. Half of the squadron were Australians, and the rest were from Britain, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Rhodesia. Re-equipped with Beaufighters, the squadron attacked German shipping off the Norwegian coast from its base at Leuchars, Scotland.

In December 1943, No. 455 Squadron was formed into a strike wing with No. 489 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force. The ANZAC Wing, as it became known, moved to Langham, Essex, in April 1944 and subsequently conducted operations to keep German vessels clear of the English Channel during D-Day.

Returning to Scotland, the wing attacked shipping on the Dutch and Norwegian coasts. During these operations the Australians faced heavy naval anti-aircraft fire as well as enemy fighters. Often attacking targets in narrow Norwegian fjords, they suffered severe casualties. On 8 November 1944 the squadron took part in an attack on German shipping in Midgulen Fjord, sinking two ships. Moving to Yorkshire the squadron made anti-shipping strikes in the Baltic. The squadron's final operation of the war was flown on 3 May 1945, when they attacked two German minesweepers. Ninety-one Australians were killed while serving with the squadron. Between April 1942 and the end of the war, No. 455 sank a U-boat and seventeen ships.

Fighter Command

Fighter Command, charged with the air defence of the United Kingdom, was one of the three commands into which the Royal Air Force was divided. Some 191 Australians died while serving in Fighter Command.

The Battle for France and Dunkirk

A few Britain based Australian fighter pilots who were already serving in the RAF were present for the early battles of the war. Pilot Officer Les Clisby DFC, from McLaren Vale in South Australia, had served with No. 1 Squadron from 1937. He shot down sixteen German aircraft while flying a Hurricane during the Battle of France, becoming Australia's first ace of the war. He achieved his first aerial victory on 1 April 1940, and in a five-day period from 10 May 1940 he was credited with destroying eight German aircraft. Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, he was himself shot down and killed on 15 May.

Flight Lieutenant Charles Olive, from Brisbane, had also served with the RAF since 1937. A keen sportsman, in 1939 he broke the RAF javelin throwing record. He flew a Spitfire with No. 65 Squadron during the evacuation of Dunkirk, where he shot down a Messerschmitt 109, damaged a Dornier 17 and was himself shot down and wounded. Later, in the Battle of Britain, Olive shot down five more aircraft. He later rose to command No. 456 Squadron RAAF.

Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain is the name given to the air campaign waged by the German Air Force — the Luftwaffe — against the RAF during the summer and autumn of 1940. It was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces and was also the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign to that date. The German objective was to gain air superiority over the English Channel and southeast Britain, so that a sea invasion could commence. The failure of Germany to achieve its objective of destroying Britain's air defence is considered its first major defeat and a crucial turning point in World War II.

The Battle of Britain Roll of Honour recognises thirty-two Australians as having fought in the battle, of whom nine became aces and thirteen were killed. One of them was Pat Hughes, from Cooma.

Flight Lieutenant Pat Hughes

Paterson Clarence Hughes was the highest scoring Australian ace of the Battle of Britain, shooting down fifteen German planes, seven of them in four days.

Hughes joined the RAAF as an air cadet in 1936. On graduating from Point Cook in December he was seconded to the RAF, serving at Church Fenton and St Eval in Cornwall. In August 1940 his squadron moved to Middle Wallop, in Hampshire.

Hughes was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) following an amazing series of aerial victories. Beginning in July 1940 he shared a Ju 88 with another pilot, sharing two more Ju 88s on 27 and 28 July, then scored his first solo kill on 14 August, shooting down a Bf 110 and sharing in the destruction of a Ju 88 on the same day. On 4 September he shot down three Bf 110s, on the next day two Bf 109s and another on 6 September. Hughes' run of success came to an end on 7 September. No. 234 Squadron was scrambled to intercept an enemy bomber force. During the engagement, Hughes destroyed a Dornier Do 17. The German aircraft exploded, but Hughes was so close his Spitfire was damaged. He lost control, crashed and was killed.

Fighter sweeps over Europe

From 1941, the year after the Battle of Britain, Fighter Command went on the offensive. Until air operations were subordinated to fit Allied plans for D-Day in 1944, fighter missions flown from Britain over occupied western Europe took three forms: escort of bombers to attack ground targets or submarine pens on the coast of France, fighters alone attacking targets of opportunity such as trains and trucks, and thirdly attacks designed to force German fighters into combat with the aim of reducing their numbers.

No. 452 squadron RAAF, flying Spitfires, made fighter sweeps over France in 1941 and 1942. An article XV squadron, formed in Kirton-in-Lindsay, Lincolnshire, in April 1941, the squadron moved to Kenley, near London, to begin operations over occupied Europe. No. 452 Squadron soon acquired an enviable reputation, in one month shooting down twenty-two German fighters in France or over the English Channel. The squadron was also active in escorting bombers attacking German warships in the 'Channel dash' of February 1942. Three German warships, the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prince Eugen, escaped from Brest in Brittany, passing through the English Channel on the way back to Germany. The squadron kept enemy fighters away from the bombers it was escorting, but the bombers failed to sink any of the ships.

Irish ace Paddy Finucane flew with No. 452 Squadron, but its best-known pilot was Keith (Bluey) Truscott, from Melbourne. By March 1942, when he was awarded a Bar to his DFC, Truscott had shot down eleven German aircraft, probably destroyed another three, and had damaged two. By April 1942, when the squadron was sent to Australia, it had shot down seventy German aircraft for the loss of twenty-seven.

The Second Tactical Air Force

In June 1943 some squadrons were withdrawn from Bomber, Coastal and Fighter Command to form the 2nd Tactical Air Force, capable of supporting the army when it landed in France the following year. No. 464 Squadron RAAF, flying the Mosquito, was transferred from Bomber Command to the new air force. Based at RAF Sculthorpe in Norfolk, the squadron carried out night 'intruder' and daylight raids on targets in western France and Belgium.

Amiens Raid

One of No. 464's best-known strikes was Operation Jericho, the air raid on the Amiens prison on 18 February 1944. It was mounted to free French resistance fighters who were at risk of execution by the Gestapo. The raid was planned and carried out by No. 180 Wing, consisting of three Mosquito squadrons — No. 21 Squadron RAF, No. 464 Squadron RAAF, and No. 487 Squadron RNZAF. The Mosquitos were escorted by Typhoons from three RAF squadrons.

The attacking aircraft made a low-level approach to the French coast through bad weather that disorganised the attack. Using the Amiens to Albert road as a guide, the Mosquitos bombed the prison walls from five metres above the ground, breaching the walls in several places. Of the 712 prisoners detained at Amiens, 102 died, 74 were hospitalised and 258 escaped. Among the escapees were fifty members of the French resistance, including twelve scheduled for execution. The most important escapee was Raymond Vivant, a key resistance leader. The raid cost the attacking force two Mosquitos and two Typhoons destroyed, three aircrew killed, and three captured.

No. 464's Squadron Leader Ian McRitchie DFC, from Melbourne, was shot down during the raid and captured:

The aircraft was hit by a shell — I received 26 fragments in my right leg and my right arm was useless. My right eye was damaged and blood was spurting out from the wound. I called to my navigator, Sampson, to wipe the blood from the windscreen, and then noticed that he was slumped over. He had been killed. My only limb that was still working properly was my left leg. My right arm was useless so I placed it on my lap. I managed to fly the aircraft just using my left hand, eased back on the power and found an open field in which I belly landed.

When McRitchie was interviewed on his return to Australia after the war he said 'We got our bit of the wall'.

Bombing V-1 Sites

The V-1 flying bomb, also known as the buzz bomb or doodlebug, was an early pulsejet powered predecessor of the cruise missile. Designed for the terror bombing of London, the V-1 was fired from launch sites along the French and Dutch coasts. The first V-1 was launched at London on 13 June 1944. At its peak, more than one hundred V-1s a day were fired at south-east England, and one of No. 464 Squadron's tasks was to knock out the launch sites. Flight Lieutenant Tony Tuck described one of the sorties:

We used to fly as pairs. We were attacking the flying bomb sites along the French coast and I made the standard shallow dive, to drop the bombs. The bombs are supposed to have an 11-second delay so they wouldn't explode until we got out of way. I was behind my leader. As we came into the target I saw his bombs fall away. One of them hit the ground and the bomb broke up before it exploded. The body of the bomb bounced up in front of me. I was a bit too low I suppose, 20—30 feet. Next thing a ruddy great explosion, smell of cordite, windscreen blanked out with mud, pulled stick back tight to get out — must have dropped my own bombs then, but I don't remember that. Climbing away from the target I put on the windscreen wipers to see what was happening. Everything seemed to be working properly, so I went home. The airspeed must have kept us in one piece because when I landed and turned off the runway the coolant sprayed everywhere, and bits of aircraft and stones fell off. So in the end nothing much happened, but it was exciting. I still have two of those stones.

Australian Civilians in the United Kingdom

An unknown number of Australian civilians were in Britain when the war began. Doris (Dee) Walsh was one. Dee was born in 1908 and grew up in Coffs Harbour, NSW, as the eldest of seven children. She left home in her early 20s and trained as a nurse at the Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney. In 1937, aged 28, she travelled to England, working to pay her way. Instead of returning after a year as planned, Dee stayed in England until 1946 as a staff nurse at the University College Hospital in London.

During the war Dee and her flatmates kept an open house for lonely Australian servicemen in London on leave — she was named as next-of-kin in the wills of several of them. Dee's nursing friend Mary Henry was a childhood friend of Pilot Officer Rawdon Middleton VC, who often stayed at their apartment. An Australian serving in No. 149 Squadron RAF, Middleton was awarded a Victoria Cross for saving the lives of most of his crew by piloting a damaged bomber until the crew could bail out. The aircraft then crashed, killing Middleton.

Dee attended Middleton's funeral on 5 February 1943. She wrote:

There was a short speech, the triple volley and fixed bayonets — the RAF was superb — and finally the Last Post. Then I put my wattle in with Rawd, and that was the end.

Dee was a prolific writer, maintaining contact with home and also with her two brothers, Cecil and Earle, serving with the 9th Division in Egypt. In a letter written during the Blitz, Dee wrote about a raid on the London Docklands nearby:

We've been very hard hit — a fair amount of disorganisation — but we must go on to whatever the end — but dear God — how I resent the things that are happening in London day & night — so far our flat is OK — with all my gear — but I can't expect it to survive — why worry about a few clothes and personal treasures when wee babes and mothers are homeless — their children maimed and killed — the heroism is sublime and I just feel so humble when I see people. I'm rather at the tearful stage about it all just yet — but we're not going to let Hitler keep us that way — blast him.

Another Australian who found himself in Britain when the war began was Joseph Bull. Joseph was born in 1908 at Newtown, Sydney, the son of an undertaker. After matriculating in 1926 he joined the family firm W. N. Bull Pty Ltd. Later he worked at Luna Park and for Mansion Hotels. A staunch Catholic and anti-socialist, Joseph went to Spain in 1937 to fight in the Civil War in General Franco's army. He was seriously wounded in the Battle of Teruel. No longer fit for infantry duty, he drove trucks which maintained supply lines to the front. After Franco's victory, Joseph was demobilised in 1939 and made his way to London. On the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted in the Royal Air Force and was posted to No. 149 Squadron. Trained as an air-gunner, Sergeant Bull flew in what he described in letters as 'cracker raids' to Germany. Over the English Channel on 9 September 1940 his aircraft flew into a severe storm and crashed into the sea. Joseph died and only one crew member survived.

D-Day to the German Surrender

In the last year of the war, the majority of Australians serving in Britain were involved in the Allied landing in France and the subsequent offensive into Germany. The invasion of France, Operation Overlord, began on D-Day, 6 June 1944. The invasion force, assembled in Britain, landed at Normandy in the largest amphibious operation in history. The force included 156,000 troops, 195,000 naval personnel, 7000 vessels and 10,000 aircraft. The landing was successful and, after the Battle of Normandy, the Allies broke out of the beachhead, advancing towards Paris in an offensive that led to Germany's defeat the following year.

While Australia's part in the invasion was small, D-Day, and the Battle of Normandy, involved more Australians than any other battle in Western Europe in World War II. Some 3300 Britain based Australians either participated in D-Day related operations, or were present at the invasion with British or Australian formations. The majority, more than 2700, were members of the RAAF; 500 were in the RAN, an unknown number served in merchant ships, and thirteen AIF officers landed with the invading force.1 By late August 1944, when the Battle of Normandy concluded, perhaps 4000 Australians had participated in the land battle, or in air and sea operations connected to it. Fourteen Australians were killed on D-Day, and from May to the breakout from Normandy at least 330, mainly from the RAAF, were killed.

Planning and Preparatory Operations

Several Australians had key roles in planning the invasion. Air Vice-Marshal Edgar Kingston-McCloughry, from Adelaide, had shot down twenty-one German aircraft in World War I. In 1944 he was a RAF officer and Chairman of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force Bombing Committee, which produced the tactical and strategic bombing plans for the invasion. Air Commodore Frank Bladin, from Victoria, was a senior officer in No. 38 Group RAF, responsible for glider operations on D-Day. Also involved in planning was Colonel Ronald McNicholl, Royal Australian Engineers. A Duntroon graduate, McNicholl was posted to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, which was responsible for executing the invasion. The Royal Australian Navy was represented by Lieutenant Commander Victor Smith, from Sydney, who had flown in a torpedo attack on the German battleship Scharnhorst earlier in the war. Smith was the Air Planning Officer on the staff of the Flag Officer, British Assault Area.

Leading up to D-Day the RAF intensified its operations against German submarines and ships operating along the coast of France and bombed German supply lines inland. Bomber Command hit the French railway network and bridges over the Seine River in April and May. Eighteen Australian aircraft were lost in D-Day preparatory operations. Intelligence for these missions was provided by RAF photographic reconnaissance squadrons, in which thirty Australians were serving in 1944.

Coastal Command aircraft with Australian crews destroyed three German submarines in May 1944, while anti-shipping squadrons, including the RAAF's No. 455 Squadron, stepped up their attacks on German coastal convoys in the North Sea.

The RAAF on D-Day

There were twelve Australian squadrons in Britain in June 1944, and the majority of them participated in operations in support of the Normandy landings. In addition there were Australian airmen in the 200 RAF squadrons which played a part in Operation Overlord. On 1 June 1944, there were some 14,000 Australian airmen in Britain, several thousand of whom were still awaiting a posting to a squadron. As casualties mounted throughout the Normandy campaign these men replaced the heavy losses sustained in operational squadrons.

Four Australian heavy bomber squadrons — Nos 460, 463, 466 and 467 — were in Bomber Command, which was temporarily taken from its strategic bombing campaign against targets in Germany to support the landings. On the night before the invasion Bomber Command attacked ten German coastal batteries along the five invasion beaches. Each battery was bombed by a hundred aircraft, and eighty-two Australian-crewed four-engine bombers were involved. No. 463 Squadron bombed a German gun battery at Point du Hoc, where the enormous bomb craters may still be seen today.

Neil Conway, from Darwin, Northern Territory, piloted a Halifax in No. 76 Squadron:

From our base at Holme-on-Spalding, Yorkshire, I did three trips around the time of D-Day. The first one the Brits were hard at work with the secrecy bit, so they just told us it was a normal target, in fact an easy one, just across the coast. The target was the road junction of St Lo in Normandy, not far inland. We had a night off the night before and did the bombing at usual on the night before D-Day. Didn't see anything in the air, most trips at night you think you're by yourself, but then you see one of our aircraft alongside, or another one above. I usually had the flight engineer in the astrodome looking above and the bomb aimer looking below, so we didn't bump into one of our mates.

We bombed, then headed back out across the Channel, daylight was breaking. We were supposed to cross the coast then dogleg west along the channel then back to base. But I could see England up ahead, so didn't see much point in taking the long way. I headed straight for home. We looked down and couldn't see the sea for bloody ships. You could walk from England to France without getting your fleet wet. That's when we realised there was something going on. Then we ran headlong into a mob of towed gliders, thousands of them headed the other way, for Normandy. Paratroops and God knows what. Ran square into them and dodged this way and that until we came out the other side, by which time I'd figured out why the dogleg was in our flight-plan. On landing Intelligence briefed us about the invasion. I said 'I know about that, I've just seen it'.

Tactical air support was provided by Second Tactical Air Force, in which there were 260 Australian aircrew in June 1944, flying fighters, fighter bombers, or light bombers. Two RAAF squadrons, No. 453 (Spitfires) and No. 464 (Mosquitoes), provided direct support to the Allied armies during the campaign. A specialist Australian night fighter squadron, No. 456, protected the invasion force from German night bombers. Three other RAAF squadrons in Britain supported operations in Normandy as part of Coastal Command — Nos 10 and 461 flying Sunderlands, and No. 455 with Beaufighters, operating in an anti-shipping role. On the night of 6—7 June, twenty Mosquitoes from No. 464 Squadron RAAF attacked German road convoys and trains in northern France. Australians were also active in diversionary raids elsewhere in France, dropping 'window' — a metallic chaff that confused German radar — and carrying out intruder attacks to divert enemy aircraft from Normandy.

Flight Sergeant Charles Turner, from Sydney, was a 27-year-old navigator in a Dakota, which dropped twenty-five paratroopers of the 6th Airborne Division on D-Day. The drop took place soon after midnight and was designed to protect the eastern flank of the landing force. Turner said 'The plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire from time to time, but we were lucky'. Several hours later Australian members of No. 196 Squadron RAF flew four-engine Stirlings towing gliders to land in the same area after paratroopers had secured the landing zone.

The RAN on D-Day

No Royal Australian Navy ships were present at D-Day, but RAN personnel served in dozens of RN ships. In June 1944 RAN officers commanded one destroyer, one frigate, two corvettes, one submarine, one minesweeper, two motor torpedo boats and four flotillas of tank landing craft.4 Among them was Sub-Lieutenant Dean Murray, who commanded six landing craft which put ashore the British 3rd Infantry Division on Sword Beach. Lieutenant Dacre Smyth RANVR was gunnery control officer in the cruiser HMS Danae, the only Australian on board. Danae's task was to provide fire support for the landing. Smyth recalled 'I was not frightened as we approached Sword Beach ... until German shells started landing all around me, then I got a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach'. HMS Ajax, a British cruiser, had three Australian officers on board when bombarding Longues on D-Day. Australians were also in RN ships Enterprise, Glasgow, Scylla, Ashanti, Eskimo and Mackay.

Lieutenant Alan Turner RAN

On the minesweeper I was mainly in the North Sea and English Channel, clearing mines. If E Boats had been active we would assume they'd been laying mines, so we'd go out sweeping. We were doing a channel sweep one day, a routine sweep, beautiful day. I was second in command and sunbaking on top of the bridge house — the Captain was on the bridge — when we set off a mine in our sweep. The explosion lifted me up a foot then dropped me back down. Days later we got the job of sweeping the Channel for D-Day. The thing was put back 24 hours, bad weather. Then aircraft just blanketed the sky, so we knew it was D-Day. We were within sight of the French coast. Our flotilla's job was to sweep a path ahead of the invading force. If we'd messed that up we would have been in strife. It was unbelievable. Ships everywhere.

Among the first wave of landing craft at Juno Beach was Sub-Lieutenant Richard Pirrie, from Hawthorn, Melbourne, who was known as 'Digger' by the British officers with whom he served. Pirrie had been in destroyers in convoys from Britain to Russia and at the invasion of Sicily. During the Normandy invasion on 6 June 1944, his 24th birthday, Pirrie was in command of a landing craft when it was hit by German fire, killing him.

Another notable Australian present was Lieutenant Ken Hudspeth, RANVR, who commanded the midget submarine X20. Hudspeth had already made one trip to Normandy, taking specialist personnel in X20 to survey the landing beaches at night. Before the planned departure of the invasion force X20 crossed the Channel to take up a submerged position off Juno Beach. On the night of 4 June, X20 surfaced to pick up a BBC broadcast, which contained a coded message that the invasion was postponed. This meant another day in the cramped midget submarine. On the night of 5 June a second coded message indicated the invasion was to proceed. As the preinvasion bombardment commenced, Hudspeth surfaced and ordered a light shone seaward to allow the assault craft to navigate to the correct beach. For his part in the invasion Hudspeth was awarded a second bar to his DSC. He had received the original award for his part in the attack on the Tirpitz in 1943 and the first bar to the DSC for the earlier beach reconnaissance of Normandy.

The Australian Army at D-Day

In 1944 almost 100 Australian army officers were in Britain. Most manned the AIF London headquarters, others were in the British Army, and a small group had been sent from Australia to gain experience of amphibious operations which would be of use in future campaigns in the Pacific.

Major Henry (Jo) Gullet is believed to have been the first Australian to land on D-Day. Previously with Australian HQ in London, he landed with the 50th Northumbrian Infantry Division as second in command of an infantry company. In his memoirs Gullet described the day:

… easily the most impressive occasion of my life. From the deck it was still too dark to see the shore, but we could make out an endless line of ships to right and left and, high above us, the metal wings of the aircraft shining in the sun. As it grew lighter, the big guns of the fleet began to fire over us. I had heard nothing like those huge shells. It was as if trains flew through the air. We could not hear them exploding on their targets but soon the whole flat coast just coming into view was a continuous line of flashes and explosions with black smoke rising over it. I had not realised how rough it was until our landing craft reached the water. Our first wave was running up the beach now, not many were falling. A man in our boat was hit by a machinegun bullet in the shoulder. About 20 feet from the shore we grounded and jumped out. I did not even get my feet wet.

Gullet's company quickly silenced German positions on the beach, then struck out inland to its final objective for the day.

There was no opposition there, so the company commander spread the company out and we sat down to wait for the next move. Being English they brewed cups of tea. The sun came out and it was pleasantly warm ... as there was nothing else to do, I went to sleep.

Gullet later commanded a Royal Scots infantry company until wounded by machine-gun fire in July.

From Normandy to the end of the war

The D-Day landings were a great success but were followed by the battle for Normandy, which did not end until the Allies broke out from their bridgehead and pursued the Germans across France to the borders of Germany. After a winter spent facing the Siegfried Line the Allies crossed the Rhine, advancing into Germany until the German surrender on 7 May 1945.

After the battle of Normandy, Bomber Command returned to its strategic bombing campaign of German cities, but the Australian airmen in 2nd Tactical Air Force continued in direct support of the advancing troops. Squadron Leader Robert (Bob) Cowper, from Adelaide, flew a Mosquito with No. 456 Night Fighter Squadron RAAF, based at Ford, near London. In the weeks that followed the invasion Cowper shot down four German aircraft in twelve night sorties over Normandy, bringing his total to six. The squadron claimed fifteen German aircraft shot down in the same period.

A few days after D-Day an Australian Spitfire Squadron, No. 453, flew from Perranporth in Cornwall to a makeshift dirt airstrip at Longues-sur-mer, near Bayeux, where they operated for several months. Flying out of Longues-sur-mer, Flight Lieutenant Henry Lacy Smith, from Sydney, was hit by ground fire on 11 June. He radioed 'I'm going to put this thing down in a field', but the aircraft crashed into the Orne River, where it remained undiscovered for more than sixty years until Smith's body was recovered in 2010 and interred at Ranville War Cemetery. In September 1944 No. 453 returned to Britain, where it specialised in attacking German V-1 flying bomb sites, flying the new Spitfire Mark XIV.

Captain Leslie George Coleman, a Duntroon graduate from Birchip, Victoria, landed with the British 7th Armoured Division on the evening of D-Day. Coleman was wounded in action a week later in Villers-Bocage in perhaps the most famous tank battle of the campaign. The German tank ace Captain Michael Wittman, first in a single Tiger tank and later assisted by several others, counter-attacked the 7th Armoured Division, destroyed at least twenty-three British tanks and recaptured Villers-Bocage. Coleman was wounded in the shoulder but recovered to take part in the advance across France and Belgium and into Germany. Now with the Guards Armoured Division, he crossed the Rhine in March 1945. He was then posted back to Australia and landed at Balikpapan, Borneo, in July 1945.

Lieutenant Colonel William Robertson came ashore the day after D-Day as an observer in 51st Infantry Division. Robertson, from Melbourne, who had fought in the Middle East and New Guinea, was soon promoted to Chief of Staff of the 50th Division.

I could have been a casualty if I had slept in my allocated caravan on the first night I was there, because that scored a direct hit. But by then I'd learnt not to sleep in anything that stuck up above the ground, so had taken cover in a trench … I was then appointed to the 50th Northumberland Division which had landed on D-Day and was battling in the Bocage country. That was great, I was delighted because it gave me some actual responsibility as opposed to standing around observing. I was the GSO 1 — General Staff Officer 1st Grade, which is the head staff officer of the division. I had all the responsibilities of issuing orders and preparing and advising the general and talking to him about what he was going to do and how we were going to do it and seeing that the brigade commanders had got proper orders and writing the orders. It's a very interesting job. Eventually we joined up with the Guards Armoured Division and the 11th Armoured Division and advanced out of the bridgehead through Falaise and on up into France across the Seine, through Belgium and into Holland. Then we took part in Operation Market Garden, which was when the paratroops were dropped on all the bridges through Holland and we came up and secured the positions that they'd taken. But it was wet and vehicles could not get off the roads, so a couple of German guns could hold up a whole division, so the plan did not work. The division had been in action since D-Day and never came out of action until we were withdrawn from Holland in late December 1944. We were a very tired division by then. I went back to England just before Christmas, and by then we knew we had won the war.

After the Normandy breakout, a number of ships containing Australians were redeployed as escorts in the ongoing battle of the Atlantic. Others, including HMS Ajax with three RAN officers on board, supported the Allied landings in southern France. A third group of Australians with the RN advanced along the coast of France in support of the army. Ports such as Le Havre, Boulogne and Calais were held by the Germans and a naval bombardment usually accompanied a land assault to capture the ports. In October and November 1944 RANVR personnel commanding landing craft were in action at the battle of the Scheldt, with the aim of opening up a sea route to the port of Antwerp.

Flight Lieutenant John (Bay) Adams

Adams, from Mordialloc, Victoria, flew Hawker Tempests over Germany in the last days of the war. Beginning his active service with No. 3 Squadron RAF in August 1944, Adams shot down two V-1 flying bombs over Britain and shared in the destruction of a third. He flew with the French ace Pierre Clostermann, who said of Adams, 'he was quite imperturbable and feared neither God nor the Devil'. Adams shot down a German aircraft over the Rhine on 30 April, a week before Germany surrendered. In his second last sortie of the war, Adams and Clostermann were the only survivors of an eight-aircraft attack on a heavily defended German air base. Adams stayed on with the occupation forces in Germany and returned to Australia in 1946.


At the end of World War II more than 6000 Australians who had been prisoners of war (POWs) in Europe, most of them AIF soldiers captured in Greece, Crete or the Middle East, were sent to Britain to prepare them for repatriation to Australia. Some had been prisoners of war for more than four years, which gave them priority over the 15,000 Australian service personnel then in Britain. These men too, now the war in Europe was over, expected to be sent home, some to serve against Japan in the last few months of the war in the Pacific.

There was a constant trickle of ex-POWs arriving in Britain from January 1945 as German prisoner of war camps were overrun in the Allied advance across Europe. On 16 January 1945 Lance Corporal Stan Peebles, of 2/24 infantry Battalion, was 'processed' by the No. 1 AIF Reception Group in Buckinghamshire. Peebles was captured in the Middle East, but escaped from an Italian camp when Italy surrendered in September 1943. He fought with Italian partisans, then made his way to Switzerland and on to liberated France, arriving in Britain in November 1944. He was immediately given sixty days leave, with a double allocation of ration coupons for food. In late January 1945, with thirty-three others, Peebles embarked on the Queen Elizabeth for the journey home to Australia.

The Headquarters of No. 1 AIF Reception Group was initially established at High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, but the reception camp itself was in the Sussex coastal town of Eastbourne, in a stately mansion called 'Gowrie Gate'. Other reception specialist units — medical, dental and postal — were initially based in Hazlemere Park, in 1944, but were gradually moved to Eastbourne as the first AIF ex-POWs from Europe began to arrive. The camp was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ian Campbell DSO, himself an ex-POW. He told the first arrivals that 'the object for which this reception unit has been formed is to ensure that everything humanly possible is done to welcome us back from our exile'.

From processing thirty or so men per week early in 1945, the No. 1 AIF Reception Group camp was swamped in the week after the German surrender in May, when Bomber Command aircraft transported 2600 Australian ex-POWs to Britain in a period which saw up to 21,000 Allied ex-POWs arrive each day. The camp in Eastbourne closed in August 1945 and its 1600 Australian staff, many of them ex- POWs, began leaving for home the following month.

The RAN had only twenty-one men in German POW camps, but the RAAF, having over 1000, set up its own repatriation organisation. As there was considerable delay in sending RAAF personnel home, courses of study began in Brighton to prepare the men for the transition to civilian life when they returned to Australia.


Permission is given by the Commonwealth for this publication to be copied royalty free within Australia solely for educational purposes. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced for commercial purposes.

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