World War I and Australia 1914 to 1918

At the end of June 1914, Australians read in their newspapers about the political assassination of an heir to a European throne. The murder increased existing tensions between the mighty empires of Europe. It set in train a series of events that led to war. German troops entered Belgium in August. Then the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. As a dominion of the British Empire, Australia willingly joined the war.

Australia at war

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The Australian Government received a cabled warning on 30 July about the imminent danger of war.

On the morning of Sunday 2 August 1914, bulletins were posted outside Australian newspaper offices. The posters announced that Germany had declared war on Russia. Most Australians knew the war would involve France, and maybe Britain. That same day, Germany took the first steps towards invading France, through Luxembourg and Belgium.

On 4 August, Britain declared war on Germany, and the Australian Government offered its unreserved help.

The first shot fired in the war by the British Empire was at Portsea, on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula.

Over 400,000 Australians served in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF) and the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) during the war. Of those people, around 330,000 veterans served overseas in military campaigns:

  • at Rabaul in 1914
  • at Gallipoli in 1915
  • in the Middle East and North Africa between 1916 and 1918
  • on the Western Front in Europe between 1916 and 1918

They served as sailors and soldiers of the British Empire. Alongside them were men and women from the British Isles and dominions as far away as Canada, India, Newfoundland, New Zealand and South Africa.

For some personnel, service continued after the war, against the Russians in 1919.

Soldiers standing near a gun with some loading and operating the gun.
Australian soldiers loading a large Howitzer gun at Ypres, on the Western Front, September 1917 AWM E04736

Praise for our First World War veterans helped Australia to gain international recognition as a new nation with its own identity.


Last updated: 18 September 2020

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), World War I and Australia 1914 to 1918, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 18 September 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/ww1
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