Second Australian Imperial Force
Overview
 
The Second Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF) was the name given to the volunteer personnel of the Australian Army
Australian Army
The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of Defence commands the Australian Defence Force , the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army...

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Under the Defence Act (1903), neither the part-time Militia nor the full-time Permanent Military Force (PMF) could serve outside Australia or its territories unless they volunteered to do so. The Second AIF fought against Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

, the Kingdom of Italy, Vichy France
Vichy France
Vichy France, Vichy Regime, or Vichy Government, are common terms used to describe the government of France that collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944. This government succeeded the Third Republic and preceded the Provisional Government of the French Republic...

 and the Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

.
On the outset of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, there was controversy over whether Australia should concentrate on forming an expeditionary force
Expeditionary warfare
Expeditionary warfare is used to describe the organization of a state's military to fight abroad, especially when deployed to fight away from its established bases at home or abroad. Expeditionary forces were in part the antecedent of the modern concept of Rapid Deployment Forces...

 for overseas service to fight Germany in Europe or a home defence force to fight Japan.
Encyclopedia
The Second Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF) was the name given to the volunteer personnel of the Australian Army
Australian Army
The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of Defence commands the Australian Defence Force , the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army...

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Under the Defence Act (1903), neither the part-time Militia nor the full-time Permanent Military Force (PMF) could serve outside Australia or its territories unless they volunteered to do so. The Second AIF fought against Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

, the Kingdom of Italy, Vichy France
Vichy France
Vichy France, Vichy Regime, or Vichy Government, are common terms used to describe the government of France that collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944. This government succeeded the Third Republic and preceded the Provisional Government of the French Republic...

 and the Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

.

Formation

On the outset of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, there was controversy over whether Australia should concentrate on forming an expeditionary force
Expeditionary warfare
Expeditionary warfare is used to describe the organization of a state's military to fight abroad, especially when deployed to fight away from its established bases at home or abroad. Expeditionary forces were in part the antecedent of the modern concept of Rapid Deployment Forces...

 for overseas service to fight Germany in Europe or a home defence force to fight Japan. Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Australia
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia is the highest minister of the Crown, leader of the Cabinet and Head of Her Majesty's Australian Government, holding office on commission from the Governor-General of Australia. The office of Prime Minister is, in practice, the most powerful...

 Robert Menzies
Robert Menzies
Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, , Australian politician, was the 12th and longest-serving Prime Minister of Australia....

 decided to do both, although the experience of the Great War indicated that Australia did not have the resources to do either.

Conscription

On 15 September 1939, Menzies announced the formation of the Second AIF, an expeditionary force of 20,000, to consist of one infantry division and any auxiliary units that the Australian Army could fit into it. On 15 November 1939, Menzies announced the reintroduction of conscription for home defence service effective 1 January 1940. Unmarried men turning 21 in the year ending 30 June 1940 would be drafted into the Militia. Because of this, the AIF could not accept personnel who were in reserved occupation
Reserved occupation
A reserved occupation is an occupation considered important enough to a country that those serving in such occupations are exempt - in fact forbidden - from military service....

s.

The Australian Militia and public opinion

Although the AIF had priority for scarce personnel and equipment over the Militia, many Militia commanders were understandably reluctant to release any to the AIF. Although the government had hoped that half of the new force would be drawn from the Militia, it was soon clear that this would not be achieved. The public was similarly torn between the dangers presented by Germany and Japan. After an initial rush, enlistments quickly tapered off. For these reasons, the Second AIF possessed only one division, the 6th Division
Australian 6th Division
The 6th Division of the Australian Army was a unit in the Second Australian Imperial Force during World War II. It served in the North African campaign, the Greek campaign and the New Guinea campaign, including the crucial battles of the Kokoda Track, among others...

, for nearly a year.

Effects of the fall of France on the 2nd AIF

The fall of France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

 shocked both the government and the people into action. A huge surge of enlistments—some 48,496 in June 1940—provided enough personnel to fill not only the recently formed 7th Division
Australian 7th Division
The 7th Division was an infantry division of the Australian Army. It was formed in February 1940 to serve in World War II, as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force...

, but to form the 8th Division
Australian 8th Division
The 8th Division of the Australian Army was formed to serve in World War II, as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force, who were in turn, part of the Allies of World War II. The 8th Division was raised from regular army units and new, all-volunteer infantry brigades, from July 1940 onwards...

 and 9th Division
Australian 9th Division
The 9th Division was a division of the Australian Army that served during World War II. It was the fourth division of the Second Australian Imperial Force and was formed in the United Kingdom in late 1940 from infantry brigades and support units which had been previously raised in Australia and...

 as well, and the government ordered units to the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 to assist in its defence.

Command

Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General is a military rank used in many countries. The rank traces its origins to the Middle Ages where the title of Lieutenant General was held by the second in command on the battlefield, who was normally subordinate to a Captain General....

 Thomas Blamey
Thomas Blamey
Field Marshal Sir Thomas Albert Blamey GBE, KCB, CMG, DSO, ED was an Australian general of the First and Second World Wars, and the only Australian to date to attain the rank of field marshal....

 was given command of the Second AIF on 13 October 1939 and retained it throughout the war. As such, he was answerable directly to the Minister of Defence
Minister for Defence (Australia)
The Minister for Defence of Australia administers his portfolio through the Australian Defence Organisation, which comprises the Department of Defence and the Australian Defence Force. Stephen Smith is the current Minister.-Ministers for Defence:...

, rather than to the Military Board. He was given a charter based on that given to Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 William Throsby Bridges
William Throsby Bridges
Major General Sir William Throsby Bridges KCB, CMG served with Australian forces during World War I, and was the first Australian to reach general officer rank...

 in 1914. Part of his charter required the Second AIF to be kept together, but a series of political and military crises resulted in the divisions rarely fighting together, with individual division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

s, brigade
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

s and even battalion
Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

s deployed in different sectors or even different theatres. This resulted in conflicts with British commanders, particularly the Commander-in-Chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 Middle East, General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Sir Claude Auchinleck
Claude Auchinleck
Field Marshal Sir Claude John Eyre Auchinleck, GCB, GCIE, CSI, DSO, OBE , nicknamed "The Auk", was a British army commander during World War II. He was a career soldier who spent much of his military career in India, where he developed a love of the country and a lasting affinity for the soldiers...

, most notably over the relief of Tobruk
Siege of Tobruk
The siege of Tobruk was a confrontation that lasted 240 days between Axis and Allied forces in North Africa during the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War...

.

The 6th and 7th Divisions departed for the Far East in January 1942, followed by the 9th Division in February 1943. The last AIF units, three forestry companies, returned via the United States in late 1943. All units of the Second AIF were thereafter deployed to the South West Pacific
South West Pacific theatre of World War II
The South West Pacific Theatre, technically the South West Pacific Area, between 1942 and 1945, was one of two designated area commands and war theatres enumerated by the Combined Chiefs of Staff of World War II in the Pacific region....

 theatre, although some individuals remained in other theatres on exchange or liaison duty, such as Vernon Sturdee
Vernon Sturdee
Lieutenant General Sir Vernon Ashton Hobart Sturdee KBE, CB, DSO was an Australian Army commander who served two terms as Chief of the General Staff...

, who was head of the Australian Military Mission in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 from 1942 to 1944.

A controversial decision of the Menzies government was that senior commands in Blamey's 6th Division
Australian 6th Division
The 6th Division of the Australian Army was a unit in the Second Australian Imperial Force during World War II. It served in the North African campaign, the Greek campaign and the New Guinea campaign, including the crucial battles of the Kokoda Track, among others...

 would be restricted to Militia officers. This greatly upset many PMF officers. However, when the 7th Division
Australian 7th Division
The 7th Division was an infantry division of the Australian Army. It was formed in February 1940 to serve in World War II, as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force...

 was formed in May 1940, a regular officer, Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General is a military rank used in many countries. The rank traces its origins to the Middle Ages where the title of Lieutenant General was held by the second in command on the battlefield, who was normally subordinate to a Captain General....

 John Lavarack
John Lavarack
Lieutenant General Sir John Dudley Lavarack KCMG, KCVO, KBE, CB, DSO was an Australian soldier who was Governor of Queensland from 1 October 1946 to 4 December 1957, the first Australian-born governor of that state....

 was appointed to command it. Blamey appointed two regulars, Major Generals Vernon Sturdee
Vernon Sturdee
Lieutenant General Sir Vernon Ashton Hobart Sturdee KBE, CB, DSO was an Australian Army commander who served two terms as Chief of the General Staff...

 and Henry Wynter
Henry Wynter
Lieutenant General Henry Douglas Wynter, CB, CMG, DSO was a regular Australian Army officer who rose to the rank of lieutenant general during World War II...

 to command the 8th and 9th Divisions, but Wynter became ill and Sturdee was appointed Chief of the General Staff following the death of General Sir Brudenell White
Brudenell White
General Sir Cyril Brudenell Bingham White KCB, KCMG, KCVO, DSO was a senior officer in the Australian Army, who served as Chief of the General Staff from 1920 to 1923 and again from March to August 1940, when he was killed in the Canberra air disaster.-Early Life and career:White was born in St...

 in the 1940 Canberra air disaster. The commands then went to two CMF soldiers, Major Generals Gordon Bennett
Gordon Bennett (Australian soldier)
Lieutenant General Henry Gordon Bennett CB, CMG, DSO, VD , Australian soldier, served in both World War I and World War II...

 and Leslie Morshead
Leslie Morshead
Lieutenant General Sir Leslie James Morshead KCB, KBE, CMG, DSO, ED was an Australian soldier, teacher, businessman, and farmer, with a distinguished military career that spanned both world wars...

.

Organisation

The 2nd AIF's main strength consisted of five division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

s: the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th, and the 1st Armoured Division. Divisions numbered 1st to 5th were Militia divisions, as were the 10th through 12th and the 2nd and 3rd Armoured Divisions.

Units of the Second AIF prefixed their numbers with a '2/' to distinguish themselves from Militia units. Where such a unit did not exist in the First AIF or the Militia, the '2/' was not initially used, but later it was generally adopted as identifying a unit of the Second AIF.

After the war with Japan began, large numbers of experienced AIF officers were posted to Militia units. As a consequence, units in which more than 75% of their personnel were AIF volunteers were permitted to call themselves AIF units. By November 1944, 20 of the Militia's 33 infantry battalions were entitled to call themselves AIF. At this time the Army was 423,000 strong, of whom 25,000 were women, and 307,000 were members of the AIF.

In the South West Pacific, the Army found that its force structure was completely unbalanced, with a preponderance of operational units and a grave shortage of logistical units. The Army was also faced with government requests to release manpower to industry, and later to discharge long-serving personnel. This was remedied by disbanding operational units.

From 1 May 1945, the Army's monthly quota was only 420 men and 925 women. As its wastage was greater than this, units were disbanded for reinforcements.

Weaponry and equipment

Unlike 1914, Australia did not possess a stock of modern weapons and equipment. As in 1914, the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 was unable to help much in the initial stages, as it was preoccupied with its own mobilisation. The Treasury Department strenuously opposed the diversion of large numbers of men and women from industry, the conversion of industries to production of weapons, and the expenditure of large sums on defence. It took time for the Army to overcome its objections, and modern weapons, such as the 25 pounder
Ordnance QF 25 pounder
The Ordnance QF 25 pounder, or more simply, 25-pounder or 25-pdr, was introduced into service just before World War II, during which it served as the major British field gun/howitzer. It was considered by many to be the best field artillery piece of the war, combining high rates of fire with a...

, were soon coming off the assembly lines in Australia. In the meantime, the AIF, like the Militia, made do with the weapons that the First AIF had brought back from the Great War.

Armour

The 1st Armoured Division
Australian 1st Armoured Division
The Australian 1st Armoured Division was raised in 1941 as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force . While the Division was originally to be deployed to North Africa in late 1941, it was retained in Australia following the outbreak of the Pacific War...

 was formed at Puckapunyal
Puckapunyal
Puckapunyal is an Australian Army training facility and base 10 km west of Seymour, in central Victoria, south-eastern Australia.-Description:Puckapunyal is a small restricted-access town inhabited mainly by about 280...

 in 1941 after the German blitzkrieg had demonstrated the value of armour in modern warfare.

Personnel

Personnel were required to be between 20 and 35 years old on enlistment, although there were many cases of this being evaded. A suspiciously large number of personnel were aged 20 on enlistment, and many former members of the First AIF joined up, a practice encouraged by some unit commanders, who liked to have some old hands around.

Pay

Although volunteer militiamen were paid 8s per day, an unmarried private in the AIF was paid 5s per day in Australia, with an extra 2s per day after embarkation for overseas. This was less than the 8s 6d per day dole
Unemployment benefit
Unemployment benefits are payments made by the state or other authorized bodies to unemployed people. Benefits may be based on a compulsory para-governmental insurance system...

, not to mention the average basic wage of £ 2 16s.

Serial Numbers

All members of the Second AIF were allocated a serial number. The first letter represented the state of enlistment: N - New South Wales; V - Victoria; Q - Queensland; S - South Australia; W - Western Australia; T- Tasmania; D - Northern Territory. The serial numbers of female soldiers followed this with an F. AIF serial numbers then had an X. A low number indicated an early enlistment. General Blamey was VX1. Soldiers transferring from the Militia often kept their old number with 100,000 added, while PMF officers had 20,000 added.

Shoulder Patches

Units wore the shoulder patch of the corresponding unit of the First AIF, with a grey border to distinguish the unit from the Militia unit wearing the same patch. The shape of the grey indicated the division, which sometimes differed from that of the coloured part. Later, AIF personnel in Militia units were authorised to wear the grey border, resulting in some units wearing the same patches. The 9th Division replaced all its patches with a new type in the shape of a "T". As there were more units in the Second AIF than the First, many units wore patches of a new design.

Women in the AIF

From the first, women served with the AIF in the Australian Army Nursing Service. The Australian Army Medical Women's Service
Australian Army Medical Women's Service
The Australian Army Medical Women's Service was an armed services organisation which existed from 1942 until 1951.Growing out of the St John Ambulance Voluntary Aid Detachments, it was formed in December 1942 and its members served as nurses in military hospitals in the Middle East, Australia and,...

 was formed in 1942, and the Australian Women's Army Service
Australian Women's Army Service
The Australian Women's Army Service or "AWAS" was a women's service established on 13 August 1941 to "release men from certain military duties for employment in fighting units".-Formation / Structure:...

 on 13 August 1941. The latter had a strength of 24,000. Some 35,000 women served in the Army, making up about 5% of the force.

Operations

The 6th Division, under Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Iven Mackay fought in the Western Desert Campaign
Western Desert Campaign
The Western Desert Campaign, also known as the Desert War, was the initial stage of the North African Campaign during the Second World War. The campaign was heavily influenced by the availability of supplies and transport. The ability of the Allied forces, operating from besieged Malta, to...

 at Bardia
Bardia
Bardia is a geographic region in the Democratic Republic of Nepal.Bardia comprises a portion of the Terai, or lowland hills and valleys of southern Nepal. The Terai is over 1,000 feet in elevation, and extends all along the Indian border...

, Tobruk
Tobruk
Tobruk or Tubruq is a city, seaport, and peninsula on Libya's eastern Mediterranean coast, near the border with Egypt. It is the capital of the Butnan District and has a population of 120,000 ....

 and Benghazi
Benghazi
Benghazi is the second largest city in Libya, the main city of the Cyrenaica region , and the former provisional capital of the National Transitional Council. The wider metropolitan area is also a district of Libya...

. It experienced many casualties in the Greek Campaign
Battle of Greece
The Battle of Greece is the common name for the invasion and conquest of Greece by Nazi Germany in April 1941. Greece was supported by British Commonwealth forces, while the Germans' Axis allies Italy and Bulgaria played secondary roles...

, where 3,000 Australian soldiers were taken prisoner.

After refitting in Syria, the 6th Division was recalled to Australia take part in the Pacific War
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

 in February 1942. Its 16th and 17th Infantry Brigades were temporarily diverted to garrison Ceylon. The 19th Infantry Brigade was sent to Darwin
Darwin, Northern Territory
Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory, Australia. Situated on the Timor Sea, Darwin has a population of 127,500, making it by far the largest and most populated city in the sparsely populated Northern Territory, but the least populous of all Australia's capital cities...

, except for its 2/11th Infantry Battalion, which went to Western Australia.

When the remainder of the 6th Division returned, it was committed to the fighting in New Guinea. The 16th Infantry Brigade participated in the fighting on the Kokoda Track
Kokoda Track campaign
The Kokoda Track campaign or Kokoda Trail campaign was part of the Pacific War of World War II. The campaign consisted of a series of battles fought between July and November 1942 between Japanese and Allied—primarily Australian—forces in what was then the Australian territory of Papua...

 and at Buna
Buna, Papua New Guinea
Buna is a village in Oro Province, Papua New Guinea. It was the site in part, of the Battle of Buna-Gona during World War II, when it constituted a variety of native huts and a handful of houses with a airstrip...

. The 17th Infantry Brigade fought in the Battle of Wau
Battle of Wau
The Battle of Wau, 29–31 January 1943, was a battle in the New Guinea campaign of World War II. Forces of the Empire of Japan sailed from Rabaul and crossed the Solomon Sea and, despite Allied air attacks, successfully reached Lae, where they disembarked...

 and the Salamaua campaign
Salamaua-Lae campaign
The Salamaua–Lae campaign was a series of actions in the New Guinea campaign of World War II. Australian and United States forces sought to capture two major Japanese bases, one in the town of Lae, and another one at Salamaua. The campaign to take the Salamaua and Lae area began with the Australian...

.
The 7th Division, under Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Arthur Allen
Arthur Samuel Allen
Major General Arthur Samuel "Tubby" Allen CB CBE DSO VD was an Australian soldier. During World War II he reached the rank of Major General and commanded Allied forces in the Syria-Lebanon and New Guinea campaigns...

 and other Australian units formed the body of the Allied invasion of Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 and Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 in 1941. The division's 18th Infantry Brigade fought at Tobruk.

Following the outbreak of war in the Pacific, elements of the 7th Division were sent to the Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies
The Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. It was formed from the nationalised colonies of the Dutch East India Company, which came under the administration of the Netherlands government in 1800....

, reinforcing a few 8th division units. The bulk of the 7th Division was deployed in support of Militia battalions engaged in a rearguard action on the Kokoda Track Campaign
Kokoda Track campaign
The Kokoda Track campaign or Kokoda Trail campaign was part of the Pacific War of World War II. The campaign consisted of a series of battles fought between July and November 1942 between Japanese and Allied—primarily Australian—forces in what was then the Australian territory of Papua...

 in New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

. With elements of the 1st Armoured Division and 6th Divisions, and Militia, it formed a large part of the Allied forces which destroyed the major Japanese beachhead in New Guinea, at the Battle of Buna-Gona
Battle of Buna-Gona
The Battle of Buna–Gona was a battle in the New Guinea campaign, a major part of the Pacific campaign of World War II. On 16 November 1942, Australian and United States forces attacked the main Japanese beachheads in New Guinea, at Buna, Sanananda and Gona. Both forces were riddled by disease and...

.

Most of the 8th Division' was sent to Malaya
British Malaya
British Malaya loosely described a set of states on the Malay Peninsula and the Island of Singapore that were brought under British control between the 18th and the 20th centuries...

 to strengthen the garrison prior to war with Japan, while the remaining battalions were deployed in the Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies
The Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. It was formed from the nationalised colonies of the Dutch East India Company, which came under the administration of the Netherlands government in 1800....

 and New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

. Consequently, most of the division was lost at the Fall of Singapore in February 1942, where the division lost 1,789 killed and 1,306 wounded; another 15,395 were captured. The divisional commander, Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Henry Gordon Bennett created an enduring controversy by escaping.

A small, lesser-known force known as Mission 204 was drawn from units in Malaya, including forty men of the 8th Division. It served in China, advising the Chinese Army, until it was withdrawn in October 1942.
The 23rd Infantry Brigade remained, but without battalions, as these had been lost when Ambon
Battle of Ambon
The Battle of Ambon occurred on the island of Ambon in the Dutch East Indies , on 30 January – 3 February 1942, during World War II. A Japanese invasion was resisted by Dutch and Australian forces...

, Rabaul
Battle of Rabaul (1942)
The Battle of Rabaul, also known by the Japanese as Operation R, was fought on the island of New Britain in the Australian Territory of New Guinea, in January and February 1942. It was a strategically significant defeat of Allied forces by Japan in the Pacific campaign of World War II...

 and Timor fell. It was filled up with Militia battalions, and it and other remaining elements of the 8th Division participated in the campaigns in the South West Pacific. The 8th Division was reformed after the war to process prisoners of the Japanese.

Australian prisoners of war, like other Allied prisoners of the Japanese, were often held in inhumane conditions, such as Changi
Changi
Changi is an area at the eastern end of Singapore. It is now the site of Singapore Changi Airport/Changi Air Base, Changi Naval Base and is also home to Changi Prison, site of the former Japanese Prisoner of War Camp during World War II which held Allied prisoners captured in Singapore and Malaysia...

 prison or in Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

. Some were subject to forced labour, including the Burma Railway or forced long distance marches, such as on Sandakan
Sandakan
Sandakan is the second-largest city in Sabah, East Malaysia, on the north-eastern coast of Borneo. It is located on the east coast of the island and it is the administrative centre of Sandakan Division and was the former capital of British North Borneo...

.

AIF Independent companies
Australian commandos
The name commando has been applied to a variety of Australian special forces and light infantry units that have been formed since 1941–42. The first Australian "commando" units were formed during the Second World War, where they mainly performed reconnaissance and long-range patrol roles during...

 continued guerrilla operations in East Timor for many months until being evacuated in January 1943. Independent companies played an important part in the defence of New Guinea.

The 9th Division fought in the North African campaign
North African campaign
During the Second World War, the North African Campaign took place in North Africa from 10 June 1940 to 13 May 1943. It included campaigns fought in the Libyan and Egyptian deserts and in Morocco and Algeria and Tunisia .The campaign was fought between the Allies and Axis powers, many of whom had...

 under Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Leslie Morshead
Leslie Morshead
Lieutenant General Sir Leslie James Morshead KCB, KBE, CMG, DSO, ED was an Australian soldier, teacher, businessman, and farmer, with a distinguished military career that spanned both world wars...

 and distinguished itself first at the Battle of Tobruk, where it became the first Allied unit to resist German Blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

tactics. The Axis leader in North Africa, Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

, described the 9th Division at Tobruk as: "immensely big and powerful men, who without question represented an elite formation of the British Empire, a fact that was also evident in battle."

The 9th also served with distinction at the First
First Battle of El Alamein
The First Battle of El Alamein was a battle of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, fought between Axis forces of the Panzer Army Africa commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and Allied forces The First Battle of El Alamein (1–27 July 1942) was a battle of the Western Desert...

 and Second Battles of El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein
The Second Battle of El Alamein marked a major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The battle took place over 20 days from 23 October – 11 November 1942. The First Battle of El Alamein had stalled the Axis advance. Thereafter, Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery...

. It returned to Australia in early 1943.

In 1943, the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions were reunited on the Atherton Tableland
Atherton Tableland
The Atherton Tableland is a fertile plateau which is part of the Great Dividing Range in Queensland, Australia. It is located west to south-south-west inland from Cairns, well into the tropics, but its elevated position provides a climate suitable for dairy farming. It has an area of around...

.

General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

, Supreme Allied Commander
Supreme Allied Commander
Supreme Allied Commander is the title held by the most senior commander within certain multinational military alliances. It originated as a term used by the Western Allies during World War II, and is currently used only within NATO. Dwight Eisenhower served as Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary...

 in the South West Pacific Area
South West Pacific Area
South West Pacific Area was the name given to the Allied supreme military command in the South West Pacific Theatre of World War II. It was one of four major Allied commands in the Pacific theatres of World War II, during 1942–45...

 depended on the AIF as the spearhead of his land forces in 1942 and 1943. The 7th Division, now under Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 George Vasey, fought at Nadzab
Landing at Nadzab
The Landing at Nadzab was an airborne landing on 5 September 1943 during the New Guinea campaign of World War II that began with a parachute drop at Nadzab in conjunction with the Landing at Lae....

 and in the Finisterre Range campaign
Finisterre Range campaign
The Finisterre Range campaign, also known as the Ramu Valley–Finisterre Range campaign, was a series of actions in the New Guinea campaign of World War II...

. Meanwhile the 9th Division, now under Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 George Wootten
George Wootten
Major General Sir George Frederick Wootten KBE, CB, DSO & Bar, ED , was an Australian soldier, public servant, right wing political activist and solicitor. He rose to the rank of temporary Major General during World War II....

 fought at Red Beach
Landing at Lae
The Landing at Lae was an amphibous landing, as part of ', to the east of Lae in the Salamaua-Lae campaign of World War II between 4–6 September 1943....

 and then in the Huon Peninsula campaign
Huon Peninsula campaign
The Huon Peninsula campaign was a series of battles in the New Guinea campaign of the Second World War. Australian forces assaulted Japanese bases on the Huon Peninsula....

.
MacArthur deployed the AIF divisions in secondary assignments during 1944-45, where they often fought what many considered to be pointless battles. A shortage of first operational units and then logistic units caused the 6th Division, now under Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Jack Stevens
Jack Stevens
Major General Sir Jack Edwin Stawell Stevens KBE, CB, DSO, ED was a senior officer in the Australian Army during the Second World War...

 to be committed to the Aitape-Wewak campaign
Aitape-Wewak campaign
The Aitape–Wewak campaign was one of the final campaigns of the Pacific Theatre of World War II. Between November 1944 and the end of the war in August 1945, the Australian 6th Division, with air and naval support, fought the Imperial Japanese 18th Army in northern New Guinea...

 despite MacArthur's efforts. He employed the 7th and 9th Divisions in the Borneo Campaign (1945)
Borneo campaign (1945)
The Borneo Campaign of 1945 was the last major Allied campaign in the South West Pacific Area, during World War II. In a series of amphibious assaults between 1 May and 21 July, the Australian I Corps, under General Leslie Morshead, attacked Japanese forces occupying the island. Allied naval and...

.

A planned invasion of the Japanese home island of Honshū
Honshu
is the largest island of Japan. The nation's main island, it is south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Strait...

 in 1946, Operation Coronet, would almost certainly have included an "Australian 10th Division
Australian 10th Division
The 10th Division was a division of the Australian Army, which served briefly during World War II. It was initially formed on 15 April 1942 from the Militia units of the Newcastle Covering Force, however, manpower shortages within the Army at that time led to it being disbanded in August that year...

", made up of experienced personnel from the three existing divisions. However, the Japan surrendered before the invasion took place.

Disbandment

Most Second AIF personnel were demobilised
Demobilisation of the Australian military after World War II
The demobilisation of the Australian military after World War II involved discharging almost 600,000 men and women from the military, supporting their transition to civilian life and reducing the three armed services to peacetime strengths...

by the end of 1946. The Second AIF officially ceased to exist on 30 June 1947. All Second AIF personnel still on full-time duty were transferred to the Interim Army on 1 July 1947.
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