War and Australia – World War II: 1942 Gallery

On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland and two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany. Australia also entered the war on 3 September, following the British lead. When Japan attacked the American Forces at Pearl Harbour in December 1941 Australia focused troops and resources on the Pacific War. Almost 1 million Australians served in the armed forces and over 27,000 Australians died while in military service. The war ended on 14 August 1945 when Japan surrendered, effectively ending the War.

In this Gallery

Browse a selection of records relating to New South Wales’ involvement in World War II, including the construction of roads, bridges and airfields in the Northern Territory, New Caledonia and Norfolk Island, along with war time activities on the home front.

Part 1

On 19 February 1942 at 9.58am Japanese bombers began to arrive over Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia in the first of two attacks.

View 1942: The bombing of Darwinhigh-explosive-bombs

Part 2

The National Emergency Services NSW (NES) helped to protect, educate and provide aid on the home front. The NES was established in 1939 and by the end of World War II 115,418 people had volunteered with the organisation.

View 1942: NSW Prepares for WarNRS19987-6-16010-4

Part 3

In May 1935 the Australian Government asked each State to begin making plans to protect their citizens against chemical weapons, such as poison gas bombs, carried by aircraft flying from a ship offshore.

View 1942: Protecting NSWNRS-10623-10-2538-file-42-1

Part 4

Japanese submarines attack south east Australia (from Port Macquarie NSW to Mallacoota Victoria) between 16 May and 27 July 1942.

View 1942: NSW under attack
1942: NSW under attack

Part 5: Outside our borders

Highlighting the work of the NSW Department of Main Roads in building roads, airfields and other defence works and infrastructure in the Northern Territory

View 1942: Outside our borders
1942: Outside our borders

Part 6: Moving and Arming NSW

Focussing on the involvement of the NSW Government Railways and their role in the transport of military personnel and supplies as well as the manufacture of tools, machinery and aircraft parts.

View 1942: Moving and arming
1942: Moving and arming

Aboriginal Military Service

The military service contribution of Indigenous Australians to the nation from World War II onwards is a vital part of understanding our Australian history and identity. Many Aboriginal people were at odds over the issue of military service with some Aboriginal organisations arguing that military service would help the push for full citizenship rights while others believed it was an opportunity to undertake training in areas previously denied to them.

It is estimated that approximately 3000 Indigenous Australians served in the regular armed forces during the War. By mid-1941 the increased need for more troops meant that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were allowed to enlist in some of the smaller service units. As the Japanese pushed through Asia in 1942 both men and women of Aboriginal and Torres Island descent were performing vital tasks in the front line. We can only guess how many Indigenous Australians volunteers in total though, as the Defence Force did not allow Aboriginal people to state their heritage until 1980.

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