Australia in 1942 A Pivotal Year

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    In October 1941 the new Australian Labor government, led by John Curtin, recalled General Sir Thomas Blamey, Commander of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in the Middle East, to Australia for discussions. Since he had arrived in Palestine some 16 months earlier, Blamey’s forces had fought in North Africa, Greece, Syria and at the siege of Tobruk. So he was well aware of the seriousness of the war against Germany and Italy. On 15 November 1941, after he had returned to Australia, Blamey delivered a nationwide radio broadcast in which he described the fighting in the Middle East. He continued: And to come from that atmosphere and its scenes back to Australia gives one the most extraordinary feeling of helplessness. You are like – here in this country – a lot of gazelles grazing in a dell on the edge of the jungle, while the beasts of prey are working up toward you, apparently unseen, unnoticed. And it is the law of the jungle that they spring upon you, merciless. Blamey’s apprehension proved to be well founded. Less than a month after his address, Japan attacked in the Pacific. Less than two months later Japanese aircraft began attacking Rabaul in the Australian territory of New Guinea, and three months later the troops of the 8th Australian Division marched into captivity in Singapore. Blamey, however, was not completely prescient. Although he had been distressed by observing the peacetime garrison mentality in Singapore, as he was returning to the Middle East in early December he discounted the possibility of an imminent Japanese attack. He was sipping drinks in Karachi as he continued his journey when he was stunned to hear about the attack on Pearl Harbor.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAustralia 1942: in the shadow of war
    Editors Peter J. Dean
    Place of PublicationMelbourne
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    ISBN (Print)9781107032279
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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