Operation Pamphlet

Operation Pamphlet, also called Convoy Pamphlet, was a World War II convoy operation conducted during January and February 1943 to transport the 9th Australian Division home from Egypt. The convoy involved five transports, which were protected from Japanese warships by several Allied naval task forces during the trip across the Indian Ocean and along the Australian coast. The division embarked in late January 1943 and the convoy operation began on 4 February. No contact was made between Allied and Japanese ships, and the division arrived in Australian ports during late February with no losses from enemy action.

The operation came after the British and United States governments agreed to an Australian government request that the 9th Division be returned home, and ended the role of the Second Australian Imperial Force in the Western Desert Campaign. This followed a lengthy debate between the respective national leaders, with Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt attempting to convince the Australian Prime Minister John Curtin to withdraw his request until the Allied victory in North Africa was complete. Curtin was unwilling to delay, as he and the Allied military leaders in the South West Pacific believed that the veteran division was needed to bolster the forces for offensive operations in New Guinea.

A convoy to return the 9th Australian Division to Australia was assembled in the Red Sea near Massawa from late January to early February 1943. The ships began their voyage across the Indian Ocean on 4 February, refuelled at Addu Atoll, and arrived safely at the Western Australian port of Fremantle on 18 February. Four transports continued to the Australian east coast, one docking at Melbourne on 25 February and the remainder arriving at Sydney two days later. After its return to Australia, the division made an important contribution to operations in New Guinea in late 1943.

Operation Pamphlet
Part of World War II
Aquitania (at left) and Île de France during Operation Pamphlet
The converted ocean liners Aquitania (at left) and Île de France travelling in convoy during Operation Pamphlet
Location
Between Egypt and Australia
ObjectiveTo return the 9th Division to Australia
Date24 January – 27 February 1943
OutcomeAllied success

Background

During 1940 and 1941, three infantry divisions and other units assigned to I Corps of the Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF) were transported to the Middle East, where they took part in several campaigns against German, Italian and Vichy French forces.[1][2] Following the outbreak of the Pacific War, the corps headquarters and the 6th and 7th Divisions were returned to Australia in early 1942 to reinforce the defence of Australia in Operation Stepsister. The Australian Government agreed to British and United States requests temporarily to retain the 9th Australian Division in the Middle East in exchange for the deployment of more United States Army units to Australia and British support for a proposal to expand the Royal Australian Air Force to 73 flying squadrons.[3] The 9th Division played an important role in the First Battle of El Alamein during July 1942 and the Second Battle of El Alamein between 23 October and 4 November.[4] The division suffered many casualties during the latter engagement and did not take part in the pursuit of the Axis retreat.[5]

World War II 1942 12
The global strategic situation in December 1942
  Western Allies (independent countries)
  Western Allies (colonies or occupied)
  Eastern Allies
  Axis (countries)
  Axis (colonies or occupied, including Vichy France)
  neutral

Several factors influenced the decision made by the Australian Government in October 1942 to recall the 9th Division to Australia. Most importantly, the Government and the commander of the Australian Military Forces, General Thomas Blamey, wanted to relieve the 6th and 7th Divisions from combat in the New Guinea Campaign and Blamey considered the 9th Division to be better prepared for this responsibility than the Australian Army's militia forces or US Army units.[6] The commander of Allied forces in the South West Pacific Area, General Douglas MacArthur, had also been pressing the US and Australian Governments for reinforcements to conduct offensive operations against Japanese positions. Other factors influencing the Australian Government's decision were a desire to concentrate the Australian Army in a single theatre, the increasing difficulty of finding replacements for the 9th Division's casualties given the Army's manpower shortages, the political difficulties associated with implementing reforms to permit militia units to serve outside Australian territory, and concerns that a prolonged absence from Australia would affect morale among the 9th Division's soldiers.[7]

On 17 October 1942, Australian Prime Minister John Curtin cabled British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to request that the 9th Division be returned to Australia. In the cable Curtin stated that, owing to Australia's manpower shortage and the demands of the war in the Pacific, it was no longer possible to provide enough reinforcements to sustain the division in the Middle East. The British Government initially resisted this request on the grounds that the 9th Division was required for the upcoming offensive at El Alamein. On 29 October (six days into the battle) Curtin again cabled Churchill, stating that Australia needed the division in the Pacific and in a fit state to participate in offensive operations.[8] On 1 November, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote to Curtin proposing to send another US Army division to Australia if the Australian Government agreed to retain the 9th Division in the Middle East. Curtin, acting on the advice of MacArthur, responded to Roosevelt on 16 November rejecting this suggestion, and again requested that the 9th Division be returned.[9]

On 21 November, the commander of the 9th Division, Major General Leslie Morshead, was informed by General Harold Alexander, the commander-in-chief of the Middle East Command, that a decision had been made to return the division to Australia.[9] Churchill told the Australian Government on 2 December that while he was prepared to recommend to Roosevelt that the 9th Division be returned, the resultant diversion of shipping would reduce the size of the build-up of United States military forces in Britain and North Africa by 30,000 men. In the same cable, Churchill also stated that due to a shortage of shipping the 9th Division's heavy equipment would need to remain in the Middle East.[10] On 3 December, Roosevelt again wrote to Curtin to suggest that the 9th Division remain in the Middle East until the final defeat of the Axis forces in North Africa. Roosevelt also informed Curtin that the US Army's 25th Infantry Division would be transferred to Australia during December.[9][10] Following these messages the Australian Government sought advice from Blamey and MacArthur on whether it was necessary for the 9th Division to return with its heavy equipment, and was informed that the necessary supplies could be sourced from American resources once the unit arrived in Australia.[11]

Curtin replied to Churchill and Roosevelt on 8 December, and again stressed the need to return the 9th Division to Australia as soon as possible to make good the Army's losses to tropical diseases and prepare for future offensives in the Pacific. In his message he agreed to leave the division's heavy equipment in the Middle East, and requested only that it travel with items necessary to quickly re-enter combat in the South West Pacific.[12] No further debate took place, and on 15 December Churchill informed Curtin that shipping would be made available in late January to transport the division and a small portion of its equipment to Australia.[11]

Preparations

Australian 9th Div at Gaza in 1942 (AWM 050124)
9th Division soldiers during the 22 December parade at Gaza Airport

The 9th Division's role in the Second Battle of El Alamein ended on 5 November 1942.[13] From 30 November the division travelled to Palestine by road, and all its units arrived there by 9 December. After settling into camps located between Gaza and Qastina, the 9th Division undertook a period of rebuilding and training, and many soldiers were granted leave.[14] On 22 December, a formal parade involving the entire division was conducted at Gaza Airport.[15]

Preparations to return the 9th Division to Australia began in late December 1942. On 26 December, all of the AIF unit commanding officers in the Middle East were informed that their commands were to return to Australia; the movement was code-named "Liddington". Tight security was instituted, and more junior personnel who needed to be informed were told that their units were being transferred to Egypt. Many members of the AIF initially believed that they would take part in further fighting in the Mediterranean, but as preparations continued it became obvious that the units were about to undertake a long sea voyage. The 9th Division's artillery, tanks and other heavy equipment were transferred to ordnance depots during early January 1943, and on the 16th of that month the division began moving to the Suez Canal area, from where it was to embark.[16] During this period all of the personnel assigned to the AIF Reinforcement Depot in Palestine were transferred to the 9th Division, resulting in the formation being larger than its authorised strength.[17] The movement of the 9th Division took place in groups, each of which spent one or two days at a transit camp at Qassin, where all vehicles were handed to British authorities.[16] The 9th Division also began training for jungle and amphibious warfare before departing the Middle East. During January, each brigade spent three days exercising in the rough terrain near Bayt Jibrin, which was believed to be the nearest equivalent to a jungle in Palestine. Most of the brigade commanders and several officers from each of the infantry battalions also attended short courses at the British amphibious warfare school on the Bitter Lakes in Egypt.[18]

The Royal Navy also made preparations in late 1942 for the movement of the 9th Division back to Australia. Four large troop ships were allocated to the task, and the British Chiefs of Staff Committee initially proposed to Churchill that they sail across the Indian Ocean without a protective escort. However, as the eastern Indian Ocean was within range of Japanese warships based at Singapore and Japanese submarines had occasionally attacked ships near Aden, this was judged to be unacceptably risky, especially as it was not likely that the movement of so many soldiers could be kept secret.[19][20] Moreover, transporting the division without an escort would have violated the long-standing policy of assigning at least one capital ship to protect troop convoys in this region, and would not have been accepted by the Australian government.[19] In November, the Chiefs of Staff Committee decided to allocate an escort to the convoy, but did not specify what it should comprise.[21]

The ships assigned to carry the 9th Division to Australia were the converted ocean liners Aquitania, Île de France, Nieuw Amsterdam and Queen Mary; these four large vessels had previously carried Australian soldiers to the Middle East and other locations.[22] The liners were heavily tasked transporting Allied military personnel across long distances, and arrived at Suez individually. Aquitania put in from Australia on 5 January, Queen Mary was reassigned from transporting American personnel across the Atlantic and arrived from the United Kingdom on 18 January, Nieuw Amsterdam completed one of her frequent voyages along the coast of East Africa on 31 January and Île de France arrived in late January.[23] In addition to the four converted liners, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Queen of Bermuda was transferred from transport duties in the Indian Ocean to both augment the convoy's escort and embark Australian personnel.[24] The four liners were armed with anti-aircraft guns manned by dedicated personnel, as well as two 6-inch guns each.[25] The operation to sail these vessels from Egypt to Australia together was designated Operation Pamphlet.[26]

Voyage

Indian Ocean

The AIF began embarking on the troop ships on 24 January 1943. As the Suez Canal ports were too small for the four troop ships to load simultaneously, the embarkation process was staged and the convoy's five vessels sailed separately through the northern Red Sea and rendezvoused near Massawa in Eritrea.[16] British destroyers HMS Pakenham, Petard, Derwent and Hero and the Greek destroyer Vasilissa Olga were transferred from the Mediterranean Fleet to guard the troop ships from attack by Japanese submarines as they passed through the Red Sea.[27][20]

Operation Pamphlet 24 Jan - 27 Feb 1943
The route across the Indian Ocean taken by the troop ships during Operation Pamphlet[1]

Queen Mary was the first ship to complete loading, and left Port Tewfik on 25 January. She anchored at Massawa three days later, and the soldiers on board endured very hot conditions until she resumed her journey.[28] Aquitania was next to load, and embarked the entire 20th Brigade between 25 and 30 January.[29] Île de France completed loading and departed Egypt on 28 January, and Nieuw Amsterdam and Queen of Bermuda sailed together on 1 February.[30] Overall, 30,985 Australians were embarked on Queen of Bermuda and the converted liners; Aquitania carried 6,953, Île de France 6,531, Nieuw Amsterdam had 9,241 on board, 9,995 sailed on Queen Mary and 1,731 on Queen of Bermuda.[1][16] A total of 622 AIF personnel remained in the Middle East after the ships departed Egypt, but this figure was steadily reduced to below 20 by March 1943.[16]

The five ships of the convoy rendezvoused off the Red Sea island of Perim on the morning of 4 February, and passed Aden later that day.[1][26] The destroyers left the convoy as it passed Cape Guardafui, and were replaced by the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire and light cruiser HMS Gambia, which were to serve as ocean escorts. Captain James Bisset, commander of the Queen Mary, served as the convoy commodore. The four large converted liners sailed in line abreast formation and Queen of Bermuda's position varied based on the time of day and the situation. The convoy travelled at a speed of 17 knots (31 km/h); while the liners typically sailed at much higher speeds during their independent voyages, they were constrained by the maximum that Queen of Bermuda could maintain. Bisset was frustrated by the decision to sail the transports together, as it considerably increased the time taken to complete the voyage and entailed lengthy delays for the heavily tasked Queen Mary.[25]

After entering the Indian Ocean, the convoy sailed south-east. The ships manoeuvred together in a zigzag course; avoiding collisions during the frequent turns placed heavy demands on the watch-keeping officers, who found their shifts exhausting.[31] The troops endured very uncomfortable conditions on the hot and crowded ships, but morale was high. They entertained themselves with sports, sun baking and gambling, and those on Queen Mary could attend concerts performed by a regimental brass band. The 9th Division's officers enjoyed somewhat better conditions, which frustrated some of the other ranks.[32][33] The 9th Division's preparations for jungle warfare continued during the voyage, with all personnel attending daily lectures delivered by officers on the lessons learnt during the previous fighting in the Pacific.[34]

Australian soldiers relaxing on the Nieuw Amsterdam during Operation Pamphlet in February 1943
Soldiers relaxing in the cramped conditions on board Nieuw Amsterdam while the ship crossed the Indian Ocean

The convoy arrived at Addu Atoll on the evening of 9 February, and anchored there to refuel and take on supplies.[35] This atoll served as a secret supply base for Allied vessels in the Indian Ocean, and the Australian soldiers were not told where they were while the refuelling took place.[16] The troops were also not permitted to go ashore, but regarded the sight of the tropical atoll as a welcome change from the arid Middle East.[36] After the ships were refuelled, the convoy sailed on the afternoon of 10 February.[37]

A strong escort force was provided to guard the convoy as it travelled through the eastern Indian Ocean. This was considered the most dangerous stage of the voyage, as the convoy would pass within range of the Japanese warships based at Singapore.[37] To counter this threat, the convoy's escort was reinforced for several days by Force A of the British Eastern Fleet. This force comprised the battleships HMS Warspite, Resolution and Revenge, as well as the light cruiser HMS Mauritius and six destroyers.[38] Force A sailed within view of the transports on 10 February to provide reassurance to the Australian soldiers, and subsequently patrolled over the horizon from the convoy.[37][39][40] When the convoy reached a point 800 miles (1,300 km) from the Western Australian port of Fremantle its escort was reinforced by the Dutch cruisers HNLMS Jacob van Heemskerck and Tromp, as well as the destroyers HNLMS Tjerk Hiddes and Van Galen.[27][33][38]

The ships arrived at Fremantle on 18 February.[38] The sight of the Australian coast had been eagerly anticipated by the soldiers, who broke into cheers when it became visible shortly before noon that day.[33] Nieuw Amsterdam and Queen of Bermuda berthed in Fremantle Harbour, and the other three troop ships dropped anchor at Gage Roads. The Western Australian members of the 9th Division disembarked, and the ships loaded supplies and mail. As Queen of Bermuda left the convoy at Fremantle, her remaining 517 passengers were transferred to Nieuw Amsterdam. This resulted in considerable overcrowding for the remainder of the liner's voyage.[33]

Australian waters

HMT Queen Mary arriving in Sydney Harbour on 27 February 1943
Queen Mary arriving in Sydney Harbour on 27 February 1943

The Australian Government was concerned that the troop ships could be attacked while passing through Australian waters. At a meeting held on 17 February, the Advisory War Council considered adopting a recommendation that the soldiers be moved to the east coast by rail. It decided against doing so after being informed that, due to the limited capacity of the Trans-Australian Railway, it would take several months to move the 30,000 personnel. Instead, the council recommended that the convoy continue but be given "the maximum protection possible".[38] Due to the presence of Japanese submarines off the Australian coast, tight security measures were instituted after the convoy arrived at Fremantle; civilian communications between Western Australia and the east coast were cut for several days, and Curtin asked the media to not report the movement of the 9th Division. During a confidential briefing on 24 February, Curtin told journalists that he had not slept well for three weeks due to concerns over the convoy's safety.[41]

When the convoy sailed from Fremantle on 20 February it was escorted by the Australian light cruiser HMAS Adelaide, as well as Jacob van Heemskerck and Tjerk Hiddes. To avoid any enemy ships or submarines operating off the Australian coast, the convoy's route took it well to the south of the continent. The escort force was strengthened on 24 February when the convoy rendezvoused with Task Group 44.3; this force comprised the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia and American destroyers USS Bagley, Helm and Henley, and had been dispatched from Sydney on 17 February.[42] Adelaide and the Dutch warships left the convoy shortly afterwards to escort Nieuw Amsterdam into Melbourne; the liner docked there on the afternoon of 25 February.[38][42] Task Group 44.3 escorted the remaining ships to Sydney, sailing south of Tasmania before proceeding up the east coast. The escort was strengthened by Jacob van Heemskerck and the French destroyer Le Triomphant as the convoy passed the eastern end of the Bass Strait.[38][43] The three converted liners arrived at Sydney on 27 February 1943, completing Operation Pamphlet without loss.[20][38]

Despite the official secrecy concerning the convoy, large crowds assembled on vantage points around Sydney Harbour to watch the ships arrive. Queen Mary anchored off Bradleys Head and the other two liners berthed at Woolloomooloo.[43] Curtin officially announced that the 9th Division had returned to Australia in a speech delivered to the House of Representatives on 23 March.[44]

Aftermath

Soldiers of the 9th Divisional Cavalry Regiment passing the saluting base during a march through Melbourne in March 1943
Members of the 9th Division Cavalry Regiment marching through Melbourne's central business district on 31 March 1943

The ships involved in Operation Pamphlet rapidly departed for other duties. After unloading her troops at Fremantle, Queen of Bermuda left for the United Kingdom on 3 March and arrived there on 13 April.[45] Nieuw Amsterdam sailed from Melbourne bound for San Francisco via New Zealand on 6 March carrying 2,189 Allied military personnel; she completed her voyage on 22 March.[46] After embarking 350 Free French personnel and approximately 150 women and children, Île de France departed Sydney for Durban on 16 March.[47] On 22 March, Queen Mary sailed for the United Kingdom carrying 8,326 US military personnel. Travelling at 28 knots (52 km/h), she arrived at Gourock in Scotland exactly one month later.[46] Aquitania left Sydney at around the same time as Queen Mary, and completed her voyage to New York City on 4 May.[48]

After arriving in Australia, all members of the 9th Division were given three weeks leave. The men were then assembled in their home state capital and took part in a welcome-home march; these marches were conducted both to acknowledge the division's service in the Middle East and advertise a war loan drive. Following the marches the division re-assembled at training camps on the Atherton Tableland in far North Queensland, where it was to complete its training for jungle warfare.[49] As the division was still overstrength due to the reinforcements which had been assigned to it before departing the Middle East, its excess personnel were transferred to other AIF units.[50] This enabled the 6th and 7th Divisions to be brought back to their authorised strengths.[51] The 9th Division next saw action against Japanese forces during the Salamaua–Lae campaign in New Guinea during September 1943; had the division not returned from the Middle East, at least part of this task would have fallen to less-experienced militia units.[8]

References

Citations

  1. ^ a b c d Faulkner and Wilkinson (2012), p. 168
  2. ^ "Second World War, 1939–45". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  3. ^ Hasluck (1970), pp. 73–87, 177
  4. ^ Coates (2006), pp. 166–176
  5. ^ Long (1973), pp. 283–284
  6. ^ Hasluck (1970), pp. 193, 202
  7. ^ Hasluck (1970), pp. 193–194
  8. ^ a b Long (1973), p. 285
  9. ^ a b c Maughan (1966), p. 749
  10. ^ a b Hasluck (1970), p. 201
  11. ^ a b Maughan (1966), p. 750
  12. ^ Hasluck (1970), p. 202
  13. ^ Maughan (1966), p. 742
  14. ^ Maughan (1966), pp. 747–748
  15. ^ Maughan (1966), pp. 751–752
  16. ^ a b c d e f Maughan (1966), p. 753
  17. ^ Dean (2018), p. 288
  18. ^ Threlfall (2014), pp. 160–162
  19. ^ a b Day (1993), p. 91
  20. ^ a b c Roskill (1956), p. 433
  21. ^ Day (1993), p. 92
  22. ^ Plowman (2003), p. 366
  23. ^ Plowman (2003), pp. 367–372
  24. ^ Plowman (2003), pp. 370–371
  25. ^ a b Plowman (2003), p. 375
  26. ^ a b Plowman (2003), p. 374
  27. ^ a b Rohwer, Hümmelchen and Weis (2005), p. 229
  28. ^ Plowman (2003), p. 368
  29. ^ Plowman (2003), pp. 369–370
  30. ^ Plowman (2003), pp. 370–373
  31. ^ Plowman (2003), p. 376
  32. ^ Johnston (2002), pp. 138–140
  33. ^ a b c d Plowman (2003), p. 379
  34. ^ Threlfall (2014), p. 162
  35. ^ Plowman (2003), p. 377
  36. ^ Plowman (2003), pp. 377–378
  37. ^ a b c Plowman (2003), p. 378
  38. ^ a b c d e f g Gill (1968), p. 287
  39. ^ Stanford (1960), p. 100
  40. ^ Maughan (1966), p. 754
  41. ^ Loyd and Hall, pp. 136, 140
  42. ^ a b Plowman (2003), p. 381
  43. ^ a b Plowman (2003), p. 382
  44. ^ "Return of 9th Division to Australian Announced". The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. 24 March 1943. p. 2. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  45. ^ Plowman (2003), p. 380
  46. ^ a b Plowman (2003), p. 384
  47. ^ Stanford (1960), p. 101
  48. ^ Layton (2015)
  49. ^ Coates (1999), p. 44
  50. ^ Dean (2018), p. 289
  51. ^ Dean (2011), p. 221

Works consulted

  • Coates, John (1999). Bravery Above Blunder: The 9th Australian Division at Finschhafen, Sattelburg, and Sio. South Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195508378.
  • Coates, John (2006). An Atlas of Australia's Wars. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195559142.
  • Day, David (1993). Reluctant Nation: Australia and the Allied Defeat of Japan 1942–45. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195534530.
  • Dean, Peter J. (2011). The Architect of Victory: The Military Career of Lieutenant General Sir Frank Horton Berryman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139494847.
  • Dean, Peter J. (2018). MacArthur's Coalition : US and Australian Operations in the Southwest Pacific Area 1942–45. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 9780700626045.
  • Faulkner, Marcus; Wilkinson, Peter (2012). War at Sea: A Naval Atlas, 1939–1945. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 9781591145608.
  • Gill, G. Herman (1968). Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945. Australia in the War of 1939–1945, Series 2 – Navy. Volume II (1st ed.). Canberra: Australian War Memorial. OCLC 164291844.
  • Hasluck, Paul (1970). The Government and the People 1942–1945. Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 4 – Civil. Volume II. Canberra: Australian War Memorial. OCLC 33346943.
  • Johnston, Mark (2002). That Magnificent 9th: An Illustrated History of the 9th Australian Division 1940–46. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1865086541.
  • Lloyd, Clem; Hall, Richard, eds. (1997). Backroom Briefings: John Curtin's War. Canberra: National Library of Australia. ISBN 0642106886.
  • Layton, J. Kent (2015). The Edwardian Superliners: A Trio of Trios. Stroud, United Kingdom: Amberley Publishing. ISBN 1445614405.
  • Long, Gavin (1973). The Six Years War. A Concise History of Australia in the 1939–1945 War. Canberra: The Australian War Memorial and the Australian Government Printing Service. ISBN 0642993750.
  • Maughan, Barton (1966). Tobruk and El Alamein. Australia in the War of 1939–1945, Series 1 – Army. Volume III (1st ed.). Canberra: Australian War Memorial. OCLC 954993.
  • Plowman, Peter (2003). Across the Sea to War: Australian and New Zealand Troop Convoys from 1865 Through Two World Wars to Korea and Vietnam. Kenthurst, New South Wales: Rosenberg Publishing. ISBN 1877058068.
  • Rohwer, Jürgen; Hümmelchen, Gerhard; Weis, Thomas (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea: 1939–1945: The Naval History of World War II (3rd revised ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1591141192.
  • Roskill, S.W. (1956). War at Sea 1939–1945, Volume 2: The Period of Balance. London: HMSO. OCLC 881709047.
  • Stanford, Don (1960). The Ile de France: A Biography. London: Cassel. OCLC 9400739.
  • Threlfall, Adrian (2014). Jungle Warriors: From Tobruk to Kokoda and beyond, How the Australian Army Became the World's Most Deadly Jungle Fighting Force. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 9781742372204.
2/15th Battalion (Australia)

The 2/15th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army that served during World War II. Formed in May 1940 primarily from Queensland volunteers, the battalion saw action in North Africa in 1941–1942 as part of the 20th Brigade, which was part of the 7th Division before being reassigned to the 9th Division.

After completing training in Palestine, in early 1941, the 2/15th took up positions along the front line in the Western Desert, before being pushed back to Tobruk. Between April and October 1941, along with a garrison of British and other Australian personnel, the battalion helped to hold the strategically important port, which had been surrounded following the landing of German troops at Tripoli. It was withdrawn by sea in late October 1941 as the 9th Division was relieved by the British 70th Division. Following its withdrawal from Tobruk, the battalion re-formed at Gaza before undertaking garrison duties in Syria. In mid-1942, the 2/15th returned to North Africa to fight in the First and Second Battles of El Alamein.

In early 1943, the 2/15th returned to Australia and was re-organised and re-trained for jungle warfare. It took part in campaigns against the Japanese in New Guinea in 1943–1944 and Borneo in 1945, before being disbanded in 1946.

2/17th Battalion (Australia)

The 2/17th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. Raised in April 1940 in New South Wales, it formed part of the 20th Brigade, and was eventually allocated to the 9th Division. After completing basic training in Australia, the unit was deployed to the Middle East. In early 1941, it took part in the fighting at Tobruk, defending the port until relieved. A period of garrison duties followed in Syria and Lebanon before the battalion took part in the First and Second Battles of El Alamein in mid-1942. As the focus of the Australian Army's operations shifted to the Pacific theatre to fight the Japanese, the 2/17th Battalion returned to Australia early in 1943.

In 1943–1944, the battalion fought in New Guinea, conducting an amphibious landing as part of operations to capture Lae in early September at the end of the Salamaua–Lae campaign, before participating in the follow-up landing on the Huon Peninsula as Japanese forces withdrew inland from Lae. In early 1944, the battalion was withdrawn to Australia for rest and reorganisation and a long period of inactivity followed before it returned to combat. Its final campaign came late in the war when it was committed to the fighting in Borneo in June 1945, landing on Brunei. Following the end of the war, the battalion was disbanded in early 1946.

2/43rd Battalion (Australia)

The 2/43rd Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. Raised in July 1940 in South Australia as part of the 24th Brigade, the battalion was initially part of the 8th Division, until the 24th Brigade was re-allocated to the 9th Division in late 1940. It was with this formation that the 2/43rd saw service in the Middle East in 1941–1942, taking part in the fighting at Tobruk and in the First and Second Battles of El Alamein. It also undertook garrison duties in Syria, before returning to Australia early in 1943 to fight against the Japanese in the Pacific.

In 1943–1944, after re-organisation and training to prepare for jungle warfare, the 2/43rd fought in New Guinea, as part of operations to capture Lae and secure the Huon Peninsula. After returning to Australia in early 1944, a long period of training followed on the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland, before the battalion undertook its final campaign of the war, taking part in Allied operations to re-take Borneo from the Japanese in June 1945. Following the end of the war, the battalion was disbanded in February 1946. One member of the battalion, Private Tom Starcevich, was awarded the Victoria Cross.

9th Division (Australia)

The 9th Division was a division of the Australian Army that served during World War II. It was the fourth division raised for the Second Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF). The distinctions of the division include it being:

in front line combat longer, cumulatively, than any other Australian division;

one of the Australian military's most decorated formations;

the only 2nd AIF division formed in the United Kingdom, from infantry brigades and support units formed in Australia;

praised by both Allied and Axis generals, including Bernard Montgomery and Erwin Rommel, as well as non-Australian military historians, and;

like the 6th and 7th Divisions, being one of only a few Allied army units to serve in both the Mediterranean and Pacific theatres.During 1940, the component units of the 9th Division were sent to the UK to defend it against a possible German invasion. After serving during 1941–1942 in the North African campaign, at the Siege of Tobruk and both the First and Second Battles of El Alamein, the 9th Division returned to Australia. In 1943–1944, it served in the New Guinea campaign and, during 1945, in the Borneo campaign. It was disbanded, following the end of the war, in early 1946.

Greek destroyer Vasilissa Olga

Vasilissa Olga (Greek: ΒΠ Βασίλισσα Όλγα) (Queen Olga) was the second and last destroyer of her class built for the Royal Hellenic Navy in Great Britain before the Second World War. She participated in the Greco-Italian War in 1940–1941, escorting convoys and unsuccessfully attacking Italian shipping in the Adriatic Sea. After the German invasion of Greece in April 1941, the ship escorted convoys between Egypt and Greece until she evacuated part of the government to Crete later that month and then to Egypt in May. After the Greek surrender on 1 June, Vasilissa Olga served with British forces for the rest of her career.

She escorted convoys in the Eastern Mediterranean for the next several months before she was sent to India for a refit. The ship resumed convoy escort duties upon its completion at the beginning of 1942 in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. In December of that year, now operating in the Central Mediterranean, Vasilissa Olga and a British destroyer briefly captured an Italian submarine, but it sank while under tow. The following month, the ship, together with a pair of British destroyers, sank a small Italian transport ship. She was briefly tasked to escort an Australian troop convoy in the Red Sea in February 1943 before returning to the Mediterranean. Together with a British destroyer, Vasilissa Olga sank at least two ships from an Italian convoy in June. Over the next several months, she escorted British ships as the Allies invaded Sicily (Operation Husky)and mainland Italy (Operation Avalanche).

The ship was transferred back to the Eastern Mediterranean in September to participate in the Dodecanese Campaign. Together with two British destroyers, she helped to destroy a small German convoy in the islands before beginning to ferry troops and supplies to the small British garrison on the island of Leros. After completing one such mission, she was sunk by German bombers in Lakki harbor on 26 September with the loss of 72 men.

HMS Resolution (09)

HMS Resolution (pennant number: 09) was one of five Revenge-class battleships built for the Royal Navy during the First World War. The ships were developments of the Queen Elizabeth-class battleships, with reductions in size and speed to offset increases in armour protection whilst retaining the same battery of eight 15-inch (381 mm) guns. Completed in December 1916, Resolution saw no combat during the war as both the British and German fleets adopted a more cautious strategy after the Battle of Jutland in May owing to the increasing threat of naval mines and submarines,.

Resolution spent the 1920s and 1930s alternating between the Atlantic Fleet and the Mediterranean Fleet. Whilst serving in the Mediterranean in the early 1920s, the ship went to Turkey twice in response to crises arising from the Greco-Turkish War, including the Great Fire of Smyrna in 1922. She also saw limited involvement during the Franco-British intervention in the Russian Civil War in the Black Sea in 1920. The ship's interwar career was otherwise uneventful. With the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Resolution was assigned to the Channel Force before being transferred to convoy escort duties in the North Atlantic. In May 1940, she participated in the Battles of Narvik until German air attacks drove her off.

In June 1940, the ship was transferred to Force H, where she took part in the destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir in July after the French surrender to Germany. She was also involved in the Battle of Dakar, an attempt to neutralise the French battleship Richelieu that ended with Resolution's torpedoing by the French submarine Bévéziers. Badly damaged, Resolution was repaired first in Freetown, Sierra Leone and then the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard under Lend-Lease. Thereafter assigned to the Eastern Fleet, her age kept her from seeing action against the Japanese fleet, and she instead escorted convoys off the eastern coast of Africa. She returned to Britain in September 1943 and was decommissioned, thereafter seeing service with the training establishment HMS Imperieuse, a role she filled until February 1948, when she was paid off, sold for scrap, and broken up at Faslane.

HMS Revenge (06)

HMS Revenge (pennant number: 06) was the lead ship of five Revenge-class super-dreadnought battleships built for the Royal Navy during the First World War in the mid-1910s. The ships were developments of the Queen Elizabeth-class battleships, with reductions in size and speed to offset increases in armour protection whilst retaining the same main battery of eight 15-inch (381 mm) guns. She was laid down in 1913, launched in 1915, and was commissioned in February 1916, early enough to be worked up in time to see action with the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in May that year. During the engagement, she engaged German battlecruisers, damaging two of them before being forced to turn away to avoid torpedoes that damaged her squadron flagship and caused the squadron to lose contact with the rest of the fleet. Revenge emerged from the battle unscathed, but she saw no further action during the war, as the British and German fleets turned to more cautious strategies owing to the risk of submarines and naval mines.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Revenge alternated between the Atlantic Fleet and the Mediterranean Fleet. Whilst serving in the Mediterranean in the early 1920s, the ship went to Turkey twice in response to crises arising from the Greco-Turkish War, including the Great Fire of Smyrna in 1922. The ship's interwar career was otherwise uneventful. With the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Revenge was used to escort convoys and transport significant quantities of the country's gold reserves to Canada as part of Operation Fish; these activities continued into 1940. She was involved in the seizure of French warships in Portsmouth after the French surrender in July 1940.

In October 1940, she conducted Operation Medium, an attack on German transport ships that had been collected along the English Channel in preparation for the since-cancelled invasion of Britain. Revenge thereafter resumed convoy escort duties until October 1941, when she was reassigned to the 3rd Battle Squadron and sent to the Far East as tensions with Japan began to rise. British naval forces were strengthened further after the start of the Pacific War in December, leading to the creation of the Eastern Fleet. Revenge and her sister ships were deemed too old to be of use against the Japanese fleet, so they were relegated to convoy escort duties in the Indian Ocean. Badly worn out by 1943, Revenge returned home, where she was removed from front-line service. Her last voyage was to carry Prime Minister Winston Churchill to the Tehran Conference in November 1943. Upon returning, she was assigned to the training establishment HMS Imperieuse, disarmed, and eventually broken up in 1948.

HNLMS Tjerk Hiddes (G16)

The destroyer HNLMS Tjerk Hiddes was a British built, Dutch warship of World War II. She was laid down on 22 May 1940 as a British N-class destroyer and launched on 25 June 1941 as HMS Nonpareil, but on 27 May 1942, she was transferred to the Royal Dutch Navy. The ship was commissioned in 1942 as HNLMS Tjerk Hiddes, named after the 17th century Dutch admiral, Tjerk Hiddes de Vries. Much of her war service was with the Royal Navy and United States Navy in the Indian Ocean and Australia. Following the war, the destroyer was sold to Indonesia and renamed KRI Gadjah Mada. She was scrapped in 1961.

RMS Aquitania

RMS Aquitania was a British ocean liner of Cunard Line in service from 1914 to 1950. She was designed by Leonard Peskett and built by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland. She was launched on 21 April 1913 and sailed on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York on 30 May 1914. Aquitania was the third in Cunard Line's grand trio of express liners, preceded by RMS Mauretania and RMS Lusitania, and was the last surviving four-funnelled ocean liner. Shortly after Aquitania entered service, World War I broke out, during which she was first transformed into an auxiliary cruiser before being transformed into a troop transport and a hospital ship, notably as part of the Dardanelles Campaign.

Returned to transatlantic passenger service in 1920, she served alongside the Mauretania and the Berengaria. Widely considered during this period of time as one of the most attractive ships, Aquitania earned the nickname "the Ship Beautiful" from her passengers. Her popularity allowed her service to be continued after the merger of Cunard Line with White Star Line in 1934. The company planned to retire her and replace her with RMS Queen Elizabeth in 1940.

However, the outbreak of World War II allowed her to remain in service for ten more years. During the war and until 1947, she served as a troop transport. She was used in particular to take home Canadian soldiers from Europe. After the war, she transported migrants to Canada before the Board of Trade found her unfit for further commercial service. Aquitania was retired from service in 1949 and was scrapped the following year. Having served as a passenger ship for 36 years, Aquitania became the second longest serving Cunard vessel after RMS Scythia (37 years). That record stood until 2004 when Queen Elizabeth 2 became the longest serving Cunard vessel.

SS Nieuw Amsterdam (1937)

The Nieuw Amsterdam was a Dutch ocean liner built in Rotterdam for the Holland America Line. This Nieuw Amsterdam, the second of four Holland America ships with that name, is considered by many to have been Holland America's finest ship.

SS Île de France

The SS Île de France was a French ocean liner that was built in Saint-Nazaire, France, for the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (or CGT, also known as the "French Line"). The ship was named after the region around Paris known as "L'Ile de France", launched in 1926 and commenced her maiden voyage on June 22, 1927. It was the first major ocean liner built after World War I, and was the first liner ever to be decorated almost entirely with modern designs associated with the Art Deco style. She was neither the largest ship nor the fastest, but was considered the most beautifully decorated ship built by CGT, becoming the favored ship of the pre-World War II era, carrying young, wealthy and fashionable Americans to Europe and back.

Ironically, all of the ship's luxurious fittings were removed for its conversion into a prison ship during World War II. After the war, Île de France resumed transatlantic operations. In 1956, she played a key role in rescuing passengers from the SS Andrea Doria after the latter ship's fatal collision with the MS Stockholm off Nantucket. Her last hurrah came just before she was scrapped in 1959, "starring" in the movie The Last Voyage as a doomed ocean liner, and actually being partially sunk, while scenes were being filmed with actors playing their parts in the flooded ship. She was subsequently refloated and taken to Japan to be scrapped. The movie was released in 1960.

Second Australian Imperial Force

The Second Australian Imperial Force (Second, or 2nd, AIF) was the name given to the volunteer personnel of the Australian Army in World War II. 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, Italy, Vichy France and Japan. After the war, Australia's wartime military structures were demobilised and the 2nd AIF was disbanded, although a small cadre of its personnel became part of the Interim Army that was established in 1947, and from which the Australian Regular Army was formed in 1948.

Task Force 44

Task Force 44 was an Allied naval task force during the Pacific Campaign of World War II. The task force consisted of warships from, mostly, the United States Navy and a few from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). It was generally assigned as a striking force to defend northeast Australia and the surrounding area from any attacks by Axis forces, particularly from the Empire of Japan.

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