Most countries that participated in the Second World War served either the interest of the allied forces or that of the Germans. The Second World War took place primarily to prevent the German invasion of Europe and the rest of the world. Britain, being one of the major frontier forces against the Germans drew most of its colonies in the war.
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Like most of the British colonies around the globe that participated in the Second World War, Australia did not take part in repelling the Germans from invading the Middle East and Europe to serve her interest but that of Britain and the allied forces.
The United Kingdom and the Australian governments used the war propaganda to make Australians believe that they are facing the real threat either from the Far East or from the German naval forces1. As a result, Australian ground soldiers and aircrew were recruited through various programs to participate in the war particularly in Europe and around the Mediterranean.
Various reasons indicate the reason why the Australian interests were not served during the war. First, the war was not between Australia and the Germans. In fact, the allied forces were protecting Europe and not Australia from the German invasion and occupation.
While it could be argued that the allied forces were protecting even their colonies, Australia in particular was not facing the real threat from the Germans and its allies. In fact, the absence of the German naval forces in the Indian and the Pacific Oceans was a clear indication that the threat was not immediate2.
Second, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) controlled the activities of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the ground solders that participated in the war. In fact, the United Kingdom ensured that its colonies or the commonwealth countries participated in the war through various programs.
Essentially, Britain and its dominions adopted the programs such as the Empire Air Training Schemes (EATS) to ensure constant supply of trained aircrew to fight alongside the RAF3. Through the program, the RAAF recruits received basic training around the Australian airbases.
From the airbases, the recruits were sent overseas for further training and redeployment to participate in the air squadrons in Europe. In fact, thousands of the Australian aircrew and ground solders headed to Europe in aid of the British during the Second World War.
Third, the British did not prioritize the Australian interests in the Far East. When Singapore and Malaya were under the threat of the Japanese invasion, the allied forces failed to protect these Australian interests rather, diverted the Australian air force to fight in the Balkans.
With thousands RAAF aircrew deployed in various parts of Europe, the available Australian naval force could hardly resist the Japanese invasion and intent without the backing of the allied forces. Therefore, it could well be argued that the participation of Australia in the Second World War was not to serve the Australian interest but that of the United Kingdom.
Essentially, the deployment of the RAAF and ground soldiers in the Middle East and Europe only served the interest of the British and the allied forces. During the Second World War, the Australians served in various capacities ranging from aircrew to maintenance and administrative responsibilities.
Horner, DM, “The Greek campaign February–April 1941: the political decision”, High command: Australia and allied strategy, 1939–1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1982, pp. 76-85.
McCarthy, JM, “The defence of Australia-and the empire air training scheme: 1939-1942”, The Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol. 20 no. 3, 1978, pp. 326-334.
Robertson, J, “The Mediterranean campaign, 1940–1945”, in J Robertson (ed.), Australia at war: 1939–1945, William Heinemann Publishers, Melbourne, 1981, pp. 37-51.
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1 JM McCarthy, “The defence of Australia-and the empire air training scheme: 1939-1942”, The Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol. 20 no. 3, 1978, pp.326.
2 DM Horner, High command: Australia and allied strategy, 1939–1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1982, pp. 77
3 J Robertson, Australia at war: 1939–1945, William Heinemann Publishers, Melbourne, 1981, pp. 37.