Top Ten Historical Battles Involving Australians
As the colonization period began, Australia had already participated in different battles. Let’s have a quick recap of some of the historical fighting involving Australians.
1. The Great Emu War (1932)
This is not your typical war to expect. In the 1930s, Australians waged war, not with another state, but with migratory birds!
Every year, an estimated 20,000 emus inhabit the farmlands in Campion in Western Australia during their breeding season. At this point, the migratory birds have already started pestering the district’s agricultural sector, damaging the fences, and ruining the crops. Farmers already have complaints due to the falling wheat prices and discontinued subsidies.
Sir George Pearce of the Ministry of Defense resolved the issue by sending soldiers equipped with their guns to solve the migratory bird’s problem. After waging war with the Emus on November 8th, it lasted only six (6) days. Unfortunately, the results were harmful to the military, for they did not reach their goal to eliminate the migratory birds. According to different accounts, the military has only killed from 200 to 500 birds using 2,500 rounds of ammunition during the war. The emus somehow manage to separate into smaller groups to avoid the machine guns. Local media have already humiliatingly reported the fight against the emus. After the Australian House of Representatives discussion, Sir George Pearce withdrew his military from the area leading to the migratory birds’ victory in the war.
2. Battle of Bitapaka (1914)
After the breakout of World War I in July 1914, Australia quickly formed its Naval and Military Expeditionary Force.
In September of the same year, the Battle of Bita Paka marked the first Australian military engagement during the first world war. Bita Paka was a radio station constructed to use the German South Seas Wireless Company in German New Guinea. The battle was between the German reservists and Melanesian police to protect the capital of Rabaul, which was significant to the German ships for its coal supply. According to reports, there were seven (7) Australian deaths and five (5) wounded, while one (1) German and 30 Melanesian deaths.
Australians managed to capture their targeted radio state in Bitapaka and destroy the wireless station making the remaining German forces flee from New Britain to Toma. After defeating the Germans in 1921, the territory of New Guinea became a colony of Australia as mandated by the League of Nations. The Australian administration in New Guinea lasted until 1975 before gaining its independence.
3. Boer War (1899 – 1902)
According to history, the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 was the most significant force of the British Empire after the Agincourt War in 1415. It was the largest military operation by the state between the Battle of Waterloo and World War I. The forces set the battle in South Africa, and Boers are known to be the descendant of the first Dutch settlers in the region, making them the only white tribe inhabiting Africa.
The conflict got triggered by the diamond and gold deposits found in the Boer republics. The British empire sought to expand its territories and annex Transvaal. However, political conflicts emerged as the Boer opposed the British administration.
There was an estimated 16,000 Australians involved in the Boer War, with 600 casualties and deaths. According to records, the Boer War was the first Australian involvement represented as a nation with its Federal Government. Australians also had a chance to earn a Victoria Cross (VC), the highest and most prestigious award in the British honors system. The Boer War also became a foreground practice for the Australians before engaging in the Great War in 1914.
4. Boxer Rebellion (1900 – 1901)
This historical battle took place in Northern China in the 1900s. It was between the anti-western societies in China and the Westerners. It was known as the “Yihetuan Movement.” These societies were a Chinese secret organization called “Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists,” which believed physical exercises would help them withstanding ammunition. They were often called the “Boxers” by the Western.
The Opium Wars began in the 1860s, wherein the European states, specifically Britain, forced China to accept opium as a trading good with the Chinese. European nations eventually began to establish trading posts in major Chinese ports. Territorial and trade ambitions of the Western powers began to grow in the Chinese state. It led to the Chinese resistance.
At this point, Australian forces are currently participating in the Boer War in South Africa. Later, the Australian military sent them to China to support the western powers through the coastal defense. However, they were not engaged in combat, but there were reports that six (6) Australians died from sickness and injury from the Boer War and not from any enemy action.
5. World War I (1914 – 1918)
During the First World War, Australia pledged its support for Britain after waging war against Germany in August 1914 at the Portsea, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. The state’s first involvement was during the Battle of Bita Paka in September between the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Forces (ANMEF) and the Germans.
According to records, there were around 400,000 Australian who served in different battalions during the war, like the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), and the AN&MEF. As for the British Empire, Australia served as their sailors and soldiers alongside Canada, India, Newfoundland, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Australia has participated in four (4) battlegrounds throughout the great war, at Rabaul in 1914, Gallipoli, Turkey (1915), in the Middle East and North Africa, and Europe on the Western Front between 1916 1918. Among the significant Australian actions, the battle on the Western Front was the costliest.
WWI recorded the most significant number of deaths and casualties for Australia, reporting more than 60,000 deaths, 156,000 wounded and imprisoned among the 416,809 men enlisted.
6. Russian Civil War (1918 – 1920)
The Russian Civil War broke out following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. In the Julian calendar, it is often referred to as the “October Revolution,” wherein Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik Party leader, and the leftist revolutionaries started a coup d’état against the provisional government of Duma. The revolution got caused by corruption and inefficiency of the czarist imperial government, leading to dissatisfaction among its people and political power between the monarch and the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1918 and 1919, Australia served as a foreign intervention force in the civil war. In the northern part of Russia, they assisted anti-Bolshevik forces and protected its allied stores. According to records, two Australians received two Victoria Crosses: Corporal Arthur Sullivan and Sergeant Samuel Pearse.
Australia did not commit engagement against Russia despite its pressure from Britain, especially after World War I. However, several individuals became a part of the British Army during the North Russia Campaign as advisors of the North Russian Expeditionary Force (NREF). They also enlisted as infantry, volunteering in the North Russian Relief Force.
7. Malayan Emergency (1950 – 1960)
After World War II, the Malayan Emergency resumed after the British took over the Malaya after Japan’s downfall. The British Empire started a state of emergency on the whole colony after its estate managers got assassinated by the Malaysian Communist Party (MCP) guerrillas in northern Malaya. This situation happened after the settlement tried to push through the formation of a new country from the different Malayan states, which the communist party vehemently opposed.
As the Malaya campaign was associated with the Cold War against Communism, the Australian Parliament sent off the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) forces in 1950. 7,000 Australians deployed during the Malaya Emergency and the British, New Zealand, Ghurka, and Malayan troops.
Aside from the ground and air forces provided, Australians also served as artillery and engineering support in the emergency. Australia was also a part of the Far East Strategic Reserve, which aimed to monitor any communist aggression in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, there were 39 soldiers killed and 27 wounded after the end of the Malaya emergency. Shortly after the declaration of the Federation of Malaysia.
8. Vietnam War (1965 – 1973)
As communism arose after the Second World War, the attempt of the French to take control of the French Indochina began in the 1950s. As Vietnam split after the First Indochina War following the Geneva Accords of 1954, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, ruled by the North and the State of Vietnam by the South, was established.
However, the splitting of the country became a conflict that led to the Vietnam War. According to records, the Vietnam War is Australia’s longest war after its withdrawal in 1972, surpassing the Afghanistan War. It was also their most considerable force contribution after World War II.
Around 60,000 Australian personnel from the infantry, air, and navy forces entered Vietnam. Australia’s deployment in Vietnam was to strengthen the United States’ strategic relations and stop the growing communism in Southeast Asia, supporting South Vietnam against the North.
Within the eight years of service in Vietnam, the Battle of Long Tan was the deadliest and most crucial fight for Australia in August 1966. There were around 100 soldiers of the Aussie and New Zealand descent fighting a force of 2,000 forces. Before its withdrawal from the country, 521 were reported dead and over 3,000 wounded due to the civil war.
9. Operation Astute (2006 – 2013)
Operation Astute of 2006 was the peacekeeping of the Australian Defense Force (ADF) in East Timor. Australia provided the central role in ensuring security and stability in East Timor after being one of the poorest countries in Asia.
Australia helped the country to gain independence from Indonesia in 1999. The International Stabilization Force (ISF), the main force, comprises 460 Australian personnel and 70 New Zealand soldiers.
According to records, the Australian peacekeeping in East Timor lasted from December 2012. However, Australia continued to support the East Timor military through training and advice in the Australian Defense Cooperation Program. There was 25 Australian personnel deployed in East Timor as of 2015.
10. Borneo Confrontation (1963 – 1966)
The Borneo Confrontation or Konfrontasi was a conflict that happened on the island of Borneo and the Malay Peninsula. The battle began when the former colonies of Sabah and Sarawak remained undecided on which state, Indonesia or Malaysia, would be included.
During this conflict, Australia gave its service to Malaysia as part of the British empire’s goal to safeguard the newly established federation of Malaysia. Infantry battalion and special forces are deployed in Borneo and confronted the Indonesian Army. According to reports, 23 Australian personnel and eight (8) got wounded during the three-year conflict. It also became the last military assistance of Australia to a major British conflict.
The role of warfare in Australian society
During the 20th century, Australia participated in many wars that provided a more robust national identity. They commemorate these battles to demonstrate their men’s strength, courage, unity, and brotherhood. For example, they celebrate the ANZAC troops who fought in Turkey during the First World War.
Throughout the existence of the Australian nation, they engaged in many wars. They fought against Aborigines on the frontier. Then, as they prospered, the Australians fought the Japanese, European combatants, North Koreans, and Vietnamese soldiers.
Australia’s military strategy relies on its allies. Experts call the nation’s diplomacy “bandwagoning.” A century ago, Australia relied on the United Kingdom for its security and alliances. But during the Second World War, Australia became closer to the United States. This trend made Australian politicians focus on other crises and issues than national defense.
Many military strategists say that the Australian government accepts that peace is the best option in resolving international affairs. Australia also adopts the diplomatic disciplines and traditions the country inherited from Western nations. Hence, Australian troops get recognized for their fighting skills and “humane” treatment.
Since the Second World War ended, Australia has participated in peacekeeping operations. Australian forces collaborated with the United Nations during conflicts in Sudan, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Fiji. They also engaged in East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Solomon Islands.
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