Australia In the Great War

*USE these sites to help research the events of The Great War: this is an interactive and informative site all about Gallipoli. - type World War 1 into the search bar - there are amazing films from the war, and interviews with veterans. This site has excellent educational notes that will help you discuss and analyse the film sources.

For students wanting to read the official sponsored history of World War 1, written by Charles Bean, you can find it here, volume by volume. He began it only 2 years after the war finished, and he had experienced much of it first hand.

A. Why the war began

World War I (WW1), also known as the First World War, or the Great War, involved nations around the world. It began in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. More than 70 million soldiers fought. Over 9 million of these died. In addition 7 million civilians died. This great loss of life was beyond any war that the world had seen. It was largely a result of the use of technologically advanced weapons, but old fashioned battle strategies. The result was a tactical stalemate caused by gruelling trench warfare.

Image result for triple entente map
Image result for triple entente map

The war drew in all the world's economic powers, assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies - based on the Triple Entente of the British Empire, France and Russia, versus the Central Powers or Triple Alliance, of Germany and Austria-Hungary. These alliances were reorganised and expanded as more nations entered the war: Italy, Japan and the USA joined the Allies, while the Ottoman [Turkish] Empire joined the Central Powers.
The trigger for the war was the assassination of Duke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by a Serbian rebel, on 28 th June 1914.
Image result for assassination archduke ferdinand
Image result for assassination archduke ferdinand

This set off a diplomatic crisis which entangled many nations and their allies. Within weeks, the major powers were at war and the conflict soon spread around the world.

John Green explains - quickly, but complicated!

This animated map... helps explain the start of the war. A useful website.

B. Why Australians became involved

Newly Federated and with a strong sense of nationhood, none-the-less Australians mostly responded enthusiastically to sending troops to help Great Britain in her war against Germany: why?

The Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher, said Australia would support "to our last man and our last shilling." By November 20 000 men had enlisted and were preparing to sail with the first AIF.

* reasons

-loyalty to Britain

-belief that the cause was just

-peer and social pressure

-looking for adventure and a secure job!

*Read A B Paterson’s poem

*Write a letter from a young member of the AIF, to explain why he joined up. Include at least 3 reasons.

C. Gallipoli- Australia’s baptism of fire

The soldiers of the first AIF were surprised that instead of heading to Europe, they were sent for further training in Egypt.

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They were to be part of an attack against Turkey [an ally of Germany] to open up the sea route to Russia, through the Dardanelles.

After weeks of training in and around Cairo, on April 25 1915, the first troops arrived on the shores of Gallipoli before dawn. Their mission was to reach the shores or ANZAC Cove, storm the hills and take the trenches from the Turks. What followed has become known as "The ANZAC legend'. The stories of heroic courage and sustained good humour were reported in Australian newspapers, and resulted in widespread national pride.

Explore the Australian War Memorial website, for example this exhibition.

AIF soldiers are towed toward the shores of Gallipoli, April 25 1915
AIF soldiers are towed toward the shores of Gallipoli, April 25 1915

To commemorate the Gallipoli campaign's 100th anniversary, the ABC has created this wonderful interactive site. Try it today!!

*Watch these clips from "Who'll come a-fighting the Kaiser with me?"

*What was ‘the Anzac legend’? – create a mind map of the main elements

News came late on the 25th April, that an Australian submarine - the AE2 - had broken through the minefields in the Dardanelles - which encouraged Commanding officer, Hamilton, to order the troops to "DIG DIG DIG" -stay and fight [rather than evacuate as he was contemplating]. It was a fateful decision. Read the full story here.
The months that followed involved constant danger and the hardships of life in the trenches. Two famous battles for the AIF were the battles of The Nek and Lone Pine. Australian troops suffered heavy casualties but displayed valour noted by many observers.
The Gallipoli Campaign lasted until December 1915, and failed to achieve its objective of over-running the Turkish defenses and securing the peninsula.
When it became clear that Gallipoli could not be won from the Turks, the troops were evacuated during the night of 20th Dec 2015. The Australians used many clever tricks to deceive the Turks into thinking they were still there. They escaped by steamship, with only 2 casualties. The surviving soldiers of the AIF were then sent to England to be redeployed to the Western Front, in France.

The whole Gallipoli operation cost 26,111 Australian casualties, including 8,141 deaths. Despite this, it has been said that Gallipoli had no influence on the course of the war.

Image result for aif at gallipoli
Image result for aif at gallipoli

D. On the Western Front

The Western Front.
The Western Front.

On the Western border of France, allied troops had ground down to a STALEMATE defending against the German attack. Both sides had dug into long trenches along hundreds of miles on the border, which became known as The Western Front. Increasingly deadly weapons were used to try and break the stalemate, including poison gas. Hundreds of thousands were to die here in the mud and misery of the trenches.
Short videos - BBC UNCUT

The strategies of trench warfareexplained in detail.

View eye witness accounts/footage

PLAY an interactive game - over the top

This page gives a detailed map showing battle sites and the involvement of the AIF.

AIF in Ypres
AIF in Ypres

Australian involvement on the Western Front
Australian soldiers fought here from 1916 til Nov 1918.
Some 295,000 Australians served on the western front. Over 46,000 died there and 134,000 were wounded or captured.
Famous battles and experiences:
  • The Somme: 1.2 million soldiers, 72km front, Germans knew about it, artillery went off too early, 20 000 Allied troops dead on day 1. However, the AIF captured Pozieres from the Germans in July 1916 - 7 weeks of fierce fighting followed.
  • there were 90 000 AIF on the Western Front in July 1916 - by end of the Somme campaign, 32 000 had died.
  • the AIF captured German trenches at Bullecourt April 1917
  • the battles of Ypres and Passchendaele in 1917 - months of futile attacks -
38 000 more AIF deaths
Famous photos
Real footage - great from about 20 minutes from the AWM

To help you find a relative or an interesting member of the 1st AIF, use these websites. They provide a sketch of where these people served, what their roles were, and the battles they saw.
The AIF Project UNSW
The Australian War Memorial
Grave Secrets
The Harrower Collection - great links and photos

Step by step on what to write - click here for help

E. On the Home Front

There was enormous initial enthusiasm in support of Britain when war broke out. By late 1914 over 50 000 men had volunteered. Reports from Gallipoli saw enlistment rates continue to climb. Recruitment posters used propaganda* to encourage young men to join up.

external image whose_son.jpg

Many women played a role in encouraging friends and family to enlist. Women, however were denied any role in the field of battle. About 2000 became nurses and served overseas. The main role for women on the Homefront, was in doing volunteer work to support soldiers. They joined groups like the Red Cross or the Comforts Fund. Activities included creating care packages.

Read this helpful overview - with many sources.

Propaganda and censorship

Women's involvement: List the ways in which women supported the war effort. What were women unable to do? Did all women encourage our participation? What did some women do to show their opposition? Write a story or diary about one woman’s experience of life in Australia during World War One. ( ½ – ¾ page) Learn more here... and at

A divisive issue – conscription Read pages 58-61.

1. Who was Billy Hughes? 2. Why did he want to introduce conscription in 1916? 3. What is conscription? 4. What is a referendum? 5. What were the Australian people asked in the first referendum? In the second? 6. What were the results? 7. Find reasons given to support conscription? 8. Find reasons for opposing it? 9. Who was Archbishop Mannix? How would YOU have voted and why?

read the actual referenda at..

*see documents for and against at

F. How the war ended
  1. America declared war on Germany in April 1917, and sent troops from the start of 1918. They had stayed out of the war up until then [President Wilson had tried to get a peaceful solution]. When Germany declared open war on all ships he decided it was time to act. The US troops were fresh and fit and made a huge difference to the strength of the allies.
  2. In May 1918, the ANZACs were finally commanded by an Australian - General Sir John Monash. Monash had seen too many ANZACs killed, and was determined that the Australians were from now on to be used properly.
In his first battle, at a place called le Hamel, he used aircraft, tanks and artillery to soften the enemy before he sent in the ANZACs. He also rehearsed the attack time and time again. Monash had planned it to last 90 minutes. After 93 minutes, his men had taken 1500 prisoners, caused 2000 German casualties and captured nearly 180 machine guns.
His best attack took place at Mont St Quentin, where the Germans held several thousand of their best men in reserve. The ANZACs stormed the hill from three directions, and in two days had not only secured the hill, but had also captured 2500 prisoners. Victoria Crosses were awarded to another seven ANZACs for this action. It was to be the last great fight of their war.
By 1918 Germans themselves were tiring of war. There were strikes and demonstrations in Berlin and other cities protesting about the effects of the war on the population. The British naval blockade of German ports meant that thousands of people were starving. Socialists were waiting for the chance to seize Germany as they had in Russia. In October 1918 the commander of the army resigned and the German navy mutinied. The end was near. Kaiser [King] Wilhelm II abdicated on November 9th 1918. Early on 11th November the leaders met to sign the Armistice in a railway carriage near the Western Front; at 11 am 1918, the armistice was enforced and the guns eventually ceased.

The war was formally ended with the signing of the Treaty Of Versailles in June 1919; Germany was blamed for the war and made to pay REPARATIONS [=fine/paying back] to rebuild the damage.
This lead to great hardship in Germany and the rise of Hitler - and WW2.

G. A final cruel blow - the Spanish Flu Pandemic
The returning soldiers unwittingly spread a virus that ultimately took more lives than the war itself. Over 12 000 Australians died of the Spanish Flu; the outbreak caused widespread fear.
Read more here.

FINAL Facts and figures: Australians in the First World War

Number of Australians who served More than 416,000 Australians enlisted during the First World War, with more than 331,000 serving overseas.

• Australians on the Western Front – some 295,000

• Australians in the Middle East – more than 20,000

• Australians at Gallipoli – more than 50,000

Deaths Total Australian deaths for the First World War – more than 61,000

• Australians on the Western Front – more than 46,000

• Australians in the Middle East – about 1300

• Australians at Gallipoli – about 8700

Australian prisoners of the First World War - Just over 4000 Australians were taken prisoner during the First World War by Turkish and German forces. Some 3850 were captured by the Germans on the Western Front. 217 became prisoners of the Turkish forces, most were captured at Gallipoli or in the Sinai Palestine campaign, others were taken prisoner in Mesopotamia. A total of 395 Australians died during captivity in the First World War.

Victoria Crosses • 64 Victoria Crosses were awarded to Australians in the First World War. • 53 of these were awarded between June 1916 and October 1918 on the Western Front in France and Belgium. • Nine were awarded to Australians who fought at Gallipoli. Two were awarded to Australians who fought in Palestine.

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