Full text Prime Minister


“Men and women of Australia,

“A year ago I said to you: `Japan has struck like an assassin in the night. The Pacific Ocean is reddened with blood . . . This is our darkest hour.'

“The thread by which peace was hanging had snapped and Australia, for the first time in its history, shouldered the grim task of defending this country from all the horrors of physical contact with war.

“I propose, in this talk with you to-night, to review the year that has passed and to say something to you of what the second year of war with Japan may involve. You have already heard, from many points throughout the world, the nature of this global conflict and you will have gained an understanding of the immensity of the problems which have to be overcome in grappling with the Axis.

"The keynote of what you have heard is that we can see the first glimmer of the turning point in the struggle but that nothing that has happened would justify any relaxing or slackening off on the part of any country in the United Nations. To do so would inevitably mean a prolongation of the war. Particularly is that the case in the South-West Pacific area which is Australia's primary concern.

“What has happened in the twelve months during which we have been at war with Japan? The enemy occupies Indo-China, Thailand, Burma, the Dutch East Indies, Malaya, the Philippines, and every strategic island with the exception of that part of the Solomons where our gallant American allies are striking hard at the enemy and in New Guinea where our fighting men have wrested the initiative from the enemy for the first time.

“Look back on the last twelve months: H.M.Ss. Prince of Wales and Repulse were lost. Wake Island and Guam fell. Thailand was occupied. Penang was evacuated. Hong Kong capitulated. Burma was penetrated. Singapore fell. Nauru and Ocean Island were bombed. The first air raid alarm on Darwin on 13th December heralded over 40 separate attacks on that town. Corregidor went down in a bloody haze. Timor was occupied. Rabaul became an enemy base. By March, this country was ringed, with only New Zealand and distant Hawaii as friendly bases. The eighth division of the Australian Imperial Force, `part of our heart', was locked up in Singapore.

"Australia's situation was desperate and the Australian Government went straight to the British Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill) and President Roosevelt to put the case for the Pacific as a major war theatre. The response was as prompt as it was magnificent. On 18th March, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur arrived in this country and simultaneously it was possible to announce that considerable American forces were here.

“In the months that followed, the enemy strove to cut Australia's vital supply line, so valiantly maintained by the men of the merchant navy and those of the escorting warships. Australia felt the blows of modern war. Darwin, Sydney, Newcastle, Broome, Wyndham, Townsville, Katherine and Port Hedland all felt the impact of enemy blows. Port Moresby was menaced, reeling under the shock of almost 100 separate air raids.

"Australian warships were sunk - we mourn the Perth, the Yarra and the Canberra. Came the battle of the Coral Sea, an event, as Parliament was told, 'of crucial importance'. Followed the battle of Midway - for many `the last full measure of their devotion'.

“The vital problem of supplies was accentuated as the enemy struck at shipping and as the claims of other major war theatres had to be met. Australia faced a bloody fight for survival on her own soil as the enemy crept nearer to Port Moresby.

"But three factors operated to save Australia from horrors which only the imagination can conjure up when they are contemplated. One was the return of two Australian Imperial Force divisions to Australia and their part in the carefully-prepared and expertly-devised plans of the commanders which resulted in the dramatic communiqué: `The Milne Bay area is rapidly being cleared . . . The enemy fell into the trap'.

“The second factor was the announcement on 8th August, 1942, of the first attempt by the Americans to dislodge the Japanese from the Solomons, which has been carried on with such bravery and with such forces that Australians owe to the United States a debt incapable of ever being discharged.

"The third factor was the one which I put to you when I spoke on the night that Japan went to war against us. It was this: `One thing remains. That thing is the co-operation, the strength and the will-power of you, the people. Without it we are, indeed, lost. The road of service is ahead. Let us tread it firmly, victoriously . . .'

“I pay tribute now to the manner in which the great body of Australians have comported themselves during the year that has passed. The true Australian spirit, in the fighting lines and on the home front, has not waned; indeed it has waxed stronger and history will record the high courage of our fighting men, the service of the women's auxiliaries and the triumphs of production achieved by the working men and women. No finer, and certainly no more generous, tribute could have been paid than that which, a few weeks ago, General MacArthur said of this country: `No nation in the world is making a more supreme war effort than Australia.'

“We are, then, about to enter a second year of war with an enemy which has fighting men who would rather perish than be taken prisoner. What will this next year hold?

“Victory can be won only by offensive action. To take offensive action, all key positions in Australia must be held strongly. That involves fighting forces and also means keeping them supplied. We must drive the enemy out of Papua and New Guinea, and, again, hold those places strongly. We must safeguard all approaches to Australia at present held and drive the enemy from the islands around us which he now holds, and, again, we must hold them. We must strike relentlessly at Japanese lines of communications and regions of supplies of raw materials.

“There is a long way to go. It is a march which goes on from Buna and Gona, on to Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies, on to the Philippines, on to the restoration of the Burma Road to heroic China. We must continue to build up our fighting forces to the very utmost of our capacity in man-power and maintain them at a maximum never contemplated in Australia's history. We are not alone, but we must, as I have said, take our place in global strategy until the time when the striking power of the United Nations in the Pacific theatre reaches a peak and we can go out after the Japanese in full offensive strength.

“To achieve what is contemplated for the year ahead, all Australia's resources must continue to be devoted without stint to the task at hand. I can promise you no smoother path, no easing of restrictions and deprivations, no departure from the stern demands of duty. Our position, bad as it was a year ago, serious as it was six months ago and hopeful as it is to-day, remains one in which we have striven for security for this country but remains a position in which victory can be grasped only by making in the second year twice the strides made in the first year.

“Mr. Churchill put it plainly last week when he said -

'It may be that the war in Europe will end before the war in Asia. Should events take such a course we should immediately bring all our forces to the other side of the world to the aid of America and of China, and above all, to our own kith and kin in Australia and New Zealand, in their valiant struggle against Japan's aggressions.’

“That, then, is where we stand. Our courage is high, our purpose is inflexible, our spirit unbroken. Nothing can defeat us but our own failures. One failure would be to fail to oversubscribe the £100,000,000 loan which closes in nine days' time. The need for the £100,000,000 loan is vital and it is my privilege now to read to you a message I have received from Mr. Churchill in which he makes plain our common duty. Mr. Churchill's message is as follows:-

'I welcome this occasion for sending a message of congratulation and encouragement to the people of Australia on their austerity campaign. This gives the opportunity not only to those who fight but to those who stay at home to play their part in the struggle on which the future of every one of us depends. Our economies, our savings, our surrender of personal comforts, personal luxuries and personal extravagances will all be needed if those who have gone out to fight are to be fully supported. We, the free nations of the world, can and must prove, by showing a high degree of self-sacrifice and devotion to duty, and by accepting greater tasks and heavier burdens, that we can impose on ourselves a mightier effort and a stricter discipline than ever enforced by the Axis tyrants on their unhappy slaves. Let us bear constantly in mind the sacrifices which our fighting men are making in the common cause and resolve here and now that our contributions shall be worthy of them. - Winston S. Churchill.'

“The words of the Empire's leader carry a message to all. I know that on 15th December, 1942, when the final result of the loan is known, that Australia will have given a demonstration to the rest of the Empire and will have administered a striking blow at the common enemy.

"But the loan is incidental to our programme. It is part of a national plan that calls up total resources for total war. Unless we win we perish. Gallant men wage for us a war forced upon our country. I pay tribute to our fighting forces whose valour, devotion and self-sacrifice have stood between us and the enemy and saved our cities and saved our people from horror and devastation. We owe to them eternal gratitude. We owe them unblinding support. We owe them the sustained backing of our complete capacity. We owe it to them to make it a solemn act of duty that we too bear our immeasurably lighter burdens of war as cheerfully and as dourly as they bear their terribly exacting obligations.

"I give you, then, for a covenant to keep: That this nation, grateful for the blessings we have had, pledges itself with all it has to do its duty to its fighting men, and by doing it to them, do it to Australia."

JCPML.  Records of the Commonwealth of Australia.  Digest of Decisions and Announcements and Important Speeches by the Prime Minister. No. 46, 12 November - 6 December 1942.  JCPML00110/51.