Chronology of Events

3 September 1939

Prime Minister Menzies announced that, as a state of war existed between Britain and Germany, Australia was also at war

15 September 1939

6th Division created, the first in the force known as the Second AIF

April 1940

Beginning of the Siege of Tobruk (lasted until 10 December)

June 1940

Communist Party banned

21 September 1940

Election result left Menzies Government dependent on two Independents

October 1940

Petrol rationed

28 August 1941

Resignation of Prime Minister Menzies to be succeeded by Arthur Fadden

4 October 1941

Prime Minister Fadden resigns

7 October 1941

Curtin sworn in as prime minister

19 November 1941

HMAS Sydney sunk with the loss of all hands

7 December 1941

Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour

9 December 1941

Australian declaration of war on Japan

10 December 1941

British battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse sunk off the Malaysian coast

22 December 1941

First convoy of 4,600 American troops arrived in Brisbane after being diverted from Philippines

27 December 1941

Curtin’s famous New Year message that Australia ‘looks to America’

4 January 1942

First bombs dropped on territory under Australian control at Rabaul in New Britain

3 February 1942

First bombing raid on Port Moresby

15 February 1942

Fall of Singapore

19 February 1942

First Japanese bombing raid on the Australian mainland with two attacks on Darwin

22 February 1942

Curtin’s cablegram to Churchill insisting that the Australian troops diverted towards Burma should be returned to Australia

1 March 1942

Cruiser HMAS Perth sunk off the Sunda Straits

3 March 1942

First bombing raids on Broome and Wyndham

17 March 1942

Arrival of General Douglas MacArthur in Australia as the Supreme Commander of all Allied forces in the South West Pacific

5 May 1942

Beginning of battle of the Coral Sea

15 May 1942

Introduction into the Commonwealth parliament of the four bills providing for the Commonwealth takeover of income tax

31 May 1942

Japanese midget submarine entered Sydney Harbour

4–7 June 1942

Battle of Midway Island

15 June 1942

Clothing and footwear rationed

6 July 1942

Tea rationed

29 July 1942

Kokoda occupied by the Japanese (recaptured by Australians on 2 November)

31 August 1942

Sugar rationed

December 1942

Creation of the Department of Postwar Reconstruction with Chifley as Minister

1 February 1943

Following the victory at El Alamein the last Australian troops (of the 9th Division) withdrawn from the Middle East

February 1943

Defence Act amended to allow conscription for military service within a limited area south of the Equator beyond the Australian mainland and territories

7 June 1943

Butter rationed

21 August 1943

Big election victory for Prime Minister Curtin; first women elected to the Commonwealth parliament

October 1943

Meat rationed

January 1944

Australia-New Zealand Pact is signed

May 1944

Dominion Prime Ministers Conference in London attended by Curtin

22 July 1944

Bretton Woods Agreement announced

5 August 1944

Mass outbreak of Japanese POWs from Cowra

November 1944

Curtin’s first heart attack

7 May 1945

German surrender

26 June 1945

United Nations Charter signed

5 July 1945

Prime Minister Curtin dies in office

12 July 1945

Ben Chifley becomes prime minister

15 August 1945

Japanese surrender (document signed 2 September)

28 September 1946

Election confirmed Chifley in office

28 September 1946

Referendum to amend the constitution


Australia agrees to accept displaced persons through the International Refugee Organisation

March 1947

Australian ratification of the Bretton Woods Agreement

10 December 1949

Chifley Government defeated

19 December 1949

Liberal leader Menzies sworn in as prime minister

1 September 1951

ANZUS Treaty signed

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