Conflict + Society Seminar 3
Tuesday 23 April
12:00–1:30pm, Navy Room, Adams Auditorium, UNSW Canberra at ADFA.
Seeing the Empire on His Majesty’s Shilling: Officer Exchange, Attachment and Loan and the Interwar Australian Military Forces (1919-1939) - Jordan Beavis
In the interwar period (1919-1939) dozens of officers of the Australian Military Forces (AMF) were sent abroad on exchange or attachment. This practice was just one of the ways in which the AMF tried to avoid intellectual stagnation while continuing the ongoing connection of the Australian forces with its sister institutions around the empire. Britain and India were by far the most popular destinations as they housed the principal military academies of the empire (the Staff Colleges of Camberley and Quetta, the Imperial Defence College, and other arms-specific schools) and they maintained regular armies which provided talented AMF officers with much needed experience in command and staff duties. In return, the AMF hosted a series of British and Indian officers whose expertise was drawn on to guarantee that Australia developed its military forces in tandem with their own. The interwar period also saw some Australian and New Zealand officers cross the Tasman to undertake brief exchanges or attachments, which ensured that these geographically close dominions remained interoperable and able to assist in mutual defence. Examining the AMF’s policy of fostering officer exchanges, attachments and loans in the interwar period reveals the degree to which the AMF was a part of a pan-Commonwealth military information and communication network that aimed to ensure the interoperability of the empire’s land forces in a future conflict. AMF officers in this era may have served a geographically isolated military far from the centre of the empire in Britain, but they certainly were not intellectually isolated.
Jordan Beavis is a PhD candidate in History at the University of Newcastle, Australia. His doctoral research examines the military connections and linkages that existed between the Australian Military Forces and the other armies of the British Commonwealth in the interwar period. Jordan was the 2018 recipient of the C. E. W. Bean Prize for his Honours thesis, and he has received research grants from the Australian Army History Unit and the Association for Canadian Studies in Australia and New Zealand.
Ready to see it through? Australian preparations for a second world war - Nicole Townsend
When Prime Minister Robert Menzies declared that Australia would stand alongside Britain in the war against Germany, he stated that he hoped the Australian public would ‘show that Australia was ready to see it through’. However, contrary to popular understanding, the Australian government did not hasten to send troops overseas, as numerous obstacles hampered any effort to provide physical support to Britain. This paper explores Australian preparations for war in the 1920s and 1930s, to demonstrate that although Australia, like Britain, had come to expect the outbreak of war in Europe and/or the Pacific and had accordingly begun a process of rearmament in the mid-1930s, Australian preparations were handicapped by a longstanding aversion to war and conscription within Australian society. Combined with an established reliance on the naval-centric imperial defence system which resulted in the favouring of the Royal Australian Navy over the army and the air force in terms of defence expenditure, these problems left Australia unprepared for war. It is argued that as a result, Australia entered the Second World War largely untrained, underequipped and undermanned, with the Australian government increasingly concerned about its regional security and the employment of its forces.
Nicole is a PhD candidate in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at The University of New South Wales, Canberra. Her doctoral research examines Australian involvement in the Mediterranean and Middle East Theatre of Operations during the Second World War, with the aim of re-evaluating the prevailing assumption that the war in the Mediterranean was a sideshow that both detracted from the war in Europe and the Pacific and contributed little to the defeat of Nazi Germany. Nicole has worked across a variety of cultural institutions in Australia, including the Australian War Memorial, where she was awarded a position as Summer Scholar under the Memorial's Summer Vacation Scholarship Scheme. She has presented her research at conferences across Australia and internationally.