Australia and World War I in a nutshell - Timeline and Summary

Australia and World War I


Germany takes the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine from France.
Defence Act 1903 (Cwlth) limited the Australian Army to service in defence of Australia and only on Australian territory.
28 June: Assassination of Franz Ferdinand.
4 August: Britain's declaration of war on Germany means that all major European powers are at war with one another.
August: Establishment of the ‘Australian Branch of the British Red Cross Society’.
October: Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force takes possession of German New Guinea and nearby islands.
29 October: War Precautions Act 1914 (Cwlth).
November: HMAS Sydney destroyed the German raider SMS Emden near the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean.
late 1914: All armies digging trenches; war at a stalemate.
Enemy Contracts Annulment Act 1915.
March: Failure of British and French naval assaults in the Dardanelles.
April: In the secret Treaty of London Italy commits itself to go to war in support of the Triple Entente.
April–December: Gallipoli campaign.
25 April: Allied invasion of Turkey.
8 May: Publication of Ashmead-Bartlett's article gives birth to the Anzac legend.
19 May: John Simpson Kirkpatrick shot dead in Monash Gully.
6–10 August: Battle of Lone Pine.
7 August: Allied attack at the Nek has disastrous result for Australia's Light Horse Brigade.
December: Evacuation of Gallipoli.
1914 – 1916
Trading with the Enemy Acts 1914–1916
War Precautions (Enemy Shareholders) Regulation 1916.
Establishment of the Australian Comforts Fund.
Battle of the Somme.
late 1916: Establishment of the Australian Women's Service Corps (AWSC).
28 October: First conscription referendum.
Battle of Passchendaele.
October–November: Russia surrenders to Germany.
20 December: Second conscription referendum.
11 November: Germany signs armistice


  • In 1914 Australia retained its strong ties to Great Britain and had few links with her neighbours in the Asia–Pacific region.
  • Colonial rivalry, the arms race, nationalism, rival alliances and other sources of tensions among European nations all contributed to the outbreak of World War I.
  • Australians responded enthusiastically in support of Great Britain and volunteered for both the AIF and the AFC. They served in waters around Australia and in New Guinea, Egypt, Palestine, the Gallipoli Peninsula and on the Western Front.
  • In Europe what began as a war of movement quickly developed into a stalemate with soldiers fighting trench warfare.
  • From April to December 1915, the AIF had high casualties in the Gallipoli campaign. Leaders evacuated Gallipoli rather than sustain more casualties in a campaign they couldn't win.
  • Journalists' accounts of Australians' role at Gallipoli created the Anzac legend, now a key feature of ideas about the Australian identity.
  • Peace came in 1918 on 11 November at 11 am (the eleventh day of the eleventh month on the eleventh hour) with the Germans signing an armistice after the Allies' successful ‘100 days’ campaign.
  • In Australia people of German descent suffered suspicion and prejudice; 6890 men, women and children were classified as ‘enemy aliens’. Many spent the war in internment camps regardless of whether or not they posed a threat to the war effort.
  • Australian women's main war work was in voluntary and poorly paid traditional ‘female’ roles. Women seeking more active wartime roles were not taken seriously.
  • In 1916 and 1917, Prime Minister Billy Hughes fought hard to convince Australians to vote ‘yes’ in the conscription referenda. Although the referenda were defeated, their bitter debates divided Australia over issues of loyalty, religion, class and inequality of sacrifice.
  • Since World War I Australia has created monuments, ceremonies and practices that commemorate its wartime sacrifices.