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Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force

old man emu

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Australia declared war on the Central Powers on 4th August 1914, and our attention is most often drawn to Europe and the Middle East. But we seldom are reminded of the very first action involving Australian and New Zealand troops within a month of the declaration of war.


Prior to 1914, Germany, like many other European nations, established colonies in Africa and the Pacific Rim. Germany was active in the Pacific, annexing a series of islands that would be called German New Guinea (part of present-day New Guinea and several nearby Island groups). The northeastern region of New Guinea was called Kaiser-Wilhelmsland, the Bismarck Archipelago to the islands east, this also contained two larger islands named New Mecklenburg and New Pomerania, they also acquired the Northern Solomon Islands. These islands were given the status of protectorate.


Once war was declared in late July 1914 Britain and its allies promptly moved against the colonies. The public was informed that German colonies were a threat because "Every German colony has a powerful wireless station — they will talk to one another across the seas, and at every opportunity they [German ships] will dash from cover to harry and destroy our commerce, and maybe, to raid our coasts".


The Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF) was a small volunteer force of approximately 2,000 men, raised in Australia  to seize and destroy German wireless stations stations at Yap in the Caroline Islands, Nauru and at Rabaul, New Britain. The German wireless installations were ordered to be destroyed because they were used by Vizeadmiral (Vice Admiral) Maximilian von Spee's East Asia Squadron of the Imperial German Navy, which threatened merchant shipping in the region.


The operation lasted from 11th September 1915 until 17th September 1915. Australian losses were seven killed and five wounded. Seaman W.G.V. Williams became the first Australian fatality of the war. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Naval_and_Military_Expeditionary_Force



While losses of land forces were light in view of future operations in the Middle East and Europe, these losses were further compounded by the disappearance of the Australian submarine HMAS AE1 during a patrol off Rabaul on 14 September, with 35 men aboard. (Search missions attempting to locate the wreck began in 1976. The submarine was found during the 13th search mission near the Duke of York Islands in December 2017.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMAS_AE1 





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