Title: Australian Postcard Collection
Date range of collection: 1914 - 1918
Scope and content note: Postcards printed in Australia or overseas about Australia or Australians. The collection includes patriotic, scenic, humorous and sentimental postcards.
Provenance: Collected since the 1920s from a variety of sources.
Extent: 1187 postcards
Location: Published and Digitised Collections, Research Centre, Australian War Memorial.
Related collections: Australian theme postcards in the Silk Postcard Collection. Christmas Card Collection, Souvenir Collection.
Access: Open. Available for viewing in the Research Centre
Copyright: Contact Senior Curator Published & Digitised Collections
Preferred citation: Australian Postcard Collection , 1914 - 1918 War, Published & Digitised Collections, Australian War Memorial
The outbreak of war was greeted in Australia, as in many other places, with great public enthusiasm. In response to the overwhelming number of volunteers, the authorities set exacting physical standards for recruits. Yet most of the men accepted into the army in August 1914 were sent first to Egypt, not Europe, to meet the threat which a new belligerent, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), posed to British interests in the Middle East and the Suez Canal.
After four and a half months of training near Cairo, the Australians departed by ship for the Gallipoli peninsula, together with troops from New Zealand, Britain and France. The Australians landed at what became known as Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915, and they established a tenuous foothold on the steep slopes above the beach. During the early days of the campaign, the allies tried to break through the Turkish lines and the Turks tried to drive the allied troops off the peninsular. All attempts ended in failure for both sides, and the ensuing stalemate continued for the remainder of 1915. The most successful operation of the campaign was in fact the evacuation of the troops on 19-20 December, under cover of a comprehensive deception operation. As a result, the Turks were unable to inflict more than a very few casualties on the retreating forces.
After Gallipoli the AIF mounted division that had served as additional infantry during the campaign remained in the Middle East, whilst the other AIF divisions went to France. By then the war on the Western Front had long been settled in a stalemate, with the opposing armies facing each other from trench systems that extended across Belgium and north-east France from the English Channel to the Swiss border. The development of machine-guns and artillery favoured defence over attack and compounded the impasse, which lasted until the final months of the war.
While the overall hostile stasis continued throughout 1916 and 1917, the Australians and other allied armies repeatedly attempted attacks preceded by massive artillery bombardments intended to cut barbed wire and destroy enemy defences. After these bombardments, waves of attacking infantry emerged from the trenches into no man's land and advanced towards the enemy's positions. The surviving Germans, protected by deep and heavily reinforced bunkers, were usually able to repel the attackers with machine-gun fire and artillery support from the rear. These attacks often resulted in only limited territorial gains which were followed in turn by German counter-attacks.
In March 1918 the German army launched its final offensive of the war, hoping for a decisive victory before the military and industrial strength of the United States could be fully mobilised in support of the allies. At first the Germans met with great success and advanced 64 kilometres past the region of the 1916 Somme battles before the offensive lost momentum. Between April and November the stalemate of the preceding years began to give way, as the allies began to combine infantry, artillery, tanks and aircraft more effectively.
The Australians in the Middle East fought a mobile war against the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) in conditions completely different from the mud and stagnation of the Western Front. The light horsemen and their mounts had to survive extreme heat, harsh terrain and water shortages. This campaign began in 1916 with Australian troops participating in the defence of the Suez Canal and the allied reconquest of the Sinai peninsular. In the following year Australian and other allied troops advanced into Palestine and captured Gaza and Jerusalem; by 1918 they had occupied Lebanon and Syria. On 30 October 1918, Turkey sued for peace.
Australians also served at sea and in the newly-formed flying corps. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN), under the command of the Royal Navy, made a significant contribution early in the war when HMAS Sydney destroyed the German raider Emden near the Cocos Islands in November 1914. The First World War was the first armed conflict in which aircraft were used; about 3,000 Australian airmen served in the Middle East and France with the Australian
Australian women volunteered for service in auxiliary roles, as cooks, nurses, drivers, interpreters, munitions workers and skilled farm workers. While the government welcomed the service of nurses, it generally rejected offers from women in other professions to serve overseas.
The impact of the war was also felt at home. Families and communities grieved following the loss of so many men, and women increasingly assumed the physical and financial burden of caring for families. When the war ended, thousands of ex-servicemen, many disabled with physical or emotional wounds, had to be re-integrated into a society which was keen to consign the war to the past and resume normal life.
- Bean, C.E.W. , Anzac to Amiens (Penguin Books Australia:, 1993)
- Beaumont, J. , Australia's War 1914-1918 (:Sydney, 1995)
- Peter Dennis et al. , The Oxford companion to Australian military history (Oxford University Press: Melbourne, 1995)