The years 1917-1940 captured some of the most significant moments of Australian military history. The closing throes of the First World War (and the opening years of the Second) bore witness to some of the most dramatic moments of modern warfare on record. Yet at the same time, in the years of peace that separate the two conflicts many points of geopolitical and strategic interest came to light.
Some of the toughest battles of the First World War were fought along the Western Front in 1917-1918. After the four-month campaign at Ypres in 1917 – Menin Road, Polygon Wood, and Passchendaele – Australian troops would go on to suffer significant casualties in March and April of 1918, in the defence of Amiens, Hazebrouck and Villers-Bretonneux.
In the post-war decades, Australian forces were stymied by a shrinking Defence budget. Some analysts suggest that this chronic underfunding – coupled with "misplaced trust in the British Singapore Strategy" – left the country underprepared for Australia's entry into the Second World War in 1939. Australia's involvement in the war was primarily facilitated through the RAN in its early stages, as Naval contingents fought against the Italians in the Mediterranean. A contingent of RAAF fighters, however, also contributed to the Battle of Britain in August and September.
The Australian Army would subsequently enter the war in 1941, with the 6th, 7th, and 9th Divisions joining Allied operations in the Mediterranean theatre. The following photo essay documents the closing days of World War I through to late 1940.