Remembering 1941 - 2001 History Conference

The Memorial's 2001 conference concentrated on the naval, air and land campaigns in which Australians fought in 1941. The conference was held on Saturday 8 December 2001 in the Telstra Theatre, Australian War Memorial.


On 3 January 1941 the 6th Australian Division went into action at Bardia on the border between Libya and Egypt. Australia had been at war for more than a year but this was the army's first battle and beginning of more than four years of fighting.

Throughout 1941 the army fought along the length of the Mediterranean, from the siege of Tobruk to the ill-fated campaigns in Greece and Crete and bloody success in Syria and Lebanon. While the army's service was confined to the Mediterranean, Australian airmen served more widely. Many flew in support of Australian units in Tobruk and the Middle East, but others flew with Coastal or Bomber Command from bases in Britain.

For the Royal Australian Navy 1941 was a difficult year which saw some successes, most notably in the battle of Matapan off Crete, but which ended in tragedy with the sinking of HMAS Sydney off Western Australia. The year that began with victory at Bardia ended in fear and uncertainty for Australians.

On the last day of 1941 Australian troops were deployed to the continent's north, from Singapore to Rabaul, where they prepared to face a new threat from Japan. The conference will take participants through the events of the year in which the war became truly global.

Conference Papers

Speaker Topic
Mr Alec Hill Remembering 1941
Prof. David Horner Strategy and Command in Australia's Campaigns of 1941
Mr Joe Straczek Royal Australian Navy
Mr Ric Pelvin Royal Australian Navy in the Mediterranean
Dr John Moremon Preparing for battle - 6th Division
Mr Garth Pratten Tobruk
Mr Brad Manera Crete
Ms Kate Potter Prisoners of the Germans and Italians
Dr Mark Johnston Fighting the Vichy French
Dr Alan Stephens Royal Australian Air Force in 1941
Alastair Cooper Raiders and the Defence of Trade: The Royal Australian Navy in 1941

Notes on speakers

Mr Alec Hill

Mr Hill served with the 9th Division in Tobruk, at El Alamein and in the Pacific. He was senior history master at Sydney Grammar School and has lectured in history at several universities. Mr Hill is also the author of Chauvel of the Light Horse.

Professor David Horner

Professor Horner, of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University, is the author or editor of over 20 books on Australian military history.

Mr Joe Straczek

Mr Straczek is the Senior Naval Historical Officer in the Naval History Directorate, Department of Defence and has written or contributed to books and articles on naval matters.

Mr Ric Pelvin

Mr Pelvin is the Memorial's curator of official records. He has written articles and lectured widely on naval matters.

Dr John Moremon

Dr Moremon is an historian with the Department of Veterans' Affairs. He has written on Australian Army logistics and the Papuan campaign and is currently writing a study of Nos. 4 and 5 (Army Cooperation) Squadrons RAAF.

Mr Garth Pratten

Mr Pratten is currently writing a doctoral thesis on battalion command in the Second World War and is an officer in the Army Reserve. He has contributed to several books and written several articles on Australian military history.

Mr Brad Manera

Mr Manera is the curator of Australian social history at the National Museum of Australia and is presently attached to the Memorial. He was the historian on the recent Department of Veteran's Affairs pilgrimage to Greece and Crete and is writing a book on the battle of Retimo.

Ms Kate Potter

Ms Potter is the Memorial's assistant curator of private records. She is working on the Memorial's forthcoming travelling exhibition on prisoners of war.

Dr Mark Johnston

Dr Johnston is Head of History at Scotch College, Melbourne He has written extensively on Australian soldiers in the Second World War, most recently in his book Fighting the enemy. His next book, on El Alamein, is co-authored with Dr Peter Stanley.

Dr Alan Stephens

Dr Stephens works in the Department of History at the Australian Defence Force Academy. He has written widely on the Royal Australian Air Force, most recently in the Australian centenary history of defence series.