Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force Centenary Seminar 30 September 2014
At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF)was one of the allied forces raised to seize and occupy German colonial possessions in the Pacific. Supported by the Australian Fleet, it began occupying German possessions, especially wireless stations, in New Guinea, Nauru, the Solomon Islands and nearby islands beginning in September 1914.
August-September 2014 is the centenary of the raising the ANMEF and its seizure of Rabaul. To mark the centenary, the Institute held a seminar with a view to enhancing public awareness and understanding of this important event in Australia's military history and the circumstances surrounding it.
A panel of seven historians; all but one members of the RUSI of NSW explained the strategic, political and social background to the campaign; the operations of the Australian, German and Japanese navies in the Pacific in 1914;the raising of the ANMEF and its operations in German New Guinea; the contemporary operations of the New Zealand expeditionary force in German Samoa; and the aftermath of the campaign.
This is but a short report on the proceedings, each detailed paper will subsequently be published in the RUSI of NSW Journal (links to the papers have been included where this has happened); they will make great reading.
Brigadier David Leece PSM, RFD, ED (Ret’d), President RUSI NSW gave the introduction and set the context for the presentations to follow. His address in video form below, will wet website visitor’s appetites to read the reports when eventually published. CLICK HERE for published paper.
Captain Ian Pfenningworth RAN (Ret’d) a member of the RUSI NSW with and author of eight published naval history volumes, provided the strategic, political and social context behind the deployment of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force. His background as a naval historian provided many insights.
Dr David Stephens, Director Strategic and Historical Studies, Sea Power Centre – Australia [https://www.navy.gov.au/spc/] detailed the naval background to the ground deployment of the ANMEF at Rabaul. His description of the deployment and manoeuvre of the German Pacific squadron from its station in China to its demise off the Faulkland Islands in the South Atlantic imparted substantial understanding of what it was like to “hunt” for ships in vast oceans at a time when ele3ctronic communications were in their infancy.
Lieutenant Colonel, Professor Michael Hough, AM, RFD a member of the RUSI of NSW detailed the process of raising the ANMEF’s Navy and Army components in Victoria and New South Wales.
Major John Hitchen RFD was able to expand on Colonel Hough’s groundwork, following the force’s deployment ‘till it reached the shore of Rabaul and was ready to take action. John, in reaction to questions toward the conclusion of proceedings was able to display encyclopaedic knowledge of the campaign. His off the cuff answer to a query on the dirty 500 Kennedy Regiment volunteers who were never to quite make it to the point of battle, was equivalent to a paper presentation in its own right. John recently led the institute’s tour to Rabaul and will be on the team for Military History Tours Australia Pty Ltd’s ANZAC Centenary tours to Turkey, France, Belgium and Israel over the next few years.
Our tourists at Rabaul
Flying Officer Ross Pearson OAM, a wireless operator and air gunner in world war 2, a member of the RUSI of NSW’s presentation gave the audience the detail they craved about the ground operations as the soldiers and sailors fought and in six cases died to silence the German radio transmitter and secure the surrender of German New Guinea.
Colonel Joseph Matthews, Indian Army (Ret’d), a councillor of the RUSI of NSW gave a detailed account of the aftermath of the operation to take German New Guinea. He covered the administration of the German Colony under martial law, as an Australian Territory, occupation by the Japanese 1942-1945, its junction with Papua, and the nation of Papua New Guinea today.
Lieutenant Colonel Ken Broadhead RFD, a councillor of the RUSI of NSW was the seminar MC, introducing our speakers, ably assisting Ross Pearson with his technology, and moderating the panel discussion that followed the formal paper deliveries.
Colonel John Hutcheson MC, veteran of Korea and Vietnam, Vice-President RUSI NSW gave the concluding remarks relating clearly the lessons of August-September 1914 to today and advocating a special forces approach to conflict.
All present concluded that the seminar, the second run by the institute in 2014 was enlightening and well worth the $30.
A great display of organisational Skill by Theo Fox, the Institute's librarian and office manager.