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A contingent of the Australian Naval Expeditionary Force to New Guinea being inspected by a Japanese Admiral at Rabaul wharf in 1914

Date: 1914
Overall: 205 x 255 mm
Medium: Silver gelatin print on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Ian Hamilton
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: 00004152
Place Manufactured:Rabaul

User Terms

    Photograph of a naval contingent of the Australian Naval Expeditionary Force to New Guinea being inspected by a Japanese Admiral at Rabaul wharf in 1914.
    SignificanceThis photograph showing members of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force on Rabual Wharf in 1914 is a significant pictorial record of Australia's first incident of combat in World War I and as a record of the first force ever to leave Australia with its own ships, under the command of Australian officers.

    HistoryGerman occupation had been established in north eastern New Guinea, including New Britain Island since 1884, when enterprising settlers and trading companies strongly supported by the German government had created lucrative export business. The headquarters of German New Guinea was Rabaul.

    By 1914, Germany was strongly placed in the Pacific with colonies in New Guinea, Samoa, the Caroline, Marshall and Marianne Islands as well as a base in Southern China and commercial interests in Tonga. When war was declared in August this strong German Pacific presence became a primary concern for the British. A German communication network and strategic military presence there would serve the German East Asiatic Squadron and severely threaten Australia and New Zealand's borders, supply chains and troop movements.

    It was this pressing concern that saw the British Government requesting Australia to a send an armed force, known as the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF), to destroy the German wireless communication systems in New Guinea. On 7 September 1914, a force comprising of HMAS AUSTRALIA, HMAS SYDNEY, HMAS ENCOUNTER, HMAS PARRAMATTA, HMAS WARREGO, HMAS YARRA, the submarines AE1 and AE2, a store-ship, three colliers, and the transport HMS BERRIMA with the 1500 ANMEF personnel aboard, sailed for Rabaul. A smaller contingent of 500 men from Queensland was transported separately on the TSS KANOWNA and were later left in Port Moresby.

    Two enemy wireless stations were believed to be operating in the area, one inland from Kabakaul at Bitapaka and the other at Herbertshohej. On the 11 September 1914, at dawn, 25 sailors landed at Kabakaul and headed inland to seize Bitapaka. After initial hostile encounters with German defences, reinforcements were sent from behind and Bitapaka was taken. This event however saw the loss of six Australians, the first casualties of WWI.
    The next day Rabaul was secured without opposition and later the remaining German occupied Pacific territories. Although the mission was a crucial success and achieved with a minimal loss of life, on September 14 AE1 disappeared whilst in St Georges Strait (between New Britain and New Ireland) and became the first RAN unit lost in wartime. No trace of the submarine or its 35 crew has ever been found.

    Rabual remained in Australian hands throughout the war and after it ended was delegated in 1920 to Australia as a League of Nations Mandate.

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