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Australians in 1913 lived with contradictions. Proud of their prosperous, progressive democracy, and self-consciously ‘British’, many also expected to face an ‘Asian invasion’. Japan’s recent victories over China and Russia made many Australians fearful.

Determined to protect a ‘White Australia’, the Australian Government created a large citizen army and a modern navy. On 4 October 1913 the ships forming the Royal Australian Navy’s ‘fleet unit’, led by the fast, modern battle cruiser HMAS Australia, steamed into Sydney Harbour. The event symbolised the importance of defence to Australians in 1913.

The army had also formed an ‘Australian Flying Corps’, acquired aircraft from Britain, employed instructors and was seeking aspiring pilots. Australia’s sailors and soldiers would soon go to war to defend the Empire and in 1914 two army aeroplanes became part of the Australian Military and Naval Expeditionary Force sent to seize German New Guinea at the outbreak of war.

‘Gone to Navy’: Defending Australia, 1913

A lively look at the way Australia gained its navy in 1913, with historians Peter Stanley and David Stevens revealing how the acquisition was much more than just a collection of warships.
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Presenters: Peter Stanley and David Stevens
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