Frank Welsh's mammoth history of Australia, Great Southern Land notes that

From June 1944 ... the Australian government began demobilising its soldiers.

Welsh doesn't go into detail but I'm assuming this was a partial demobilisation since no one is suggesting Australian forces overall took no further part in the war.

Surely Australia was the only nation on earth demobilising (or partially demobilising) its soldiers in 1944? Taking the Americans as the lead Allied power in the Pacific, was Australian demobilisation at their suggestion? Or did they object to it? If the latter, did this sour Australian-American relations?

I accept that militarily the threat to Australia was over in 1944, so the question is how was it politically & diplomatically possible, not how was it possible militarily.

NB. Wikipedia's page on Australia's WW2 history doesn't mention a 1944 demobilisation but I am making the assumption Welsh is a reliable source

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    Actually, Wikipedia directly opposes Welsh: "The demobilisation plan was put into action on 16 August 1945, the day after Japan surrendered." Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 22:19

2 Answers 2


Whether there was immediate danger or not, Australia was still at war - a demobilisation at this point would be strange to say the least. I suspect that you misinterpret Frank Welsh here and the demobilisation didn't actually start in June 1944. What happened instead according to Wikipedia:

The Australian War Cabinet approved the Department of Post-War Reconstruction's proposed principles to govern demobilisation on 12 June 1944.

That doesn't mean that the demobilisation immediately started, merely that the plan was ready and the demobilisation could be prepared. It then started "on 16 August 1945, the day after Japan surrendered." Makes sense, doesn't it?

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    Since the New Guinea campaign, Australia's original force plan of 70 divisions was seen as much too ambitious and was constantly being scaled back. Commented Oct 15, 2011 at 22:09
  • I think you've nailed it. Seems the author has either misunderstood or misrepresented his material. Commented Oct 26, 2011 at 23:30
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    Planning ahead like that actually makes a lot of sense. One of the lessons of WWI was that a sudden unmanaged demobilization of a huge portion of a major country's population could have serious social and economic consequences.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 22:01
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    Wikipedia also says "Limited demobilisation began during the final years of the war. In order to meet the needs of the war economy ...". Specifically it mentions 20,000 soldiers in Oct 1943 & another 30,000 along with 15,000 RAAF personnel in Aug 1944. Also starting in mid-1945 troops with 5 years service including 2 overseas were able to volunteer for discharge. The first men made it home under this scheme in August, maybe a week before VJ day but still ahead of the first repatriations under general demobilisation in October. Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 18:16

What actually happened is that Australia had problem with its economy, because mobilization removed many men from industries. Citing wikipedia:

As manpower restrictions in the Australian economy forced the early demobilisation of large numbers of men.

As an example, in the 9th brigade

... elements of the Militia were disbanded to return personnel to war essential war industries.

In fact, the demobilization started earlier, in 1942.

The Army was considerably expanded in early 1942 in response to the Japanese threat to Australia. During this year the Army's strength peaked at eleven infantry divisions and three armoured divisions, and in August 1942 the Army had a strength of 476,000 men. This force was larger than Australia's population and economy could sustain, and its strength was reduced in the second half of the year.

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