Sir Robert Menzies

Posted in 1941

  • Prime Minister Menzies addressing factory workers at CoventryJanuary to May: Prime Minister Menzies visits wartime England to put Australia's claims for help in the Pacific. He travels via Penang, Bangkok, Rangoon, Calcutta and Cairo, and visits RAN vessels in Alexandria harbour. Menzies inspects Bardia, Tobruk and Benghazi from the air, and visits Australian troops who played a major part in the North African victories.

    Menzies flies on to England via Khartoum, Lagos and Lisbon, to attend Churchill's War Cabinet in London for ten weeks. He holds talks with ministers, civil servants and English leaders.

    PM Menzies with workers at a Birmingham factoryOn the return trip he visits the USA to deliver speeches in New York, Washington and Chicago.

"Like you Americans, we Australians like to lead a life of our own ... but this war is not about the politics of Europe but the politics of the human race."
Mr Menzies makes this remark to a circle of newspapermen on his arrival in New York.

  • PM Menzies chats with Civil Defence workers in wartime EnglandTRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE FILM


"I come back to Australia with just one sick feeling in my heart and that is that I must now come back to my own country and play politics.

I think that it's a diabolical thing that anybody should have to come back and play politics - however cleanly, however friendly - at a time like this."

The Home Guard Sentry presents arms as PM Menzies arrives at a Birmingham factory

  • A diary kept by Robert Menzies of his experiences during the trip was published as Dark and Hurrying Days. It was a grim time when British cities were enduring heavy bombing and German invasion seemed imminent.
    National Library: "Dark and Hurrying Days; Menzies' 1941", ed A W Martin and P Hardy.
  • August: Dissension in the United Australia Party-Country Party coalition leads to Menzies' resignation as Prime Minister on August 28. Menzies retains his position in an unchanged Ministry, but loses the UAP leadership to W M Hughes. Despite the coalition instability, Menzies government has prepared the nation for war.

Prime Minister Menzies taking home movies in wartime England

Australian Events

Posted in 1941

  • Prime Minister Menzies addressing Australian troops in the Middle East June: Prime Minister Menzies delivers a speech placing Australia on a total war footing. Plans include the restructure of federal cabinet; petrol restrictions; control of rail, road and sea transport; strengthening of the defence forces and increasing the workforce by the inclusion of women.
  • Formation of the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (March), Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (April) and Australian Women's Army Service (August).
  • July: The child endowment scheme is to be paid for each child under 16 years except the first.
  • Fadden Government (see Australian Prime Ministers), August 28. The Menzies UAP-Country Party coalition government resigns when Independents withdraw their support.
  • Curtin Government (see Australian Prime Ministers), October 7.
  • PM Menzies in London addressing a press conference about Australia's war effortAttorney-General H V Evatt accepts Communist assurances of cooperation in the war effort and removes the ban which PM Menzies had placed on the Communist Party for security reasons in 1940.
  • November: HMAS Sydney is sunk by a German raiding ship Kormoran off Carnarvon, Western Australia. Disguised as a Dutch merchantman, at a distance of 1.6 km Kormoran hoisted her German colours and within seconds scored a hit on HMAS Sydney. None of her crew of 645 survived.
  • December 8: War is declared against Japan after Japanese attacks across Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The war became a real and present threat to Australia's security. Army enlistment rises sharply after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 December.
  • PM Menzies arrives on a flying boat from Lisbon at La Guardia Marine Terminal, New YorkDecember 26: Prime Minister Curtin's press statement after the defeat of British naval power in SE Asia states: "Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom."
  • The Melbourne Cup horse race is held on a Saturday.

World Events

Posted in 1941

  • Atlantic Charter: President Roosevelt and PM ChurchillAugust: UK Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and USA President Franklin D Roosevelt meet in utmost secrecy on ships in the Atlantic and draft a document that expresses the shared political principles of the United States and Britain - the Atlantic Charter. The Declaration by United Nations is signed in 1942 by 26 governments stating their adherence to the charter and later forms the basis of the UN organisation.

    † "Sail on, O Ship of State!": Longfellow verse quoted by Mr Roosevelt in a message to Mr Churchill

Sail on, O Ship of State! (Click to view)

1941c1"Roosevelt ... agreed that we all ought to tell Japan where she gets off, but ... stops short of actually instructing the USA Ambassador to do so.  I am left in no doubt (without words) that America will not stand by & see Australia attacked. ... R. is a little jealous of Winston's place in the centre of the picture. I tell him they should have a meeting." (Robert Menzies, Diary 1941)

The Longfellow broadsheet of 1941 foretold Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt's dramatic secret meeting off the coast of Newfoundland.  Roosevelt used the verse as a hastily scribbled message of support to Churchill in early 1941, when American entry into the war seemed remote.  Churchill had it printed, and both he and Roosevelt signed a few copies on the last day of their meeting in August 1941.  Menzies collected Roosevelt's signature earlier, on his journey back to Australia.  At their meeting Churchill and Roosevelt drafted the Atlantic Charter, the agreement on war aims which was to be the basis of the enduring Anglo-American alliance.

 Only four other signed copies are known to exist.

 Longfellow broadsheet, also depicting the Mayflower,
signed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President F D Roosevelt.


  • Pearl Harbor attacked: army truck hit by bomb September: Nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh forms the Vietnam Independence League, the Viet-Minh.
  • December 7: 360 Japanese warplanes attack the US fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii leading to the extension of World War II to the Pacific. More than 2,400 people are killed. The attack ends a long struggle by isolationist forces in the US to stay out of the war.
  • December: Japan invades the Philippines, takes Hong Kong and lands troops in Malaya.
  • The Japanese advance SouthBritain introduces severe rationing and applies conscription to women.
  • The film Citizen Kane, directed by and starring Orson Welles, screens in New York.