Operation Pamphlet

Operation Pamphlet transported the 9th Australian Division home from Egypt in January and February 1943. The convoy was protected from Japanese warships by several Allied naval task forces. The division arrived in Australian ports during late February with no losses from enemy action. It ended the role of the Second Australian Imperial Force in the Western Desert Campaign.

About Operation Pamphlet in brief

Summary Operation PamphletOperation Pamphlet was a World War II convoy operation. It transported the 9th Australian Division home from Egypt in January and February 1943. The convoy was protected from Japanese warships by several Allied naval task forces. The division arrived in Australian ports during late February with no losses from enemy action. It ended the role of the Second Australian Imperial Force in the Western Desert Campaign. After its return to Australia, the division made an important contribution to operations in New Guinea in late 1943. It played an important role in the First Battle of El Alamein during July 1942 and the Second Battle of el alamein between 23 October and 4 November. The Australian Government agreed to British and United States requests temporarily to retain the division in the Middle East in exchange for deployment of more United States Army units to Australia. In October 1942, Australian Prime Minister John Curtin cabled British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to request that the9th Division be returned to Australia in Operation Stepsister. In the cable Curtin stated that owing to Australia’s manpower shortage and the demands of the war in the Pacific, it was no longer possible to provide enough reinforcements to sustain the division. Other factors influencing the Australian Government’s decision were a desire to concentrate the Australian Army in a single theatre, the increasing difficulty to find replacements for the division’s casualties given the Army’s manpower shortages, and the political difficulties associated with implementing reforms to permit militia units to serve outside Australian territory.

The ships began their voyage across the Indian Ocean on 4 February, refuelled at Addu Atoll, and arrived safely at the Western Australian port of Fremantle on 18 February. Four transports continued to the Australian east coast, one docking at Melbourne on 25 February and the remainder arriving at Sydney two days later. The division suffered many casualties during the latter engagement and did not take part in the pursuit of the Axis retreat. On 1 November, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote to Curtin proposing to send another US Army division to send to Australia if the Australian government agreed to retain the 9th Division in Middle East. On 21 November, the commander of the 2nd Middle East Command told Curtin that a decision had been made to return the division to Australia on 2 February. The British Government initially resisted this request on the grounds that the division was required for the upcoming offensive at ElAlamein. On 16 November, acting on the advice of MacArthur, Roosevelt rejected this suggestion and again requested the division be returned. On 29 October, Curtin again cabled Churchill, stating that Australia needed the division for offensive operations in a fit state that needed to participate in offensive operations. On 2 February, General Harold Alexander Morshead, Major-in-chief of the MiddleEast Command, was informed by the US Army that a decision had been made to return the division to Australia. The 9th Division was returned to Australia in early 1942 to reinforce the defence of Australia inOperation Stepsister.