Eighty Years Ago: Australia’s Women’s National Emergency Legion is Formed

Horsewoman in the Australian Women’s Emergency Legion. September 1939. X

The Women’s National Emergency Legion, an auxiliary organisation in Australia during the Second World War, was formed in September of 1938.

Based in Brisbane, Queensland, only women of British origin were allowed to join.

Article from The Morning Bulletin. Rockhampton. 18 November 1938.

Women considered eligible were provided with training in areas considered necessary to the war effort, such as first aid and truck driving.

Miss Tony Mitchell at Somerville House in Brisbane, 1942. Mitchell drove cars and trucks for the US Army. X

When war broke out in the Pacific at the end of 1941 women were attached to US military units to work as drivers and clerks. They also worked for British and Dutch units based in Australia.

The organisation ceased operations a couple of years after the end of the war.

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On this day: the King’s official birthday.

This image is of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, on the King’s official birthday on the 19th of May, 1939.

The British monarch has celebrated an official birthday separate to their real birthday since George II began the tradition in 1748. The purpose of the different date was to ensure celebrations could be held in a warmer month, where there was a better chance of the weather being fine.

RoyalVisitLandsdownePark Arrival of Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, in the State carriage, in front of grandstand at Lansdowne Park, Ottawa, Canada. 19th May 1939.

On this day: the mysterious death of a king.

Ananda_Mahidol_portrait_photograph Portrait photograph of King Ananda Mahidol of Thailand 1930s

Ananda Mahidol, Thailand’s king Rama VIII, died on the 3rd of June, 1946. He was only twenty at the time.

A child when he was elected successor to the throne in 1935, he continued to be educated in Switzerland, not visiting Thailand as king until 1938 when he was thirteen.

Rama_8_in_stamp stamp used in Rama VIII's reign 17th April 1941 issue Thailand. Thia.

Stamp issued 17th April 1941

The Japanese invaded Thailand the same day in 1941 they bombed America’s Pearl Harbor. The young king was not in the country at the time and did not return home until the end of 1945.

Only six months later a single gunshot was heard, and Ananda Mahidol was found dead.

Ananda_Mahidol_and_Louis_Mountbatten_in_19_January_1946 King Ananda Mahidol and Louis Mountbatten on 19 January 1946. Thai History British

King Ananda Mahidol and Louis Mountbatten. 19th January 1946.

More than one theory has been put forward as to how this happened.

He was the older brother of Bhumibol Adulyadej, who inherited the title and achieved cult status in Thailand; during his long reign both locals and foreigners were imprisoned for insulting him in any way. Even “liking” a Facebook post was enough for some people to be arrested.

The circumstances around Rama VIII’s death are still debated.

On this day: the invasion of Albania

Italy’s rapidly successful invasion of Albania, run by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, began on the 7th of April, 1939. The Albanian king, Zog I, was forced into exile, and the entire operation was complete only five days later, on the 12th.
Italian_soldiers_passing_Albanians,_7_April_1939 Italian invasion of Albania Fascist
Albania was made part of the Italian Empire, with its sea ports being considered important to the regime.
Italian_army_2Italian invasion of Albania 7th April 1939 Fascist Italy Italian Empire

On this day: the end of the Winter War

Finnish_ski_troops The Winter War, which began in November 1939 when the Soviet Union invaded Finland, ended on the 13th of March, 1940.

Finnish ski troops in 1940.

The Winter War, which began in November 1939 when the Soviet Union invaded Finland, ended on the 13th of March, 1940.

Despite being victorious, Finland was still required to hand over some of their land to Russia at the end of the war.

The invasion of Finland was deemed illegal by the League of Nations, and was the cause of Moscow’s expulsion from the League in December of 1939.

The style of hybrid warfare used by the Kremlin in Finland has been replicated a number of times since, most recently in Ukraine.

On this day: a Christmas party in Australia

Santa Claus meets children in front of the Christmas tree at the Norland Nursing Home in a photograph dated the 16th of December, 1939.

Sydney’s Norland Nurseries ran between 1908 and 1945. The Nurseries took children on a permanent basis, and also catered for families who needed temporary accommodation.

norland_nursing_home_christmas_tree_16-12-1939_-_by_sam_hood_3081735358norland-nursing-home-christmas-tree-16-12-1939-by-sam-hood-australia-australian-history-nsw

Nazism in the United States

American Nazis stand in front of a banner of George Washington at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1939. It is believed 22 000 people attended the event.

Prior to Pearl Harbor there was some support for Hitler in the United States, and even movies imported from Britain had anti-Nazi scenes edited out of them before their US release. Germany and Italy, both fascist countries at the time, made strong attempts to set up their own political branches with German and Italian Americans.

Of course, this changed totally when America was drawn into the Second World War halfway through, and anti-German propaganda movies became all the rage.

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