Context of WWII

Dublin Core


Context of WWII


Food is a vital part of life, yet it is something that many Australians often take for granted or consume mindlessly. This attitude is far removed from that of Australians living through WWII; the years between 1939 and 1945 saw a dramatic shift in the production, administration and consumption of food in Australia.

Between 1939 and 1941, direct combat was based mainland Europe and Britain. Allied nations in the crossfire were unable to supply sufficient food to their forces and looked to America and Canada for food supplies.(1) This food supply was diverted to the USSR after America entered the war following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941,(2) meaning that war-ravaged Europe, particularly Britain, had to seek food supply elsewhere.

The war continued, and food supply dwindled such that by late 1942, Australia filled the role of food supplier to Britain and other allies in need.(3) Over the course of the war Australia supplied food to British civilians, allied troops and civilians in the Pacific region, US troops stationed in Australia, free French and Dutch forces, civilians in the Middle East, South Asia, North Africa, Madagascar and Italy, on top of feeding Australians on the home front.(4)

Increasing Japanese aggression and the outbreak of war in the Pacific meant imminent Japanese threat on Australia.(5) In need of military fortification, Australia looked to Britain, which could not provide the military assistance due to the raging war in Europe.(6) Australia then turned to the US for aid, who provided vital military when the Japanese bombed Darwin in February 1942, and for the reminder of the war.(7)

America used Australia as a military base for the Pacific war and US troops were gratefully received by Australians. John Curtin, the Labor Prime Minister during 1941-45, famously announced that “without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.”(8) This marked the beginning of a cultural shift from Britain towards America in Australia.

American military presence in Australia provided not only military protection but expertise in food production and preservation, facilitating the Australian food industry expansion needed to feed the allied world.

1. Keith Farrer, To Feed a Nation: A History of Australian Food, Science and Technology (CSIRO Publishing, 2005), 150.
2. Michael Symons, One Continuous Picnic: A History of Eating in Australia (Adelaide: Duck Press, 1982), 162.
3. “U. States Food Experts in Australia,” Queensland Times, 11 November 1942.|||l-availability=y%2Ff|||l-australian=y
4. Farrer, To Feed a Nation, 150.
and “Australia’s Food Job,” Cairns Post, 29 July 1944.|||l-availability=y%2Ff|||l-australian=y
5. Farrer, To Feed a Nation, 151.
6. Symons, One Continuous Picnic, 163.
7. Symons, One Continuous Picnic, 162.
8. “John Curtin’s turn to America, 75 years on,” Penny Wong, Lowy Institute, last modified 1 October 2016, ttps://