Australasia 1940: World War II and the Fall of France
In September 1939 a resurgent Germany invaded Poland, triggering war with Britain and France. Australia and New Zealand immediately joined in support of Britain. However this Second World War was to prove to be even more daunting than the first, with Germany conquering France and most of Western Europe in the first ten months.
7 Jul 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident▲
On the night of 7 July 1937 Japanese forces based at Fengtai crossed into Chinese territory to conduct military exercises, but ended up exchanging fire with Chinese troops at Wanping. Further clashes occurred later that night and over the next day, most notably at Marco Polo Bridge on the outskirts of Beiping (Beijing). By the 11th these confused skirmishes had escalated into a full-scale battle in which Beiping and Tianjin fell to Japanese forces, making them the first shots of the Second Sino-Japanese War.
6 Apr 1939 Canton and Enderbury Islands Condominium▲
The United States of America and the United Kingdom agree to administer Canton and Enderbury Islands, in the disputed but uninhabited Phoenix Islands, as an Anglo-American condominium for fifty years. The remaining Phoenix Islands, although still claimed by the US under the Guano Islands Act, are either abandoned or remain under British control.
3 Sep 1939 Australian and New Zealand entry into World War II▲
Upon receiving word of the British declaration of war on Germany, Prime Minister Robert Menzies of the Commonwealth of Australia also declares war. Prime Minister Joseph Savage of the Dominion of New Zealand follows suit a few hours later, having consulted his Cabinet.
11 Dec 1939 Australian and NZ troop departure▲
The First Echelon of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force leaves New Zealand for Egypt, via Australia where it links up with a group from the Second Australian Imperial Force. The parties arrive in Egypt on 7 January 1940.
13–17 Dec 1939 Battle of the River Plate▲
On 13 December, three Royal Navy cruisers—the British HMS Exeter and HMS Ajax, and the New Zealand HMS Achilles—found and engaged the German merchant raider and pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee off the River Plate near the coast of Uruguay. The ensuing battle saw all four ships damaged and forced the Graf Spee to seek refuge in Montevideo, capital of neutral Uruguay, that night. Considering himself trapped and told he could only stay in Montevideo for 72 hours, the Graf Spee‘s captain Hans Langsdorff scuttled his ship on 17 December.
22 Jun 1940 Second Armistice at Compiègne▲
Adolf Hitler and top military officials of Nazi Germany signed an armistice with representatives of the French Third Republic at 18:36 near Compiègne, France—the exact location of the 1918 armistice ending World War I. This new armistice ended French involvement in World War II on the side of the Allies and established a German zone of occupation in northern and western France, leaving the remainder (“Vichy France”) to be governed by the French.