War crimes, weapons trials, naval disasters

World War II war crimes

During and immediately following World War II, Australian authorities conducted three investigations into war crimes committed against Australians.

The first Australian War Crimes Commission was established on 8 June 1944 to investigate the atrocities and breaches of the rules of warfare alleged to have been committed by the Japanese Forces during World War II. The records of the Commission, and those of its predecessor, the Commission of Inquiry into Japanese Forces Atrocities, are of continuing research interest. They include:

Other records concerned with World War II war criminals include:

Atomic weapons trials

The Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia gathered records from all government departments and agencies, including the Department of Defence. One of the largest of the Commission’s collections comprises original agency records. Other records relating to atomic weapons trials in Australia include:

For more information – British nuclear tests at Maralinga.

In 1958, in the middle of the Cold War, the Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, wrote to Prime Minister Menzies appealing for the Australian government to support the Soviet initiative to end the testing of atomic and hydrogen weapons. Read the letter from Mr Khruschev to Mr Menzies in RecordSearch.

Naval disasters

HMAS Woomera on fire, 1960.
HMAS Woomera on fire, 1960. (NAA: A1813, 1240/201/2)

HMAS Sydney

Following a gun battle with the German Raider Kormoran on 19 November 1941, the HMAS Sydney disappeared virtually without trace, with the loss of its full war complement of 645 men. The loss accounted for more than 35 per cent of RAN servicemen killed in action in World War II.

The National Archives has many records concerned with this tragedy. Two of our publications will prove helpful:

HMAS Melbourne

On 10 February 1964 the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne and the destroyer HMAS Voyager collided off the south-east coast of Australia. The HMAS Voyager was sunk with the loss of 82 crew. A Royal Commission into the tragedy was held shortly after the disaster. The records of the Voyager disaster include:

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019