The ‘Declaration of war on Germany’ was issued. The Imperial war telegram was received in Canberra at 2150. It read; ‘Total Germany, repeat, total Germany’. At 2115 in a radio broadcast, Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced; ‘It is my melancholy duty to inform you officially, that in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her and that as a result, Australia is also at war’.
LCDR E.A. Feldt, RAN, was appointed Staff Officer, (Intelligence), at Port Moresby. Feldt directed the Coastwatcher organisation in Papua and New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, until relieved because of ill health in 1943.
The strength of the RAN at the commencement of hostilities in WWII was:
2 heavy cruisers, HMA Ships AUSTRALIA and CANBERRA; 4 light cruisers, HMA Ships SYDNEY, HOBART, PERTH, and ADELAIDE; 5 destroyers, HMA Ships STUART, VAMPIRE, VOYAGER, VENDETTA, and WATERHEN; 2 sloops, HMA Ships SWAN and YARRA; 1 survey vessel, HMAS MORESBY; 2 armed merchant cruisers HMA Ships MANOORA and WESTRALIA.
Three liners, MORETON BAY, ARAWA, and KANIMBLA, were converted into armed merchant cruisers and manned by Australians, but as units of the RN. Eight smaller vessels were requisitioned and equipped as minesweepers.
The permanent naval forces totalled 5440 and the reserve naval forces totalled 4819 personnel.