The Second World War lasted nearly six years and cost the lives of millions. It also brought huge privations to civilian populations across the globe. '1945: From Hot War to Cold War' showcases the men and women from New South Wales who served in all theatres of the war and also exhibits what life had been like for those left behind at home.
For many, the end of the conflict and the declaration of peace in 1945 brought celebration and rejoicing because the intense strain of the war was finally over. For others who had lost loved ones, there was immense relief, but little to rejoice. Undeniably everyone's lives had irrevocably changed.
The political, economic and social repercussions of the war were felt long after Germany and Japan surrendered; and the post-war world would bring new challenges and conflicts in the guise of what became known as the Cold War.
This exhibition has been generously supported by the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) Veterans Association of NSW.
The BCOF force totalled 45,000 personnel from Britain, India, New Zealand, and Australia. Close to 16,000 Australians served in BCOF, including infantry, air force and 130 Australian General Hospital personnel. The Royal Australian Navy also had a presence in the region as part of the British Pacific Fleet.
Their primary objective was to enforce the terms of the unconditional surrender that had ended the Second World War. BCOF was required to maintain military control and supervise the demilitarisation and disposal of the remnants of Japan's war-making capacity. By the end of 1946 the task of demilitarising Japan required less effort and the role of the occupying forces changed. Guard duties and training becoming the main focus. The RAN component of BCOF, with assistance from the RAAF, was responsible for patrolling the Inland Sea, to prevent smuggling and illegal immigration.
At the peak of its involvement the Australian component of BCOF was responsible for over twenty million Japanese citizens and 57,000 square kilometres of country. By the end of 1948, BCOF was composed entirely of Australians. The force was dismantled on 28 April 1952 when the Japanese Peace Treaty came into effect.