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1916 - Timeline
1917 - Timeline
1918 - Timeline
Australian War Memorial
The Australian Light Horse Assoc.
History of the Great War
1st Division Unit Colour Patch
|11th Battalion at the Great Pyramids 1915|
|Active||1914 - 1919, 1921 - 1944, 1948 - Present|
|Role||Main Deployment Force|
|Battles||Gallipoli, 1915 | Somme, 1916 | German Withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, 1917 | Third Battle of Ypres, 1917 | Hazebrouck, 1918 | Hundred Days, 1918|
|1st Brigade (NSW)||2nd Brigade (Vic)||3rd Brigade||1st Division Artillery||Field Ambulance||4th Light Horse Regiment|
|1st Battalion||5th Battalion||9th Battalion (QLD)||1st Field Artillery Brigade||1st Field Ambulance||4 Field Engineer Companies|
|2nd Battalion||6th Battalion||10th Battalion (SA)||2nd Field Artillery Brigade||2nd Field Ambulance||4 Service Corps Companies|
|3rd Battalion||7th Battalion||11th Battalion (WA)||3rd Field Artillery Brigade||3rd Field Ambulance|
|4th Battalion||8th Battalion||12th Battalion (SA, WA, Tas)|
The Australian 1st Division was raised during the initial formation of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 15 August 1914, shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. The division consisted of around 18,000 men, organised into three infantry brigades, each of four battalions, and various supporting units including artillery, light horse, engineers and medical personnel. Each infantry battalion initially consisted of eight companies, although in January 1915, they were reorganised into the British four-company system. Its first commander was the senior Australian general and head of the AIF, Major General William Bridges. Over the course of six weeks, the division's subordinate units were raised separately in the various states before embarking overseas. The transports then concentrated off the Western Australian coast and the combined fleet sailed for Britain. While en route, concerns about overcrowding in the training camps in the United Kingdom meant that the decision was made to land the division in Egypt, where it would complete its training before being transported to the Western Front.
While in Egypt, the division was assigned to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps along with the New Zealand and Australian Division. Following the Allied decision to force a passage through the Dardanelles, the division was allocated to take part in a landing on the Gallipoli peninsula along with Anglo-French forces. The 1st Division made the initial landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. The 3rd Brigade formed the covering force which landed first, around dawn. The 1st and 2nd Brigades followed, landing from transports, and all were ashore by 9:00 am. While the landing was lightly opposed on the beach by elements of a single Turkish battalion, the Australians were checked short of their objectives as Turkish reinforcements arrived to secure the high ground around Chunuk Bair and Sari Bair. Critical fights developed on the left, over the hill known as Baby 700, and on the right on 400 Plateau, but stalemate set in and little further progress would be made for the remaining eight months of the campaign.
On 15 May 1915, after Bridges was mortally wounded by a sniper, an English officer, Brigadier-General Harold Walker was given temporary command while a replacement was dispatched from Australia. This wasColonel James Legge, the Australian Chief of the General Staff, who was not an immediately popular choice with either his corps commander, Lieutenant-General William Birdwood, or his subordinate brigade commanders. That same month, the division's artillery – three field artillery brigades each operating twelve 18-pound pieces, which had proved inadequate in the early battle, was boosted by the arrival of several Japanese-made trench mortars. They were later joined by several heavier guns including a 4.7-inch gun and two 6-inch howitzers. On 24 June, Legge replaced Walker, who returned to command of the 1st Brigade, but after Legge was evacuated from Gallipoli he was moved sideways to command of the newly formed Australian 2nd Division and Walker resumed command of the 1st Division.
The 1st Division's role in the August Offensive was to hold the front line and conduct a diversion on 400 Plateau at Lone Pine on 6 August. The resulting battle was the only occasion when a significant length of the Turkish trench line was captured, but resulted in heavy casualties. The main assault was made by the 1st Brigade, which was later reinforced by the 7th and 12th Battalions. Out of an assault force of 2,900 men, 1,700 were killed or wounded. On 7 August, the 6th Battalion from the 2nd Brigade made an unsuccessful attempt to capture the German Officers' Trench as a preliminary operation to other assaults by light horsemen at Quinn's Post and the Nek.
In October, Walker was severely wounded and replaced by the division's artillery commander, Brigadier General Talbot Hobbs who in turn fell ill and was replaced on 6 November by the commander of the Australian 1st Light Horse Brigade, Brigadier General Harry Chauvel. The 1st Division was evacuated from the peninsula in December, returning to Egypt. During the early months of 1916 the AIF underwent a period of re-organisation and expansion, and the division's experienced personnel were used to provide cadre staff to the newly formed 4th and 5th Divisions before being brought back up to strength in preparation for deployment to the Western Front. On 14 March, Walker, having recovered from his wounds, resumed command of the division, now part of I Anzac Corps. Seven members of the division received the Victoria Cross for their actions during the campaign: Alexander Burton, William Dunstan, Frederick Tubb, Patrick Hamilton, Leonard Keysor, Alfred Shout, William Symons.
|2nd Division Unit Colour Patch||
|Remnants of the 6th Brigade returning from Pozières, August 1916|
|Active||26 July 1915 - March 1919, March 1921 - April 1944, April 1948 - Present|
|Battles||Gallipoli, 1915 | Somme, 1916 | German Withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, 1917 | Third Battle of Ypres, 1917 | German Spring Offensize, 1918 | Peaceful Penetration | Battle of Hamel, 1918 | Hundred Days, 1918|
|5th Brigade (NSW)||6th Brigade (Vic)||7th Brigade||2nd Division Artillery||Field Ambulance|
|17th Battalion||21st Battalion||25th Battalion (QLD)|
|18th Battalion||22nd Battalion||26th Battalion (QLD)|
|19th Battalion||23rd Battalion||27th Battalion (SA)|
|20th Battalion||24th Battalion||28th Battalion (WA)|
The Australian 2nd Division was formed from reinforcements training in Egypt on 10 July 1915 as part of the Australian Imperial Force to fight in World War I. It fought at Gallipoli during the latter stages of the campaign and then traversed to the Western Front in France where it was the last Australian division to see combat. After the war ended and the AIF was demobilised, the 2nd Division name was revived and assigned to aCitizens Military Forces (reserve) unit.
The Australian 2nd Division was formed in July 1915 from a collection of brigades that had been raised independently in Australia (in February and April 1915), and sent to Egypt (in May and June 1915) for further training. Initially, it was intended that the division's commander would be James McCay, but he was wounded on 11 July, and invalided back to Australia and so, the command of the division went to Lieutenant-GeneralJames Legge.
Due to the pressing need for more soldiers for the Gallipoli Campaign, parts of the 2nd Division were sent to Anzac Cove in mid August 1915, with the rest of the division arriving by early September – despite the fact that the division was only partially trained. The 2nd Division held a quiet stretch of the original line (as a majority of the fighting was taking place north of ANZAC Cove), and only a part of the Division (the 18th Battalion saw serious fighting during around Hill 60 on 22 August). The 2nd Division was evacuated from the peninsula in December, returning to Egypt, where it was brought back up to strength.
|3rd Division Unit Colour Patch||
|35th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, at the start of the Hundred Days Offensive, 8 August 1918|
|Active||1916 - 1919, 1921 - 1946, 1948 - 1991|
|Size||~ 13,000 - 18,000 personnel|
|Battles||The Western Front, 1916 - 1919|
|9th Brigade (NSW)||10th Brigade (Vic)||11th Brigade||3rd Division Artillery||Field Ambulance|
|33rd Battalion||37th Battalion||41st Battalion (QLD)||3rd Division Engineers||3rd Pioneer Battalion|
|34th Battalion||38th Battalion||42nd Battalion (QLD)||9th Field Company||3rd Machine Gun|
|35th Battalion||39th Battalion||43rd Battalion (SA)||10th Field Company|
|36th Battalion||40th Battalion (Tas)||44th Battalion (WA)||11th Field Company|
The 3rd Division was an infantry division of the Australian Army. Existing during various periods between 1916 and 1991, it is considered the "longest serving Australian Army division". It was first formed during World War I, as an infantry division of the Australian Imperial Force and saw service on the Western Front in France and Belgium. During this time it fought major battles at Messines, Broodseinde Ridge, Passchendaele, Amiens, and the St Quentin Canal.
After the war the division was demobilised in 1919 before being re-raised in 1921 as part of the Citizen Forces, based in central Victoria. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, the division's establishment fluctuated due to the effects of the Great Depression and a general apathy towards military matters.
During World War II, the division was mobilised for war in December 1941 and initially undertook defensive duties in Australia before being deployed to New Guinea in 1943 where they took part in the Salamaua–Lae campaign against the Japanese in 1943–1944, before returning to Australia for rest and reorganisation. In late 1944 they were sent to Bougainville to take part in their final campaign of the war. There they undertook a series of advances across the island before the war came to an end in August 1945.
Following the end of hostilities the division was disbanded in December 1945 as part of the demobilisation process, but was it later re-raised in 1948 as part of the Citizens Military Force. It subsequently served through the Cold War as a reserve formation until 1991 when the division was disbanded for a final time as the Australian Army was restructured and the focus of Australian field force operations shifted from the divisional-level to brigades.
In early 1916, following the unsuccessful Gallipoli campaign, the decision was made to expand the size of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). At the time there were two divisions in Egypt—the 1st and 2nd—and of these, one of them (the 1st) was split up to provide a cadre upon which to raise the 4th and 5th Divisions. Around this time the decision to raise a fifth division from fresh volunteers in Australia was also made and as a result the 3rd Division was officially raised on 2 February 1916.
Upon formation, the division drew its personnel from all Australian states and consisted of three four-battalion infantry brigades—the 9th, 10th and the 11th—and a number of supporting elements including engineers, artillery and medical personnel. Only rudimentary initial training was undertaken before elements of the division began the embarkation process in May and June 1916 as they were moved to the United Kingdom, where the individual sub units concentrated for the first time, received arms and other equipment and began the task of undertaking further training at Lark Hill, on Salisbury Plain. In July the division's artillery component was formed, consisting of three batteries of 18-pounders and one 4.5 inch howitzer battery. The process of raising and training took some time and consequently the division was not transferred to Franceuntil mid November 1916. Prior to this, however, the division endured proposals to break it up to provide reinforcements to the other four Australian divisions that were already in France. Although these threats passed, in early September 1916, following losses around Pozieres, almost 3,000 men from the 3rd Division were transferred. Throughout October it seemed likely that further drafts would be siphoned away from the division, however, this did not occur and in early November two divisional exercises were undertaken. Finally, on 21 November 1916, the 3rd Division crossed the English Channel and arrived in France.
Under the command of Major General John Monash, the division was assigned to II ANZAC Corps. For the next two years they would take part in most of the major battles that the Australians fought on the Western Front. Initially they were deployed around Armentieres in a "quiet" sector of the line, where they gained their first experiences of trench warfare, conducting patrols into No Man's Land and minor raids on the German trenches opposite them during the winter months.
|4th Division Colour Patch||Members of the 45th Battalion at the Battle of the Hindenburg Line|
|Active||1916 - 1919, 1921 - 1944|
|Killed in Action||8,360|
|Died of Wounds||2,613|
|Battles||The Western Front, 1916 - 1919|
|4th Brigade||12th Brigade||13th Brigade||4th Division Artillery||4th Field Ambulance|
|13th Battalion (NSW)||45th Battalion (NSW)||49th Battalion (QLD)||10th Field Artillery Brigade||4th Aus Field Ambulance|
|14th Battalion (Vic)||46th Battalion (Vic)||50th Battalion (SA)||11th Field Artillery Brigade||12th Aus Field Ambulance|
|15th Battalion (QLD & Tas)||47th Battalion (QLD & Tas)||51st Battalion (WA)||12th Field Artillery Brigade||13th Aus Field Ambulance|
|16th Battalion (WA & SA)||48th Battalion (WA & SA)||52nd Battalion (WA, SA & Tas)||24th Field Artillery Brigade|
The Australian 4th Division was formed in the First World War during the expansion of the Australian Imperial Force infantry brigades in February 1916. In addition to the experienced 4th Brigade (previously in the original New Zealand and Australian Division) were added the new 12th and 13th Brigades (spawned from the battalions of the 4th and 3rd Brigades respectively). From Egypt the division was sent to France. After the war ended and the AIF was demobilised, the division was dissolved.In 1921, the 4th Division name was reactivated as a Citizen Military Forces (militia/reserve) formation. The division performed home defence duties for most of World War II, before deactivation in 1944.
In January 1916, Major General A. J. Godley, then commanding the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and the AIF, put forward a proposal to use Australian reinforcements then training in Egypt to form two new divisions. The Australian government concurred and the Australian 4th Division was formed in this expansion of the Australian Imperial Force infantry brigades in February 1916. In addition to the experienced 4th Brigade (previously in the original New Zealand and Australian Division) there were added the new 12th and 13th Brigades (spawned from the battalions of the 4th and 3rd Brigades respectively).
The 4th Division began forming in Egypt in February 1916. The new division included the 4th Infantry Brigade, 4th Field Company, 4th Field Ambulance and 7th Army Service Corps Company which had fought at Gallipoli. The 12th and 13th Infantry Brigades were formed by taking half the personnel of the 4th and 3rd Infantry Brigades. Delays in assembling the artillery meant that the Division could not depart for France before June 1916.
The division was initially stationed on the Suez Canal. In June 1916 it moved to France, taking over part of the "nursery" sector near Armentieres. Its stay there was brief and soon it was accompanying the First and Second Divisions to the Somme sector. In August 1916 it relieved the Second Division on the Pozieres Heights and repulsed a major German counterattack. It then drove north to the outskirts of Mouquet Farm. A second tour of the Somme at Mouquet Farm followed in September and a third at Flers in October.
On 11 April 1917 the division assaulted the Hindenburg Line in the First Battle of Bullecourt. The battle was a disaster and 1170 Australian prisoners were taken by the Germans. In June it participated in the Battle of Messines. In September it participated in the Battle of Polygon Wood.
German Spring Offensive, 1918
In March 1918 the division was rushed to the Somme region to stem the German Offensive. The Australian 3rd and 4th Divisions had been ordered to proceed to Amiens to strengthen the retreating British 5th Army. There it repulsed the advancing Germans in hard fought battles at Hebuterne and Dernancourt. The Battle of Dernancourt involved the Australian 12th and 13th Brigades ( 4th Division ) on the railway embankment and cuttings in Dernancourt, just south of Albert. The under strength Australian Brigades ( numbering about 4,000 ) faced 4 German Divisions totalling about 25,000. Situated on the western side of the Ancre River valley, the Australians formed a defensive line at the railway embankment, from which they held back German attacks. The Australian 48th Battalion soon found itself outflanked by German to its rear. The 48th was ordered to hold at all costs but by midday was facing annihilation and the senior officer ordered a withdrawal. Much like the actions at Bullecourt the previous year, the Australian battalion withdrew successfully and in order. This action costs 12th and 13th Brigades ( 4th Division ) 1,100 casualties.
In April its 13th Infantry Brigade was involved in the counterattack at Villers-Bretonneux.On April 21, German deserters revealed that German attack preparations were nearing completion. They revealed that the attack would commence early on April 24, with the first two to three hours consisting of gas shelling. British aerial observations revealed German troops massing in trenches less than two kilometres south of Villers-Bretonneux in Hangard Wood.
On the night of April 22–23, British and Australian artillery shelled German mustering areas. At dawn the infantry was standing ready but no attack eventuated, most of the activity on this day was in air as planes from both sides criss-crossed the battlefield, bombing, strafing and engaging in dogfights. It was during one of these dogfights that the German "Red Baron" was shot down over Australian lines, north of Villers-Bretonneux at Corbie. The strongest evidence points to Australian sergeant, Cedric Popkin of the 24th Machine-Gun Company, 4th Division as firing the actual bullet that killed Baron Manfred von Richthofen.
The division went on to fight in the Battle of Hamel, Battle of Epehy (with distinction), Battle of Amiens and the Hindenburg Line, finally reaching the town of Bellenglise.
The Division was not selected to advance into Germany. Demobilisation commenced in late 1918 and in March 1919 the Division merged with 1st Australian Division.