AIF Divisions: 1914

image24th December 1914: Birdwood sent to General Bridges, commander of the AIF, his proposals for the constitution of the army corps. The first name proposed was the ‘Australasian Army Corps’ but this was quickly disposed of by the ‘Australian and New Zealand Army Corps’, a title preferred by the commanders in-particular the New Zealanders. The Corps was to consist of two infantry divisions (1st Australian and a second comprised of the New Zealanders, the 4th Australian Brigade), and a mounted division.

21st December 1914: Major-General W.R. Birdwood arrives from India with his staff. His first duty was to organise the disconnected units of the Australian and New Zealand forces into a single compact army corps

3rd December 1914: The New Zealand ships and first of the Australian convoy reached Alexandria, and later that day the troops began to disembark and moved by train to Cairo, where railway siding had been built especially for the Australasian troops

2nd December 1914: After passing through the Suez Canal, with armed guards looking for snipers on the eastern bank, the transports steamed into Port Said.

26th November 1914: The whole convoy leaves Aden, destination Great Britain. However on the following night a telegram from Sir George Reid, High Commissioner for Australia in London stating ‘unforeseen circumstances’ and that the force shall train in Egypt and go to the front line from there. The Australians and New Zealanders were to form a corps under General Birdwood. The location of the camp was near Cairo.

25th November 1914: The convoy reaches Aden. By nightfall fifty-seven vessels were in the harbour.

11th November 1914: The Melbourne goes ahead of the convoy to re-fuel in Colombo, leaving the Japanese Ibuki in charge of the convoy. Later that day the Hampshire arrived and her captain took control of the fleet until it reached the Suez Canal

9th November 1914: While rounding the Cocos Islands, it was reported that the German cruiser Emden which had been raiding merchant men is in the area. As a threat to the convoy the Sydney was dispatched to engage the Emden and although having shorter range guns was able to close and inflict serious damage on the Emden which beached herself on to the island.

1st November 1914: At 6.25 am, the escorts Minotaur and Sydney up anchor and start moving out to sea. At 8.55am the whole fleet moved ahead – thirty-six transports and three escorting cruisers. Two days later the Ibuki with the great liners Ascanius and Medic carrying troops from South and Western Australia were rendezvoused. The whole fleet then headed for the Cocos Islands. The pace was set by the slowest ship, the Southern, at 10 &1/2 knots

Albany is the last Australian port these troops saw before commencing their training in Egypt and, for the majority, ultimately taking part in landings at Gallipoli from 25 April 1915.

28th October 1914: The ten New Zealand troopships arrive with their escort. The Melbourne, which had arrived the previous day, kept continuous watch outside the harbour

26th October 1914: The Orvieto reaches Albany. Eighteen ships are already in the outer harbour, anchored in three lines

24th October 1914: Troopships from the ports of eastern Australia start to arrive in Fremantle.

21st October 1914: The AIF was launched. The Orient liner ‘Orvieto’ carrying General Bridges and the staff of the 1st Australian Division, the 5th Battalion and 2nd Field Company of Engineers pulled out from Port Melbourne pier, where the crowd had broken through the sentries and was waving from the wharf. By the 21st sixteen troopships have departed Melbourne

16th October 1914: Ten New Zealand transports escorted by four cruisers leaves Wellington

4th October 1914: The Australian Minister for Defence obtains assurance from the Admiralty that movement of the transports was now safe. The New Zealand Government insisted upon its transports being escorted by the Ibuki and Minotaur, and a further twelve days was necessary until these cruisers arrived

30th September 1914: News that the two German cruisers had visited and shelled the French island of Tahiti near the middle of the Pacific some 2,000 miles from New Zealand. From that time onwards they were not considered as a danger to the Australian convoy.

21st September 1914: The units of the first contingent all over Australia were complete and ready to sail. The transports for the first contingent had been chartered by the Australian Government from amongst the largest ships in Australian ports, hurriedly fitted with mess tables and hammocks. The proposed sailings from Australia (and New Zealand) were postponed for three weeks by the uncertainty of the whereabouts of the German Pacific squadron, notably the cruisers ‘Gneisenau’ and ‘Scharnhorst’ until some form of convoy protection was available. Some transports carrying troops from Queensland were ordered into Melbourne harbour. The postponement was exceedingly trying for the men and put a heavy strain on discipline

17th August 1914: Men start to assemble at training grounds. Commanders were told that they had to be ready to sail in four weeks

10th August 1914: When war was declared in 1914, Australia needed to raise a military force to fight overseas and calling for volunteers, raised the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Australian men enlisted enthusiastically at the start of the war.

5th August 1914: A small staff had been established at Victoria Barracks in Melbourne for registering men wishing to enlist

4th August 1914: Germany invades Belgium to outflank the French army as part of the Schlieffen Plan. Britain protests the violation of Belgian neutrality, guaranteed by a treaty signed in 1839. Australia quickly pledged its support for Britain.

3rd August 1914: A cable was sent to the British Government which read as follows:- ‘In the event of war the Government of Australia is prepared to place the vessels of the Australian Navy under the control of the British Admiralty when desired. It is further prepared to despatch an expeditionary force of 20,000 men of any suggested composition to any destination desired by the Home Government, the force to be at the complete disposal of the Home Government. The cost of the despatch and maintenance will be borne by the Australian Government.’ It was announced to the press which posted it outside the newspaper offices where the crowds who read it burst into cheers. On the 6th August the British Government ‘gratefully accepted the offer’ to send 20,000 men and would be glad if it could be despatched as soon as possible.

2nd August 1914: A further telegram came from the British Government asking that precautionary measures should be taken at defended ports

31st July 1914: Joseph Cook, Prime Minister of Australia ‘If there is to be a war, you and I shall be in it. We must be in it. If the old country is at war, so are we.’

Andrew Fisher, Labour leader of the Opposition Party ‘Should the worst happen after everything that has been done that honour permit, Australians will stand by the mother country to help and defend her to the last man and shilling.’

The first official Australian statement by Senator Millen, Minister of Defence ‘If necessity arises, Australia will recognise that she is not merely a fair-weather partner of the Empire but a component member in all circumstances’

archduke-franz-ferdinand-sophie-1914.jpg30th July 1914: A cablegram in secret cipher was sent from the British Government to the Government of Australia that there was imminent danger of war

28th June 1914: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife Sophie (photograph right) are assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia. They were shot by the Bosnian Serb and Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip.


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