Australian Infantry Units

imageThe Australian Military College at Duntroon was created less than four years before the start of the war, founded by General Bridges under the advice of Lord Kitchener. Every cadet who passed through the college in time served at the front. Of the 181 who fought in the AIF, 42 died and 58 were wounded. In the original 1st Australian Division the great majority of officers were selected from those that were officers already. Only 24 officers out of 631 had never served before; 68 were or had been officers in the Australian permanent forces, including 23 Duntroon graduates; 16 were officers of the regular British army; 15 were British officers that had retired; thus 99 were professional soldiers. The other 402 were officers of the old Australian militia forces.

The Australian Infantry Divisions of 1914-1918

Division Theatres Arrival in first theatre
1st Division Gallipoli, France & Flanders  April 1915
2nd Division Gallipoli, France & Flanders  August 1915
3rd Division France & Flanders  December 1916
4th Division  Egypt, France & Flanders Formed in Egypt in February 1916
5th Division Egypt, France & Flanders  Formed in Egypt in February 1916
New Zealand and Australian Gallipoli  April 1915

At the outset and during the Gallipoli campaign, the 1st Infantry Division consisted of three brigades (Battalions 1-12): from NSW the 1st Infantry Brigade (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Infantry Battalions, each 1,023 strong); from Victoria the 2nd Infantry Brigade (5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions); the remaining four states making up the 3rd Brigade (9th – Queensland; 10th- South Australia; 11th – Western Australia; 12th – half Tasmanian, other half WA and SA). From the rush of men that volunteered a fourth brigade was provided and was assigned to the joint Australian and New Zealand Division – it was composed as 13th Battalion (NSW), 14th Battalion (Victoria), 15th (Queensland and Tasmania), 16th (WA and SA).

The 2nd Infantry Division (Battalions 17-28) was next to be formed, sailing from Melbourne for Egypt in May 1915 and arriving in Gallipoli in September where it relieved the 1st Division and where it remained until the evacuation in December of that year. During the subsequent re-organisation that took place in Egypt in early 1916, the 2nd Division was the least affected and as a result was the first to arrive in France and be posted to the front in the Armentieres sector on the French-Belgium border.

The 3rd Infantry Division (Battalions 33-44) was raised in February 1916 in Australia from volunteers that were signing up, whereas the 4th and 5th Infantry Divisions were formed in Egypt through the splitting of the veteran Gallipoli Battalions. As a result the 16 Battalions from the 1st-4th Brigades were divided in half, forming two wings with one (headquarters wing) remaining in the original Battalion and Brigade, and the second new wing forming new Battalion and Brigades. Both wings were then brought up to strength with reinforcements that were arriving into Egypt. The 1st-12th Battalions of the HQ wing thus remained in the 1st-3rd Brigades of the 1st Division with their second wings becoming the 13th-15th Brigades. Two of these new Brigades – the 14th and 15th – joined with the unattached 8th Brigade to form the 5th Infantry Division (Battalions 29-32 and 53-60), whereas the 13th Brigade joined with the veteran 4th Brigade (HQ wing) and its 12th Brigade second wing to form the 4th Infantry Division (Battalions 13-16 and 45-52).

xlink1-jpg-pagespeed-ic-lgycbxqdsgFor a full listing and description of the Australian Infantry Battalions between 1914-1918 visit the AWM website.


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