Commanding Officers: AIF

Major General Sir William Throsby BRIDGES

Bridges 2.jpgFirst Australian Chief of the General Staff Oct 1914 – May 1915

Born 18th February 1861, Greenock, Scotland; died of wounds 18th May 1915, hospital ship Gascon, at sea (Gallipoli)

Bridges was instrumental under the advice of Lord Kitchener in establishing the Royal Military Academy at Duntroon, ACT in 1911. He was the first Australian to become a major general and during the First World War he commanded the 1st Australian Division, from the time the Australian Imperial Force left home shores in October 1914 until his death at Gallipoli in May 1915.

After the declaration of war Bridges was instructed by the government to raise an Australian contingent for service in Europe. He was of the strong opinion that the men should fight as an Australian entity instead of being broken up and absorbed into the British formations, a precedent which was set for the rest of the war.

Upon arrival in Egypt until sailing for Gallipoli in April 1915 Bridges set about training the troops in readiness for the landings. On 25th April Bridges command was one of the first ashore at Anzac Cove. Soon after the landings a stalemate was reached between the Allied and Turkish soldiers and Bridges suggested withdrawing the troops but he was overruled. Bridges was regularly seen on the front line and on 15th May he was shot through an artery in a leg, and three days later he died of his wounds. He was buried in Alexandria, but in June of that year his body was returned to cwgcMelbourne where he received a state funeral. Bridges is the only identified Australian killed in action in World War 1 to be repatriated and buried in Australia.

australian-dictionary-of-biographyFor further reading on Major General Sir William Throsby BRIDGES visit the Australian Dictionary of Biography and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website.


General Sir Alexander John GODLEY

Godley.jpgCommander of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force 1914, and then of II Anzac Corps 1916-1918; Commander of the British Army on the Rhine 1922-1924

Born 4th February 1867, Chatham, Kent, England; died 6th March 1957, Oxford, England

Godley joined the British Army in 1886 and fought in the Boer War. In 1910 he went to New Zealand as Commandant of the New Zealand Military Forces and reorganised the country’s military establishment. Following the outbreak of the First World War, the New Zealand government appointed him as commander of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, which he led for the duration of the war.

During the Gallipoli campaign, Godley commanded the composite New Zealand and Australian Division, before taking over command of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps for the final stages of the campaign. Promoted to lieutenant general, he had a brief period in command of I Anzac Corps in Egypt before being given command of the II Anzac Corps which he led for most of its service on the Western Front. Regarded as a cold and aloof commander, his popularity was further dented in October 1917 when he insisted on continuing an offensive in the Ypres salient when weather and ground conditions were not favourable. His corps suffered heavy losses in the ensuing battle. In 1918, II Anzac Corps was re-designated as British XXII Corps and he led it for the remainder of the war.

After the war, Godley spent time in occupied Germany as commander of firstly the IV Corps and then, from 1922 to 1924, the British Army of the Rhine. In 1924 he was promoted to general and was made General Officer, Commanding, of England’s Southern Command. He was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1928 and was Governor of Gibraltar for five years until his retirement in 1933. During the Second World War he commanded a platoon of the Home Guard.

The Encyclopedia of New Zealand (2).pngFor further reading on General Sir Alaxander John GODLEY visit the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.


General Sir William Riddell BIRDWOOD

Birdwood.jpgCommander of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli in 1915; Commander I Anzac 1916-1918; Commander-in-Chief of the British 5th Army on the Western Front, 31st May 1918

Born 13th September 1865, Khadki, India; died 17th May 1951, Hampton Court Palace, England

Birdwood trained at the Royal Military College Sandhurst before taking a commission in the 12th Royal Lancers in 1885 and later joining the Bengal Lancers and seeing action on the Indian North West Frontier in 1891. Birdwood served in the second Boer War and then joined the staff of Lord Kitchener from 1900.

In November 1914 Lord Kitchener instructed Birdwood to form an army corps from the Australian and New Zealand troops that had just arrived in Egypt. Birdwood’s ANZAC corp was placed under General Sir Ian Hamilton, Commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, who then instructed Birdwood to carry out a landing at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915. With the death of Major General Bridges, Commander of the AIF, Birdwood assumed effective control of the AIF in May 1915. The one outstanding success of the Gallipoli campaign was the evacuation of Gallipoli in December 1915 under the command of Birdwood.

Upon departure from Egypt for the Western Front in March 1916 Birdwood was given the command of I Anzac. Birdwood was promoted to the rank of full General in October 1917 with command of the Australian Corps. He was given command of the British 5th Army on 31st May 1918 and led the army in the liberation of Lille in October 1918 and Tournai in November.

Birdwood had a personality that appealed to the Australians that served with him. According to Bean his power of leadership sprang from an exceptionally kindly nature, which looked upon men as men. Unlike many other officers at the time, he looked past the outward details such as dress or how to address and officer, to the man himself, and took a real interest in them. Moreover he also exhibited the attribute of extreme personal bravery.

After the war he toured Australia to great acclaim in 1920, and then became General Officer Commanding the Northern Army in India later that year. He was promoted to Field Marshal on 20th March 1925, and, having been appointed a Member of the Executive Council of the Governor-General of India in July 1925, he went on to be Commander-in-Chief, India, in August 1925.

australian-dictionary-of-biographyFor further reading on General Sir William Riddell BIRDWOOD visit the Australian Dictionary of Biography


General Sir John MONASH

Sir John Monash.JPGCommander of the 4th Infantry Brigade at Gallipoli in 1915; Commander of the AIF 3rd Division 1916-1918; Commander of the Australian Corps May 1918 to the end of the war

Born 27th June 1865, Melbourne, Victoria; died 8th October 1931, Melbourne, Victoria

Prior to the war Monash became a Lieutenant in the North Melbourne battery in 1887. He was promoted to captain in 1895, major in 1897, and in 1906 he became a Lieutenant-Colonel in the intelligence corps. He was made Colonel commanding the 13th Infantry Brigade in 1912. At the outbreak of war, his appointment as commander of 4th Infantry Brigade met with some protest on account of his German and Jewish ancestry.

After a period of training in Egypt, Monash and his Brigade took part in the Gallipoli campaign. In June 1916, Monash and his command were transferred to the Western Front and the Armentieres sector. In July, Monash was promoted to Major General and placed in command of the Australian 3rd Division. In May 1918, he was promoted to Lieutenant General and made commander of the Australian Corps, at the time the largest individual corps on the Western Front.

On 4th July 1918, Monash gained a decisive victory at the Hamel salient on the Somme using the newly developed tactics of infantry, artillery, air and tanks all operating closely together. This was a prelude to the decisive battle of Amiens on 8th August 1918, Ludendorff’s “black day of the German Army”. Rawlinson’s British 4th Army, consisting of the Australian Corps under Monash and the Canadian Corps under Arthur Currie plus the British III Corps attacked the Germans. The allied assault spearheaded by Monash and the Australian Corps was decisive and started the final 100 days fighting as the Allies pushed the Germans east and led to the ultimate breaking of the Hindenburg Line, collapse of the German army and their defeat in the First World War.

When the fighting had finished Monash was appointed Director-General of Repatriation and Demobilisation, heading a newly created department to carry out the repatriation of the Australian troops from Britain and Europe. Sir John Monash died in Melbourne on 8th October 1931 from a heart attack, and he was given a state funeral. An estimated 300,000 mourners, the nation’s largest funeral crowd to that time, came to pay their respects.

australian-dictionary-of-biographyFor further reading on General Sir John MONASH visit the Australian Dictionary of Biography


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