1st Australian Division

History

On 3 August 1914 – the day before Britain declared war – the Government of Australia offered an expeditionary force of 20,000 men, to be composed of a Division plus a brigade of Light Horse and titled the Australian Imperial Force. The original AIF sailed on 1 November 1914 and proceeded via Colombo to Egypt. The original intention was that the force would continue on to England but problems of accommodation being experienced by the Canadian units then in England forced a change of mind. The Force halted in Egypt and training recommenced. Thereafter the Division fought in many of the major actions of the war, including:

1915

3 February 1915: two battalions involved in defending against Turkish attack on Suez Canal
March 1915 : 3rd Brigade moves to Lemnos
1 April 1915 : Division receives orders to prepare to make amphibious assault at Gallipoli
25 April 1915 : Division lands at what was to become forever known as ANZAC Beach
The Division withdrew from Gallipoli in late 1915.

1916

On 13 January 1916 it was decided that the AIF would be developed to create five Divisions, four Australian and one New Zealand. The infantry brigades of 1st Division were split to create a nucleus of the 14th, 15th and 16th Brigades and places in all six brigades were filled by new drafts. The Division was warned for France and sailed on 13 March 1916. It remained in France and Flanders for the rest of the war:

  • The Battles of the Somme 1916
    – The Battle of Pozieres including the fighting for Mouquet Farm

1917

  • Operations on the Ancre including the capture of the Thilloys
  • The Arras Offensive, in which the Division fought the German attack on Lagnicourt and in the Battle of Bullecourt
  • The Third Battles of Ypres
    – The Battle of the Menin Road (20 – 25 Sep)
    – The Battle of Polygon Wood (26 Sep – 3 Oct)
    – The Battle of Broodseinde (4 Oct)
    – The Battle of Poelcapelle (9 Oct)
    – The Second Battle of Passchendaele (26 Oct – 10 Nov)

1918

Australian Divisions were not affected by the restructuring that took place in the British Divisions in February 1918 (in which the infantry brigades were reduced from four battalions down to three).

  • The Battles of the Lys
    When the enemy launched this second phase of the spring offensive (Operation “Georgette”), the 1st Australian Division was rushed from the Somme to help stabilise the situation and plug a gap caused by the near-destruction of the British 29th, 31st and other Divisions.

    – The Battle of Hazebrouck in which the Division fought the defence of Nieppe Forest
  • The Battle of Amiens (8-11 Aug)
  • The Second Battles of the Somme1918
    – The Battle of Albert in which the Division captured Chuignes
  • The Battles of the Hindenburg Line
    – The Battle of Epehy (18 Sept)

The Division was in Australian Corps reserve at the Armistice and was not selected to advance into Germany.

Demobilisation commenced in early 1919 and by March 1919 the Division merged with 4th Australian Division.

Order of battle

Divisional headquarters

under whose command came the Infantry Brigades and the other divisional troops listed below

1st Australian Brigade

1st Australian Infantry

2nd Australian Infantry

3rd Australian Infantry

4th Australian Infantry

1st Australian Machine Gun Company. Formed February 1916. Left to move into 1st Australian MG Battalion February 1918

1st Australian Trench Mortar Battery. Formed April 1916.

2nd Australian Brigade

5th Australian Infantry

6th Australian Infantry

7th Australian Infantry

8th Australian Infantry

2nd Australian Machine Gun Company. Formed February 1916. Left to move into 1st Australian MG Battalion February 1918

2nd Australian Trench Mortar Battery. Formed April 1916.

3rd Australian Brigade

9th Australian Infantry

10th Australian Infantry

11th Australian Infantry

12th Australian Infantry

3rd Australian Machine Gun Company. Formed February 1916. Left to move into 1st Australian MG Battalion February 1918

3rd Australian Trench Mortar Battery. Formed April 1916.

Divisional Troops

1st Australian Pioneer Battalion. Formed while Division was in Egypt

21st Australian Machine Gun Company. Joined February 1917. Merged into 1st Australian MG Battalion February 1918

1st Australian Machine Gun Battalion. Formed in February 1918 by merging the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 21st Australian Machine Gun Companies

1st Australian Divisional Train. A unit of the Army Service Corps made up of four companies, later titled 741, 742, 743 and 744 Companies ASC

1st Australian Mobile Veterinary Section

1st Australian Divisional Employment Company. Joined August 1917

Divisional Mounted Troops

4th Australian Light Horse. Left Division when it went to Gallipoli in April 1915, returned to it after Gallipoli and left again in March 1916

1st Australian Cyclist Company. Formed while Division was in Egypt, left May 1916

Divisional Royal Artillery

1st Australian Brigade RFA

2nd Australian Brigade RFA

3rd Australian Brigade RFA

21st Australian (Howitzer) Brigade RFA. Formed in Egypt, absorbed into other units by July 1916

1st Australian Divisional Ammunition Column RFA

1st Australian Heavy Battery RGA. Formed at Gallipoli in November 1915, disbanded in December

V.1.A Heavy Trench Mortar Battery RFA. Formed in June 1916, left February 1918

X.1.A, Y.1.A and Z.1.A Medium Mortar Batteries RFA. Formed in April 1916; in February 1918, Z was broken up and the other batteries reorganised to have 6 x 6-inch weapons each

Divisional Royal Engineers

1st Australian Field Company RE

2nd Australian Field Company RE

3rd Australian Field Company RE

1st Australian Divisional Signal Company RE

Divisional Royal Army Medical Corps

1st Australian Field Ambulance RAMC

2nd Australian Field Ambulance RAMC

3rd Australian Field Ambulance RAMC

Divisional memorials

The superb memorial to the 1st Australian Division, which stands on the site of the "Gibraltar" blockhouse at Pozieres, the scene of the Division's first experience of fighting on the Western Front. On the wooded horizon just to the right of the memorial, the vast Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval.

The superb memorial to the 1st Australian Division, which stands on the site of the “Gibraltar” blockhouse at Pozieres, Somme, the scene of the Division’s first experience of fighting on the Western Front. On the wooded horizon just to the right of the memorial is the vast Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval.

Links

Other Divisions

Australian War Memorial

National Archives of Australia

Australians on the Western Front