2nd Australian Division

History

Having already despatched the original Australian Imperial Force and seen them go into action at Gallipoli, three more brigades were formed and sailed for Egypt in May and June 1915. By August they had been joined there by new artillery units from Australia and other ancillary units largely improvised from the reserves in Egypt. They were formed into the 2nd Austraian Division. In August 1915 the Division began to reinforce the garrison at Gallipoli. Thereafter the Division fought in many of the major actions of the war, including:

1915

Gallipoli campaign. Units of 5th Australian Brigade arrived from Egypt during August; the rest in September.
The Division withdrew from Gallipoli on 19-20 December 1915 and returned to Egypt.

1916

The Division was warned for France and sailed from Egypt on 13 March 1916. It then remained in France and Flanders for the rest of the war. The 2nd Australian Division then remained in France and Flanders for the rest of the war and took part in the following battles and engagements::

  • 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
  • During the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, the Division captured Bapaume
  • 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)
    – 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 First Battles of the Somme, 1918
    – The Battle of the Avre (4 April) (5th Australian Brigade)
  • The capture of Hamel (4 July) (6th Australian Brigade)
  • The Battle of Amiens (8-11 Aug)
  • The Second Battles of the Somme 1918
    – The Second Battle of Bapaume in which the Division captured Mont St Quentin (31 August)
  • The Battles of the Hindenburg Line
    – The Battle of the St Quentin Canal (29 Sep – 3 Oct)
    – The Battle of Beaurevoir in which the Division captured Montbrehain (5 October)

The Division was not selected to advance into Germany.

Demobilisation commenced in early 1919 and by March 1919 the Division merged with 5th Australian Division.

Order of battle

Divisional headquarters

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

5th Australian Brigade

17th Australian Infantry (NSW)

18th Australian Infantry (NSW)

19th Australian Infantry (NSW)

20th Australian Infantry (NSW)

5th Australian Machine Gun Company. Formed February 1916. Left to move into 2nd Australian MG Battalion February 1918

5th Australian Trench Mortar Battery. Formed April 1916.

6th Australian Brigade

21st Australian Infantry (Victoria)

22nd Australian Infantry (Victoria)

23rd Australian Infantry (Victoria)

24th Australian Infantry (Victoria)

6th Australian Machine Gun Company. Formed February 1916. Left to move into 2nd Australian MG Battalion February 1918

6th Australian Trench Mortar Battery. Formed April 1916.

7th Australian Brigade

25th Australian Infantry (Queensland)

26th Australian Infantry (Queensland and Tasmania)

27th Australian Infantry (South Australia)

28th Australian Infantry (Western Australia)

7th Australian Machine Gun Company. Formed February 1916. Left to move into 2nd Australian MG Battalion February 1918

7th Australian Trench Mortar Battery. Formed April 1916.

Divisional Troops

2nd Australian Pioneer Battalion. Formed while Division was in Egypt in March 1916

22nd Australian Machine Gun Company. Joined March 1917. Merged into 2nd Australian MG Battalion February 1918

2nd Australian Machine Gun Battalion. Formed in February 1918 by merging the 5th, 6th, 7th and 22nd Australian Machine Gun Companies

2nd Australian Divisional Train. Formed in Egypt in August 1915. A unit of the Army Service Corps made up of four companies, later titled 745, 746, 747 and 848 Companies ASC

2nd Australian Mobile Veterinary Section. Formed in Egypt in August 1915

2nd Australian Divisional Employment Company. Joined January 1917

Divisional Mounted Troops

13th Australian Light Horse (Victoria). Joined July 1915 and went to Gallipoli dismounted, broken up February 1916

2nd Australian Cyclist Company. Formed while Division was in Egypt, left May 1916

Divisional Royal Artillery

4th Australian Brigade RFA

5th Australian Brigade RFA

6th Australian Brigade RFA

22nd Australian (Howitzer) Brigade RFA. Formed in Egypt, absorbed into other units in May 1916

2nd Australian Divisional Ammunition Column RFA

V.2.A Heavy Trench Mortar Battery RFA. Formed in June 1916, left February 1918

X.2.A, Y.2.A and Z.2.A Medium Mortar Batteries RFA. Formed in June 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

5th Australian Field Company RE. Formed in Egypt in July 1915, renumbered 8th and left February 1916

6th Australian Field Company RE. Joined from Australia in February 1916

7th Australian Field Company RE. Joined from Australia in February 1916

2nd Australian Divisional Signal Company RE

Divisional Royal Army Medical Corps

5th Australian Field Ambulance RAMC

6th Australian Field Ambulance RAMC

7th Australian Field Ambulance RAMC

Divisional memorials

The memorial to the 2nd Australian Division which stands on the height of Mont St Quentin just outside Peronne, scene of one of the most extraordinary feats of arms in the war. This design replaces an earlier memorial, destroyed by the Germans in the Second World War when they took exception to the design featuring an Aussie soldier bayonetting a German eagle. This photograph is copyright of the Australian Department of Veteran's Affairs.

The memorial to the 2nd Australian Division which stands on the height of Mont St Quentin just outside Peronne, scene of one of the most extraordinary feats of arms in the war. This design replaces an earlier memorial, destroyed by the Germans in the Second World War when they took exception to the design featuring an Aussie soldier bayonetting a German eagle. This photograph is copyright of the Australian Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

 

Links

Other Divisions

Australian War Memorial

National Archives of Australia

Australians on the Western Front