1st Division (Australia)

1st Division (Australia)
1st Division
Active 3 August 1914 – March 1919
March 1921 – April 1944
April 1948 – Present
Country Australia Australia
Branch Australian Army
Type Division
Role main deployment force
Garrison/HQ Brisbane, Australia
Engagements * Battle of Gallipoli
(including the Landing at Anzac Cove and Battle of Lone Pine)
* Battle of the Somme (1916)
(including the Battle of Pozières, the Battle of Mouquet Farm and the Battle of Le Transloy)
* Battle of Arras
(including the Battle of Lagnicourt and the Second Battle of Bullecourt)
* Third Battle of Ypres
(including the Battle of Menin Road, the Battle of Broodseinde, the Battle of Poelcappelle, the First Battle of Passchendaele and the Second Battle of Passchendaele)
* Battle of Hazebrouck
* Battle of Amiens
* Battle of Épehy
Major General Rick Burr, DSC, AM, MVO
Ceremonial chief Elizabeth II
MAJGEN Sir William Bridges
LTGEN James Legge
LTGEN Sir Talbot Hobbs
GEN Sir Harry Chauvel
MAJGEN Sir Thomas Glasgow
MAJGEN Herbert Lloyd

The 1st Division is the main formation of the Australian Army and contains the majority of the army's regular forces. Its headquarters is in Enoggera, a suburb of Brisbane. At the request of HQJOC, First Division also has the role to stand up a Deployable Joint Force Headquarters (DJFHQ) for a Land based operation—this deployable HQ is a joint formation, comprising units of the RAN and the RAAF, as well as the army.

The division was first formed in 1914 as a part of the First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF). It was part of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during the Gallipoli campaign, and has existed in one form or another since.



World War I

The Australian 1st Division was formed in August 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, as part of the Australian Imperial Force. It made the first landing at Anzac Cove as part of the Battle of Gallipoli. In 1916 the division was sent to France where it served on the Western Front for the remainder of the war.

World War I Order of Battle

1st Brigade (New South Wales)
  • 1st Battalion
  • 2nd Battalion
  • 3rd Battalion
  • 4th Battalion
2nd Brigade (Victoria)
3rd Brigade
1st Division Artillery
Medical Services


11th Battalion posing on the Great Pyramid of Giza, 1915.

The Australian 1st Division was raised during the initial formation of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in 1914, shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. The division comprised the first three infantry brigades to be assembled and was commanded by the senior Australian general and head of the AIF, Major General W.T. Bridges.

As part of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, the 1st Division made the initial landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915 during the Allied invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula. The 3rd Brigade formed the covering force which landed first, about 4.30 am, from battleship tows and destroyers. The 1st and 2nd Brigades followed, landing from transports, and all were ashore by 9 am.

While the landing was lightly opposed on the beach by elements of a Turkish battalion, the Australians were checked short of their objectives by mounting Turkish resistance. Critical fights developed on the left, over the hill known as Baby 700, and on the right on 400 Plateau. The firing line that was established on the first day would largely define the front line of the Anzac battlefield for the remaining eight months of the campaign.

On 15 May 1915 after General Bridges was mortally wounded an English officer, Brigadier-General H.B. Walker was given temporary command while a replacement was dispatched from Australia. This was Colonel J.G. Legge, the Australian Chief of the General Staff, who was not an immediately popular choice with either his corps commander, Lieutenant-General William Birdwood, or his subordinate brigade commanders. Legge replaced Walker on 24 June but when the command of the newly formed Australian 2nd Division became vacant, Birdwood took the opportunity to move Legge sideways and restore Walker, who was well regarded as a fighting commander and experienced with the Anzac conditions, to the command of the 1st Division.

The 1st Division's role in the August Offensive was to hold the front line and conduct a diversion on 400 Plateau at Lone Pine on 6 August (the Battle of Lone Pine). The resulting battle was the only occasion when a significant length of the Turkish trench line was captured. On 7 August, the 2nd Brigade made an unsuccessful attempt to capture German Officers' Trench as a preliminary operation to other assaults at Quinn's Post and the Nek. Corporal Alexander Burton was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross during this action.

In October General Walker was severely wounded and replaced by the division's artillery commander, Br.-Gen. Talbot Hobbs who in turn fell ill and was replaced on 6 November by the commander of the Australian 1st Light Horse Brigade, Br.-Gen. H.G. Chauvel. The 1st Division was evacuated from the peninsula in December, returning to Egypt, where it was brought back up to strength. On 14 March, Walker, having recovered from his wounds, resumed command of the division, now part of I Anzac Corps.

Somme, 1916

When the 1st Division arrived in France in April 1916, it was initially sent to a quiet sector south of Armentières to acclimatize to the Western Front conditions. In mid-July, with the British offensive on the Somme dragging on, I Anzac was sent to join the British Reserve Army of Lt.-Gen. Hubert Gough who intended to use the Australian divisions to take the village of Pozières. General Walker resisted Gough's efforts to throw the 1st Division into battle unprepared, insisting on careful preparation. When the 1st Division did attack (the Battle of Pozières), shortly after midnight on 23 July, it succeeded in capturing half of the village but failed to make progress in the neighbouring German trench system. After enduring a heavy German bombardment, far surpassing anything yet experienced by an Australian unit, the 1st Division was withdrawn, having suffered 5,285 casualties, and was replaced by the Australian 2nd Division.

The division's respite was brief as in mid-August, with its battalions restored to about two-thirds strength, it returned to the line on Pozières ridge, relieving the Australian 4th Division and continuing the painful progress towards Mouquet Farm (the Battle of Mouquet Farm). On 22 August, having lost another 2,650 men, the division was one more relieved by the 2nd Division.

On 5 September, I Anzac was withdrawn from the Somme and sent to Ypres for rest. The division anticipated spending winter quarters in Flanders but was recalled to the Somme for the final stages of the British offensive. This time they joined the British Fourth Army, holding a sector south of Pozières near the village of Flers. The battlefield had been reduced to a slough of mud but the 1st Division was required to mount a number of attacks during the Battle of Le Transloy; all ended in failure which was inevitable in the conditions.

German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, 1917

Starting on 24 February 1917, the 1st Division took part in the pursuit of the German forces as they retreated to their prepared fortifications in the Hindenburg Line. The division advanced against the German screen towards Bapaume and, on the night of 26 February, the 3rd Brigade captured the villages of Le Barque and Ligny-Thilloy. On the morning of 2 March, they withstood a German attempt to retake the villages. The 1st Division was then withdrawn to rest, joining the 4th Division. I Anzac's pursuit was carried on by the 2nd and 5th divisions.

By April, the 1st Division (and I Anzac Corps) was once again part of General Gough's Fifth Army (formerly the Reserve Army). On 9 April – the day the British launched the Battle of Arras – the 1st Division captured the last three villages (Hermies, Boursies and Demicourt) used by the Germans as outposts of the Hindenburg Line, thereby bringing the British line in striking distance of the main Hindenburg defences. This action cost the division 649 casualties. For actions during the fighting at Boursies, Captain James Newland and Sergeant John Whittle, both of the 12th Battalion (3rd Brigade), were awarded the Victoria Cross.

Hindenburg Line, 1917

The 1st Division was in support during the First Battle of Bullecourt which was the Fifth Army's main contribution to the Arras offensive. Once the first attempt on Bullecourt had failed, British attention concentrated on Arras and the Fifth Army's front was stretched thin with the 1st Division having to cover 13,000 yards (12,000 m).

The Germans, well aware of the vulnerable state of the British defences, launched a counter-stroke on 15 April (the Battle of Lagnicourt). The Germans attacked with 23 battalions against four Australian battalions. The German plan was to drive back the advanced posts, destroy supplies and guns and then retire to the Hindenburg defences. However, despite their numerical superiority, the Germans were unable to penetrate the Australian line. The 1st Division's artillery batteries in front of Lagnicourt were overrun and the village was occupied for two hours but counter-attacks from the Australian 9th and 20th Battalions (the latter from the 2nd Division) drove the Germans out. In this action the Australians suffered 1,010 casualties, mainly in the 1st Division, against 2,313 German casualties. Only five artillery guns were damaged.

On 3 May the Second Battle of Bullecourt commenced with the 1st Division in reserve but it was drawn into the fighting on the second day. The Australians seized a foothold in the Hindenburg Line which over the following days was slowly expanded. The German attempts to drive the British from their gains finally ceased on 17 May and the 1st Division was withdrawn for an extended rest.

Third Battle of Ypres

The 1st Division's artillery was in action from the start of the Third Battle of Ypres on 31 July 1917 but the infantry were not called upon until the second phase of the battle commenced on 20 September with the Battle of Menin Road. Attacking along with ten other divisions, including the Australian 2nd Division on their left, the 1st Division captured Nonne Boschen and Glencourse Woods and gained a foothold in Polygon Wood. The Australian divisions suffered 5,000 casualties from the battle, mainly due to retaliatory shelling from heavy artillery after the advance had completed.

The 1st Division was relieved by the Australian 5th Division before the next assault, the Battle of Polygon Wood (26 September), but in turn took up the advance for the following Battle of Broodseinde (4 October), the third and final of the successful bite-and-hold attacks conceived by General Herbert Plumer of the British Second Army. This battle marked the peak of British success during 3rd Ypres and apart from minor roles on the southern flank of the Canadian Corps during the Battle of Poelcappelle, First Battle of Passchendaele and the Second Battle of Passchendaele, it was the end of the 1st Division's involvement.


The Australians wintered in Flanders, engaging in vigorous patrolling and raiding. The 1st Division was still at Messines when the Germans launched their final offensive starting on the Somme with Operation Michael on 21 March 1918. In the first week of April, the 1st Division, along with the 2nd, began moving to the Somme when, on 9 April, the Germans launched Operation Georgette; an attack north and south of Armentières followed by a swift drive towards the vital rail junction of Hazebrouck.

The 1st Division, having reached Amiens and about to join up with the Australian Corps, was ordered to turn around and hurry back north. Hazebrouck was reached on 12 April, just in time to relieve the exhausted British divisions. Holding a line five miles (8 km) east of the town, the 1st Division helped halt the German advance on 13 April (the Battle of Hazebrouck) and then repulsed a renewed offensive on 17 April after which the Germans abandoned their push, concentrating instead on the high ground west of Messines.

The division remained active in Flanders from May to July, engaging in a process of informal but carefully planned raiding known as Peaceful Penetration. Their greatest success came on 11 July when they took 1,000 yards (910 m) of front, 120 prisoners and 11 machine guns from the German 13th Reserve Division. This unrelenting pressure had a severe impact on German morale.

Hundred Days, 1918

The 1st Division returned to the Australian Corps on 8 August 1918, the day on which the final British offensive commenced with the Battle of Amiens. The division was sent into action the following day, relieving the 5th Division, but was understandably late due to its rushed preparation. The 1st Division continued the attack for the next three days but progress was slow as the Australians moved beyond their supporting guns and tanks.

On 23 August the 1st Division attacked south of the River Somme towards Chuignes with the British 32nd Division on its southern flank attacking Herleville. The Australians suffered 1,000 casualties but took 2,000 German prisoners out of a total of 8,000 captured by both the British Third and Fourth Armies on that day. The 1st also captured a German 14-in naval gun. On 18 September the 1st Division took part in the assault on the Hindenburg "Outpost" Line (the Battle of Épehy ).

The 1st Division was disbanded in 1919 following the secessions of hostilities. The division name assigned to an Australian Citizens Military Forces (reserve) continuing the divisions traditions.


Positioned at Pozieres (at the site of "K Trench" – 50°02′17.66″N 2°43′17.20″E / 50.0382389°N 2.721444°E / 50.0382389; 2.721444), the 1st Division chose this location to build a monument (a stone obelisk) due to the 1st Division experiencing more casualties at the Battle of Pozieres (7654 casualties in 6 weeks) than in any other battle. The memorial lists the battle honors of the 1st Division as:

Battle Honour[1] Description[2]
Poziere's Battle of Pozieres
Mouquet Farm Battle of Mouquet Farm
Le Barque Fortified villages that were part of a German reserve line, and used by the Germans as a delaying position during the retreat to Hindenburg Line.
Boursies Fortified villages that were part of the Outpost Line of the Hindenburg Line. They were captured to allow a direct attack on the Hindenburg Line (before the Hindenburg Line was further strengthened).
Lagnicourt Battle of Lagnicourt
Bullecourt Second Battle of Bullecourt
3rd Battle of Ypres The 3rd Battle of Ypres, not including the Battles of Menin Road, Broodseinde Ridge, Poelcappelle and 2nd Passchendaele.
Menin Road Battle of Menin Road
Broodseinde Ridge Battle of Broodseinde
Passchendaele Battle of Poelcappelle and Second Battle of Passchendaele
Battle of Lys Stopping the Georgette Offensive on 14 and 17 April (also known as the Battle of Hazebrouck).
2nd Battle of Somme The 2nd Battle of the Somme, not including fighting in and around Lihon and Chuignolles.
Lihons Scene of intense fighting around, and eventual capture of, Lihons.
Chuignolles Scene of intense fighting around Chuignes Valley, culminating in the capture of Chuignolles.
Hindenburg Line Similar to Boursies/Demicourt/Hermies, fighting to capture the fortified Outpost Villages in the Battle of Épehy, and reach the main Hindenburg Line.

Inter war years

In 1921, after the AIF was disbanded, the Citizens Military Force was re-organised to adopt the numerical designations of the AIF.[3] Thus the 1st Division was re-raised as a reserve formation, composed primarily of infantry units. During the inter-war years, the assignment of battalions to brigades and divisions varied considerably within the army and as a result the 1st Division's composition was changed a number of times. The division was based mostly at Parramatta and – for virtually all of its existence – was tasked with defence of the greater Sydney area.[citation needed]

World War II

Upon the outbreak of World War II the 1st Division consisted of two infantry brigades—the 1st and 8th—as well as two field artillery regiments, one medium artillery regiment and two engineer field companies.[4] At this stage the division was partly mobilised, although as the provisions of the Defence Act (1903) precluded the deployment of the Militia to fight outside of Australian territory, it was decided to raise an all volunteer force for overseas service. This force was known as the Second Australian Imperial Force, and initially about a quarter of its soldiers were drawn from the Citizens Military Forces. After fighting broke out in the Pacific, however, in December 1941 members of the Militia were prevented from joining the AIF and were called up for full-time service to bolster defences in Australia in an effort to counter the possibility of attacks by Japanese land forces against the Australian mainland.[5] Later a number of Militia formations took part in the fighting against the Japanese in the Pacific, notably in New Guinea and Borneo, however, the 1st Division remained in Australia throughout the war.[4]

During this time the division's composition changed numerous times as many of its subordinate units were transferred. Shortly after mobilisation the division lost its engineer field companies and in June 1940 the three artillery regiments assigned to the division were also transferred out, to be replaced by a light horse regiment which had been converted to the machine gun role although this too was later removed from the division's order of battle.[4] As manpower restrictions in the Australian economy forced the early demobilisation of large numbers of men, the majority of which came from infantry units in Australia that were not involved in fighting overseas. The 1st Division was one of these units. By January 1945, when the 2nd Brigade was disbanded, it consisted of only one infantry brigade, the 1st.[6]


The Headquarters 1st Division is currently responsible for high-level training activities and is capable of being deployed to command large scale ground operations. It does not have any combat units permanently assigned to it, though it commands units during training activites and the Land Combat Readiness Centre reports to the divisional headquarters.

Commanding officers

Date commenced Date ended Commander Note(s)
26 October 1914 15 May 1915 BridgesMAJGEN Sir William Bridges, CMG Fatally wounded in action (Gallipoli), died 18 May 1915
15 May 1915 22 June 1915 WalkerBRIG GEN Harold Walker Temporary command
22 June 1915 26 July 1915 LeggeMAJGEN James Legge Serving as Chief of the General Staff when appointed. Transferred to command 2nd Division.
26 July 1915 13 October 1915 WalkerBRIG GEN Harold Walker Wounded in action on 13 October 1915.
13 October 1915 6 November 1915 HobbsBRIG GEN Sir Talbot Hobbs Evacuated with dysentery 6 November 1915.
6 November 1915 14 March 1916 ChauvelMAJGEN Sir Harry Chauvel, CMG, CB
14 March 1916 31 May 1918 WalkerMAJGEN Harold Walker Replaced when it was decreed only Australians were to serve in positions of higher command in Australian Corps.
31 May 1918 1919? GlasgowMAJGEN Sir Thomas Glasgow, KCB, CMG, DSO
1939 JacksonMAJGEN Robert Jackson
1940 1941 FewtrellMAJGEN Albert Fewtrell
1942 1942 ClowesMAJGEN Cyril Clowes, DSO, MC
1942 1943 DerhamMAJGEN Francis Derham
1943 1946 LloydMAJGEN Herbert Lloyd, CB, CMG, CVO, DSO
1974 1976 HughesMAJGEN Ronald Lawrence Hughes, CBE, DSO
1977 1979 BennettMAJGEN Phillip Bennett, DSO
1985 1990 JefferyMAJGEN Michael Jeffery, AO, MC
1998 1999 CosgroveMAJGEN Peter Cosgrove, AM, MC
MolanMAJGEN Jim Molan, AO
2002 2004 JacksonMAJGEN Mark Evans, AM, DSC
2004 2005 KellyMAJGEN Mark Kelly, AM
2 July 2005 6 July 2007 PowerMAJGEN Ash Power, AM, CSC
6 July 2007 2009 WilsonMAJGEN Richard Wilson, AO
2009 22 February 2011 SlaterMAJGEN Michael Slater, DSC, AM, CSC
22 February 2011 Incumbent SlaterMAJGEN Rick Burr, DSC, AM, MVO

See also


  1. ^ Mat MCLACHLAN,"Walking with the ANZACS"
  2. ^ C.E.W. Bean, "Volume IV", "Volume V" and "Volume VI"
  3. ^ Grey 2008, p. 125.
  4. ^ a b c "Australian 1st Division". Orders of Battle.com. http://www.ordersofbattle.com/UnitData.aspx?UniX=6208&Tab=Uhi. Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  5. ^ Grey 2008, pp. 145–147.
  6. ^ Long 1963, p. 25.


External links

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