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  • 16th Battalion AIF (Western Australia and South Australia) [4th Infantry Brigade]
    Formed Australia September 1914. Departed Melbourne Ceramic 22 December 1914. 
    • 1st Reinforcements departed Melbourne Ceramic 22 December 1914, 
    • 2nd Reinforcements departed Melbourne Clan Macgillivray 2 February 1915, 
    • 3rd Reinforcements departed Melbourne Runic 19 February 1915, 
      • Fremantle Itonus 22 February 1915, 
    • 4th Reinforcements departed Adelaide Port Lincoln 1 April 1915, 
    • 5th Reinforcements departed Adelaide Hororata 20 April 1915 and 
    • 6th Reinforcements departed Adelaide Borda 23 June 1915 and 
    • 7th Reinforcements departed Fremantle Chilka 18 June 1915, 
    • 8th Reinforcements departed Adelaide Morea 26 August 1915, 
      • Fremantle Anchises 2 September 1915,  
    • 9th Reinforcements departed Adelaide Star of England 21 September 1915, 
    • 10th Reinforcements departed Adelaide Ballarat 14 September 1915, 
    • 11th Reinforcements departed Adelaide Benalla 27 October 1915, 
      • Fremantle Benalla 1 November 1915,  
    • 12th  Reinforcements departed Adelaide Malwa 2 December 1915, 
      • Fremantle Ajana 22 December 1915, 
    • 13th Reinforcements departed Adelaide Borda 11 January 1916, 
      • Fremantle Runic 29 January 1916. 
    • 14th Reinforcements departed Fremantle  Miltiades 12 February 1916, 
    • 15th Reinforcements departed Fremantle Ulysses 1 April 1916, 
    • 16th Reinforcements departed Fremantle Shropshire 31 March 1916,  
    • 17th Reinforcements departed Fremantle Aeneas 17 April 1916, 
    • 18th Reinforcements departed Fremantle Seang Bee 18 July 1916, 
    • 19th Reinforcements departed Fremantle Miltiades 7 August 1916, 
    • 20th Reinforcements departed Fremantle Suffolk 13 October 1916, 
    • 21st Reinforcements departed Fremantle Suffolk 13 October 1916, 
    • 22nd Reinforcements departed Fremantle Argyllshire 9 November 1916, 
    • 23rd Reinforcements departed Fremantle Berrima 23 December 1916, 
    • 24th Reinforcements departed Fremantle Miltiades 29 January 1917, 
    • 25th Reinforcements departed Fremantle Borda 29 June 1917, 
    • 26th Reinforcements departed Sydney Medic 1 August 1917, 
    • 27th Reinforcements departed Fremantle Canberra 23 November 1917 

  • Battle Honours: Landing at Anzac, Anzac, Defence of Anzac, Suvla, Sari Bair, Gallipoli 1915,  Egypt 1915-16, Somme 1916-18, Pozieres, Bullecourt, Messines 1917, Ypres 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele, Arras 1918, Ancre 1918, Hamel, Amiens, Albert 1918, Hindenburg Line, Epehy, France and Flanders 1916-18

  • Egypt, Gallipoli, Western Front

by Ross Mallett (ADFA)

16th Battalion AIF 

The outstanding history of the Western Australian 16th Battalion begins with the Great War. Late in 1914 the Australian Government decided to raise another force to supplement the 1st Division already in training. The new unit was to be known as the 4th Brigade and commanded by Colonel John Monash. Western Australia was allotted the task of raising the new 16th Battalion, consisting of a headquarters, a machinegun section, signal section and five companies of infantry. The remaining three companies were to be filled by South Australians.
During the course of the war the Battalion fought on Gallipoli and in France and Belgium along the Western Front. Its battle honours include the landing at Anzac Cove, Sari Bair Ridge, Pozieres, Bullecourt, Messines, Ypres and Polygon Wood, Hamel, Mont St Quentin on the Somme and Amiens and the Hindenburg Line. In its last engagement, which ended on 21/9/1918, it was led into battle by Major W Lynas DSO MC who had landed on Gallipoli as a private nearly three and a half years before.

The 16th Battalion was one of the most highly decorated battalions in the armies of the Allied forces. Three Victoria Crosses were awarded ( Pte O'Meara, Pozieres 1916; L Cpl Axford, Hamel 1918; Lt McCarthy, near Madame Wood 1918), there were 2 Companions of the Order of the Bath, 1 Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George, 11 Distinguished Service Orders, 33 Military Crosses, 44 Distinguished Conduct Medals, 159 Military Medals and a string of foreign and ancillary decorations.

Arguably the most remarkable pair of 16th Battalion men was Harry Murray and Percy Black. They joined together in 1914 as private soldiers from Manjimup in the south-west of Western Australia. Lt Col Harry Murray VC CMG DSO MC DCM Croix de Guerre, ended the war as the most highly decorated soldier after having risen from a machine gun private to command of a machine gun Battalion of 64 guns in 1918. Major Percy Black DSO DCM Croix de Guerre, was killed at Bullecourt on the 17th of April 1917 fighting with the 16th. It was Harry Murray who had the traumatic task of cutting his friend from the wire after an action which cost the Battalion 650 casualties of the 800 who went into action. Lt Arnold Potts (later Brigadier A.W. Potts DSO OBE MC of Kokoda Track fame) led his 45 men of the 4th Light Trench Mortar Battery in the action and lost 34 of them, some by 'friendly' fire from the new fangled British tanks. The 4th Brigade lost a total of 2450 men of the 3000 who fought on that fateful morning.

After the war the survivors returned to Australia. One estimate has it that well over 10,000 men passed through the ranks of the 1000 man Battalion during the course of the war. Some of them joined various militia units in the 1920s and 1930s but it was not until 1936 that a citizen military forces unit, the 16th Battalion, The Cameron Highlanders, was formed to train a new generation of young men as war clouds loomed in Europe. The unit operated out of headquarters at the foot of William Street in Perth and was subsequently to provide many of the future officers and NCO's of the armed services when eventually war was declared in September, 1939.

16th Battalion

The 16th Battalion AIF was raised from 16 September 1914, six weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. Three-quarters of the battalion were recruited in Western Australia, and the rest in South Australia. With the 13th, 14th and 15th Battalions it formed the 4th Brigade commanded by Colonel John Monash.

The South Australian and Western Australian recruits were united when the battalion trained together in Victoria. They embarked for overseas on Boxing Day. After a brief stop in Albany, Western Australia, the battalion proceeded to Egypt arriving in early February 1915. Australia already had an AIF division there, the 1st. When the 4th Brigade arrived in Egypt it became part of the New Zealand and Australian Division. The 4th Brigade landed at ANZAC late in the afternoon of 25 April 1915.

A week after the landing the 16th was thrown into the attack on Bloody Angle suffering many casualties. From May to August the battalion was heavily involved in establishing and defending the front line of the ANZAC beachhead, and in August the 4th Brigade attacked Hill 971. The hill was taken at great cost, although Turkish reinforcements forced the Australians to withdraw. The battalion served at ANZAC until the evacuation in December.

After the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the battalion returned to Egypt. While there the AIF expanded and was reorganised. The 16th Battalion was split and provided experienced soldiers for the 48th Battalion. The 4th Brigade was combined with the 12th and 13th Brigades to form the 4th Australian Division.

In June 1916 they sailed for France and the Western Front. From then until 1918, the battalion took part in bloody trench warfare. Its first major action in France was at Pozičres in the Somme valley, where Private Martin O’Meara won the battalion’s first Victoria Cross. The battalion spent much of 1917 in Belgium advancing to the Hindenburg Line. The battalion, along with most of the 4th Brigade, suffered heavy losses at Bullecourt in April, when the brigade attacked strong German positions without the promised tank support. In March and April 1918, the battalion helped to stop the German Spring offensive. At Hamel in June, Lance Corporal Tom Axford was awarded the battalion’s second Victoria Cross. The battalion participated in the great allied offensive of 1918, fighting near Amiens on 8 August 1918. This advance by British and empire troops was the greatest success in a single day on the Western Front, one that German General Erich Ludendorff described as ‘..the black day of the German Army in this war…’. In late August Lieutenant L. D. “Fats” McCarthy won what became known as the “super VC”.

The battalion continued operations until late September. At 11 am on 11 November 1918, the guns fell silent. In November 1918, members of the AIF began to return to Australia for demobilisation and discharge.

  • 1127 killed, 1955 wounded (including gassed)
  • Decorations

    • 3 VC
    • 2 CB
    • 1 CMG
    • 12 DSO, 1 bar
    • 25 MC, 5 bars, 1 2nd bar
    • 30 DCM, 1 bar
    • 163 MM, 12 bars
    • 5 MSM
    • 50 MID
    • 7 foreign awards

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