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Makeup & organisation of the first AIF

  • The AIF was broken up into 5 Infantry Divisions and 2 Light Horse Divisions.

    • Each Infantry Division had 3 Brigades

      • Each Brigade had 4 Infantry Battalions

        • The Division also contained all the required combat support troops but not all the LOC and supply Units necessary.

  • At one time the AIF was part of 1 Anzac Corps and II Anzac Corps with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) and some British Units.

  • Eventually it became the Australian Corps under the command of Monash.

When you consider the AIF you must remember that it was never designed to be, and never became, a completely self sufficient Army. From the word "go" it was designed to provide combat troops with some limited support that would become part of a larger (British) army that would provide the essential support services. Figures below show about 95% were "fighting" troops.

416,809 Personnel enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (including the Australian Flying Corps). 331,781 (79.6%) served overseas.

Description of service Total Strength Percentage
Infantry   210,981 62.3%
Machine Guns   4,476 1.3%
Tunnellers  3,970 1.1%
Artillery   23,387 7.0%
Australian Army Medical Corps 12,945 3.9%
Australian Army Service Corps  9,735 2.9%
Engineers    9,950 2.9%
Light Horse 30,365 9.1%
Veterinary  378 0.1%
Australian Flying Corps   2,275 0.7%
Wireless 434 0.1%
Cyclists   570 0.2%
Trench Mortars  1,218 3.7%
Chaplains  386 0.1%
Transport Officers 531 0.2%
Australian Army Nursing Service 2,054 0.6%
General Reinforcements 15,071 4.5%
Miscellaneous 2,555 0.8%

Therefore "fighting" troops equalled about

Total Forces Overseas all theatres 331,781  

Infantry Divisions (numbered 1 through 5)

3rd Division was made up in this fashion: (the others would have been similar)

  • 3rd Division Artillery
    • 7th Field Artillery Brigade [12 x 18 pounders, 4 x 4.5 inch howitzers]
      • 25th,26th,27th Field Artillery Batteries
      • 107th Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery
    • 8th Field Artillery Brigade [12 x 18 pounders, 4 x 4.5 inch howitzers]
      • 29th,30th,31st Field Artillery Batteries
      • 108th Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery
    • 9th Field Artillery Brigade [12 x 18 pounders, 4 x 4.5 inch howitzers]
      • 33rd,34th,35th Field Artillery Batteries
      • 118th Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery
    • 23rd Field Artillery Brigade [12 x 18 pounders, 4 x 4.5 inch howitzers]
      • 28th,32nd,36th Field Artillery Batteries
      • 109th Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery
    • 3rd Division Ammunition Column
    • 3rd Division Trench Mortars
      • X3A,Y3A,Z3A Medium Trench Mortar Batteries [12 x 2 inch medium trench mortars]
      • Z3A Heavy Trench Mortar Battery [4 x 9.45 inch heavy trench mortars]
  • 3rd Division Engineers
    • 9th,10th,11th Field Companies (New South Wales; Victoria; Outer States)
    • 3rd Signals Company
  • 9th Infantry Brigade
    • 33rd, 34th, 35th,36th Infantry Battalions (New South Wales)
    • 9th Light Trench Mortar Battery [8 x 3 inch Stokes mortars]
    • 9th Machinegun Company [16 x Vickers machineguns]
  • 10th Infantry Brigade
    • 37th,38th,39th,40th Infantry Battalions (Victoria; Victoria; Victoria; Tasmania)
    • 10th Light Trench Mortar Battery [8 x 3 inch Stokes mortars]
    • 10th Machinegun Company [16 x Vickers machineguns]
  • 11th Infantry Brigade
    • 41st,42nd,43rd,44th Infantry Battalions (Queensland; Queensland; South Australia; Western Australia)
    • 11th Light Trench Mortar Battery [8 x 3 inch Stokes mortars]
    • 11th Machinegun Company [16 x Vickers machineguns]
  • 3rd Pioneer Battalion
  • British 207th Machinegun Company  [16 x Vickers machineguns]
  • 3rd Division Medical Services
    • 9th,10th,11th Field Ambulances
    • 3rd Sanitary Section
  • 3rd Salvage Company
  • 3rd Division Train
    • 22nd,23rd,24th,25th Australian Army Service Corps Companies
  • 3rd Division Supply Column
  • 3rd Division Ammunition Sub Park
  • 3rd Mobile Veterinary Section

  • It was the Infantry Battalions that formed the backbone of the Division and the reason for it's existence. Everyone else was there to support the Infantry.

A full strength AIF Infantry Battalion was made up of 29 Officers and 1007 Other Ranks (OR's) broken up in to these sub-units; 

  • Battalion HQ ( 5 Officers and 75 OR's) and
  • 4 Rifle Companies
  • a Rifle Company was made up of  6 Officers and 233 OR's broken into these sub-units
    • Company HQ (2 Officers and 57 OR's) plus
    • 4 Platoons 
  • A Platoon was made up of 1 Officer and 44 OR's broken into these sub-units
    • Platoon HQ (1 Officer and 4 OR's) and
    • 3 Rifle Sections (each of 10 OR's) and
    • 1 Lewis Gun Section of 10 OR's

Battalion Headquarters

The Battalion was usually commanded by an officer with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. A Major was Second-in-Command. Battalion HQ also had three other officers : a Captain or Lieutenant filled the role of Adjutant (in charge of Battalion administration); similarly a Captain or Lieutenant was the Quartermaster (responsible for stores and transport); an officer of the Royal Army Medical Corps was also attached.

Battalion HQ also included the Regimental Sergeant-Major (RSM, the most senior Non-Commissioned Officer) plus a number of specialist roles filled by NCO's with the rank of Sergeant : Quartermaster, Drummer (Bugler), Cook, Pioneer, Shoemaker, Transport, Signaller, Armourer and Orderly Room Clerk.

A Corporal and 4 privates of the Army Medical Corps were attached for water duties; a Corporal and 15 Privates were employed as Signallers; 10 Privates were employed as Pioneers (on construction, repair and general engineering duties); 11 Privates acted as Drivers for the horse-drawn transport; 16 acted as Stretcher-bearers (these often being the musicians of the Battalion Band); 6 Privates acted as Officers Batmen (personal servants), and 2 as Orderlies for the Medical Officer. A Battalion was broken into 4 Companies

Companies Usually lettered A through D. Each was commanded by a Major or Captain, with a Captain as Second-in-Command. Company HQ included a Company Sergeant-Major (CSM), a Company Quartermaster Sergeant (CQMS), 2 Privates acting as Batmen, and 3 as Drivers. The body of the Company was divided into 4 Platoons. 

Platoons consisted of a subaltern (a Lieutenant or Second Lieutenant). 2 Sergeants (often 1 was a Lance-Sergeant), 1 Batmen.  Each Platoon was subdivided into 4 sections.

Sections were made up each of a Corporal, a Lance Corporal and 8 Privates. The Section was considered the "building block" of the army. It was the smallest fighting unit. Click to go to top of page

Light Horse Divisions (A&NZ Mounted Div and Aust Mounted Div)

Australian Mounted Division (Palestine, August 1917)

  • Australian Mounted Division Artillery
    • British 19th Horse Artillery Brigade [18 x 18 pounders]
      • British 1/1 Nottingham Battery
      • British A and B Batteries, Honourable Artillery Company
      • British 19th Horse Artillery Brigade Ammunition Column
  • Australian Mounted Division Engineers
    • 2nd Field Squadron
    • 2nd Signal Squadron
  • Australian Mounted Division Medical Services
    • 3rd,4th Light Horse Field Ambulances
    • British 1/1 South Midlands Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance
    • 8th Sanitary Section
  • 3rd Light Horse Brigade
    • 8th,9th,10th Light Horse Regiments (Victoria; Victoria and South Australia; Western Australia)
    • 3rd Machine Gun Squadron [12 x Vickers machine guns]
    • 3rd Signal Troop
  • 4th Light Horse Brigade
    • 4th,11th,12th Light Horse Regiments (Victoria; Queensland and South Australia; New South Wales)
    • 4th Machine Gun Squadron [12 x Vickers machine guns]
    • 4th Signal Troop
  • British 5th Mounted Brigade
    • British 1/1 Warwickshire Yeomanry,1/1 Gloucester Hussars, 1/1 Worcestershire Yeomanry
    • British 19th Machinegun Squadron [12 x Vickers machine guns]
    • British 6th Signal Troop
  • Australian Mounted Division Train
    • 35th,36th,37th,38th Australian Army Service Corps Companies
    • 27th Depot Unit of Supply
  • Australian Mounted Division Veterinary Services
    • 8th,9th Mobile Veterinary Sections
    • British 3/1 South Midlands Mobile Veterinary Section

This information by Ross Mallett

Division Headquarters

A World War One division was a large and complex formation of over 18,000 men. To administer it required a dedicated, well trained and highly skilled staff.

Unfortunately, such men were in extremely short supply in 1914. There were no divisional staffs in Australia before the war, and hence no chance to practice except when on exchange with the British Army. Specialised training was available at the British staff colleges at Camberley and Quetta, where a place in each course was set aside for an Australian officer from 1911 but by the outbreak of war in 1914, only six Australian officers had graduated: Majors C. H. Foott, E. F. Harrison, E. H. Reynolds and C. B. B. White and Captains T. A. Blamey and J. D. Lavarack. Four of the British Army's 447 graduates were on secondment in Australia in 1914, plus John Gellibrand, who had attended Camberley with White in 1906-7 while with the British Army and had since returned to his native Tasmania to grow apples. With only eleven staff college graduates available, it was impossible to fill all staff appointments with them. Inevitably, terrible mistakes were made through inexperience.

The division staff was divided into two parts, a General Staff Branch and an Adjutant and Quartermaster General's Branch. Each member of the headquarters staff had a role but titles were cumbersome and archaic, and for this reason are explained here.

  • GOC. General Officer Commanding.
    This was the division commander, who was graded as a major general. He was responsible for all aspects of the division's performance. The staff's job was to reduce this to the point where it could be done by one man, by carrying out all the routine and administrative functions on his behalf.

  • ADC. Aide de Camp.
    Graded a captain. The GOC had two aides, who acted as assistants, performing such duties as the GOC designated.

  • GSO1. General Staff Officer (1st Class).
    The chief of staff, graded a lieutenant colonel or colonel. He was in charge of the General Staff Branch, responsible for training, intelligence, planning operations and directing the battle as it progressed. Most orders from the GOC were actually written up and signed by the GSO1.

  • GSO2. General Staff Officer (2nd Class).
    The deputy chief of staff, graded a major. He assisted the GSO1.

  • GSO3. General Staff Officer (3rd Class).
    Graded a captain. Usually responsible for intelligence.

  • AA & QMG. Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General.
    Graded a lieutenant colonel or colonel. He was in charge of the Adjutant and Quartermaster General's Branch, responsible for supply, transport, accommodation and personnel management.

  • DAA & QMG. Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General.
    Graded a lieutenant colonel or colonel. He assisted the AA & QMG.

  • DAQMG. Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General.
    Graded a major. He was responsible for supply, transport and accommodation.

  • DAAG. Deputy Assistant Adjutant General.
    Graded a major. He was responsible for personnel administration, which included pay, establishments and promotions.

  • DADOS. Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services.
    Graded a major. Responsible for weapons, equipment and maintenance.

  • ADMS. Assistant Director Medical Services.
    Graded a lieutenant colonel. The chief medical officer of the division. Controlled the three field ambulances and such other medical troops as might be attached to the division. Pre war doctrine had him subordinate to the AA & QMG but the debacle at Gallipoli demonstrated that he needed to have direct access to the GOC.

  • CRA. Commander, Royal Artillery.
    Graded a colonel in 1914, he became a brigadier general in July 1915, and the title changed to BGRA. Controlled the division artillery and such other artillery as might be attached to the division.

  • BMRA. Brigade Major Royal Artillery.
    Graded a major, was a staff officer assigned to the CRA.

  • CRE. Commander, Royal Engineers
    Graded a lieutenant colonel. Controlled the division's three field companies and such other engineers or work details as might be attached to the division.

  • APM. Assistant Provost Marshal.
    Graded a captain. Controlled the division's provost (military police).

In addition to the staff officers, division headquarters, of course, included many clerks who handled the actual paperwork on their behalf.

This information by Ross Mallett


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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces