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Category: Conflicts

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The AIF & NZEF in the Great War

Choose a particular specialised subject from those listed right or read the page for an overview of the events . . 

First World War Nominal Roll (Australia)

Details of members of the AIF who served overseas during the First World War.

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Men of the ANMEF (see below)

also sometimes called AN&MEF

World War I - Background

  • The causes of the war that broke out in Europe on 4 August were numerous and complex. For Australia, the broader international issues were perhaps less important than the simple fact that the British Empire was at war. 
  • As the Australian Government had been warned of the likely outbreak of hostilities, Australia’s defences were already being prepared when the war started. 
  • Imperial defence plans assumed that the Royal Australian Navy would operate as an integral part of the Royal Navy where ever it was required. Such an assumption could not be made about the Army. The Defence Act restricted the Australian Army to service within Australian territory for home defence purposes. 
  • To enable Australian participation in a European land war, a separate all-volunteer force would have to be recruited specifically for overseas service.
  • Following the declaration of war on 4 August 1914, the Fisher Government's pledge of full support for Britain led to the raising of what became known as the Australian Imperial Force (AIF ). 
  • Recruiting started on 10 August and by November 1914, 20,000 members of an infantry division and a light horse brigade, under the respective commands of Major General (later Sir )William T. Bridges and Colonel (later Lieutenant General Sir) Harry Chauvel, accompanied by New Zealand troops, were on their way to Egypt.

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Click to go to this book. The "Anzac Book" was written by the men in the trenches of Gallipoli in 1915. 

Not afterwards when time and other views have re-shaped opinion/s.

When the shots were actually being fired, when the shrapnel was falling.

In that sense it is probably unique in world history.

It can be seen IN FULL HERE

Who were "The Allies" and when did they enter the war?







Great Britain
New Zealand
South Africa




Costa Rica

The major brunt of the war effort on the Allied side was borne by France, Great Britain and her four Dominion nations plus Russia, Serbia and Belgium. These five nations alone of the twenty-six Allies accounted for over 91% of the 16.2 million Allied military casualties. While fifteen more nations joined the Allied cause during the course of the war, the only two additions that had substantive military impact on the ultimate Allied victory were the entry of the Kingdom of Italy in May 1915 and the United States in April 1917.

It is perhaps surprising that the first round fired by any Army of the British Empire, including Great Britain, in World War I was by the gunners of Fort Nepean. Situated at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, the Fort fired one round from its 6 inch Mark VII to stop the German freighter Pfalz escaping from Port Phillip a few hours after the declaration of war.


Grey horizontally aligned rectangular colour patch for Tropical Expeditionary Force, with a horizontally aligned central green strip. Colour patch worn by Army members of the 1st Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF) to New Guinea. This patch was worn by Second Lieutenant Arthur Lionel Keith Cooper. He later enlisted in the AIF on 1 July 1918 to undertake further officer training in England. He was attached to 11th General Service Reinforcements when he died from Spanish influenza at Tidworth in England on 14 November 1918.

Before the AIF sailed however, another all volunteer force had already been in action. The strategic importance of German wireless stations in New Guinea and the surrounding islands led British authorities to ask the Australian Government to destroy them as a matter of urgency. 

Papuan troops on New Britain under German command undertake drill just prior to the outbreak of war.

To carry out this task, the Australian Government raised an expeditionary force of 1500 men under the command of Colonel W. Holmes - the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force. This mixed force of naval reservists and soldiers had, by October 1914, forced the surrender of the garrison and taken possession of German New Guinea and the neighbouring islands of the Bismarck Archipelago. (Subsequently, on 17 December 1920, the Australian mandate over this territory was granted by the League of Nations.

Papuan troops on New Britain under German command undertake drill just prior to the outbreak of war (2).

  • The Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Forces took two aircraft with them to support their operations in New Guinea. The two aircraft, a Maurice Farman Floatplane and a BE2a were taken from the Central Flying School in Point Cook. The German forces in New Guinea were quickly overrun and the two aircraft remained in their crates until returned to Australia.

Sydney, NSW, 1914-08-14. Her soldier son. The first batch of Australian troops, 1 Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) to leave Australia for Rabaul. They are seen marching to the wharf, one cheerful mother beside her son. (donor Sydney Mail) Original burial place of Dr. Pockley and Able Seamen Courtney, Williams, and Street, killed at the landing 1914 of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) at German New Guinea.
Given to the family of 121 Able Seaman (Signaller) Robert David Moffatt, Royal Australian Naval Reserve (RANR). 

Moffatt, born in England in 1894, worked as an engineer in Sydney and served on HMAS Australia. 

On 11 September 1914, whilst serving in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF)in the advance from Kabakaul to Bitapaka, in New Britain, he was shot and killed by a native sniper. 

He was twenty years old. Image & details from AWM

When the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force took control of German New Guinea in September 1914 the new administration was presented with the problem of maintaining the economic stability of the colony. 

The administration decided to retain the German mark as legal tender during the period of transition'

As a result of a currency shortage, had these treasury notes printed. The decision to not only retain the foreign currency, but to issue Australian banknotes in German marks was met with outrage at home. Only a small number were released into circulation and each valid note was hand-signed and dated. They were recalled early in January 1915, less than five months after they were first printed.

World War I - Gallipoli

While still training in the Egyptian desert late in 1914, the 1st Australian Division and the New Zealand and Australian Division (NZ and A Division) (which later included the 1st Light Horse Brigade) were formed into the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), under the command of Lieutenant General William R (Field Marshal, the Lord) Birdwood. Together with British troops, the ANZAC forces had been kept in Egypt because of unsuitable training facilities in England and, later, to help protect the Suez Canal, following Turkey’s entry into the war in October 1914.

In the face of lack of progress on the Western Front in late 1914, the British War Council suggested that Germany could best be defeated by attacks on her weaker allies, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. Initially, the attack on Turkey was to be a naval operation but, after abortive naval attempts to force the Dardanelles in February and March, the British Cabinet agreed that land forces could be used. The ANZACS, together with British formations, landed north of Gaba Tepe (the landing area later known as Anzac Cove) and at Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula. They were to capture the Turkish forts commanding the narrow straits and force open the way to the Turkish capital, Constantinople. French forces attacked the Turkish positions on the Asia Minor side of the Dardanelles. Later reinforcements included the dismounted Australian Light Horse and New Zealand Mounted Brigades at Anzac Cove and another British corps at Suvla Bay. 

The campaign was an heroic but costly failure. In December, it was decided to evacuate the entire force from Gallipoli. On 19 and 20 December, the evacuation of Anzac and Suvla was completed with the last British troops leaving Cape Helles by 8 January 1916. The entire operation evacuated 142,000 men with negligible casualties. 

  • Australian casualties for the campaign were 26,111, comprising 1007 officers and 25,104 other ranks. Of these, 362 officers and 7779 men were killed in action, died of wounds or succumbed to disease.

World War I - Western Front

By early 1916, recruiting in Australia had made it possible to replace the ANZAC losses. The AIF in Egypt was expanded to four divisions with a fifth being raised in Australia. The overseas divisions were organised into I ANZAC Corps (1st and 2nd Australian Divisions, and the New Zealand Division) and II ANZAC Corps (4th and 5th Australian Divisions).58 Beginning in March the troops were moved to France, and by July and August were heavily involved on the Western Front. The 5th Division was the first to engage the Germans on 5 July 1916 in a small but bloody engagement at Fromelles in northern France. Shortly after, the 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions became embroiled in the first Somme offensive, at Pozieres and Moquet Farm.

In the following year, 1917, the Australians were again heavily engaged, in March at Bapaume, in May and June at Bullecourt and Messines, and from September to November in the great battles of the Ypres offensive - Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcapelle and Passchendaele.

In March and April 1918, the Australian Corps took a prominent part in preventing the capture of Amiens, Hazebrouck and Villers-Bretonneux, during the German 'Michael' offensive. During the final allied offensives of the war, it was engaged at Mont St Quentin and Albert, and in the penetration of the Hindenburg Line.

The AIF strength in France was maintained at some 117,000 men. 

  • Its battle casualties for the three years of trench warfare between 1916 and 18 were over 181,000; of whom over 46,000 died. Another 114,000 were wounded, 16,000 gassed and nearly 4,000 were taken prisoners of war. In terms of total deaths per 1000 men mobilised, the AIF figure was 145 - the highest of all the British Commonwealth armies.

World War I - Sinai, Palestine and Syria

In March 1916, the ANZAC Mounted Division was formed, from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Light Horse Brigades and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, in Egypt. It was commanded by Major General (later Lieutenant General Sir) Harry G. Chauvel.

The Corps played a prominent part in the capture of Jerusalem in December. Despite the loss of many experienced troops, the Corps defeated a determined attack by the German Asia Corps at Abu Tellul in April. During September, the Corps played an important part in the advance to Haifa and Semakh, entering Damascus on 1 October. Turkey signed an armistice at the end of that month, by which time Corps units had reached Aleppo.

  • The total battle casualties for the AIF in this campaign were 416 officers and 4435 other ranks, with 96 officers and 1278 enlisted men dying from all causes.

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