The 6th Battalion was among the first infantry units raised for the AIF during the First World War. Like the 5th, 7th and 8th Battalions, it was recruited from Victoria and, together with these battalions, formed the 2nd Brigade.

The battalion was raised within a fortnight of the declaration of war in August 1914 and embarked just two months later. After a brief stop in Albany, Western Australia, the battalion proceeded to Egypt, arriving on 2 December. It later took part in the Anzac landing on 25 April 1915, as part of the second wave. Ten days after the landing, the 2nd Brigade was transferred from Anzac to Cape Helles to help in the attack on the village of Krithia. The attack captured little ground but cost the brigade almost a third of its strength. The Victorian battalions returned to Anzac to help defend the beachhead, and in August the 2nd Brigade fought at the battle of Lone Pine. The battalion served at Anzac until the evacuation in December.

After the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the battalion returned to Egypt. In March 1916, it sailed for France and the Western Front. From then until 1918 the battalion was heavily involved in operations against the German Army. The battalion’s first major action in France was at Pozières in the Somme valley in July 1916. After Pozières the battalion fought near Ypres, in Flanders, returning to the Somme for winter. In 1917, the battalion participated in the operations that followed-up the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, and then returned to Belgium to join the great offensive launched to the east of Ypres. During the battle of Menin Road in September 1917, Lieutenant Frederick Birks earned the 6th Battalion’s only Victoria Cross. Birks was killed by a shell burst the next day while trying to rescue men buried during a bombardment.

In March and April 1918 the battalion helped stop the German spring offensive and later participated in the Allies’ own offensive, launched near Amiens on 8 August 1918. The 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”.

The battalion continued operations until late September 1918. At 11 am on 11 November 1918, the guns fell silent. The November armistice was followed by the peace treaty of Versailles signed on 28 June 1919.

In November 1918 members of the AIF began to return to Australia for demobilisation and discharge. In March the battalion was so reduced that it and the 7th Battalion were amalgamated to form a composite battalion. This battalion subsequently merged with another, formed from the 5th and 8th Battalions, to form the 2nd Brigade Battalion.

Colour Patch

Colour patch for 6th Battalion

Glossary

Battle Honours

Battle Honours source: Australian Army Orders (112), 1927. Army Head-Quarters, 9 March 1927. 'Award of Battle Honours for the Great War to Cavalry and Infantry Units.'

Casualties

  • 1066 killed, 2017 wounded (including gassed)

For more information please see the Roll of Honour, Wounded and Missing, First World War Nominal Roll and Embarkation Roll databases.

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 1 VC
  • 1 CMG
  • 5 DSO, 1 bar
  • 31 MC, 2 bars
  • 34 DCM
  • 127 MM, 9 bars
  • 9 MSM
  • 48 MID
  • 13 foreign awards

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

Collection Items

Search for related collection items

References

  • AWM4/23/23/1: May 1915 unit diary
  • R.J. Austin, As rough as bags: the history of the 6th Battalion, 1st AIF, 1914-1919 (McCrae: R J and S P Austin, 1992).
  • R.J. Austin, Bold, steady, faithful: the history of the 6th Battalion, the Royal Melbourne Regiment, 1854-1993 (Melbourne: 6th Battalion Association, 1993).