II ANZAC (XXII Corps) Mounted Regiment

When the infantry divisions of the AIF deployed from Egypt to the Western Front in early 1916, each included a divisional mounted reconnaissance squadron. Three squadrons were drawn from the 13th Light Horse Regiment and two from the 4th Light Horse Regiment. In France, these squadrons were combined to form corps mounted regiments and in July 1916 the two squadrons of the 4th Light Horse joined a squadron from the Otago Mounted Rifles, a New Zealand Unit, to form the II ANZAC Mounted Regiment. When the five Australian divisions were combined to form the Australian Corps in November 1917 II ANZAC was reorganised and became XXII Corps. The Australian personnel of the mounted regiment were the only Australians to remain with the corps.

On the Western Front, terrain and the nature of the war there limited the roles mounted troops could fulfil, but they were still heavily employed. The corps mounted regiments carried out traffic control, rear area security and prisoner escort tasks, and, when the tactical situation permitted, the more traditional cavalry role of reconnaissance. They were most active during the more mobile phases of the war on the Western Front, which included the follow-up of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line in early 1917, the stemming of the German Spring Offensive of 1918, and the allied offensive of August and September 1918.

The II ANZAC Mounted Regiment was widely employed during the battle of Messines in June 1917, which marked a switch in the emphasis of British and dominion operations from the Somme valley in France, to the Ypres sector in Belgium. The battlefield around Ypres was progressively churned into a quagmire and by the end of the year the regiment, now known by its new title, was manning muddy trenches in a dismounted role.

In the spring of the new year, the Germans launched an offensive to smash through the Allied front, and the XXII Corps Mounted Regiment was heavily engaged around Mont Kemmel - it suffered more casualties in April 1918 than the at any time in the rest of the war combined. After attacking in northern France in April, the Germans struck further to the south during May. The resulting actions became known collectively as the battle of the Marne. On this occasion the XXII Corps Mounted Regiment was attached to French forces, earning high praise.

The Allies launched their own offensive in August 1918 centred on the Somme valley and the XXII Corps commander, Lieutenant General Alexander Godley, was given command of III Corps for the operation. So impressed was he with the skills of his mounted regiment that he took it with him to his new command, and it participated in III Corps’ advance to the Hindenburg Line. Godley and the regiment returned to XXII Corps in early September, and ended the war fighting around Cambrai and Valenciennes.

Long-serving troopers of the regiment began to return to Australia for discharge soon after the armistice in November 1918. The XXII Corps Mounted Regiment was disbanded in early December 1918 and the Australian squadrons were merged with the 13th Light Horse Regiment.

Glossary

Battle Honours

Casualties

  • 45 killed, 126 wounded

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

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 3 MC
  • 1 DCm
  • 12 MM
  • 6 MID
  • 2 MSM
  • 5 foreign awards

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

References

  • D. Holloway, Hooves, wheels and tracks: a history of the 4th /19th Prince of Wales's Light Horse Regiment and its predecessors, (Fitzroy: Regimental Trustees 4th/19th Prince of Wales's Light Horse Regiment, 1990).
  • N. Smith, Men of Beersheba: a history of the 4th Light Horse Regiment 1914-1919, (Melbourne: Mostly Unsung Military History Research and Publications, 1993).