First World War, 1914-1918

Date from 01 January 1914
Date to 31 December 1918
Collection type Conflict
Scope note On 4 August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany for violating Belgian neutrality. Australia initially raised an infantry division and a brigade of light horsemen that left Australia in October 1914 for England. During the voyage, however, the troops were diverted to Egypt. After several months spent training in Egypt, the Australians departed for the Gallipoli peninsula along with troops from New Zealand, Britain, India, and France. The Australians landed at what became known as Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. The campaign quickly reached a stalemate, and the Australian troops were evacuated on 19 and 20 December. After Gallipoli the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was reorganised and expanded from two to five infantry divisions, one of which was formed in England. From March 1916 all five divisions were progressively transferred to France. The AIF’s light horse brigades that had served as additional infantry during the Gallipoli campaign now formed the ANZAC Mounted Division, and remained in the Middle East. The light horsemen would eventually form a second division, the Australian Mounted Division. In July 1916 Australia’s 5th Division took part in its first battle on the Western Front at Fromelles, where it suffered 5,533 casualties in just 24 hours. Less than a week later, the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Australian Division took part in the battle of Pozières and subsequent operations. In only six weeks the AIF had incurred 23,000 casualties. By the end of 1916 about 40,000 Australians had been killed or wounded on the Western Front. In 1917 a further 76,836 Australians became casualties in operations at places such Bullecourt, Messines, and the four-month campaign around Ypres, known as the battle of Passchendaele. The AIF was involved in halting the German Spring Offensive in March and April 1918 and won a famous victory at Villers-Bretonneux on Anzac Day1918. The subsequent allied offensive, beginning on 8 August at Amiens, also contributed to Australian successes at Mont St Quentin and Péronne, and to the capture of the Hindenburg Line. In early October the Australian divisions were withdrawn for rest and refitting; they were preparing to return to the front lines when Germany signed the Armistice on 11 November. Meanwhile, the Australians in the Middle East had fought a mobile war against the Ottoman Empire. Casualties were comparatively light, with 1,394 Australians killed or wounded in three years of war. Australian troops participated in the defence of the Suez Canal and the allied reconquest of the Sinai Peninsula. In the following year they advanced with other allied troops into Palestine, and helped capture Gaza and Jerusalem. In late 1918 the light horsemen took part in an offensive that devastated several Ottoman armies, and by early October had occupied the Syrian capital of Damascus. Turkey sued for peace on 30 October 1918.