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Copyright © Graham Wilson 2012
First published 2012
Copyright remains the property of the author and apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of
private study. research. criticism or review. as permitted under the Copyright Act. no part may be
reproduced by any process without written permission.
All inquiries should be made to the publishers.
Big Sky Publishing Pty Ltd
PO Box 303. Newport. NSW 2106. Australia
Phone: 1300 364 611
Fax:

(612) 9918 2396

Email: info@bigskypublishing.com.au
Web:

www.bigskypublishing.com.au

Cover design and typesetting: Think Productions
National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry
Author: Wilson. Graham
Title: Bully beef and balderdash: some myths of the AlF examined and debunked I Graham Wilson.
ISBN: 9781921941566 (hbk.)
Notes: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Subjects: Australia. Army. Australian Imperial Force (1914-1921)
World War. 1914-1918--Participation. Australian.
Dewey Number: 940.40994
Printed in China through Bookbuilders

IJIJllY IJEEF
& IJI\LI)EIII)I\SII
Some :Myths of'
the .AIF Examined
and Debunked

-.
BIG SKY PUBLISHING

www.bigskypublishing.com.au

Graham Wilson

THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY HISTORY COLLECTION

\ Inl \ ·111 \ I () In · \ \ I I

Winning with [ntelligence

The Lionheart

Judy Thomas

David Coombes

Duntroon

Battlefield Korea

Darren Moore

Maurie Pears

The warrior Poets

Chemical warfare in Australia

Robert Morrison

GeofFPlunkett

The History ofthe Royal Australian Corps of
Transport 1973-2000

A Most Unusual Regiment

Albert Palazw

Between Victor and Vanqu.ished

Defenders ofAustralia

Arthur Page

Albert Palazzo

Country Victoria's Own

M.J. Ryan

The Fight Leaders

Neil Leckie

D. Buder, A. Atgent and J. Shelton

Surgeon and General

Operation Orders

Ian Howie-Willis

Pat Beale

Willingly into the Fray

Little by Little

Catherine McCullagh

Michael Tyquin

Beyond Adversity

Red Coats to Cams

William Park

Jan Kuring

Crumps and Camoufiets

Bowler ofGallipoli

Damien F; inlayson

Frank Glen

More than Bombs and Bandages
Ki rsty Harris
The Last Knight

vets at War
Ian M. Parsonson

Only One River to Cross

Robert Lowry

A.M. Harris

Forgotten Men

The Fragile Forts

Michael Tyquin

Peter Oppenheim

Battle Scan'ed

Hassett: Australian Leader

Craig Deayron

John Essex-Clark

Crossing the Wire

Persian Expedition

David Coombes

Alan Stewart

Do Unto Others

The Chiefi ofthe Australian Army

Alan H Smith

James Wood

Fallen Sentinel

Never Late

Peter Beale

Gordon Dickens

Sir William Glasgow

To Villers-Bretonneux

Peter Edger

Peter Edgar

Training The Bodes

Madness and the Military

Terry Smith

Michael Tyquin

A Medical Emergency

The Battle ofAnzac Ridge
25 AprilJ 915

Fire Support Bases Vietnam

Jan Howie-Willis

Peter D. Williams

Bruce Picken

Doves Over the Pacific

Toowoomba to Torokina

Reuben R.E. Bowd

Bob Doneley

Contents
Introduction ............................................................................................................................ vii
Chapter I

The myth as military history ................................................................................. I

Chapter 2

The AIF - a brief history and outline ................................................................. 17

Chapter 3

The crack shot from the bush .............................................................................. 61

Chapter 4

Of sepoys, blue puttees and piet ....................................................................... 119

Chapter 5

'Intelligence ... was all but nonexistent' ............................................................ 147

Chapter 6

They shoot horses don't they? ........................................................................... 185

Chapter 7

Bully beef and biscuits ..................................................................................... 215

Chapter 8

'The Night We Tipped Old Cairo into the Nile' ............................................... 273

Chapter 9

'Do you think I'm now afraid ro die with you?' ................................................ 315

Chapter 10 Anzacs alone .................................................................................................... 345
Chapter II Dead man standing .......................................................................................... 3~9
Chapter 12 Great-Grandad was Catholic and didn't get a VC ........................................... .411
Chapter 13 All teeth, no tail .............................................................................................. .4 51
Chapter 14 'Put Grant at It!' ............................................................................................... 505
Abbreviations ........................................................................................................................ 533
Bibliography and Sources ...................................................................................................... 537
Endnotes ............................................................................................................................... 552
Index ..................................................................................................................................... 590

Bully Beef & Balderdash

Introduction
Bully Beefand Balderdash had its genesis in a discussion that I had with Roger
Lee, Head of the Australian Army History Unit, and a personal friend for well
over twenty years. We were discussing the Simpson myth and the nonsense that
is constantly spouted about the late Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick. This
discussion led on to other myths about the Australian Imperial Force CAlF)
and I think I must have finally worn Roger's patience down with my effing
and blinding about the 'Battle of the Wazzir', the fate of the AlP's horses in the
Middle East, the charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade at Beersheba and its
place as the 'last great cavalry charge in history', etc, etc, and Roger challenged
me to write a book about the subject.
Having had my bluff comprehensively called, there was then nothing for it but
to get down to the hard work of researching and writing the book.
The aim of this book, as will become clear to the reader, is to debunk a number
of myths, big and small, well known and lesser known, connected with the AIF,
Australia's volunteer overseas army of World War I. My intent in doing this is
not to debase or insult the memory of the AIF, far from it; my intent is to set the
historical record straight. To anyone who does any accurate research on the AlP,
one thing becomes blindingly obvious - that the AlP, from a somewhat shaky
start, evolved into a magnificent fighting machine, the equal of any other army
in the world at the time, and better than many. It was a force whose unvarnished
record speaks very much for itself and needs no further embellishment.
Unfortunately, the AIF's stellar record has been extensively and falsely embellished
over the years and these embellishments have, just as unfortunately, become
entrenched in the Australian psyche as 'history'.
The veterans of the AIF were, perhaps, the first guilty parties in this, spinning
war stories at home which eventually expanded so that the original tales
were unrecognisable.
The media of the day, especially the Australian media, were the next culprits
- Bean, Ashmead-Bartlett, Murdoch, Buley and others were all guilty of
embellishing the record of the AlE Of course, the media of the day may have
argued that they were simply contributing to the war effort, and this would
be hard to refute. As Napoleon Bonaparte said: 'The moral is to the physical

vi

Introduction

as three is to one' and, in time of war, national or civilian morale is at least as
important as military morale. The journalists of the day may have considered
that, in embellishing the image of the AlE they were simply doing their bit by
making the war more acceptable to the civilian populace. Nevertheless, in their
contemporary embellishment of the AlP's record, these journalists, especially
Bean, have done lasting harm to the historical record of the AlE
The next to take the blame for most of the myths of the AlF are authors who
have written about the force and its actions. Not all authors, of course, but
certainly some - there have been many very good books written on the
history of the AlF and such books continue to be published. However, there
have been many dreadful books as well; books that paint the AIF as the only
worthwhile fighting force in World War I and that simply continue the false
mythology of the force.
Finally, and now we come to the present day, contemporary politicians and
media have much to answer for in propagating and sustaining the myths of the
AlE They have done this out of self-interest. The myths are familiar to the everyday
Australian and appeal to their patriotism and pride in their national history.
Politicians use this appeal to make themselves look good and to garner votes and
the media use it to sell newspapers and to save time researching the facts.
All of these people, through their efforts, have created a false image of the AIF by
cloaking the real history of the force in myth. Some of the myths connected with
the AIF do no real damage, for example, the somewhat bizarre and whimsical
myth of the denial of the Victoria Cross (VC) to Catholics. Other myths,
however, do very real damage to the reputation of the force, including the myth
of the so-called 'Battle of the Wazzir'. There are also myths that damage and
denigrate the stories of other armies, a prime example of which is the myth of
the AIF as the only all-volunteer force in World War I.
However, whether individually harmless or detrimental, the myths as a whole
do great harm to the history of the AIF and, by extension, the Australian Army,
for they mask that history and even sometimes supplant it. Examination of these
myths is long overdue, and it is time they were debunked and put to bed.
Research for this book was relatively easy, given that most of the official records
on which the true record of the AIF rests are both readily and easily available.
War diaries, embarkation rolls and photographs are all available online at the
Australian War Memorial's website. Much additional contemporary information

vii

Bully Beef & Balderdash

in the form of unit records, personal diaries, letters, etc is just as readily available
in hard copy in the AWM Research Centre. This source represented the bulk
of my research. It is the very ease of this research that makes the contemporary
mythical popular version of the AIF totally reprehensible - the facts are there
for the asking, but people must be prepared to look for them.
I have, of course, not restricted myself to the resources held in the AWM and the
National Archives of Australia. In the course researching this book, I have gone
as far afield as, for example, the Forensic Anthropology Centre at the University
of Tennessee, the world-famous 'Body Farm' (see the chapter on the supposedly
posthumous photograph of Lieutenant Alfred Gaby, VC). Every source and record
I have consulted and quoted is listed in the bibliography at the end of the book.
One myth you will not find in this book is the myth of Simpson, the so-called
'Man with the Donkey'. This is not because I accept the corpus of mythical
nonsense that surrounds Simpson and which now passes for factual 'history'
- far from it. In fact, I dismiss just about every statement ever made about
Simpson, apart from the bare facts of his pre-AIF life and his basic military
service, as just so much twaddle. However, I have chosen not to address Simpson
in this book for the simple reason that this particular myth is so big that it
requires a book of its own (which is currently in draft).
I fully realise that, in writing this book, I am setting myself up for a barrage
of abuse. The populist, mythological version of the AIF's 'history' is so firmly
entrenched in the Australian psyche that there will probably be many people
who will refuse to accept the historical facts, even with the documentary proof
placed in front of them. There are also groups with a vested interest in the
mythical as opposed to the historical version of the story of the AIF who will
find this book offensive; for example, I am sure that many in the light horse
community will not appreciate my debunking the myth that the charge of
the 4th Light Horse Brigade at Beersheba in 1917 was the 'last great cavalry
charge in history'.
Doubtless there will be many people who will think that this book is an attack
on the memory of the AlE Nothing could be further from the truth. As I have
clearly stated at the beginning of this introduction, my intention in writing this
book is to actually demythologise the history of the AIF to encourage people to
view the force's record on its own merits - merits which most definitely do not
require any sort of embellishment for them to shine for all time.

viii

Introduction

Despite this disclaimer, I am certain that there will still be people who, even with
my explanation for the writing of this book, and even with being presented with
reams of verifiable facts to support my claims, will still decry me as an J\IF basher'.
Before closing, I need to acknowledge and thank a number of people - first of
all, Roger Lee for encouraging me to write the book and agreeing to publish it.
My thanks to the other people at the Army History Unit, especially Dr Andrew
Richardson, for their support and encouragement; another special thanks to
Andrew for his assistance with illustrations. I thank the staff at the Australian
War Memorial's Research Centre for their courteous and professional assistance.
My thanks also to my friends and fellow ~ilitary historians in the Military
Historical Society of Australia, especially the members of the ACT Branch, for
their constant encouragement, generally disguised as good-natured barbs. My
brother, former Captain Lindsay Wilson, CSc, Australian Intelligence Corps,
provided invaluable assistance with the chapter on the supposed intelligence
failure at Gallipoli. Denny Neave and the folks at Big Sky Publishing, especially
Rosemary Peers, best of editors, extended invaluable assistance and guidance to
a first-time author. My children, Raymond and Rhiannon, always seem to be
proud of their dad, even when he is at his most eccentric. My beloved second
son, Stephen, who is no longer with us, kept me company - his spirit is with
me when I work. My adored grandchildren, Bridie and Stevie, whose smiles light
up my day, can always be guaranteed to drag me away from the computer for a
much-needed break. Likewise, my beloved wife, Sharon, always supports me in
whatever I set out to do. Finally, I wish to acknowledge the men and women of
the AIF who, from a chaotic beginning, built one of the finest fighting machines
of the twentieth century and whose story does not need and never has needed
myth to bolster it.

ix

Bully Beef & Balderdash

x

Bully Beef & Balderdash

1:II,\I'TEI11

The myth as military history
On 16 December 1773, in Boston Harbor, in the British Colony of
Massachusetts, a group of colonial patriots, enraged at the unfair taxation on
tea imposed by the English Crown, disguised themselves as Native Americans,
forced their way on board three English cargo ships and threw their cargo of
342 cases of tea into the harbour. Their action was a clear protest against the
home government and a very real warning that the American patriots were no
longer prepared to accept 'taxation without representation'.
This is the classically accepted version of an event not long before the outbreak
of the American War of Independence that is referred to in history as 'The Boston
Tea Party'. The only problem with this story is that, while a group of colonials
did board three ships in Boston Harbor on the night of 16 December 1773
and did throw the ships' cargo of tea into the harbour, and while there had
been a new tax levied on tea, the tax had in fact reduced the cost of the legal tea,
not increased it. The persons involved were not 'patriots' (except perhaps in the
broadest sense of the word), were not involved in a political protest (again, except
perhaps in the broadest sense of the word), and were not protesting 'taxation
without representation', unless we accept the notion that sensible people would
protest about receiving a tax cut.
The men who forced their way onto the decks of those ships that night in 1773
were, in fact, colonial tea merchants (actually, primarily thugs in the employ of
the merchants) who had taken steps to destroy the cargo of recently arrived tea.
The tea had been imported with the assistance of the Crown at lower prices than
illegitimate American merchants could charge and threatened to break a lucrative
monopoly of smuggled tea in the colonies. The action of 'The Boston Tea Party'
participants was triggered by the Tea Act of 1773 which had been passed by the
British Parliament as 'An act to allow a drawback of the duties of customs on the
exportation of tea to any of his Majesty's colonies or plantations in America.' I The
destruction of the tea cargo was the work of a group of colonial businessmen,

2

Chapter 1

mostly smugglers, who saw their profits on smuggled tea threatened by the home
government's action to lower the price of legally imported tea to the point where
it could compete with the illegally smuggled item. After the event, 'The Boston
Tea Parry' was seized on by a very clever American colonial political propaganda
machine and tile story rwisted to suit the purposes of that machine. As a result, the
event quickly went from a commercially and economically driven action designed
to protect the financial interests of a group of mostly non-legitimate colonial
businessmen to a politically inspired act of protest in the minds of tile American
colonial populace. Thus, tile myth of 'The Boston Tea Parry' was born.

Boston Tea Party.

3

Bully Beef & Balderdash

The so-called 'Boston Tea Parry' is well known to most English-speaking people,
largely as a result of American cultural imperialism (thank you Walt Disney). The
first version given above is the almost universally accepted and is still the version
taught in American schools, despite the fact that the real story has been commonly
known for over 200 years. For example, Teacher Vision, a US website offering
primary school course and lesson material, tells American primary school teachers:
Finally, Parliament removed all the taxes except the tea tax.
Many colonists still thought the taxes were unfair, because they had
no say in making the laws. They refused to buy tea. Many merchants
refused to sell tea even to people who would buy it. Tea was left to rot in
storerooms. In New York and Philadelphia the colonists wouldn't allow
ships loaded with tea into their harbors.
In December of 1773, British ships loaded with tea were anchored
in Boston Harbor. The colonists would not unload the cargo of tea. The
British governor would not let the ships return to England with the tea.
On the night of December sixteenth fifty men disguised as Indians
boarded the British ships. Quickly they broke open the cargo of tea and
dumped it into Boston Harbor. More than three hundred chests of tea
worth thousands of dollars were lost.
The Boston Tea Parry told the British how the colonists felt about the tax
of tea and about any laws they weren't allowed to vote on. 2
In a teacher's kit for the Kindergarten to Grade 3 years, again offered by Teacher
Vision, American children are to be told that:
The British started taxing the colonists because they were in debt from
the French and Indian War.
The tax on tea angered the colonists because tea was their favourite drink 3
Another US educational website providing teaching resources for American high
school teachers, Daily Life Online, supplies a lesson plan for a 'persuasive essay'
in American history, providing teachers the following 'Historical Perspective':
The idea that Parliament did not have a right to legislate for the colonies
would be the battle cry of rebellious Americans throughout the years
leading up to the American Revolution. The British levied a series of
taxes on the colonists to make up for debt from the French and Indian

4

Chapter 1

War and to pay for the cost of colonial administration, which heightened
colonial resentment. The Stamp Act taxed legal papers and newspapers,
among other products. The Quartering Act required colonists to provide
British soldiers with food, shelter, and transportation. The Townshend
Acts curtailed colonial trade. Social unrest swept through the colonies,
as frustration grew over taxation without representation. Boycotts on
British goods ensued, and clashes between colonists and British soldiers
culminated in the Boston Massacre. Although Parliament repealed many
of the taxes in April 1770, it retained the Tea Tax as a symbol of British
rights. Defiant colonists responded by dumping tea into Boston Harbor.
As punishment, the British imposed a series of harsh new acts. It became
increasingly clear that the fight over self-governance was leading to war. 4
It is clear that the economic reason for 'The Boston Tea Party' - the desire
of the indigenous colonial tea merchants/smugglers not to have their lucrative
monopolistic grip on the tea trade broken by cheap tea imported at a reduced
tax rate - is not provided to US schoolchildren. Instead, the cleverly adapted
'patriotic' version of the tale is offered. The story of 'The Boston Tea Party', as it
is generally told to this day, is an excellent example of myth displacing history.

Why does history become myth? One explanation can be found in the work
of the French philosopher, Roland Barthes, who described how myths are
generated by attaching spurious meanings to mundane things, for example, by
means of advertising slogans. 5 If sufficient people are persuaded by the particular
campaign imagery and slogan attached to a product, then using that product
becomes a group norm and the product sells. The reasoning mind has been
bypassed; instinct has won over reason. 6 'The Boston Tea Party' is compelling
proof of Barthes's theories, with the original economic reason for the destruction
of the cargo of tea that night in 1773 cleverly turned around to become an act
of patriotic defiance. It then only needed a continuous hammering of the theme
for the myth to become fact, for instinct to win over reason.
Another classic example of history becoming myth that neatly proves Barthes's
theory is the action of Governor William Bligh at the time of the so-called Rum
Rebellion. One of the best known early Australian images is a political cartoon
portraying William Bligh in the full uniform of a captain of the Royal Navy
being hauled out from under a servant's bed, where he has been depicted as
cowering in terror, by a corporal of the New South Wales Corps, while another
member of the unit stands at the ready with a bayoneted rifle at his side and an

5

Bully Beef & Balderdash

officer of the Corps stands in the doorway with drawn sword. Although crudely
executed, this image is very powerful and, for 200 years, has been generally
regarded as the accepted version of the 'arrest' of Bligh. In a sidebar to an article
on the Battle of Camperdown in 1797, Canadian author David F. Marley says
of Bligh and the Rum Rebellion:
Despite his undoubted courage and great skill as a navigator (and kindness
as husband and father), Bligh was a flawed personality. In 1804 while on
'Warrior', he accused his second lieutenant of'contumacy and disobedience'
for failing to stand his watch with an injured leg. The resultant trial
exonerated the lieutenant, and Bligh was admonished 'to be in future more
correct in his language' toward his officers. Outraged, he relinquished his
command for the governorship of New South Wales, Australia. There, the
hard-drinking convict settlers tired of his heavy-handed reforms and rose
up in the 'Rum Rebellion'. Attempting to escape, Bligh was found hiding
under a bed, the gold medal of Camperdown pinned to his chest.?
This is the proof of Dr Herbert Evatt's statement that, in the historical judgement
of Bligh, 'the old tradition has remained unbroken'.M Evatt wrote in 1938 what
is probably still the best examination of the Rum Rebellion. His examination
includes the recommendation of the qualities required of a governor of the penal
colony of New South Wales provided to the British Government by Sir Joseph
Banks. 9 Banks wrote that the man chosen to accept what had become, in effect,
a poisoned chalice, must be:
One who has integrity unimpeached, a mind capable of providing its
own resources in difficulties without leaning on others for advice, firm
in discipline, civil in deportment and not subject to whimper and whine
when severity of discipline is wanted to meet emergencies. 10
When asked by the government commission charged with selecting the new
governor who his suggested candidate would be, based on the foregoing, Banks
responded without hesitation:
I know of no one but Captain Bligh who will suit, but whether it will
meet his views is another question. II
According to both Banks and Evatt, Bligh did not relinquish his command in
outrage as Marley tells us (although the court martial and its finding are quite
true) and in fact hesitated before accepting the appointment. It is historical fact
that Bligh ran foul of the officers of the New South Wales Corps and their cronies

6

Chapter 1

who had wrested control of the economy of the struggling colony and that in
the end the officers of the Corps (not the 'hard-drinking convict settlers' alluded
to by Marley) rebelled against lawful authority and placed Bligh under arrest on
the evening of 26 January 1808. However, the manner of Bligh's arrest was far
from that described in the famous cartoon and in various political broadsides
published in New South Wales and England in the years after the event by the
supporters of the eventually disgraced rebels. While Bligh had certainly retired
to an inner room of Government House and locked the door, he had done so
to allow himself time to destroy sensitive government papers to prevent them
falling into the hands of the mutineers and, at the time of his actual physical
arrest, was preparing to escape from Government House and make his way to
the Hawkesbury region to raise the support of the loyal settlers. 12
How did the historical reality of the tale become myth? The answer is simply that
Bligh's enemies (and he had many) applied, without even knowing it, Barthes's
theory to bypass 'the reasoning mind'. Hastening to England, the mutineers
wasted no time in engaging the services of a number of skilled propagandists,
prominent among them Edward Christian, Downing Professor of Law at
Cambridge University and the brother of none other than Fletcher Christian, late
Master's Mate ofHMS Bounty and leader of the infamous Bounty Mutiny against
Bligh in 1789. n It was either one of these propagandists or one of the mutineers
themselves who commissioned the anonymous artist who rendered the famous
cartoon of Bligh being hauled out from under the servant's bed where he had been
cowering. The endless repetition of the various charges and slanders against Bligh
eventually became the accepted version of the story and established the great myth
of the Rum Rebellion, a myth that, as is shown above, persists to this day.
Deliberate manipulation of the facts is not the only reason for historical fact
morphing into myth. Another is the ravages of time. Prehistoric, pre-literate events
passed down by word of mouth inevitably morph from historical fact into heroic
or anti-heroic myth as the details are changed over time in the telling from one
person to another, then to another and so on. Coupled with this, and relevant to
post-literate history, is the vagaries of human memory. While the official record
may describe one version of an event, the memories of people connected with the
event will not only differ from the official record, but also between themselves. As
the event is passed down, either in writing or orally, it begins to morph, as each
slightly differently remembered version is itself altered in each telling. I came across a
classic example of this phenomenon some years ago during a lecture on genealogical
research. The presenter was talking about the pitfalls of relying too much on oral

7

Bully Beef & Balderdash

tradition when researching a famiJy tree and the example used was a distant multigreat lmcle of the presenter's, who had never been talked about in the family because
he had 'died in prison' in the early 19th century, a cause of great shame to the family.
The presenter had not been deterred by this and had carried on with the research,
digging into the official records, to finally discover that, while her distant forebear
had indeed 'died in prison', his presence in prison and his death there were in no
way a cause for shame. TIle presenter discovered that her distant relative, a wealthy
businessman, had been a devout Quaker and an early campaigner for prison reform.
This distinguished gentleman had dropped dead of a heart attack during a visit to
Newgate Prison in London where he had been distributing gifts of food, clothing
and blankets to destitute inmates. His death had been widely reported in the press
at the time and his contemporaries knew that he had died in Newgate Prison but
had not been an inmate. Witllin less tI,an a generation, however, while me fact tI,at
tile gentleman's death had occwTed in prison remained part of family tradition, me
reason for his presence there had been forgotten and he became a person who me
family did not talk about, due to the supposed shameful nature of his death - a very
good example of mytil becoming history.

Elizabeth Fry visiting Newgare Gaol.

8

Chapter 1

A third reason for historical facts being distorted by myth is the prejudice of the
audience, the very human desire to recall events in their best possible light. Take,
for example, 'The Boston Tea Party' discussed above, the mythological version
of which is still taught today in American schools as it suits the American view
of the birth of their nation. While pertinent to Barthes's theories, this reason for
history evolving into myth is compelling enough on its own to stand apart as a
discrete reason.
For all that they are often a distortion of historical facts I personally believe that
myths are important to a society or culture. The history of every culture or cultural
group in the world has at its base a core of myth, often of awesome antiquity.
For some cultural groups their 'history' is often little more than myth, the classic
example being Indigenous Australians. The 'history' of this cultural group is actually
a vast collection of myths, the so-called 'Dreamtime'. But while the myths of the
Dreamtime are extraordinarily rich and even romantic, with the best will in the
world, no serious historian or student would accept tales of Yurrungul the giant
rock python, the Minmi spirits, the Wanjina or other characters and elements of the
Dreamtime as legitimate history, even though it is acknowledged that the Dreamtime
myths are central to the cultural psyche of this social group and quite rightly so. The
myths of the Dreamtime add to the sense of belonging of the Australian Aborigine,
the sense of racial, social and cultural connectivity that makes the group who and
what it is. This is the importance and power of myth. Myth, however, is not history.
Turning towards the Anglo-Celtic tradition, a strong body of myth that is
reasonably widely known is the Norse myths, the collection of creation myths
associated with Scandinavia and Northern Europe. This collection of myths, as
with those of the Dreamtime, formed the basis of the cosmology for a cultural
group and was the basis of the pre-Christian religious beliefs and practices of the
group. Again, however, as with the myths of the Dreamtime, with the best will
in the world it is not possible to accept tales of Odin (Wotan, etc), Freya, Thor,
Loki, Asgard, Midgard, the Valkyr, etc as legitimate history. And the same can
be said for every body of racial and cultural myth in the world.
On the other hand, all myths somewhere or other contain at least a grain of truth,
even if that truth is simply the truth of relevance. Even the wild creations of the
Dreamtime and Norse mythology have a kernel of truth. This kernel provides the
reason for the creation of myths in the first place. These myths were created to
explain the otherwise unexplainable. To the non-literate, pre-European-comact
Aborigine the indisputable fact was that the world was there and so were the people

9

Bully Beef & Balderdash

in it - trus was the kernel of truth. The myths of the Aboriginal people that form
their 'Dreaming' were created by a non-literate race that dwelt in intimate contact
with the earth, specifically to explain how and why the earth, sky and stars and the
people who inhabited the earth came to be. The myths are the explanation of how
and why the universe was. Similarly, the original creators of the Norse mythology
lived in and were dwarfed by a world of fire and ice, towering mountains and fjords
and vast brooding forests and created their mythology around the evident truth of
their world to explain the how and why of that world and their place in it.
The point of bodies of mythology such as that of the Australian Aborigine and
the Norse is that, while the myths unquestionably relate to a solid reality - that
is, the existence of the universe and the people in it - no-one accepts them
as legitimate history. For this, we have to look to later traditions and in this I
will concentrate solely on Anglo-Celtic mythology as this is the mythological
tradition that is relevant to this book.

Robin Hood.

10

Chaprer 1

With more recent myths - and by this I mean myths that have been created
within the last 1500 years or so - we start to see the genesis of the type of
mythmaking that would later come to plague the history of rhe AlF of World
War 1. This is the myth which is based around characters or events which are
either known or strongly believed to have existed and happened, but the fact of
which have become distorted over the years for various reason. Two classic and
well-known examples of this from rhe Anglo-Celtic tradition are the myths of
King Arthur and Robin Hood.
While the tales of Arthur Pendragon, his magically assisted rise to kingship, his
fabulolls city of Camelot and his even more fabulous order of Knights of the Round
Table can be dismissed as fantasy, nevertheless there is a very serious school of
historical research that advances compelling argumenr that, stripped of such mythic
refinements as a re ident wizard and 'some moistened bint (who) lobbed a scimitar',
the Arthurian tale relates to a real historical person and real historical events.

King Arthur.

11

Bully Beef & Balderdash

Similarly, while Robin Hood himself may never have existed, the times, the conditions
and the events associated with the legend were very real. The Robin Hood legend is, in
fact, an excellent example for this book since the legend as we know it today, created
by the nineteenth-century English Romantic movement, is a classic example of myth
being shaped to recowlt historical events and people as those recounting the tale wanted
them to be, rather than the way they aCtually were, and having this mythical account
accepted as a basis for the historical ttuth. The classic (modern) tale of Robin Hood
tells us of an admirable nobleman (a champion archer) wrongly outlawed; a noble
king, Richard, devoted to the good of his people; and a cruel and despotic regent, John,
and his evil henchmen whom the outlawed Robin Hood opposed in the name of the
good king and the oppressed people. This version of the story, a product of the era of
Keats and Tennyson and others, the era of Ivanhoe and The Black Arrow, of Kidnapped
and The White Company, slots neatly into the nineteenth-century English view of
English history. The historical truth, however, is quite different. Richard Plantagenet,
Richard I, the so-called 'Lionhean', the man who is reputed to have said, when raising
funds for his crusading army, 'I would have sold London if! could find a buyer', was,
not to put too fine a point on it, a bad king, far more interested in seeking glory on
foreign fields than in ruling justly and wisely at home. As Stubbs wrote of Richard in
his constitutional history of England:
He was a bad king: his great exploits, his military skill, his splendour and
extravagance, his poetical tastes, his adventurous spirit, do not serve to
cloak his entire want of sympathy, or even consideration, for his people.
He was no Englishman, but it does not follow that he gave to Normandy,
Anjou or Aquitaine the love or care that he denied his kingdom. His
ambition was that of a mere warrior: he would fight for anything
whatever, bur he would sell everything that was worth fighting for. 14
For his part, John, much maligned by history, was basically Richard's patsy, left
behind in England to rule as regent in the absent king's name over a fractious
kingdom where Saxon and Norman were constantly at each other's throats, to
keep the king's peace as best he could, and to raise, by whatever means he could,
the taxes needed to meet Richard's demands for money to finance his foreign
adventures. Little wonder that he schemed against his brother to take the throne,
which was his already in all bur name. Perhaps one of the best summations of
the legacy of King John is that attributed to Winston Churchill:
When the long tally is added, it will be seen that the British nation and
the English-speaking world owe far more to the vices of John than to the
labours of virtuous sovereigns. II

12

Chapter 1

Robin Hood, on the other hand, if he did indeed exist, would not have been
a nobleman, even a Saxon noble, as the story is insistent that he was a skilled
champion archer. However, the bow was not the weapon of the nobleman, it
was the weapon of the free peasant or at most the yeoman farmer. Archery was
not a skill of the nobleman, it was a skill of the common soldier, the mass of foot
soldiers who made up the medieval levy. Yet people accept the myth of Robin
Hood's nobility without ever examining the historical accuracy of the tale and,
far more reprehensibly, accept the myth of 'good King Richard' and 'bad Prince
John'. Poor old John, hoist on the petard of myth as history!

In one way, of course, we could say that both the Arthurian tale and the Robin
Hood legend are harmless. And so they would be if all who read or heard the
tales accepted them for what they were: fiction. However, this is not the case and
I have known and still know people who believe that the less magical aspects of
the Arthurian legend are historically sound and that the legend of Robin Hood
is more or less 'good history', with perhaps a few names changed over the years
to fit the telling of the tale. This is the problem of the myth as history.
What about Australia: how does myth impact on Australian history?
The first example that springs to mind is the legend of Ned Kelly. Edward
John (Ned) Kelly was a real historical character; we know the date and place of
his birth, much of the detail of his life and the date and place, even the exact
time, of his death. Yet, for all that, the historical Ned Kelly is shrouded in
myth, which has been created by one party or another in pursuit of their own
historical agenda. One version of the story presents Ned Kelly as a total victim,
a blameless son of the soil driven by persecution to the life of the outlaw and
eventually death on the gallows. The other version sees Ned Kelly as a total
villain, a man whose actions were barbaric and inexcusable and who met his
just deserts at the end of the hangman's rope. The truth of the matter is that
the real story lays midway between the two: while not a pure white-as-thedriven- snow innocent, Ned Kelly (and his family and friends) was definitely
a victim of social and legal persecution which eventually caused him to lash
out. However, in lashing out he went far beyond the bounds of the law and,
in the end, by the law of the day, deserved his final fate. It is difficult, if not
impossible, however, to find a recounting of the Ned Kelly legend that tells the
true historical tale in an even-handed manner and the myth is generally more
accepted than the history.

13

Bully Beef & Balderdash

Another good example is the story of 'Breaker' Morant. The myth tells us that Harry
Harbord Morant, an Australian soldier, was tried by a British Army court martial in
South Africa in 1902 on a charge of illegally executing Boer prisoners and murdering
a German missionary, in what was little more than a kangaroo court. Morant was
then callously executed by a British Army firing squad (along with his comrade
Peter Hancock, another Australian soldier) while the real culprits, Lord Kitchener
and his generals, walked free. It is very, very difficult to find an Australian outside
the serious military historical research community who does not accept this as the
absolute true story. The facts are, however, that, first of all, at the time of their arrest
and trial, neither Morant nor Hancock was an 'Australian soldier', both having taken
earlier discharge from the Australian forces and accepted temporary British Army
commissions. Secondly, despite the fact that many people, even at the highest levels
of the Australian Government and Defence Force, believe that Morant's unit, the
Bushveld Carbineers, was an Australian unit, it was not; the Bushveld Carbineers was
a British Army auxiliary unit. Thirdly, Morant and Hancock were found innocent
of the charge of murdering the German missionary, the prosecution being unable
to prove its case to the court (hardly the mark of a 'kangaroo court'), and neither
Morant nor Hancock ever denied the charge of executing Boer prisoners without
due process. Their defence, that they were simply following orders, was neither
proved nor accepted, and the two were found guilty and executed. Far from being a
'kangaroo court', the court martial of Morant and Hancock was legally convened by
the British Army under the terms of the Anny Act J88 J, and Morant and Hancock
were represented by competent legal counsel and given every opportunity to present
their case and plead their innocence, or at least their extenuation. Claims that the trial
was rushed are not borne out by the historical evidence, which shows that the trial
(actually several trials) took place over a six-week period, at a time when the average
length of a civil trial for murder was three days. Again, this is hardly the hallmark of
a 'kangaroo court'. Another part of the myth is the assertion of inadequate defence
counsel provided to the accused, supporters of the 'kangaroo court' version of
the story claiming that the accused were provided with an inexperienced country
lawyer (Major JF Thomas of the New South Wales Citizens' Bushmen, admirably
played as bumbling but earnest by Jack Thompson in Peter Weir's 1980 film Breaker
Morant) who was given almost no time to consult with his clients before the trials
commenced. Thomas was in fact a highly qualified and experienced lawyer, having
qualified at Sydney University and been in private practice in Tenterfield since 1887.
While Thomas did not meet with the accused until the day before the first trial
commenced, this was quite usual practice for a court martial. The mythologists
also generally ignore the fact that Thomas was originally approached by one of the

14

Chaprer 1

accused who was eventually acquitted, RW Lenehan, a fellow Australian lawyer, who
requested that Thomas represent him. 16 Since Thomas was conveniently at hand,
an experienced lawyer, an Australian and already nominated to defend Lenehan, he
was, quite logically, appointed to represent the other accused as well and given every
assistance by the court and the British Army. In addition, as Craig Wilcox points
out, Thomas was in total agreement with his clients, writing: 'I say they deserve all
they (the Boers) get. With less nonsense and sentiment, the war would be over.'l?
When viewed through the lens of, say, the cinematographer Peter Weir, the
story of the trial and execution of Morant and Hancock very much supports
the mythic version of the tale. However, when viewed dispassionately, the true
story takes on a far different hue. Yet, despite the work of authors such as Craig
Wilcox, the version of the Breaker Morant tale that is most widely accepted in
Australia is the mythic version. History has become myth and myth has become
history, the story falling victim to a combination of Barthes's theory of instinct
winning over reason, the ravages of time and conflicting memories.
What however, has all of the foregoing to do with this book? The answer is quite
simple - the story of the AIF is, unfortunately, highly corrupted by myth. World
War I was an incredibly seminal event for Australia, and the AIF was a central
part of that event. It was so central, in fact, that from the earliest days of the war,
myth gave way to truth when reporting on the doings of the AlE Bean, Murdoch,
Ashmead-Bartlett, Hogue, all painted the AIF in roseate terms designed to boost
the image of the force and gloss over the horrors and sacrifices of the war. In doing
so, these men, and the others who have followed in their footsteps and based
their own research and scholarship on the writings of Bean et al, have done the
Australian Army and Australian history a huge disservice. For the fact is that the
Australian Army's, and in this context the AIF's, record is so superb in its own right
that it does not need myth to bolster it. All that mythologists, those who create the
myths and those who perpetrate them, do is to conceal under a layer of falsehood
and misinformation the true story of a remarkable army.
Perhaps the most classic and well known of the AIF's myths is that connected with
Private John Simpson Oohn Simpson Kirkpatrick) of the 3rd Field Ambulance,
the famous 'Man with the Donkey' enshrined in the greater mythology of the
Gallipoli Campaign. But there are many other myths besides that of Simpson
and I explore a number of them in this book. Some of the myths are quite well
known, for example, the famous (or infamous) 'Battle of the Wazzir'. Others
are less well known, for example, the myth of the denial of the VC to Catholics

15

Bully Beef & Balderdash

due to their faith. Not all, admittedly, are destructive to the story of the AIF,
for example, the myth of the denial of the VC to Catholics because of their
religious faith is quite whimsical, as is the myth surrounding the eerie and
supposed posthumous studio portrait of Alfred Gaby, Vc, which is also a tad
gruesome. Others, however, such as the myth that the AIF was a purely fighting
organisation, wholly dependent on the British Army for administrative and
operational support, are extremely destructive to the true history of the force
and, by extension, destructive to the history of the Australian Army.
To a large extent, I believe, the reason for the mythologisation of the AIF
is the third of those I quoted above, namely the prejudice of the audience, the
human desire to recall events in their best possible light. Driven by this desire,
successive generations have not been content to allow the official record of the
AIF to speak for itself.
There are none of the 'spooky' myths of World War I in this book. Those looking
for tales of the 'Angel of Mons', the 'Crucified Canadian', the 'German corpse
conversion factory', the 'rape of Belgium', will simply have to look elsewhere. 1M
This book deals exclusively with myths that have grown up concerning the
structure, activities and culture of the AIF which have served to mask the actual
historical record of the force or of people within it. Although the basic premise
of the book is to debunk the myths, the only way to do this is by examining the
historical record in detail and thus, perforce, most of the chapters are military
history papers in their own right, often correcting errors that have crept into the
record, as well as debunking the mythic nature of the stories themselves.
A number of the myths that I attack are long-held and cherished cornerstones of
the 'history' of the AIF - the long accepted fact, for example, that the AIF was the
'only all-volunteer force' in World War I - and I believe that a number of people
will be uncomfortable watching me tilt at these popular windmills. I point out that
every chapter in this book is based almost wholly on primary source documents,
specifically, as far as possible, official records of the time. Where I have quoted
from secondary sources I have taken the trouble to check the source references
prior to including them. History is a forensic pursuit; it is the telling of the story as
it happened, not as we would like it to have happened. I don't mind being proved
wrong in any of my claims, because my aim is to set the historical record straight.
IfI accomplish this by forcing someone to dig deeper into the record than I have
and to show that I am in error, then that means that I have achieved my objective.
Having said all of that, I trust that readers will enjoy this book.

16

THE AIF - A BRIEF
HISTORY AND OUTLINE

Bully Beef & Balderdash

I:II,\I'TEII 2
The AlF - a brief
history and outline
Before considering some of the myths that have grown up around the AlE it is
probably worth examining exactly what the AIF was, why it was established,
what it did and what elements comprised the force.

How the AIF began
The story of the AIF begins on 28 June 1914 in the town of Sarajevo in
the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On that day,
the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the
throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his consort and wife Duchess
Sophie, who were on a military visit to Sarajevo, were assassinated by Serbian
nationalists. Using the assassination as an excuse to remove what it perceived
to be a Serbian threat, Austria-Hungary declared war on the Kingdom of
Serbia at 11.10 am local time on 28 July 1914 and thus began World War I.
On 1 August 1914, in response to Russian mobilisation and declaration of
support for Serbia, Germany declared war on Russia, and Austria-Hungary
followed suit on 6 August. Germany invaded France on 2 August 1914 and
declared war the following day. On 3 August, Germany invaded Belgium,
belatedly declaring war on 4 August as if to leave the Belgians in no doubt.
Austria-Hungary followed suit with a declaration of war on Belgium on
28 August 1914. Although apparently not bound by any treaty with the
Belgians, Great Britain had called on Germany to recognise and respect the
neutrality of Belgium. As a result of the German invasion of Belgium on 3
August 1914 and in consequence of what the British Governmen t referred to
as Germany's 'unsatisfactory reply' to Britain's ultimatum, at 7 pm London
time on 4 August 1914, Great Britain declared war on Germany, following
this with a declaration of war on Austria-Hungary on 12 August 1914.

18

Chapter 2

Australian soldiers about to depart on leave, London (AWM HO 1297).

As early as 30 July 1914, the Australian Government had been informed by the
British Government that war with Germany was imminent.' Australia was bound
by no u'eaty obligation to go to war if Great Britain did, although under the Naval
Defence Act 1912, the Royal Australian Navy passed w1der Admiralty control and
becan1e a unit of the Royal Navy in time of war. 2 Nevertheless, on 31 ]uJy 1914,
Senator ED Millen, the Australian Minister for Defence, announced:
If necessity arises, Australia will recognise that she is not merely a fair-weather
partner of the Empire, but a component member in all circwnstances.·1
Millen's sentiments were echoed that same night by the Leader of the Opposition,
Andrew Fisher, who famously stated:
ShouJd the worst happen , after everything has been done that honour will
permit, Australians will stand by the mother country to help and defend
her to ollr last man and our last shilling. 4

19

Bully Beef & Balderdash

Not to be outdone, the Prime Minister, Joseph Cook, declared:
If there is to be a war, you and I shall be in it. We must be in it. If the old
country is at war, so are we.)
Matching words wi th actions, on 5 August 1914, the Commonwealth
Gazette published the proclamation that, as a consequence of Great
Britain being at war with Germany, Australia was also at war. 6
Having declared war, however, and having offered a force of 20,000 men for
service to the Empire, Australia now had to make good on the declaration and
the offer, and this was not quite as straightforward as some would have hoped.
While the Navy would pass to Admiralty control on 10 August 1914 and cease
to be the Royal Australian Navy for the duration of the war in all but name,
for the Army it was not so simple. The problem facing the Army was that the
governing legislation, the Defence Act 1903, stated that:
Members of the Defence Force who are members of the Military Forces
shall not be required, unless they voluntarily agree to do so, to serve beyond
the limits of the Commonwealth and those of any Territory under the
authority of the Commonwealth .?
Simply pur, the Government was not in a position to order any part of the existing
Australian Army on overseas service.
At the outbreak of the war, the Australian Army consisted of:

Officers

Other ranks

Total

PMF

289

2700

2989

CMF

2758

39,789

42,547

Total

3047

42,489

45,536

Table 1: Australian Army strength as at 4 August 19148
To the final total of 45,536 can be added 101 members of the Australian Army
Nursing Service and 31 (officer) members of the somewhat idiosyncratic
Australian Automobile Corps, as well as 46 officers of the Engineers and Railway
Staff Corps, 266 officers on the Unattached List, 187 Chaplains, 1001 officers
on the Reserve of Officers, 48,231 members of Rifle Clubs and 86,698 members
of the Senior Cadets. 9

20

Chapter 2

At first glance, this is a reasonable force. However, with the exception of the
Permanent Military Forces (PMF), the levels of training of the Army were not
generally high, although there were notable exceptions. The Rifle Clubs and
Senior Cadets were of minimal, if any, military value. 10 The PMF and the Citizen
Military Forces (CMF) were both also under strength, the PMF some 31 officers
and 752 other ranks below establishment, while the CMF was 525 officers and
a whopping 11,071 other ranks below establishment strength. II The deficiency
in CMF officers and other ranks was largely a result of the turmoil caused by
the complete reorganisation of the Army in 1910, the abolition of the existing
Militia and Volunteers, and their replacement by the CMF, based on universal
military service. The result was that, as Grey observes:
In 1914, despite all the preparations for national defence of the previous
few years, the Commonwealth was ill-prepared to meet the demands of war.
For home defence Australia possessed a partially completed army of young
soldiers, not liable for overseas service. The permanent force was small, and
had no field force component and no liability for overseas service. II
For the Army to be of some use in the war, it needed to be deployable overseas.
The strictures of the Defence Act meant that, for this to happen, the men must
actually volunteer. While it was probable that the members of the PMF would
volunteer to a man (which they did), this force was too small and not organised in
such a way as to be of any operational value and, in any case, its members would
be needed to train the expeditionary force. It was not so dear-cut in the case of
the part-time CMF and it was suspected that a call for volunteers to actually form
the expeditionary force offered to Great Britain would not achieve a universal
response. This was in fact the case, as the enlistment statistics dearly show that the
vast majority of men who enlisted had no previous military experience. 13
Faced with this realiry, the decision was taken to enlist a special force of volunteers
for service anywhere in the world for the duration of the war and a set period
following the cessation of hostilities. This force would not be subject to the Defence
Act. This was the reason for and genesis of the AlE Australia forwarded an offer to
the British Government of an expeditionary force of 20,000 on 3 August 1914.14
The offer was immediately accepted and the Australian Government set about
raising the new force. To raise and command the force Australia chose Brigadier
General William Throsby Bridges, the able if somewhat aloof Inspector General
of the Australian Military Forces (AMF).IS Bridges had been an officer in the
Permanent Forces of the Colony of New South Wales who had transitioned to the

21

Bully Beef & Balderdash

Commonwealth forces at the time of Federation. An artillery officer, he had been
on active service in South Mrica during the Boer War, served as Chieflnstructor at
the School of Artillery at Middle Head in ydney, attended long gunnery cour es
in the UK and been Australia's representative on the Imperial General taff. In
1910 he was recalled to Australia to establish and command the Royal Military
College at Duntroon in Canberra. Bridges himself had tried to decline the post
a commander of the new expeditionary force, stating that the command should
go to Major General Hutton, the former (British Army) Inspector General. The
Government disagreed and appointed Bridges commander with the rank of Major
General. It was Bridges himself who came up with rhe name Australian Imperial
Force, or Alp, and it was Bridges who, with remarkable foresight, named the newly
raised infantry division and light horse brigade the 1st Australian Division (1 St to
3rd Australian Infantry Brigades, comprising the 1st to 12th Australian Infantry
Battalions and divisional units) and the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade (1 st to
3rd AUSLraiian Light Horse Regiment and brigade troops), apparendy sure in his
own mind that the war would nor, as many others believed, be over by Chri tmas
and that more formations would be raised. 16

AIF enli.srmenr (AWM A03406).

22

Chapler 2

Enlistments into the AIF commenced on 11 August 1914 and, by 3 September,
so many men had enlisted or volunteered that an additional infantry brigade
(4th Australian Infantry Brigade - 13th to 16th Infantry Battalions) was
offered to the British Army (and accepted) and an additional Light Horse
regiment (4th Australian Light Horse Regiment) was raised and allotted as the
divisional cavalry regiment for the 1st Division. l ? Although enlistments had
been opened on 11 August (and all Military District headquarters had reported
being inundated with requests to be allowed to enlist even prior to the opening
of enlistments), it is probably safe to assume that the AIF existed as a legal entity
from the date of the issuing of the first official order. This order was issued on
19 August and, covering various aspects of organisation and manning, opened with
the statement:
1. (i) Ministerial approval has been given for the organisation of the
Australian Imperial Force as:
1 Light Horse Brigade,
1 Division,
to be designated the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade and the 1st Australian

Division respectively. IS
The AIF as originally envisaged would consist of an infantry division and a
light horse (cavalry in name but actually mounted infantry) brigade, with
an allocation of army and corps-level units to assist in the administration,
supply and support of the force. One of the problems that confronted
Bridges and the other officers struggling to raise the new force was outdated
or non-existent knowledge. For example, while the composition of an
infantry division and a cavalry brigade to conform to British practice was
understood, the infantry battalions of the AIF were originally raised on
the outmoded eight-company establishment that the British Army had
discarded in 1912 (for a four-company establishment). Similarly, when the
officers of the Australian Army Service Corps who were allocated the task
of raising an 'ammunition park' and a 'supply column' were presented with
this task in 1914, their first question was 'What is an ammunition park!
supply column?' The answer to the question was, in fact, eventually located
in an article in the New Zealand Defence Journal. 19 However amusing this
incident, it clearly illustrates the trend to 'make it up as you go along' that
accompanied the founding of the AlE

23

Bully Beef & Balderdash

The composition of the AIF
As noted, at the stan of the war, the AlF planned to field an infantry division and
a light horse brigade, with some additional supporting units. In accepting the
Australian offer of troops, Britain specified that all unit establishments, that is, the
numbers of personnel and their internal organisation, must conform to British
Army standard. This agreement was also reached with Canada, New Zealand, South
Africa and Newfoundland; the Indian Army possessed its own establishment which
generally conformed to the Home Army with a number of minor variations to allow
for local conditions and needs. The basic units and their establishments are listed
below. The figures after each unit give the number of men authorised for each unit,
expressed as officers and 'other ranks' (OR), written as a numerical expression with
the officers first, then the OR, the two separated by an oblique stroke.

Infantry Division (18,013 all ranks)
Headquarters (HQ) - 15/67
3 x Infantry Brigades - each Brigade 124/3931, total 372/11,793
H Q Divisional Artillery - 4/18
3 x Field Artillery Brigades - each Brigade 23/772, total 69/2316
1 x Field Artillery (Howitzer) Brigade - 22/733
1 x Heavy Artillery Battery and Ammunition Column - 6/192
Divisional Ammunition Column - 15/553
H Q Divisional Engineers - 3/10
2 x Engineer Field Companies - each Company 61211, total 12/422
1 x Engineer Signal Company - 5/157
1 x Cavalry Squadron - 6/153
Divisional Train - 26/402
3 x Field Ambulances - each Ambulance 10/236, total 301672

Infantry Brigade (4055 all ranks)

HQ-4123
4 x Infantry Battalion - each Battalion 30/977, total 120/3908

Light Horse Brigade (2284 all ranks)
HQ-7/47
3 x Light Horse Regiments - each Regiment 26/523, total 78/1569
Brigade Ammunition Column - 2/115

24

Chapter 2

1 x Engineer Field Troop - 3/74
1 x Engineer Signals Troop - 1/42
1 x Light Horse Field Ambulance - 6/118
The light horse brigades were supposed to have a battery of horse artillery on their
unit establishment; however, these units were never raised by the AlE the light
horse formations in the Middle East Campaign relying on attached batteries of
British Army Royal Horse Artillery (RHA). In addition, the divisional structure
of the 1st Division was amended by the deletion of the Howitzer Brigade and
Heavy Artillery Battery, but the addition of a third Engineer Field Company
and the inclusion of a complete cavalry (light horse) regiment of three squadrons
in place of the nominal one squadron, thus bringing the total strength of the
division back to establishment levels. 2o
This was the basic organisation of the 1st Australian Division and the 1st Light Horse
Brigade. Since the AIF was raised entirely separately from the existing organisation of
the Australian Army and thus had no traditional recruiting areas or existing territorial
affiliations, it was decided that the formations and units of the force should, as fur as
possible, be raised on a state basis. This is reflected in the recruiting base of the original
infantry battalions of the 1st Division, which were raised as follows:

1st Infantry Brigade
1st Battalion (NSW)
2nd Battalion (NSW)
3rd Battalion (NSW)
4th Battalion (NSW)

2nd Infantry Brigade
5th Battalion (Vic)
6th Battalion (Vic)
7th Battalion (Vic)
8th Battalion (Vic)

3rd Infantry Brigade
9th Battalion (Qld)
10th Battalion (SA)
11 th Battalion (WA)
12th Battalion (Tas and SA)

25

Bully Beef & Balderdash

The light horse regiments were also raised on a state basis, as follows:
•

1st Light Horse Regiment (NSW)

•

2nd Light Horse Regiment (Qld)

•

3rd Light Horse Regiment (Tas and SA).

As mentioned, the initial rush of recruitment enabled a fourth infantry brigade
and an additional light horse regiment to be raised, their state affiliations being:

4th Infantry Brigade
13th Battalion (NSW)
14th Battalion (Vic)
15th Battalion (Qld and Tas)
16th Battalion (SA and WA)

4th Light Horse Regiment (Vic)
In the early days the other supporting units were also, as far as possible, regionally
recruited, as follows:

Artillery
1st Field Artillery Brigade (NSW)
2nd Field Artillery Brigade (Vic)
3rd Field Artillery Brigade:
•

7th Battery (Qld)

•
•

8th Battery (WA)
9th Battery (Tas)

Engineers
1st Field Company (NSW)
2nd Field Company (Vic)
3rd Field Company (Qld, NSW, SA, WA and Tas)
1st Australian Division Signal Company (Qld, NSW, Vic, SA and WA)
1st Light Horse Brigade Signal Troop (Vic)

Medical
1st Field Ambulance (NSW)
2nd Field Ambulance (Vic)
3rd Field Ambulance (Qld, SA, WA and Tas)

26

Chaprer 2

Amly ervice Corps (Divisional Train)
1st Company ASC (NSW and Vic)
2nd

ompany ASC (NSW)

3rd Company ASC (Vic)
4th Company ASC (SA, WA and TAS)
5th Company ASC (Light Horse Brigade Train) (Qld)
A second light horse brigade was offered and accepted in September 1914 and
a th ird in OctOber:

2nd Light Horse Brigade
5th Light Horse Regiment (Qld)
6th Light Horse Regiment (NSW)
7th Light Horse Regiment (NSW)

3rd Light Horse Brigade
8th Light Horse Regiment (Vic)
9th Light Horse Regiment (SA and Vic)

lOth Light Horse Regiment (WA)

Roll call of A Company, 40th Battalion at Dragoon Farm, near Ypres, after the Battle of Passchendaele,
Ocrober 191 7 (AWM E0452l).

27

Bully Beef & Balderdash

As far as possible this regional recruiting basis was maintained until late 1917. At
that point, under the pressure of a combination of falling recruitment numbers
and a need for administrative efficiency, men ceased to be recruited directly to
units or corps but were recruited or appointed as 'General Reinforcements', and
not allotted to specific units until their arrival overseas. They were then allotted
according to unit needs rather than state affiliation. This is reRected in the AlF
embarkation roUs which show that, from late 1917, reinforcement drafts to
specific units and corps generally ceased.

Machine gun crew of the 24th Bartalion in rhe from line trenches near Flinre Farm. in the Ypres Secror
of Belgium. 1917 (AWM E00947).

One military term that causes some confusion for the uninitiated is 'corps'.
The first meaning of the word 'corps' is a major fighting formation, usually
accepted as comprising two or more divisions with, in World War 1, a strength
of about 36,000 officers and men. The second meaning of the word refers to an
administrative grouping within an army. Every member of the Australian Army,
for example, is allotted to a specific 'corps' such as the Royal Australian Infantry
Corps, the Royal Australian Corps of Signals, the Australian Army Catering

28

Chapter 2

Corps, etc. Some corps, such as the infantry, consist oflarge formed units; other
corps such as signals comprise a combination of formed units and individual
specialists. Still other corps are groupings of individuals who are posted to other
units as required, for example, catering. These examples generally refer to the
modern Australian Army, as there was no signal 'corps' or catering 'corps' per se
during World War I. However, the general principle was the same; for example,
the infantry consisted of formed units, while the nursing service consisted of
individual specialists who were posted to units as required. The AIF's corps and
the units they provided (where applicable) were:

Staff Corps (individual officers filling staffpositions on formation headquarters)
Infantry
Infantry battalions
Pioneer battalions
Light trench mortar batteries

Machine Gun Corps
Machine gun battalions
Machine gun squadrons

Light Horse
Light horse regiments
Camel battalions

Cyclist Corps
Cyclist battalions
Cyclist companies

Artillery
Siege artillery. brigades
Field artillery brigades
Heavy trench mortar batteries
Medium trench mortar batteries
Artillery ammunition units (Ammunition Columns)

29

Bully Beef & Balderdash

Engineers
Field engineer companies
Field engineer squadrons
Field engineer troops
Engineer signal companies
Engineer signal squadrons
Engineer signal troops
Engineer signal sections (wireless, pack wireless, airline, cable)
Tunnelling companies
Mining and boring companies
Railway operating companies
Entrenching battalion
Topographical section
Engineer workshops

RE8 aircrafr of No.3 Squadron, AusrraJian Flying Corps, France (AWM P00355.045).

30

Chaprer 2

Australian Flying Corps (AFC)
Flying squadrons
Training squadrons

Army Service Corps (ASC)
Divisional supply columns
Corps supply columns
Divisional ammunition parks
Corps ammunition parks
Ammunition sub-parks (assigned
Mechanical transport companies

to

siege artillery brigades)

Workshop units
Railhead supply detachment
Sea transport units
Field bakeries
Field butcheries

Army Ordnance Corps (AOC)
Ordnance depots
Ammunition units
Ordnance workshops

Salvage Corps
Salvage companies
Salvage sections

Army Medical Corps (AMC)
Field ambulances
Light horse field ambulances
Casualty clearing stations
General hospitals
Auxiliary hospitals
Stationary hospitals
Convalescent hospitals
Specialist hospitals
Hospital ships

31

Bully Beef & Balderdash

Sanitary sections
Dental units (AMC Dental Reserve)
Pharmacies
Medical supply depots
Dental supply depots
Laboratories

Army Nursing Service (AANS)
Army Veterinary Corps (AVC)
Mobile veterinary sections
Veterinary hospitals
Veterinary evacuation units
Remount units

Army Postal Corps (APC)
Army post offices
Base post offices
Unit post offices

Army Pay Corps (AAPC)
HQ pay offices
Field cash offices

Army Chaplains Department (chaplains o/various denominations to HQ and units)
Bridges had, of course, been right in his 1915 assessment that the war would not
be over by Christmas and his decision to name the first expeditionary division the
1st Australian Division had been both correct and prescient. The 1st Division
and the 4th Brigade (as a major element of the New Zealand and Australian
Division) and their supporting elements were committed to the Gallipoli
campaign on 25 April 1915, eventually to be joined by the newly formed 2nd
Division and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Light Horse Brigades, plus a major part of the
AlP's then existing support structure.
After the withdrawal from Gallipoli at the end of 1915, the AIF went through
a cloning process that saw the force more than double in size. The 1st and 2nd
Divisions were joined by the Australian-raised 3rd Division while the 4th and

32

Chapter 2

5th Divisions were raised in Egypt and largely recruited by splitting the units of
the 1st and 2nd Divisions to provide the nucleus of the new brigades, battalions,
batteries etc. As the war ground on, new types of units such as railway operating
companies, were added to the order of batde of the AIF and existing units were
reorganised and redistributed. Battalion machine gun sections, for example,
were withdrawn from units after Gallipoli and re-formed as brigade machine
gun companies in March 1916; these companies were again reorganised into
divisional machine gun battalions in March 1918.

AlF in Egypr (AWM PS0906) .

TIle AIF probably reached its peak in mid-1917 at which time, in Europe, it
fielded five infantry divisions, subordinated to I and II ANZAC Corps (the
New Zealand Division being one of the divisions oflI ANZAC Corps), with a
sixth division forming in the UK. The divisions were supplemented by an array
of army and corps-level troops and supported by an extensive and sophisticated
supply, training, medical, administrative, convalescent and reinforcement
organisation, both in Europe and in England.

33

Bully Beef & Balderdash

Members of [he Half-Flight, Australian Flying Corps, Wilh a Maurice Farman
MesopOtamia 1916 (AWM A04137).

The 2nd Australian Division was formed in Egypt in July 1915 from units then
in training in Egypt. Its major formations were the 5th, 6th and 7th Infantry
Brigades. The 3rd Australian Division was raised in Australia in March 1916
- its major formations were the 9th, 10th and 11 th Infantry Brigades. The
division proceeded directly to France in July 1916. The 4th Australian Division,
containing the 4th, 12th and 13th Infantry Brigades, was formed in Egypt in
February 1916 around a nucleus of the 4th Brigade, previously of the New
Zealand and Australian Division, and several other units that had served at
Gallipoli. The 12th and 13th Brigades were formed from half of the members
of the 3rd and 4th Brigades. The 5th Australian Division - 8th, 14th and 15th
Infantry Brigades - was formed in Egypt, also in February 1916, around a
nucleus of the 8th Infantry Brigade and a number of other units that had served
at Gallipoli. The 14th and 15th Brigades were created by taking half of the
members of the 1st and 2nd Infantry Brigades. The short-lived 6th Australian
Division, which fielded the 16th and 17th Infantry Brigades as its major
formations, began to form in the UK in February 1917. However, following the
heavy casualties suffered by the divisions of I and II Anzac Corps at Bullecourt
in April and May and Messines in June, the need for reinforcements was so
great that the project to raise a sixth division for the AlF was abandoned and the
6th Division was broken up to provide reinforcements for the badly depleted
divisions in France.

34

Chapter 2

The two ANZAC Corps were dissolved at the end of 1917, with the New Zealand
Division transferred to the British XXII Corps and the five Australian divisions
grouped into a single Australian Corps.21 On 6 July 1918, the Australian Corps
HQ in France fielded the following AlF and British (shown in italics) formations:
Australian Corps Artillery
- 3rd (Army) Field Artillery Brigade
7th Field Battery
8th Field Battery
9th Field Battery
103rd Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery
3rd (Army) Field Artillery Brigade Ammunition Column
3rd (Army) Field Artillery Brigade Park Section
- 6th (Army) Field Artillery Brigade
16th Field Artillery Battery
17th Field Artillery Battery
18th Field Artillery Battery
106th Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery
6th (Army) Field Artillery Brigade Ammunition Column
6th (Army) Field Artillery Brigade Park Section
- 12th (Army) Field Artillery Brigade
45th Field Artillery Battery
46th Field Artillery Battery
47th Field Artillery Barrery
112th Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery
12th (Army) Field Artillery Brigade Ammunition Column
12th (Army) Field Artillery Brigade Park Section

- 5th (Army) Horse Artillery Brigade
- 16th (Army) Horse Artillery Brigade
- 14th (Army) Field Artillery Brigade
- 77th (Army) Field Artillery Brigade
- 86th (Army) Field Artillery Brigade
- 96th (Army) Field Artillery Brigade

35

Bully Beef & Balderdash

- 150th (Army) FieldArtillery Brigade
- 179th (Army) Field Artillery Brigade
- 298th (Army) Field Artillery Brigade
- 1st Heavy Trench Mortar Battery
- Australian Corps Heavy Artillery
RR Cable Section
K Corps Heavy Artillery Signal Section
KAmmunition Siege Park
Z Group (3 x Garrison Artillery Brigades)
Y Group (2 x Garrison Artillery Brigades)
X Group (6 x Garrison Artillery Brigades)
3rd Squadron Australian Flying Corps

13th Captive Balloon Section
16th Captive Balloon Section
F Anti-aircraft Battery
G Anti-aircraft Battery

H Anti-aircraft Battery

Ausrralian croops in the snow near Delville Wood (AWM EOOI39).

36

Chaprer 2

Australian Corps Engineers
- Australian Corps Troops Engineers
1st Army Troops Company

146th Army Troops
23Bth Army Troops
283rd Army Troops
567th Army Troops

Company
Company
Company
Company

1st Australian Tunnelling Company
2nd Australian Tunnelling Company
3rd Australian Tunnelling Company

170th Tunnelling Company
182nd Tunnelling Company
254th Tunnelling Company
United States 6th Engineer Regiment (-) (3
5th Field Survey Company
11 th Pontoon Park
- Australian Corps Signals Company
1st Motor Airline Section
2nd Motor Airline Section
1st Cable Section
2nd Cable Section
1st Wireless Section
Australian Corps Carrier Pigeon Service
Australian Corps Messenger Dog Service
- Australian Corps Topographical Section
- Australian Corps Workshops

- E Special Projector Company
- H Special Projector Company
- 353rd Electrical Company
- 3rd Boring Section
- 6th Searchlight Company
- 7th Searchlight Company

37

x

companies)

Bully Beef & Balderdash

- 16th Searchlight Company
- 17th Searchlight Company
- 29th Searchlight Company
- 50th Searchlight Company
- 47th Labour Group HQ
- 63rd Labour Group HQ
- 67th Labour Group HQ
1st Australian Division (on detached duty at Hazebrouck)
- I st Division Artillery
I st Field Artillery Brigade
2nd Field Artillery Brigade
1st Division Ammunition Column
I st Medium Trench Mortar Battery
2nd Medium Trench Mortar Battery
- I st Division Engineers
I st Field Company
2nd Field Company
3rd Field Company
1st Division Signal Company
- I st Infantry Brigade
1st Infantry Battalion
2nd Infantry Battalion
3rd Infantry Battalion
4th Infantry Battalion
1st Light Trench Mortar Battery
- 2nd Infantry Brigade
5th Infantry Battalion
6th Infantry Battalion
7th Infantry Battalion
8th Infantry Battalion
2nd Light Trench Mortar Battery

38

Chapter 2

- 3rd Infantry Brigade
9th Infantry Battalion
10th Infantry Battalion
11 th Infantry Battalion
12th Infantry Battalion
3rd Light Trench Mortar Battery
- 1st Machine Gun Battalion
1st Machine Gun Company
2nd Machine Gun Company
3rd Machine Gun Company
21 st Machine Gun Company
- 1st Pioneer Battalion
- 1st Division Medical Services
1st Field Ambulance
2nd Field Ambulance
3rd Field Ambulance
2nd Sanitary Section
- 1st Salvage Section
- 1st Division Train
1st Australian Army Service Corps Company
2nd Australian Army Service Corps Company
3rd Australian Army Service Corps Company
4th Australian Army Service Corps Company
- 1st Mobile Veterinary Section
2nd Australian Division
- 2nd Division Artillery
4th Field Artillery Brigade
5th Field Artillery Brigade
2nd Australian Division Ammunition Column
3rd Medium Trench Mortar Battery
4th Medium Trench Mortar Battery

39

Bully Beef & Balderdash

- 2nd Division Engineers
5th Field Company
6th Field Company
7th Field Company
2nd Division Signal Company
- 5th Infantry Brigade
17th Infantry Battalion
18th Infantry Battalion
19th Infantry Battalion
20th Infantry Battalion
5th Light Trench Mortar Battery
- 6th Infantry Brigade
21 st Infantry Battalion
22nd Infantry Battalion
23rd Infantry Battalion
24th Infantry Battalion
6th Light Trench Mortar Battery
- 7th Infantry Brigade
25th Infantry Battalion
26th Infantry Battalion
27th Infantry Battalion
28th Infantry Battalion
7th Light Trench Mortar Battery
- 2nd Machine Gun Battalion
5th Machine Gun Company
6th Machine Gun Company
7th Machine Gun Company
22nd Machine Gun Company
- 2nd Pioneer Battalion
- 2nd Division Medical Services
5th Field Ambulance
6th Field Ambulance
7th Field Ambulance

40

Chapter 2

1st Sanitary Section
- 2nd Salvage Company
- 2nd Division Train
15th Army Service Corps Company
16th Army Service Corps Company
17th Army Service Corps Company
20th Army Service Corps Company
- 2nd Mobile Veterinary Section
3rd Australian Division
- 3rd Division Artillery
7th Field Artillery Brigade
8th Field Artillery Brigade
3rd Division Ammunition Column
5th Medium Trench Mortar Battery
6th Medium Trench Mortar Battery
- 3rd Division Engineers
9th Field Company
10th Field Company
11 th Field Company
3rd Division Signal Company
- 9th Infantry Brigade
33rd Infantry Battalion
34th Infantry Battalion
35th Infantry Battalion
36th Infantry Battalion
9th Light Trench Mortar Battery
- 10th Infantry Brigade
37th Infantry Battalion
38th Infantry Battalion
39th Infantry Battalion
40th Infantry Battalion
10th Light Trench Mortar Battery

41

Bully Beef & Balderdash

- 11 th Infantry Brigade
41 st Infantry Battalion
42nd Infantry Battalion
43rd Infantry Battalion
44th Infantry Battalion
11 th Light Trench Mortar Battery

- 3rd Machine Gun Battalion
9th Machine Gun Company
10th Machine Gun Company
11 th Machine Gun Company

23rd Machine Gun Company
- 3rd Pioneer Battalion
- 3rd Division Medical Services
9th Field Ambulance
10th Field Ambulance
11 th Field Ambulance

3rd Sanitary Section
- 3rd Salvage Company
- 3rd Division Train
22nd Australian Army Service Corps Company
23rd Australian Army Service Corps Company
24th Australian Army Service Corps Company
25th Australian Army Service Corps Company
- 3rd Mobile Veterinary Section
4th Australian Division
4th Division Artillery
10th Field Artillery Brigade
11 th Field Artillery Brigade

4th Division Ammunition Column
7th Medium Trench Mortar Battery
8th Medium Trench Mortar Battery

42

Chapter 2

- 4th Division Engineers
4th Field Company
12th Field Company
13th Field Company
4th Division Signals Company
- 4th Infantry Brigade
13th Infantry Battalion
14th Infantry Battalion
15th Infantry Battalion
16th Infantry Battalion
4th Light Trench Mortar Battery
- 12th Infantry Brigade
45th Infantry Battalion
46th Infantry Battalion
47th Infantry Battalion
48th Infantry Battalion
12th Light Trench Mortar Battery
- 13th Infantry Brigade
49th Infantry Battalion
50th Infantry Battalion
51st Infantry Battalion
52nd Infantry Battalion
13th Light Trench Mortar Battery
- 4th Machine Gun Battalion
4th Machine Gun Company
12th Machine Gun Company
13th Machine Gun Company
24th Machine Gun Company
- 4th Pioneer Battalion
- 4th Division Medical Services
4th Field Ambulance
12th Field Ambulance
13th Field Ambulance

43

Bully Beef & Balderdash

4th Sanitary Section
- 4th Salvage Company
- 4th Division Train
7th Australian Army Service Corps Company
14th Australian Army Service Corps Company
26th Australian Army Service Corps Company
27th Australian Army Service Corps Company
- 4th Mobile Veterinary Section
5th Australian Division
- 5th Division Artillery
13th Field Artillery Brigade
14th Field Artillery Brigade
5th Division Ammunition Column
9th Medium Trench Mortar Battery
10th Medium Trench Mortar Battery
- 5th Division Engineers
8th Field Company
14th Field Company
15th Field Company
5th Division Signals Company
- 8th Infantry Brigade
29th Infantry Battalion
30th Infantry Battalion
31 st Infantry Battalion
32nd Infantry Battalion
8th Light Trench Mortar Battery
- 14th Infantry Brigade
53rd
54th
55th
56th
14th

Infantry Battalion
Infantry Battalion
Infantry Battalion
Infantry Battalion
Light Trench Mortar Battery

44

Chapter 2

- 15th Infantry Brigade
57th Infantry Battalion
58th Infantry Battalion
59th Infantry Battalion
60th Infantry Battalion
15th Light Trench Mortar Battery
- 5th Machine Gun Battalion
8th Machine Gun Company
14th Machine Gun Company
15th Machine Gun Company
25th Machine Gun Company
- 5th Pioneer Battalion
- 5th Division Medical Services
8th Field Ambulance
14th Field Ambulance
15th Field Ambulance
5th Sanitary Section
- 5th Salvage Company
- 5th Division Train
10th Australian Army Service Corps Company
18th Australian Army Service Corps Company
28th Australian Army Service Corps Company
29th Australian Army Service Corps Company
- 5th Mobile Veterinary Section

3rd Motor Ambulance Convoy
98th Dental Unit
99th Dental Unit

45

Bully Beef & Balderdash

13th Light Horse Regiment (Australian Corps cavalry regiment)
Australian Corps Cyclist Battalion

10th (Medium) Ordnance Mobile Workshop
11th (Light) Ordnance Mobile Workshop
41th (Light) Ordnance Mobile Workshop
Australian Corps Salvage Section
Australian Mechanical Transport Column
- 1st Australian Mechanical Transport Company
- 2nd Australian Mechanical Transport Company
- 3rd Australian Mechanical Transport Company
- 4th Australian Mechanical Transport Company
- 5th Australian Mechanical Transport Company
- 6th Australian Mechanical Transport Company

4th Auxiliary Horse Tramport Company
77th Sanitary Section
1st Australian Employment Company
Not counting the British artillery under command of Australian Corps, this
force fielded:
18pdr Field Gun

234

4.5-inch Howitze

78

3-inch Mortar

120

6-inch Mortar

60

9.45-inch Mortar

6

Vickers Medium Machine Gun

320

46

hapter 2

2nd Battalion moving up near Harbonnieres, 1918 (AWM E03028).

Members ofrhe 51st Battalion in reserve trenches, France, March 1918 (AWM £01854).

47

Bully Beef & Balderdash

In adclition, also in France, the AlF fidded a Siege Artillery Brigade. The brigade went
through a nwnber of name changes, first known as the Siege Artillery Brigade (Heavy),
then 0 Siege Brigade, then 36th Heavy Artillery Group, then 36th Heavy Artillery
Brigade and finally, in March 1918, 1st Australian Siege Artillery Brigade. The Siege
Artillery had the unique clistinction of being recruited from members of the PMF
Royal Australian Garrison Artillery (RAGA) who were permitted to enlist into the
AlF under special arrangements and the original brigade consisted of highly trained
regular soldiers who established a reputation for efficiency and cliscipline that was
unrivalled in the AlF. Although many later recruits to the brigade were men reccui ted
directly from civil life without prior military training, the efficiency and cliscipline of
the brigade does not seem to have been diluted in any way. Fidding two batteries, the
1st Siege Artillery Battery (the original title of the battery, which changed to the 54th
Siege Artillery Battery in September 1915 and then reverted to its original title in
March 1918) equipped with six 8-inch howitzers, and the 2nd Siege Artillery Battery
(55th Siege Artillery Battery between September 1915 and March 1918) equipped
with six 9.2-inch howitzers, the Siege Artillery Brigade, although under command
of the Australian Corps from March 1918, rardy supported Australian troops, being
moved arollnd the front as needed, in common with the other siege brigades fielded
by tile BEF. A unique clistinction of the Siege Artillery Brigade was its right to wear
the cap badge of the RAGA, the stylised letters 'RAA' wim a Tudor Crown above
and the title 'CONSENSU STABILES', the only troops of the AlF not to wear the
General Service (or so-called 'Rising Sun') cap badge. 22

Horseferry Road, London, 1918 (AWM D00077).

48

Chapter 2

In the Middle East, the AIF provided approximately one and two-thirds cavalry
divisions and two and a half camel battalions (until the latter were disbanded in
July 1918). The light horse regiments were originally blooded at Gallipoli, where
they were employed as infantry. After the AIF was withdrawn from Gallipoli to
Egypt at the end of 1915, the regiments were reunited with their horses and began
to reinforce, re-equip and retrain for further operations. The decision was made in
early 1916 that the light horse would remain in the Middle East rather than deploy
to Europe, as it was recognised that it could be far more usefully employed in the
campaign against the Turks in Sinai and Palestine than on the Western FrontY
The Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division - with three Australian light
horse brigades and one New Zealand mounted rifles brigade, a mix of Australian
and New Zealand support troops and two British Horse Artillery brigades was formed in Egypt in April 1916, eventually becoming the ANZAC Mounted
Division in February 1918. The Imperial Mounted Division was formed (without
the knowledge or consent of the Australian Government) in Egypt in February
1917 from two Australian light horse brigades and two British mounted brigades.
Following protests from Australia, the division was renamed the Australian
Mounted Division in June 1917, the British units gradually withdrawn with the
exception of the divisional artillery which remained entirely British until the end
of the war. Between January 1916 and February 1917 the AIF raised ten camel
companies (Ist-4th, 11th-14th and 17th-18th Camel Companies) which were
eventually incorporated into camel battalions. The Camel Corps was disbanded
in July 1918 as the desert war moved from the sands of the Sinai to the hard rock
terrain of Palestine, terrain unsuitable for the soft pads of camels. In July 1918 the
AIF fielded the following formations and units in the Middle East (non-Australian
units are shown in italics);
Australian Mounted Division
- Australian Mounted Division Artillery

19th Brigade Royal Horse Artillery
19th Royal Horse Artillery Brigade Ammunition Column
- Australian Mounted Division Engineers
2nd Field Squadron
2nd Signal Squadron
- 3rd Light Horse Brigade
8th Light Horse Regiment

49

Bully Beef & Balderdash

9th Light Horse Regiment
10th Light Horse Regiment
3rd Machine Gun Squadron
3rd Signal Troop
- 4th Light Horse Brigade
4th Light Horse Regiment
11 th Light Horse Regiment
12th Light Horse Regiment
4th Machine Gun Squadron
4th Signal Troop
- 5th Light Horse Brigade
14th Light Horse Regiment
15th Light Horse Regiment
1er Regiment Mixte de Cavalrie du Levant (French)
2nd Machine Gun Squadron (New Zealand)

5th Signal Troop
- Australian Mounted Division Train
35th Australian Army Service Corps Company
36th Australian Army Service Corps Company
37th Australian Army Service Corps Company
38th Australian Army Service Corps Company
27th Depot Unit of Supply
- Australian Mounted Division Medical Services
3rd Light Horse Field Ambulance
4th Light Horse Field Ambulance
5th Light Horse Field Ambulance
8th Sanitary Section
- Australian Mounted Division Veterinary Services
8th Mobile Veterinary Section
9th Mobile Veterinary Section
10th Mobile Veterinary Section

50

Chapter 2

ANZAC Mounted Division
- ANZAC Mounted Division Artillery
18th Brigade Royal Horse Artillery
18th Royal Horse Artillery Brigade Ammunition Column
- ANZAC Mounted Division Engineers
1st Field Squadron
1st Signal Squadron
- 1st Light Horse Brigade
1st Light Horse Regiment
2nd Light Horse Regiment
3rd Light Horse Regiment
1st Machine Gun Squadron
1st Signal Troop
- 2nd Light Horse Brigade
5th Light Horse Regiment
6th Light Horse Regiment
7th Light Horse Regiment
2nd Machine Gun Squadron
2nd Signal Troop

- New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade
Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment
Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment
Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment
1st New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron
New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade Signal Troop
- ANZAC Mounted Division Train
32nd Australian Army Service Corps Company
33rd Australian Army Service Corps Company
34th Australian Army Service Corps Company

5th New Zealand Army Service Corps Company
26th Depot Unit of Supply

51

Bully Beef & Balderdash

ANZAC Mounted Division Medical Services
1st Light Horse Field Ambulance
2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance
New Zealand Mounted Field Ambulance

7th Sanitary Section
ANZAC Mounted Division Veterinary Services
6th Mobile Veterinary Section
7th Mobile Veterinary Section
2nd New Zealand Mobile Veterinary Section

1st Imperial Camel Corps Brigade
- 1st (Australian) Camel Battalion
1st Camel Company
2nd Camel Company
3rd Camel Company
4th Camel Company
- 2nd (Imperial) Camel Battalion

5th Camel Company
6th Camel Company
7th Camel Company
8th Camel Company
9th Camel Company
10th Camel Company
- 3rd (Australian) Camel Battalion
11 th Camel Company

12th Camel Company
13th Camel Company
14th Camel Company
- 4th (ANZAC) Camel Battalion
15th (New Zealand) Camel Company
16th (New Zealand) Camel Company

17th Camel Company
18th Camel Company

52

Chapter 2

- No 1 Mountain Battery, Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Artillery
- Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Ammunition Column
- 265th Machine Gun Company
- 10th (Came/) Field Troop, Royal Engineers
- Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Signal Section
- Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Train
- Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Ordnance Section
- Australian Camel Field Ambulance
- 97th Australian Dental Unit

- Imperial Camel Corps Mobile Veterinary Section
This was the fighting force fielded by Australia in the middle of the last month
of the war. In addition to these fighting formations and their units there was a
complex and sophisticated system of support and administrative units located
in the UK, France and Egypt, which will be discussed in some detail in a later
chapter dealing with one of the more persistent myths of the AIF, the myth
that it was solely a fighting force: 'all teeth and no tail'.
Recruits for the AIF came from every part of Australia and from every walk of
life. Figures for the AIF -

enlistments, casualties, etc -

vary from authority

authority but, for the purposes of this book, I have decided to rely on the
figures compiled and published by the AIF itself in 1919. 24 According to this
to

publication, a total of 412,953 enlisted in the AIF and Australian Naval and
Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF)25 (887), and of this figure 331,781
all ranks (including 2054 females) embarked from Australia for overseas
service. 26 Of the enlistments into the AIF, 161,821 enlisted in New South Wales;
11,305 in Victoria; 57,084 in Queensland; 34,566 in South Australia; 32,028
in Western Australia; and 15,262 in Tasmania. 27 The AIF records then state that
58,132 all ranks died of all causes (killed in action or died of wounds, disease, gas
poisoning or other causes), with 205,684 all ranks wounded in action, 16,487
all ranks gassed and 4057 all ranks taken prisoner. 28

53

Bully Beef & Balderdash

Australian reinforcemenrs arriving at Gallipoli (AWM P02321.043).

54

Chaprer 2

One of the myths of the AlF is that it was a force recruited from the bush.
While this myth will be explored in some detail in a later chapter, it is relevant
here to consider in broad terms the breakdown of employment categories of
men enlisted into the AlE The Official History, utilising information supplied
by the Department of Defence, provides the following figures for occupations
of members of the AlF:29
15,719

Professional
Tradesmen

24,346
112,452

Labourers

99,252

Country callings

57,430

Seafaring
Miscellaneous

6562
14,122

Clerical

Nurses

2063

While it is accepted that 'Labourers' almost certainly included men from
the bush, it is probable, even certain, that 'Country callings' included men
employed in the bush who were not 'bushmen' per se, for example, graziers,
station managers, stock and station agents, etc. These two categories probably
cancelled each other out, so the figure 57.430 can be accepted as the number
of 'bushmen' who enlisted in the AlE This figure represents just 17.3 per cent
of the AlF, refuting the belief that the AlF was a force recruited from the bush.
Along the same lines, much has been made over the years of the egalitarian
nature of the AlF, in which the so-called Australian tradition of 'Jack's as good
as his master' held sway and in which a labourer could be commissioned and
placed in command of a bank manager. Certainly, as the war dragged on and
men were commissioned from the ranks this became increasingly the case;
however, from the outset and even towards the end of the war, as an examination
of the AlF's embarkation rolls shows, the AlF favoured men from the more elite
end of society - wealthy landowners, lawyers, businessmen, university students
- as officers and it is probable that such men had a better chance of obtaining
a commission than men from the lower end of the economic scale, from the
perspective of both education and social contacts. Indeed, the embarkation
rolls for General Reinforcements from mid-1918 onwards illustrate that the
officers of the various drafts tended to be from the middle to upper end of
the social and economic scale. 30 There were 128 officers with these General
Reinforcements drafts, two officers for each of the 64 drafts (27 New South

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Bully Beef & Balderdash

Wales drafts, 17 Victorian drafts, eight Queensland drafts, six South Australian
drafts, three Western Australian drafts and three Tasmanian drafts), with the
following professions or previous occupations listed:
Accountant

9

Agent
Architect

2

Bank officer
Bookkeeper
Brewer

1

Builder

2
2

Business manager
Carpenter
Cashier

1

Civil servant

4
13

Clerk
Commercial traveller

3

Customs agent
Departmental manager
Farmer

8
4

Grazier

4

Engineer

Grocer
Insurance inspector

1

Lawyer (including solicitor and barrister)

4

Miner
Naval officer (retired)
Prison officer
Railway employee
Salesman
Secretary
1

Shipping agent

39

Soldier

3
3

Student
Surveyor

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Chapter 2

Teacher

10

Warehouse keeper
There are certainly no scions of the landed gentry or English aristocracy in this
list. On the other hand, while there is a grocer and a carpenter, there are no
labourers, navvies, fetders, blacksmiths, bricklayers, timber cutters, plumbers,
etc. This admittedly limited sampling of the officer ranks of the AIF would
indicate that the belief that the AIF was a firmly egalitarian organisation is not as
unassailable as traditionally considered. While it is true that the AIF recognised
and promoted talent, to believe that this was unique to the AIF is unreasonable.
It is especially untrue to believe that the British Army obstinately refused to
promote competent men from the ranks - the sheer number of wartime,
hostilities-only officers promoted from the ranks of the British Army, men who
were often from the humblest and even most deprived backgrounds, shows this
to be totally false. Consider, for example, the case of Walter Tull, the first black
man commissioned into the British Army. The son of a carpenter from Barbados
and the descendant of slaves, Tull was raised in a church orphanage after the
death of his parents. A professional footballer before the war, Tull served in
the 17th (1 st Footballers) Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment, rising to the
rank of sergeant. In May 1917 he was commissioned and posted to the 23rd
(2nd Footballers) Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment. Mentioned in despatches
while serving with the 23rd Middlesex in Italy, Tull was killed in action on 25
March 1918 during the Second Batde of the Somme and is commemorated on
the Arras Memorial to the Missing. 3 ! Tull is an extreme case perhaps; however,
his story is indicative of the falsehood of the myth of the class-based exclusivity
of the British Army officer corps in World War I.
Indeed, the myth of the egalitarian nature of the AIF as opposed to the British
Army is seriously challenged by the official record of the number of permanent
commissions in the British Regular Army granted between 5 August 1914 and
1 December 1918, with the source of commissioned officers taken into account.
This list is provided on page 234 of the War Office-published Statistics 19141920 of the Military Effort of the British Empire During the Great war, which
presents the following table:
Royal Military Academy

1928

Royal Military College
Royal Military College (Canada)

5013
172

Special Reserve

1008

57

Bully Beef & Balderdash

Ranks

335
1109
246
20
6713

Total

16,544

Territorial Force
Temporary Commissions
Univer ities
Colonial

Members or the 28th Battalion in the front line at Dernancollrt (AWM E02295).

58

Chaprer 2

By way of explanation, the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich trained officers
for the artillery and engineers, while the Royal Military College at Sandhurst
trained officers for the infantry and cavalry (both have since been combined into
a single Royal Military College at Sandhurst). Noting that these are commissions
for the Regular Army only, it is significant that the British Army was more
than happy to commission almost 7000 men from the ranks and grant them
the privilege of a Regular Army commission during the war, something which
calls strongly into question the ingrained Australian belief of the hidebound and
aristocratic nature of the British Army officer corps.
Even more significantly, direct commissions to the Regular Army Special Reserve
of Officers and the Territorial Force - the wartime, hostilities-only officers, as
opposed to permanently commissioned officers - effectively ceased in February
1916. 32 In January 1916, with the passing of the Military Service Act, which
introduced universal conscription for the British Army for the first time in its
history, applications for temporary commissions were accepted only from men
who had been conscripted into the Army's ranksY Berween February 1916 and 1
December 1918, all non-Regular Army commissions were granted on successful
completion of the course at one of the 38 Officer Cadet Training Units run by
the British Army, which produced 107,929 commissioned officers, all recruited
from the ranks and all recruited regardless of economic or social background:14
This makes a mockery of the myth of the 'aristocratic' British officer corps (which,
in reality, was recruited from every strata of society) as opposed to the 'egalitarian'
Australian officer corps (which, in reality, tended to be drawn from the higher,
privileged end of Australian society)!
According to the official records of the AIF, on 11 November 1918 the AIF had
179,457 all ranks abroad (including 1029 troops en route berween various
theatres and 1031 personnel listed as illegal absentees).J5 With the end of the
war this number rapidly reduced as the AIF was returned to Australia and its
members discharged back to civilian life. The Commander of the Australian
Corps, Lieutenant General Sir John Monash, was placed in charge of the
repatriation effort and achieved what was probably his greatest organisational
and administrative triumph of war, successfully overseeing the repatriation
of around 185,000 members of the AIF and some 16,000 dependants from
England, France and the Middle East. J6 At the same time as the force was being
reduced and its