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"The trumpet calls", an Australian Army recruitment poster from World War I. When the United Kingdom declared war on Germany at the start of World War I, the Australian government followed without hesitation. This was considered to be expected by the Australian public, because of the very large number of British-born citizens and first generation Anglo-Australians at the time. By the end of the war, almost 20% of those who served in the Australian forces had been born in the United Kingdom, even though nearly all enlistments had occurred in Australia.
Because existing militia forces were unable to serve overseas, an all-volunteer expeditionary force, the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was formed from August 15, 1914. The Australian government had pledged to supply 20,000 men, organised as one infantry division and one light horse brigade plus supporting units. The first commander of the AIF was General William Bridges, who also assumed direct command of the infantry division.
However, the first target for Australian action was close to home, seizing German colonial outposts in the south-west Pacific and New Guinea. The 2000-man force assembled for this purpose, known as the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF), landed near Rabaul on September 11, 1914 and after some fighting, the German garrison surrendered on September 21.
Departing from Western Australia on November 1, 1914, the AIF was sent initially to British-controlled Egypt, to pre-empt any attack by the Ottoman Empire, and with a view to opening another front against the Central Powers. The AIF had four infantry brigades with the first three making up the 1st Division. The 4th Brigade was joined with the sole New Zealand infantry brigade to form the New Zealand and Australian Division. The combined Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), commanded by British general William Birdwood, went into action when Allied forces landed on the Gallipoli peninsula on April 25, 1915 (now commemorated as Anzac Day). The Battle of Gallipoli would last for eight months of bloody stalemate. By the end of the campaign, Australian casualties were 8,700 killed and 19,000 wounded or sick. The original AIF contingent had continued to grow with the arrival of the 2nd Division which was formed in Egypt and went to Gallipoli in August.
After the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the infantry underwent a major expansion with the first four brigades, the 1st Division and the 4th Brigade being split to create the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th Brigades. The four new brigades together with the 4th and 8th Brigades formed two additional divisions (4th and 5th). The 3rd Division was formed in Australia and sailed directly to England for further training before moving to the Western Front, in November 1917. The light horse brigades had served dismounted at Gallipoli. In 1916, they were reunited with their horses and formed into the 1st Anzac Mounted Division in Egypt to campaign against Turkish forces in the Sinai and Palestine. Australia also supplied the majority of troops for the newly formed Imperial Camel Corps Brigade.
The first Australian division to mount a major attack on the Western Front was the 5th Division. The attack, the Battle of Fromelles, was a disaster with the division suffering 5,500 casualties for no gain. The 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions, combined as I Anzac Corps, fought the Battle of Pozières and subsequent Battle of Mouquet Farm, part of the Battle of the Somme. In Egypt, the light horse had helped repulse the Turkish attempt to capture the Suez Canal in the Battle of Romani.
During 1917, the five divisions in France fought in three Allied offensives: the Battle of Bullecourt (part of the Battle of Arras), the Battle of Messines and the Third Battle of Ypres. Meanwhile the light horse had entered southern Palestine. After two attempts to break through the Turkish defences at Gaza, the decisive victory was achieved in the Third Battle of Gaza in which the Australians captured the town of Beersheba in a dramatic cavalry charge. By the end of the year, British forces had captured Jerusalem.
The German Spring Offensive of early 1918 broke through British lines north and south of the Somme. The five Australian divisions which had been formed into the Australian Corps on 1 November 1917, were moved south to help halt the German advance. In May, Australian General John Monash was given command of the Australian Corps and the first operation he planned as a corps commander, the Battle of Hamel, is widely regarded as the finest set-piece strategy of the war on the Western Front. The final Allied offensive began with the Battle of Amiens on August 8, and the Australian Corps, along with the Canadian Corps and the III British Corps, spearheaded the advance north and south of the Somme. By the end of September, the Australian divisions were severely depleted, with only the 3rd and the 5th fit for immediate action. On October 5 the Australian Corps was withdrawn to rest and saw no more fighting before the war ended.
In the Middle East, the light horse had endured summer in the Jordan Valley before leading the British offensive in the final Battle of Megiddo. The 10th Light Horse Regiment was the first Allied unit to reach Damascus.
A total of 331,814 Australians were sent overseas to serve as part of the AIF, which represented 13% of the Australian male population. About 2,100 women served with the 1st AIF, mainly as nurses. 18% (61,859) of those who served in the AIF were killed or died. The casualty rate (killed or wounded) was 64%, reportedly the highest of any country which took part in World War I. The AIF remained a volunteer force for the duration of the war—the only British or Dominion force to do so. Two referendums on conscription had been defeated, preserving the volunteer status, but stretching the reserves towards the end of the war. The AIF also had a desertion rate larger than Britain, mainly because the death penalty was not in force. The Australian Army is oriented toward low- and medium-intensity operations against symmetric and asymmetric enemies. The Army has traditionally been structured as a light infantry force. This has changed somewhat in recent years, with an increased emphasis on motorised and mechanized forces. In the next few years, two of the seven regular infantry battalions will be mechanized (using the upgraded M113 APC) and two will be motorised (using the Bushmaster). Nevertheless, the motorised and mechanized battalions still train with an orientation toward operations in close combat and have a high emphasis on patrolling and other dismounted operations, thus maintaining the traditional Australian skill set.
Until recently, the main area of operations has been Asia, particularly South East Asia and the Pacific, so the light infantry orientation has not been a hindrance. In fact the Australian Army is known to produce troops and units with a very high standard of jungle warfare, patrolling, ambushing and other infantry skills.
Due to Australia's small population, the Army will always make up only a statistically small role in coalition operations. Successive Australian governments since 1989 have deployed components of the ADF with specific skill sets, so that the Australian contribution is always of greater significance than raw numbers of troops would suggest. Often this has taken the form of the deployment of special forces, though this has changed in recent years, for example in Afghanistan. Australian forces have always trained with and maintained close relationships the US and British forces and are now being equipped to better interoperate with US/British/coalition forces. The defence relationship with US forces is probably now closer than it has been at any point since the Vietnam war, especially at a working level. The history of the Australian Army can be divided into two periods:
1901–47, when limits were set on the size of the Regular Army, the vast majority of peacetime soldiers were in the Reserve Army units of the Australian Citizens Military Force (also known as the CMF or Militia), and Australian Imperial Forces were formed to serve overseas, and
post-1947, when a standing peacetime infantry force was formed and the CMF (known as the Army Reserve after 1980) began to decline in importance. The army has been involved in many peacekeeping operations, usually under the auspices of the United Nations. The largest one began in 1999 in East Timor. Other notable operations include peacekeeping on Bougainville and in the Solomon Islands, which are still ongoing to this day. Humanitarian relief after 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake in Aceh Province, Indonesia, Operation Sumatra Assist, ended on 24 March 2005. Description Source Wikipedia