Divisional Artillery HQ AIF

About This Unit

Each Division of the AIF had an allocation of artillery units that broke down to the basic unit of fire  - the battery, generally of between four to six weapons - guns, howitzers or mortars.  These allocations varied during the course of the War as some elements were consolidated or removed from the establishment.

Guns are generally described of as firing below 45 degrees of elevation firing a relatively light shell at high velocity with a comparatively flat trajectory using a fixed (ie not variable) propellant charge.  Howitzers on the other hand fire a medium weight shell at a variety of trajectories and charges often at quite high angles.  Most field artillery used by Australian forces since WW1 are actually of a 'gun/howitzer' configuration; the ubiquitous 25 pounder of WW2 renown being a prime example.  Mortars are far less mechanically complex than guns and howitzers being muzzle loading, of shorter range and firing exclusively at angles greater than 45 degrees in elevation.

The artillery assets were generally organised into Field Artillery Brigades (FAB) with numeric designations corresponding more or less to the Brigades in each Division.  These were re-organised from early 1917 with the third and any other FAB within each Division being re-allocated under Army level command or disbanded.

Other more specialised assets including Mediume and Heavy trench mortars, were formed into a series of Batteries which were generally consolidated towards the end of the war.

As an example of the organisation of Divisional Artillery, Thus the First Division's artillery assets were organised as follows:

  • 1st Division Ammunition Column (to supply ammunition to the guns from stores in the rear areas)

  • 1st Field Artillery Brigade August 1914 – past November 1918

    • 1st Field Artillery Battery

    • 2nd Field Artillery Battery

    • 3rd Field Artillery Battery

    • 101st Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery

    • 1st Brigade Ammunition Column

  • 2nd Field Artillery Brigade August 1914 – past November 1918

    • 4th Field Artillery Battery

    • 5th Field Artillery Battery

    • 6th Field Artillery Battery

    • 102nd Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery

    • 2nd Brigade Ammunition Column

  • 3rd Field Artillery Brigade August 1914 – 20 January 1917

    • 7th Field Artillery Battery

    • 8th Field Artillery Battery

    • 9th Field Artillery Battery

    • 103rd Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery

    • 3rd Brigade Ammunition Column

  • 21st Field Artillery (Howitzer) Brigade February 1916 – 23 January 1917

    • 22nd Field Artillery Battery

    • 23rd Field Artillery Battery

    • 24th Field Artillery Battery

    • 116th Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery

    • 21st Brigade Ammunition Column

  • V1A Heavy Trench Mortar Battery 17 April 1916 – 21 February 1918

  • X1A Medium Trench Mortar Battery 17 April 1916 – 21 February 1918

  • Y1A Medium Trench Mortar Battery 17 April 1916 – 21 February 1918

  • Z1A Medium Trench Mortar Battery 17 April 1916 – 21 February 1918

  • 1st Medium Trench Mortar Battery 21 February 1918 – past November 1918

  • 2nd Medium Trench Mortar Battery 21 February 1918 – past November 1918

  • 1st Heavy Artillery Battery

One of the defining characteristics of artillery, particularly in WW1, was the prodigious quantities of ammunition that were fired.  This required a large and very well-organised supply chain from factory to gun line and all points in between.

Each Division and Artillery Brigade had an Ammunition Column, the sole object of which was to keep ammunition up to the guns by whatever means were available; vehicle, light and medium rail and horse drawn wagons.  They were responsible for moving ammunition forward of Ordnance and Supply parks established in rear areas.

Steve Larkins Nov 2014

 

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