2nd Field Artillery Brigade 1st Division Artillery, AIF

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About This Unit

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The colour patch denotes that this unit is part of the 1st Division Artillery - the rectangle signifies the 1st Division and the red and blue diagonal striped colours are those of the Artillery. 

The 2nd Field Artillery Brigade formed in Australia prior to embarkation in late  1914 to support the newly raised 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division, drawn mainly from Victoria.  Its remained as part of the 1st Division Artillery from August 1914 – past November 1918, whereas for example the 3rd Artillery Brigade was reallocated to Army level command and control.

  • 4th Field Artillery Battery

  • 5th Field Artillery Battery

  • 6th Field Artillery Battery

  • 102nd Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery

  • 2nd Brigade Ammunition Column

Napoleon Bonaparte famously described Artillery as "the God of War" because of the effect that its fire can bring to bear on the battlefield.  In WW 1 on the Western Front, artillery dominated and defined the battlefield. In concert with the weather, it turned the terrain into the pulverised devastated quagmire that is so synonomous with that period and place. 

Artillery inflicted the most casualties and battle space damage and instilled the most fear among opposing forces. Its effect was both physical and psychological, with the term 'shell shock' coming into general use early in the war.  Artillery required a Herculean logistic effort to keep ammunition up to the guns from manufacture to the gun line. It was also a very dangerous occupation, attracting the attention of the enemy, the general result of which was 'counter battery fire' designed to neutralise and destroy gun positions and ammunition.

At the outbreak of the War, Australian Artillery was in short supply in both quantitative and qualitative terms.  

The standard field gun was the British 18 pounder (so-called because of the weight of the high explosive shell).  When the AIF embarked, its artillery was light-on indeed.  As it turned out the scope to use it at Gallipoli was extremely constrained anyway so it mattered less than had the AIF gone straight to Europe, where artillery was the definitive feature of the battlefield. 

At ANZAC, guns were deployed singly purely becasue of a lack of suitable fire positions.  The 18 pounders were the first into action but later an improvised heavy Battery was formed with two  6 inch (150mm) howitzers and a 4.7 inch (120mm) Naval Quick Firing gun.  Howitzers generally fire a heavier weight of shell at a high angle so they are not affected by 'terrain masking' in the same way as flatter trajectory field guns (and Naval guns for that matter), and the need for them became very apparent at Gallipoli.

Artillery units had arguably the least intuitive structure and organisation of any of the major Corps in the AIF. This in part reflected changing priority and availability of equipment.

The standard organisation of Field Artillery took on the form of the Field Artillery Brigade which were formed to support infantry Brigades. In 1914 and 1915 the First and Second Division each had three brigades (initially corresponding to the Brigade numeric designation) equipped with 12 x 18 pounder field guns.  

Each Brigade generally comprised three Batteries of four 18 Pounder Mk 1 or II guns. With a range of about 6,500 yards (almost 6km) they fired a range of ammuntion natures including High Explosive fragmentation, Shrapnel, Smoke, Gas, Star (illumination) and Armour Piercing projectiles.  For the record, most gas used in WW1was fired from specialised low velocity projectors operated by Engineers.

In March 1916 a fourth battery of four 18 pounder field guns was added and men were drawn from new reinforcement drafts and even the Light Horse during the 'doubling of the AIF' in Egypt prior to departure for France. At the same time a Howitzer Brigade was raised for each division with 12 x 4.5 inch howitzers each.  This was subsequently abandoned because there were not enough Howitzers to fill the proposed Establishment, so the Artillery Brigades were given a Howitzer Battery each, equipped with 4 x 4.5 inch howitzers.

In January 1917, batteries were increased in size to 6 guns each in order to economise on headquarters structures and the number of Field Artillery Brigades in each division was reduced to two.

As the war progressed, concentration became the name of the game to facilitate command and control at the highest level.  Later a range of independent Batteries equipped with specialised weapons like Siege Artillery, Heavy Howitzers and Medium and Heavy Mortars were added to the mix generally at Division level or higher. The allocation of their fire support was managed accordingly.  See the entry for Divisional artillery for further information. 

 

Steve Larkins Nov 2014

 

Battle/ Campaign/ Involvement 

ANZAC:  Defence of ANZAC

Egypt: Defence of Egypt, 

Western Front:  

Pozieres,  

Retreat to the Hindenburg Line,

Bullecourt,

Messines,

Menin Road,

Polygon Wood,

Passchendaele, 

Ancre, 

Villers Bretonneux,

Le Hamel,

Amiens,

Albert,

Hindenburg Line. 

We would particularly like to encourage individual historians researchers or members of unit associations to contribute to the development of a more detailed history and photographs pertaining to this unit and its members.

Please contact  admin@vwma.org.au (mailto:admin@vwma.org.au)  for details on how to contribute.

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