11th Field Artillery Brigade 4th Division Artillery, AIF

Normal 18 pounder near zonnebeke 1917

About This Unit

Big thumb 10th faab

The 11th Field Artillery Brigade formed in Egypt in early 1916 to support the newly raised 4th Division.    It went on to serve in Egypt: Defence of Egypt, Western Front:  Retreat to the Hindenburg Line, Bullecourt, Messines, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele, Villers Bretonneux, Hamel, Amiens, Albert, Hindenburg Line.

  • 11th Field Artillery Brigade February 1916 – past November 1918

    • 41st Field Artillery Battery

    • 42nd Field Artillery Battery

    • 43rd Field Artillery Battery

    • 111th Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery

    • 11th Brigade Ammunition Column

The term Brigade in the WW1 Artillery context is confusing - it more closely approximates a Battalion in terms of manpower.  Each Field Artillery Brigade generally initially 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 WW 1 was fired from specialised low velocity projectors operated by Engineers.

Napoleon Bonaparte, a gunner himself,  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 because 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.

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 (FAB) which were formed ostensibly to support infantry Brigades. In 1914 and 1915 the First and Second Division each had three FAB (initially corresponding to the Infantry Brigade numeric designation) equipped with 12 x 18 pounder field guns.  On arrival in France, the artillery was reorganised with each FAB having 12 x 18 pounders and 4 x 4.5 inch howitzers. There was initially a lack of howitzers available to meet the establishment.

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.

In March 1916 a fourth battery of four 18 pounder field guns was added. At the same time a Howitzer Brigade was raised for each division with 12 x 4.5 inch howitzers each.

In January 1917, batteries were increased in size to 6 guns each in order to economise on headquarters structures and the number of FAB in each division was reduced to two. Six gun batteries persist to this day in Australian Artillery units. The third FAB in each Division was re-assigned to Army level control (ie 3rd, 6 th, 9th, 12th and 15th FAB were re-assigned under command of HQ Army Artillery.

Steve Larkins Nov 2014

Battle/ Campaign/ Involvement 

 

 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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