14th Infantry Battalion (VIC) 4th Brigade, 4th Division, AIF

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About This Unit

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AIF Order of Battle [Link to follow]

The 14th Battalion was raised at Broadmeadows camp north of Melbourne in September 1914, its recruits being mainly of Victorian origin.

It was one of four battalions in the 4th Brigade (/explore/units/192), commanded by (then) Colonel John Monash (/explore/people/361562), and remained in the 4th Brigade throughout the war. The Colour patches of the 4th Brigade initially conformed to the 1st Division protocol, but with their later allocation to the 4th Division, the logical and sequential numbering sequence of Battalions and Brigades and the colour patch assignment of the AIF - the most logical in the history of the ADF, was upset!   The rectangle signified the First Division.  The dark blue lower half indicates the fourth brigade of the 1st Division.  However instead of a black upper denoting the second battalion of that brigade, in this case it isyellow.  

The original battalion left Melbourne on the transport A38 Ulysses on 22 December 1914.

On arrival in Egypt the 4th Brigade was allocated to the newly formed ANZAC Division as the 1st Division conformed to the British three Brigades per Division structure. The 4th Brigade formed part of the NZA Division was commanded by General Godley, under which designation it served at Gallipoli:

Arriving in the line in early May, The 4th Brigade took part in the defence of ANZAC.  In the defence of Courtney's Post in May 1915, Private (later to become Captain) Albert Jacka was awarded the AIF's first Victoria Cross (see link below). 

In August the Battalion was part of the force that was to attempt to seize the heights of Sari Bair, specifically Hill 971 in the August Offensive. Meanwhile the 1st Division was trying to block Turkish reinforcements on the southern approaches at Lone Pine.  

Things did not go well for the Brigade in the rough and broken ground north of the Sari Bair range, at night and with no reliable communications or navigation aids, their advance faltered and then elements of the Brigade were caught in the open on exposed approaches by Turkish machine gun posts.  Although Hill 971 was briefly held, the arrival of Turkish reinforcements saw the Australians expelled and they played no further part in what became a forlorn hope.

They also took part in the attack on Hill 60 later in the month and fared little better.

The 14th Battalion went on to serve throughout the campaign at ANZAC until the evacuation in December.  By then it had become universally known as 'Jacka's Mob' after their VC winner.

Following extraction to Egypt, it was split along with all of the Battalions in the 1st-4th Brigades to create the new Battalions of the 4th and 5th Divisions.  The 4th Brigade became the foundation formation of the 4th Division.  The 14th Battalion's 'pup' Battalion became the 46th Battalion in the 12th Brigade, also in the 4th Division.

In March 1916, the newly 'doubled' AIF began sailing for France and the Western Front.  From then until 1918 the battalion was heavily involved in operations against the German Army.

The Battalion's first major action in France was at Pozieres in the Somme valley in July 1916. Jacka added a Military Cross to his medal row.  After Pozieres and Mouquet Farm,  the 14th Battalion fought at First Bullecourt on 11 April 1917 and along with the rest of the 4th Division, sustained heavy casualties despite breaking in to the German defensive line.  Now Captain Jacka emerged with a bar to his MC. Supporting tanks failed and there was only limited artillery support, because the advocates of armour had convinced the higher command that the tanks would achieve surprise without artillery preparation.  The tanks didn't even get to the start line on time in the first instance, and then after the attack was postponed, they were all neutralised quickly and the German defensive barbed wire belts in front of their positions had not been cut - again.

Reinforced and recovered from the travails of Bullecourt, the 4th Division relocated  north in order to take part in the Batlle of Messines on 7 June 1917, the second Allied victory on the Western Front after the Candadian success at Vimy Ridge in April.  They then moved just a short distance north to the Ypres area in Belgium for the great 'Third Ypres' offensive beginning in late July.  Intended to clear the enemy from the high ground around the city, it was initially successful with victories at Menin Road, Polygon Wood (in which the 4th Division played a key role) and at Broodseinde Ridge, albeit with heavy casualties.  However all momentum was lost and the offensive ultimately foiled by the onset of torrential rain and the mud and misery of Passchendaele. 

After spending the winter in Flanders, all hell broke loose on the 21st March when the Germans launched a 'make or break' offensive primarily directed at the British 5th Army between Arras and the Somme.  The AIF was rushed south to plug gaps in the crumbling British line.    The AIF was 'penny packeted' across the Front  - Brigades were detached from Divisions  in trying to stiffen Allied resistance.  The 14th Battalion and the rest of the the 4th Brigade was split from the rest of the Division and plugged into a gap in the British line at Heburterne north of Albert, while the rest of the Division defended near Dernancourt.  They played a critical role in stopping a German break through towards Amiens, the key German objective on this part of the Front.

With the offensive halted by mid May, the Battalion then engaged in a phase known as 'Peaceful Penetration' by the AIF formations along the front.  See the related campaign entry.

In early July, the 4th Brigade was the 4th Division’s contribution to the AIF’s demonstration of Combined Arms tactics at Le Hamel. A minor re-set took place ahead of the Great Allied offensive, the "Last Hundred Days" campaign beginning on the 8th August 1918 with the Battle of Amiens.

The Battalion along with the rest of the AIF, was resting 'out of the line' when the Armistice was declared on the 11th November 1918.  The long process of repatriation and demobilisation began.  For many, re-settling into civilian life after the turmoil of the battlefield was not a straightforward process. 

Many were beset with the legacy of multiple woundings, in some casess amputations, gassing and what we now know as PTSD.  Many died young, it is a staggering staistic but 50% of the men who returned from the war were dead from multiple causes within 20 years, no doubt exacerbated by the onset of the Great Depression. The effects of the war did not discriminate by rank or station in life.  Others lived on to lead very productive lives rendering further service to the community,  marching every Anzac Day in memory of their fallen mates until they too succumbed to the passage of time.  They had lived through 'The Broken Years', so vividly described in Professor Bill Gammage's superb book of the same name.

During the course of the war, the Battalions soldiers received the following awards: 1 VC; 1 CB; 5 DSO; 1 OBE; 29 MC, 4 bars; 24 DCM; 132 MM, 10 bars; 7 MSM; 40 MID; 7 foreign awards

Battle / Campaign / Involvement:

 

Generic Battle Honours included :

ANZAC 1915

Gallipoli 1915

Defence of Anzac 1915

Egypt 1915-16

France and Flanders 1916-18

Somme 1916-18

Ypres 1917 (/explore/campaigns/8)

Reinforcement groups:

  • 1st Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A35 Berrima, 22 December 1914
  • 2nd Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A46 Clan Macgillivray, 2 February 1915
  • 3rd Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A54 Runic, 19 February 1915
  • 4th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A9 Shropshire, 29 March 1915
  • 5th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A20 Hororata 17 April 1915
  • 6th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A62 Wandilla, 17 June 1915
  • 7th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board RMS Persia, 10 August 1915
  • 8th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board SS Makarini,15 September 1915
  • 9th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A20 Hororata, 27 September 1915
  • 10th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A17 Port Lincoln, 16 October 1915
  • 11th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A71 Nestor, 11 October 1915
  • 12th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A40 Ceramic, 23 November 1915
  • 13th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A64 Demosthenes, 29 December 1915
  • 14th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A70 Ballarat, 18 February 1916
  • 15th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A68 Anchises, 14 March 1916
  • 16th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A68 Anchises, 14 March 1916
  • 17th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A14 Euripides, 4 April 1916
  • 18th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A17 Port Lincoln, 4 May 1916
  • 19th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A28 Miltiades, 1 August 1916
  • 20th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A15 Port Sydney, 7 September 1916
  • 21st Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A71 Nestor, 2 October 1916
  • 22nd Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT SS Port Napier, 17 November 1916
  • 23rd Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A7 Medic, 16 December 1916
  • 24th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A70 Ballarat, 19 February 1917
  • 25th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A71 Nestor, 21 November 1917

 Commanding officers:

 Victoria Cross winners:

Unit History:

Wanliss, Newton (1929). The History of the Fourteenth Battalion, AIF: Being the Story of Vicissitudes of an Australian Unit during the Great War. Melbourne: The Arrow Printery. REVIEW

Compiled by Steve Larkins Nov 2013 updated Dec 2020

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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Stories

The ANZAC 'A' insignia


Members of the Australian Imperial Force who served on Gallipoli will be entitled to wear over the Unit “Colour Patch” on both sleeves of the Service Dress Jacket and Greatcoat the letter “A” an indication that the wearer had taken part in the operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula.  - Military Order 354 of 1917

Members of the Australian Imperial Force who served on Gallipoli or the Islands of Lemnos, Imbros and Tenedos, or who have served on transports or hospital ships at or off Gallipoli or the Islands above-named, or in AIF lines of communication Units in Egypt will be entitled to wear over their Unit “Colour Patches” on both sleeves of their Service Dress Jacket and Greatcoat the letter “A” as an indication that the wearer had taken part in the Gallipoli operations. - Military Order 20 of 1918

Robert Kearney

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