About This Unit
15th Australian Infantry Battalion, 4th Brigade, 4th Division AIF
The 15th Battalion was a composite unit drawn from Queensland and Tasmania and raised in Melbourne, as the third Battalion of the 4th Brigade, which formed initially as the fourth Brigade of the 1st Division.
Its colour patch defines its associations and afffiliations conforming to the 1st Division protocol; but with their later allocation to the 4th Division, it upset the logical and sequential numbering sequence and the colour patch assignment of the AIF - the most logical in the history of the ADF! The rectangle signified the First Division. The dark blue lower half indicates the fourth brigade of the 1st Division. The brown upper half identifies it as the third battalion of that brigade.
Along with the rest of the 4th Brigade, the 15th Battalion had to wait until December for embarkation.
On arrival in Egypt the 4th Brigade was allocated to the newly formed NZA 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, and confounding the just-established logic, adopted a four Brigade structure!
- New Zealand Brigade
- New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade
- Australian 4th Brigade
- 1st Light Horse Brigade
The 4th Brigade took part in the defence of ANZAC.
In August the Battalion was part of the force that was to attempt to seize the heights of Sari Bar 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. Hill 971 was taken but was relinquished in the face of the arrival of Turkish reinforcements. The 15th Battalion played no further part in what became a forlorn hope.
A company of the Battalion was detached in support of in the attack on Hill 60 later in the month. The 9th Light Horse Regiment suffered heavily and lost their second CO within three weeks.
The 15th Battalion went on to serve throughout the campaign at ANZAC until the evacuation in December.
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 47th 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. 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. 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. They didn't even get to the start line on time for the originally scheduled attack, which was postponed as a result. Then when the attack went ahead on the 11th they were all put out of action before reaching the German defensive line 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 Battle of Messines on 7 June 1917, the second Allied victory on the Western Front after the Canadian 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 beginninhgg 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 15th 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 breakthrough 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. The 15th Battalion was tasked in a mopping up role for this attack as a 'depth' battalion in the Brigade formation.
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.
McSharry, Terence Patrick
Corrigan, John Joseph
Cannan, James Harold
Decorations and Awards
During the course of the war, the Battalions soldiers received the following awards and decorations:
Officer of the Order of the British Empire (2), Member of the Order of the British Empire (2), Distinguished Service Order (8), Military Cross (28), Distinguished Conduct Medal (31), Military Medal (170), Bar to Military Medal (18), Meritorious Service Medal (8), Mention in despatches (82) foreign decorations (3)
Battle / Campaign / Involvement:
- ANZAC Gallipoli (25 April 1915 to 19 December 1915)
- Pozières (23 July 1916 to 4 September 1916)
- Mouquet Farm (8 August 1916 to 5 September 1916)
- First Bullecourt (11 April 1917)
- Messines (7 June 1917 to 14 June 1917)
- Polygon Wood (26 September 1917 to 3 October 1917)
- First Passchendaele (12 October 1917)
- German Spring Offensive (21 March 1918 to 25 April 1918)
- Dernancourt/Ancre (27 March 1918 to 30 April 1918)
- Le Hamel (4 July 1918)
- Amiens (8 August 1918 to 11 August 1918)
Generic Battle Honours included :
Defence of Anzac 1915
France and Flanders 1916-18
- 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
Victoria Cross winners:
Unit History / references:
T.P. Chataway, The History of the 15th Battalion, AIF during the Great War of 1914-1918 (Brisbane: William Brooks & Co, 1948).
Compiled by Steve Larkins Nov 2013 updated Dec 2020
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