22nd Infantry Battalion (VIC) 6th Brigade, 2nd Division, AIF

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About This Unit

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22nd Battalion 6th Brigade 2nd Division AIF

The 22nd Battalion was raised at Broadmeadows north of Melbourne, in early 1915, to form the second Battalion of the 6th Brigade in the 2nd Division. Its colour patch reveals its lineage; the diamond denotes the 2nd Division, the red lower half indicates the second brigade in the division and the purple upper half, the second battalion in the Brigade. Its soldiers were drawn from around Victoria.

The 6th Brigade departed Australia in May 1915, arriving in Egypt in June where they underwent further training in preparation for reinforcing Gallipoli. Most of the battalion embarked for Egypt on 8 May 1915. The Battalion landed at ANZAC Cove in early September, too late to take part in the final stages of the failed August Offensive intended to achieve the longed-for breakout from ANZAC. Their arrival however, allowed elements of the 2nd Brigade to be rested from their positions in the front line at ANZAC. The battalion served on the peninsula until the final evacuation in December 1915, and were then withdrawn to Egypt and brought back to strength with reinforcements.

With the bulk of the Battalion on the Gallipoli Peninsula, the unit’s transport drivers, and those of the rest of the 6th Brigade, were sent to the Salonika front, at the northern end of the Aegean sea, to support the Serbs. They did not rejoin the battalion until after the evacuation of ANZAC.

After extraction from ANZAC, the Battalion refitted and reinforced in Egypt. In March 1916, the 6th Brigade battalion embarked for France landing in Marseilles and then heading north by train to the Armentieres sector on the Belgian border. The entire AIF (less the 3rd Division training in the UK) cycled through the breastwork trenches near Fleurbaix. The area was known as ‘The Nursery’, a ‘quiet area’ where newly arrived Brigades were conditioned to the intricacies of trench warfare on the Western Front.

The AIF, less the 5th Division which was to be involved in the disastrous attack at Fromelles in July, headed south to the Somme in order to reinforce the ‘big push’ on the Somme and so the 22nd Battalions first major action was at Pozieres and later Mouquet Farm.

After a short stint in Belgium the 6th Brigade was back on the Somme for the winter, the most severe in 40 years.

In early 1917, the 2nd Division was engaged in the follow up of German troops withdrawing to consolidate their front along the Hindenburg line, conducting delaying defence through what were called the Outpost Villages. This culminated for the 22nd Battalion at Second Bullecourt in May, where it endured heavy casualties.

Later it and the 6th Brigade moved north to Belgium for the Third Ypres Offensive, taking part in Menin Road in September and then in October they participated in the 3-kilometre advance that captured Broodseinde Ridge, east of Ypres, engaging an advancing German formation in a meeting engagement which resulted in the Australians routing their opponents and capturing the high ground from which German artillery observers had directed fire on Allied positions.

Like the rest of the AIF the battalion saw out the winter recuperating from the trials of the Ypres sector. Then in late March, the AIF less the 1st Division, was rushed south to plug gaps in the collapsing British line in the face of the 'make or break' German Spring Offensive of April 1918, aimed at dislocating the French and British line and cutting Paris off from the Channel Ports before the Americans arrived in decisive numbers.

The period May-June involved a phase described as 'Peaceful Penetration' by which the AIF captured forward defence outposts og the German line pushing the Front back nearly 3km in places.  It was in mid-May that Sergeant William 'Rusty' Ruthven earned the 22nd Battalion's only Victoria Cross.

The 6th Brigade and the 22nd Battalion then participated in the battles that would mark the beginning of the end for Germany; Le Hamel, on 4 July, the Battle of Amiens on 8th August and from 31st August to 2nd September, the 2nd Division's spectacular success in capturing Mont St Quentin. Like many Australian battalions, the 22nd was near spent. Its sister 21st Battalion was to be disbanded and its men posted to reinforce the other battalions of the brigade. After the men of the 21st (as did others) mutinied in protest on 25 September 1918,  the order was withdrawn, and the four battalions of the 6th Brigade fought its last battle (and that of the AIF) at Montbrehain on 5 October.

The Battalion and the AIF was resting and reinforcing out of the line when the Armistice was declared on 11 November 1918. The last elements of the battalion began their journey home from the Western Front in May 1919 to return to Australia for demobilisation and discharge.

Commanding Officers

• Crouch, Richard Armstrong

• Norris, Ignatius Bertram

• Smith, Robert Keith Henry

• Davis, David Manton

• Wiltshire, Aubrey Roy Liddon

Decorations awarded to Battlion personnel included: 1 VC; 1 CMG; 5 DSO; 32 MC, 2 bars; 30 DCM, 1 bar; 150 MM, 11 bars; 6 MSM; 35 MID; 8 foreign awards

Battle/Campaign/ Involvement

Gallipoli, 1915 (/explore/campaigns/1)  7 Sep - 19 Dec 1915

Suvla (the August Offensive / Hill 60) (/explore/campaigns/3) 6 Aug - 28 Aug 1915

Pozières (/explore/campaigns/6) (includes Mouquet Farm) 23 Jul - 12 Sep 1916

Flers / Guedecourt (/explore/campaigns/24)   18 October - 16 November 1916

Bapaume, 1917 (/explore/campaigns/21) (Outpost Villages etc) 15 Feb - 3 Apr 1917

Bullecourt (/explore/campaigns/6)  3-11 May (2nd) 1917

Menin Road (/explore/campaigns/26)   20-21 Sep 1917

Polygon Wood (/explore/campaigns/19) (not heavily engaged)  24-25 Sep 1917

Broodseinde (/explore/campaigns/18) 4 Oct 1917

Poelcappelle (/explore/campaigns/27) 9 Oct 1917

Passchendaele (/explore/campaigns/28)  12 Oct 

Albert, 1918 (German Spring Offensive 1918 (/explore/campaigns/80)) 21 March - 1 May 1918

Le Hamel (/explore/campaigns/33)  4 Jul 1918

Amiens (/explore/campaigns/14) 8 Aug 1918

Mont St. Quentin (/explore/campaigns/15) 31 Aug - 2 Sep 1918

Hindenburg Line (/explore/campaigns/81) 28 Sep - 5 Oct 1918

Beaurevoir (Montbrehain) (/explore/campaigns/128) 5 Oct 1918

Generic Battle Honours

Egypt, 1915-16

Somme, 1916, '18

France and Flanders, 1916-18

Ypres, (/explore/campaigns/23) 1917

 

Originally compiled Nov 2013 by Steve Larkins and updated Dec 2020

Sources

to be consolidated

 

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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Interpreting AIF Colour Patches

The colour patches which identified units in the AIF were designed to show what division or service they belonged to, and also, in the case of infantry units, their brigade and the sequence of the Battalion in that Brigade.

The shape of a colour patch indicated the division or service -
1st Division - horizontal rectangle split horizontally
2nd Division - diamond shape split horizontally
3rd Division - horizontal ellipse
4th Division - circle split horizontally
5th Division - vertical rectangle split vertically.

The lower colour denoted the brigade's sequence in the Division. Usually (but not always!) these colours were:
Green - first brigade in the division
Red - second
Light Blue - third

The 4th Brigade, originally in the 1st Division , had a dark Blue lower half. Its reallocation to the 4th Division after Gallipoli threw both the brigade / battalion numbering sequence (the most logical at any time in the history of the ADF) and the colour patch structure into disarray!

In the first AIF there were four infantry battalions to each brigade, and the upper section (or LHS in the case of the 5th Division) of the colour patch identified each one. Usually (but not always!) these colours were:
Black - first
Purple - second
Brown - third
White - fourth

Thus every battalion had a unique colour patch.

Other Arms and Service Corps had variations but those attached to the five divisions generally incorporated the shape of their parent Ddvision.

Source: Text taken from The 27th Battalion Centenary: The Historical Record of the 27th Battalions 13th August 1877-1977 and Programme of Centenary Celebrations, Unley SA, 1977

Notes:
1. Strictly speaking there was no such thing as the 'First AIF'. The term is often used unofficially to distinguish the Australian Imperial Force of the First World War from the Second AIF raised to fight in World War 2.

2. The colour patch scheme was first introduced into the AIF in March 1915, just in time for the initial Gallipoli landings. The 2nd Division received its patches in August 1915, and gradually the scheme was expanded to include the whole AIF.

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