13th Infantry Battalion (NSW) 4th Brigade, 4th Division, AIF

About This Unit

13th Infantry Battalion, 4th Brigade, ANZAC Division (1914-15) / 4th Division (1916-18)

Raised in New South Wales the 13th Battalion was assigned to the 4th Brigade, commanded by Colonel John Monash  The Colour patches of the 4th Brigade initially conformed to the 1st Division protocol, but with their later allocation to the 4th Division, 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.  However instead of a black upper denoting the first battalion of that brigade, in this case it is pale blue.  

On August 4 1914 Great Britain declared war on Germany. Australia quickly followed the Mother Land’s call to arms. A rush of volunteers flocked to Victoria Barracks in Sydney and the Liverpool Camp south west of the city to enlist.

From the city and suburbs clerks laid down their pens, shopkeepers and shop assistants walked out of their shops, solicitors paused with their briefs, workmen downed their picks and shovels and from the countryside bushmen, farmers, graziers, shearers, woodchoppers set out on by horse drawn buggy, by train, by horse and on foot starting their journey to join a new type of army - an all volunteer army - the Australian Imperial Force.

They were assembled equipped and trained (many had served in the militia so army drill, shooting and field exercises were not new to them) and by late October the Great Convoy began assembling in ports around the country departing over the period 15-25 October 1914 bound initially for Albany in Western Australia to concentrate and pick up their escorts before crossing the Indian Ocean for the Middle East.  The 4th Brigade had to wait for more shipping so they did not depart Australia until December.

By  the time they arrived in Egypt in February it had been decided to conform to the British three brigade per Division structure,  and to form another Division, designated the ANZAC Division, to which the 4th Brigade was added along with the New Zealand Brigade, the NZ Mounted Brigade and the 1st Austrlaian Light Horse Brigade, commanded by NZ Major General Godley.. 

The 4th Brigade took part in the defence of ANZAC and in August was part of the force that was to attempt to seize the heights of Sari Bar 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.  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 13th 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 becasme the foundation formation of the 4th Division.  The 13th Battalion's 'pup' Battalion became the 45th 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 13th Battalion fought at First Bullecourt on 11 April 1917 and along with the rest f 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.  As they 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 Candaina success at Vimy Rodge 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 13th 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, with the 13th Battalion clearing Vaire Wood to the south of the village. 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; 1 CMG; 5 DSO; 1 MVO; 34 MC, 2 bars, 1 2nd bars; 35 DCM; 152 MM ,11 bars, 1 2nd bar; 4 MSM; 1 Albert Medal; 52 MID; 5 foreign awards

Battle/Campaign/ Involvement

ANZAC / Gallipoli (/explore/campaigns/1)  - 25 April 1915 to 19 December 1915

Lone Pine (/explore/campaigns/3) / Sari Bair - 6th August 1915

Pozières (/explore/campaigns/5) - 23 July 1916 to 4 September 1916

Mouquet Farm (/explore/campaigns/103) - 8 August 1916 to 5 September 1916

Second Bullecourt  (/explore/campaigns/6)- 3 May 1917 to 17 May 1917

Menin Road  (/explore/campaigns/26)- 20 September 1917 to 25 September 1917

Polygon Wood (/explore/campaigns/19) - 24-25 September 1917

Broodseinde (/explore/campaigns/18) - 4 October 1917 to 5 October 1917

German Spring Offensive (/explore/campaigns/80) Ancre - Hebuterne / Dernancourt  (/explore/campaigns/35) 25 Mar - 5 Apr 1918

Le Hamel (/explore/campaigns/33) - 4 July 1918

Amiens  (/explore/campaigns/14)- 8 August 1918 to 11 August 1918

Albert 1918 - (incl Chuignes) 21 August 1918 to 23 August 1918

Epehy - 2 October 1918 to 5 October 1918


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)


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  [email protected] (mailto:[email protected])  for details on how to contribute.



The 'A' ANZAC motif

'ANZAC' 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

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