8th Infantry Battalion (Vic) 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, AIF

About This Unit

The 8th Battalion raised at Broadmeadows Camp north of Melbourne was the last of the four battalions raised in the second Brigade of the 1st Division; as depicted by its colour patch. The rectangle signifies the First Division. The red lower portion indicates the second brigade in the Division and the white upper the fourth battalion in the Brigade. 

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 Melbourne and to Broadmeadows Camp north 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 assembed 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 6th Battalion landed at Anzac on 25th April 1915 as part of the second wave, led by Lieutenant Colonel William Bolton. In early May,  the 2nd Brigade was transferred from ANZAC to Cape Helles the suthernmost tip of the Peninsula, to help in the attack on the village of Krithia. The attack captured little ground but cost the brigade almost a third of its strength. The Victorian battalions forming the 2nd Brigade returned to ANZAC to help defend the beachhead, and in August the 2nd Brigade fought at the battle of Lone Pine. The battalion served at ANZAC until the evacuation in December. having served throughout the campaign.

Following extraction to Egypt, it was split along with all of the Battalions in the 1st-4th Brigades to create cadres of experienced officers NCO and soldiers to form the basis of the new Battalions of the 4th and 5th Divisions.  The 8th Battalions 'pup' Battalion became the 60th Battalion in the 15th Brigade in the 5th 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, where the AIF Divisions engaged (1st 2nd and 4th) formed the right flank of the British front.  The 1st Division was committed to the attack on Pozieres village from 23 July, involving the reduction of the ‘Gibraltar’ blockhouse among other tasks.  The enemy shelling was relentless and casualties mounted at a horrifying rate.   Once the ‘Windmill’ was captured by the 2nd Division on 4th August and consolidated by the 4th Division, the direction of the Australian assault switched to Mouquet Farm, with the 1st Division leading once again.  The aim was to outflank Thiepval, the main impediment and key objective of the British advance.  The AIF Divisions had fought themselves to a standstill over five weeks;  23,000 casualties of whom 5,0000 were killed.

After Pozieres the battalion fought at Ypres in Flanders then returning to the Somme for winter.

1917 began with a German consolidation of their Front Line and an orderly withdrawal through what were called 'The Outpost Villages' through which they conducted a delaying defence.  The AIF was tasked to follow this up and a series of engagements ensued, culminating in April with the first of two attacks on Bullecourt.  First Bullecourt was an exclusively 4th Division attack which although successful in breaking in to the German line was not adequately supported and it subsequently failed.  Second Bullecourt followed in May and involved the 1st 2nd and 5th Divisions.   Tactically it was very similar to First Bullecourt with a break-in being achieved, the tanks failing - again - and inadequate artillery  support because of difficulties getting the guns far enough forward.   From a casualty perspective, it was Pozieres all over again. 

The 1st Division was reconstituted and reinforced during the period  May -end July, when all of the AIF (for the first time including the 3rd Division) was committed to the Third Ypres campaign.  The 1st Division was committed to fighting at Menin Road in late September 1917 and at Broodseinde Ridge on 4th October.  The Third Ypres campaign bogged down in misery of 1st and 2nd Passchendaele in late October and November.

The Battalion helped to repel the German Spring Offensive in March - April 1918 in Flanders.  The AIF had been sent south to bolster the British 5th Army which was crumbling io front of the German onslaught.

Then it was realised that an attack was to be made in Flanders as part of ‘Operation Georgette’, towards the rail head of Hazebrouk, so the 1st Division was rushed back to be told by British General Harrington CoS British 2nd Army, on arrival at Hazebrouk station, that they (the 1st Division) were the only formed body of troops between here and the Channel Ports (Calais and Bolougne).

They became a rallying point around which other troops consolidated. and the Operation Georgette attacks were blunted.  As a result,  the Battle Honours Lys Hazebrouck and Kemmel were awarded.

The troops of the 1st Division were later transferred south to the Somme once again to take its place in the Australian Corps consolidated under General Monash’s command, and to take part in the Great Allied offensive, the "Last Hundred Days" campaign beginning on the 8th August 1918.

The 1st Division started the Amiens offensive in reserve but was later committed to the left flank along the Somme, taking part in actions around Chipilly and Chuignes across the Somme towards Bapaume securing the right flank of the British Army while it advanced on Bapaume.  It also allowed the 3rd Australian Division to cross the Somme and secure the Australian Corps northern flank for the attack on Mont St Quentin.

The First Division finished its last phase of combat operations in the vicinity of Epehy on the approaches to the Hindenburg Line.   After the 2nd Division attack on the Beaurevoir Line at Montbrehain on the 5th October, the AIF was withdrawn from the line to reinforce and refit following the accumulated losses it had sustained since 8th August.

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 rmany, 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 legendary Pompey Elliot took his own life during this time, exemplifying the fact that 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 Battalion's soldiers were awarded the following decorations:  3 VC; 10 DSO and 1 Bar; 33 MC and 6 Bars; 43 DCM; 32 MM, 1 bar; 4 MSM; 45 MID; 9 foreign awards

Battle Honours and Campaigns

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

Lone Pine (/explore/campaigns/3) - 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

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

Poelcapelle - 9 October 1917

2nd Passchendaele (/explore/campaigns/29)  - 26 Octpber - 10 November 1917

Hazebrouck (/explore/campaigns/80) - 12 April 1918 to 15 April 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


Compiled by Steve Larkins 2013 - updated Dec 20

If you would like to contribute a more detailed unit history we would be pleased to hear from you.  We are particularly interested to hear from unit associations.  Contact [email protected] (mailto:[email protected]) 





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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