About This Unit
Raised at Liverpool in Sydney's south west, the 4th Battalion was the last of the first - it became the fourth battalion of the 1st Brigade in the 1st Division. Its members were originally drawn from New South Wales.
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 Paddington and to Liverpool in Sydney's south west 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.
On 17th August all those that had volunteered and enlisted in the preceding days were called into Victoria Barracks where they were divided into four Battalions.
Thus 4th Battalion came into being alongside the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions, forming the 1st Australian Infantry Brigade. The Battalion was then marched to Randwick Racecourse where attestations were completed with the recruits signing on for the duration of the war and four months.
It departed Australia in October 1914.
The Battalion arrived in Egypt on 2 December 1914 and landed at Gallipoli on the first day, as part of the second and third waves; its CO was killed on the 26th.
It served on the peninsula until the evacuation in December. In Egypt in March 1916 the AIF was ‘doubled’: the 4th and 5th Divisions were added to the 1st and 2nd Divisions, which already existed. The sixteen battalions which had fought on Gallipoli were each split, with half the personnel in each going to form a ‘pup’ or 'daughter' battalion; the gaps were filled with new recruits from Australia. The 4th Battalion's 'pup' unit was the 56th Battalion, which was part of the 14th Brigade in the 5th Division.
The 4th Battalion moved to France in March 1916, and spent the rest of the war on or behind the Western Front, principally fighting on the Somme and near Ypres. It ceased active operations in September 1918.
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.
he 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.
- Austin, R.J. (2007). The fighting fourth: a history of Sydney's 4th Battalion, 1914-19. McCrae: Slouch Hat.
Battle/ Campaign/ Involvement
- ANZAC / Gallipoli 25 April 1915 to 19 December 1915
- Lone Pine 6th August 1915
- Pozières 23 July 1916 to 4 September 1916
- Mouquet Farm 8 August 1916 to 5 September 1916
- Lagnicourt 15 April 1917
- Second Bullecourt 3 May 1917 to 17 May 1917
- Menin Road 20 September 1917 to 25 September 1917
- Broodseinde 4 October 1917 to 5 October 1917
- Poelcapelle - 9 Oct 17
- 2nd Passchendaele 26 Oct - 10 Nov 1917
- Hazebrouck 12 April 1918 to 15 April 1918
- Amiens 8 August 1918 to 11 August 1918
- Albert 1918 (Chuignes) 21 August 1918 to 23 August 1918
- Epehy 2 October 1918 to 5 October 1918
- 4th Battalion, 1st Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A32 Themistocles, 22 December 1914
- 4th Battalion, 2nd Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A48 Seang Bee, 11 February 1915
- 4th Battalion, 3rd Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A49 Seang Choon, 11 February 1915
- 4th Battalion, 4th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A9 Shropshire, 17 March 1915
- 4th Battalion, 5th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A55 Kyarra, 13 April 1915
- 4th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A63 Karoola, 16 June 1915
- 4th Battalion, 7th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A67 Orsova, 14 July 1915
- 4th Battalion, 8th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A54 Runic, 9 August 1915
- 4th Battalion, 9th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A8 Argyllshire, 30 September 1915
- 4th Battalion, 10th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A69 Warilda, 8 October 1915
- 4th Battalion, 11th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A17 Port Lincoln, 13 October 1915
- 4th Battalion, 12th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A7 Medic, 30 December 1915
- 4th Battalion, 13th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A60 Aeneas, 20 December 1915
- 4th Battalion, 14th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A62 Wandilla, 3 February 1916
- 4th Battalion, 15th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A67 Orsova, 11 March 1916 and left Sydney on board HMAT A15 Star Of England, 8 March 1916
- 4th Battalion, 16th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board SS Makarini, 1 April 1916 and left Sydney on board HMAT A71 Nestor, 9 April 1916
- 4th Battalion, 17th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A40 Ceramic, 14 April 1916
- 4th Battalion, 18th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A55 Kyarra, 3 June 1916
- 4th Battalion, 19th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A18 Wiltshire, 22 August 1916
- 4th Battalion, 20th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A14 Euripides, 9 September 1916
- 4th Battalion, 21st Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A60 Aeneas, 30 September 1916
- 4th Battalion, 22nd Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board SS Port Nicholson, 8 November 1916
- 4th Battalion, 23rd Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A29 Suevic, 11 November 1916
- 4th Battalion, 24th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A23 Suffolk, 24 April 1917
- 4th Battalion, 25th Reinforcement: Left Sydney on board HMAT A14 Euripides, 31 October 1917
- 4th Battalion, 26th Reinforcement: Left Melbourne on board HMAT A71 Nestor, 28 February 1918
- Astley John Onslow Thompson
- Alfred Joshua Bennett
- Charles Melville Macnaghten
- Iven Gifford Mackay
- Cecil Duncan Sasse
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] for details on how to contribute.
The 'A' ANZAC motif
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
Submitted 21 May 2020 by Robert Kearney