About the units of the First AIF


The Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was a expeditionary force created on 15 August 1914 for service overseas in the Great War . All members were persons who voluntarily agreed to serve beyond the limits of the Commonwealth.  The name Australian Imperial Force was chosen by its first commander, Brigadier General W. T. Bridges, as representing its dual Australian and Imperial mission.  Today it is generally known as the First AIF, as a Second AIF was created for service in the Second World War.

Although the First AIF drew many of its personnel from the existing Permanent and Citizen Military Forces of the the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces (AMF), and in some cases their existed a very close relationship between particular AIF and AMF units, the AIF had a completely separate identity. All units of the First AIF were temporary units, raised for wartime service. After the war, however, the battle honours of the First AIF were handed down to AMF units.

Altogether some 328,583 Australian men and 2,131 women enlisted in the First AIF in Australia. It was government policy not to accept enlistments overseas and only 56 exceptions were made, including Colonel H. G. Chauvel and Major T. A. Blamey. The Australian government also attempted to minimise the number of AIF personnel serving with Imperial formations and vice versa.

Only a handful of members of the AIF travelled overseas as individuals. Most went as reinforcements, earmarked to join certain units. From March 1918, reinforcements were sent as General Reinforcements, eligible to be drafted into any unit that needed them. Reinforcement drafts normally consisted of two officers and 150 other ranks. The rest travelled as part of units deploying overseas.

Generally, the Australian government offered to form new AIF units or formations. The Imperial government in London would either accept or decline the offer. If the GOC AIF, the theatre commander or the War Office wished to raise new units, permission was sought from the Department of Defence in Melbourne.

Most new units were raised in Australia. In general, these were formed from a single state at a military base close to the state capital, embarking for overseas service from there although formations comprised of units from multiple states were generally concentrated in Melbourne before embarkation. Other units were formed overseas from a cadre drawn from existing units and filled with reinforcements. Occasionally units were formed by "Australianisation", whereby the personnel of British units was replaced by Australians. New units continued to be formed right up until the end of the war.

The intention was that all units would be associated with a particular state and draw their reinforcements from that state. This did not always prove possible due to frequent reorganisations but the infantry and light horse in particular maintained this system to the end.


Main 1st Division 2nd Division 3rd Division 4th Division 5th Division 6th Division NZ & Australian Division Anzac Mounted Division Australian Mounted Division

Page created by Ross Mallett
Last update 10 December 2000