About the Campaigns of the First AIF


The "battle honour" was an old fashioned concept by which units had the names of chose battle honours emblazoned on their regimental colours, which were banners carried on parade and into battle, at least until the late 19th century. AIF units did not have colours when they were formed, although there were many requests from local representatives such as the mayors of towns for permission to award colours to units raised in their locality. This was refused as the AIF was a temporary force raised for wartime service although some units unofficially accepted colours . In 1919, the policy was reversed and colours were awarded to infantry and pioneer battalions and light horse regiments. Machine gun battalions were also eligible but were not issued with colours. Each unit received King's colours presented by King George V and regimental colours usually made in Australia. They had little chance to parade them before returning to Australia. Some colours were handed down to Militia and 2nd AIF units; most were eventually laid up in churches and war memorials around the nation, where they are today.

After the war an Imperial Battles Nomenclature Committee, which included an AIF representative, met to standardise the names of battle and campaigns for the purpose of battle honours. The Great War posed a considerable challenge for the Battles Nomenclature Committee, as battles in the sense of previous wars were hard to define. The committee divided the war into campaigns, the campaigns into battles and in some cases the battles into actions.

Units could earn battle honours for participation in a particular battle (eg. Menin Road) or a more general honour for the entire campaign (in this case Ypres 1917) or one for the whole series of campaigns (eg France and Flanders 1916-18). 

This nomenclature has been used in this Order of Battle but because the purpose is to note where units were for the purpose of historians and genealogists, the Order of Battle makes some deviations from the official nomenclature. The most important of these is in noting the campaigns where non-combat units served. The further from the front a unit was, the harder it is to tie it to a particular campaign. It should be recognised that due to long range artillery and aerial bombardment, units located miles from the front lines could still come under attack and suffer casualties.

At present all units have the theatre in which they served noted. Divisions have their full battle honours listed. In future revisions of the Order of Battle, all combat units will have their campaigns and battles listed. The Order of Battle will go beyond the honours scheme in noting participation of all units. Further changes from the official are noted below. The author also had some choices to make, which are noted below. In general, I have erred on the side of clarity.

The major headings below represent theatres and are the ones used in the Order of Battle but are unofficial; the official campaigns and battles are in italics. In each case only the major units involved are listed.

On 11 November 1918, the strength of the AIF overseas was distributed as follows:

Theatre Strength
Western Front 95,951
Egypt and Palestine 17,244
United Kingdom 58,365
Other theatres 696
En route from Australia 3,998
On 2 1/2 months leave 1,132
En route between theatres 1,029
Total 178,426



Egypt was a major base for the AIF from December 1914. A number of campaigns were fought in this theatre. In cases where a base unit was stationed in Egypt, it is credited with "Egypt" even though the campaign that it was supporting may have been outside Egypt. Units just passing through Egypt en route to the United Kingdom or France are not credited. There were two campaigns involving the AIF. Note that not all the fighting was actually geographically in Egypt.

There was fighting here from 1 March 1916 to 31 December 1916 involving the 1st Armoured Car Section and the 1st Flying Squadron.

Western Frontier
The war against the Senussi rebels from 23 November 1915 to 8 February 1917 involved the 1st Light Horse Brigade, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Service Companies, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Camel Companies, 1st Armoured Car Section and the 1st Flying Squadron.

AIF units in Egypt were also involved in suppressing a rebellion against British rule there in early 1919. Most units in the theatre were involved, except for the 1st and 2nd Light Horse Regiments and  1st Flying Squadron which had already left for Australia. No medals or battle honours appear to have been awarded for this war.



Defence of the Suez Canal
This campaign ran from 26 January 1915 to 12 August 1916. Some units of the 1st Division served on the Suez Canal before the Gallipoli campaign. Afterwards, most of the combat units of the AIF in Egypt did time on the Suez Canal in 1916, including the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Divisions and the Anzac Mounted Division.  The only battle was at Romani on 4-5 August 1916.

The clearing of the Sinai from 1 November to 9 January 1917 involved the Anzac Mounted Division, 4th, 11th and 12th Light Horse Regiments, the Imperial Camel Brigade and the 1st Flying Squadron. Battles were Magdhaba on 23 December 1916 and Rafah on 9 January 1917. 



The campaigns fought in Palestine, Jordan and Syria. Principal units involved in these campaigns were the Anzac and Australian Mounted Divisions, the 1st, 2nd and 4th Camel Battalions, the 1st Light Car Patrol and the 1st Flying Squadron. Note that not all the fighting was actually geographically in Palestine.

1st Sinai
The fighting from 24 March 1917 to 19 April 1917. Battles were the 1st Battle of Gaza on 26-27 March 1917 and 2nd Battle of Gaza on 17-19 April 1917.

2nd Sinai
The fighting from 27 October 1917 to 16 November 1917. The only battle was the 3rd Battle of Gaza  (which included Beersheba) on 27 October to 7 November 1917. There was also an action at El Mughar on 13 November 1917.

The fighting in southern Palestine from 17 November 1917 to 30 December 1917. Battles were Nebi Samwil on 17-24 November 1917, Jaffa on 21-22 December 1917 and  Jerusalem on 26-30 December 1917. 

Jordan Valley
The raids on Es Salt and Amman in Jordan 19 February 1918 to 4 May 1918. Actions were: Jericho 19-21 February 1918, Passage of the Jordan 21-23 March 1918, First Es Salt 24-25 March 1918, Amman 27-30 March 1918 and Second Es Salt 30 April 1918 to 4 May 1918.

Final Offensive
The final campaigns in Palestine, Jordan and Syria 18 September 1918 to 31 October 1918. The Battles of Megiddo, Sharon and Nublus were fought on 19 to 25 September 1918.  Actions included Amman 25 September 1918,  Damascus 1 October 1918 and Haritan 26 October 1918. 



This includes not just units that served on the peninsula itself but also line of communications units stationed in the Greek Islands.

The fighting on the Anzac beachhead from 25 April 1915 to 20 December 1915. The Landing at Anzac on 25 April 1915 is counted as a battle. The Major units involved in the campaign include the 1st and 2nd Divisions, 4th Infantry Brigade, and 1st, 2nd and 3rd Light Horse Brigades. The Defence of Anzac was the Turkish counterattack of 19-21 May 1915. 

Fighting at the British beachhead to the south. AIF units involved included the 1st and 2nd Signal Troops, which participated in the Landing at Helles on 25-26 April 1915, the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade and 6th Field Artillery Battery, which were diverted there and supported the British and the 2nd Infantry Brigade, which fought at the Second Battle of Krithia on 8-12 May 1915.

This campaign includes the 4th Infantry Brigade's fighting at Sari Bair which also covers the battles at Anzac in the August 1915 offensive, including the actions at Lone Pine and the Nek. Scimitar Hill includes Hill 60. 

Evacuation of Anzac 
The successful evacuation of Anzac on 19-20 December 1915. 



There was fighting on the Northwest Frontier of India. No AIF units served in India, but individual Australians were involved. Most of them were nurses, four of whom died. 



The 1st Pack Wireless Signal Squadron was involved in the fighting in Iran in 1919. Individual Australians serving with Dunsterforce were also involved.



Twelve campaigns were fought in Iraq, also known as Mesopotamia. AIF units involved include the Mesopotamia Half Flight, 1st Cavalry Division Signal Squadron and 1st Pack Wireless Signal Squadron.



No AIF units served in the Salonika theatre, but individual Australians, mostly nurses (one of whom died), were involved.


North Russia

No AIF units served in the North Russia theatre, but individual Australians served as volunteers with British units. Two won Victoria Crosses.


United Kingdom

There were no campaigns in this theatre but units that served in England are so noted. These included a vast complex of base and training units, the 3rd and 6th Divisions and all the Flying Corps except the 1st Squadron. Because of the medical facilities there, many wounded soldiers from other theatres wound up in the United Kingdom, and many visited it on leave.


Western Front

From mid 1916 France and Flanders was the AIF's main theatre of war. 

Somme 1916
1 July 1916 to 18 November 1917. This includes the battle of Pozieres 23 July to 3 September 1916, involving the 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions and the action at Fromelles 19 July 1916 involving the 5th Division.

German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line
18 March to 5 April 1917. Includes Capture of Bapaume on 17 March 1917. Units involved included the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Divisions.

11 April to 16 June 1917. Includes the actions at First Attack on Bullecourt on 11 April and Lagnicourt on 15 April. as well as the Battle of Bullecourt 3 to 17 May 1917. Units involved included the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Divisions.

Towards Lens
3 June to 26 August 1917. The 3rd Tunnelling Company participated in the fighting under Hill 70 15 to 26 August 1917.

Flanders Offensive
7 June 1917 to 10 November 1917. Battles included:
Messines. 7 to 14 June 1917. The 3rd and 4th Divisions participated. 
10 to 11 July 1917. The 2nd Tunnelling Company participated. 
Ypres 1917.
31 July 1917 to 10 November 1917. Also known as the Third battle of Ypres. This battle is further subdivided into:
Menin Road 20 to 25 September 1917 (1st and 2nd Divisions), Polygon Wood 26 September to 3 October 1917 (4th and 5th Divisions), Broodeseinde (1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions) 4 October 1917, Poelcappelle (2nd and 3rd Divisions) 9 October 1917, 1st Passchendaele (3rd Division)  12 October 1917 and 2nd Passchendaele 26 October 1917 to 10 November 1917 .

20 November to 7 December 1917. Only minor units participated, including the Siege Brigade and the 4th Flying Squadron.

1st Somme 1918
The fighting in the Somme region during the German Offensives of 1918. 21 March 1918 to 5 April 1918. Units involved included the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Divisions. Battles were St Quentin 21 to 23 March 1918, Bapaume 24 to 25 March 1918, Rosieres 26 to 27 March 1918, Arras 1918 28 March 1918, Avre 4 April 1918 and Ancre 1918 5 April 1918. Actions included the subsequent Second Villers Bretonneux on 25 April 1918 and Hamel on 4 July 1918.

9 to 29 April 1918. The fighting against the German offensive in the north. Units involved included the 1st Division. Battles were Estaires 9 to 11 April 1918, Messines 1918 10 to 11 April 1918, Hazebrouck 12 to 15 April 1918, Bailleul 13 to 15 April 1918, First Kemmel 17 to 19 April 1918, Bethune 18 April 1918, Second Kemmel 25 to 26 April 1918, Scherpenberg 29 April 1918. 

Marne 1918
20 July to 2 August 1918. The German Offensive in the French sector. Australian participation was limited to the 4th Light Horse Regiment. which participated in the battle of Tardenois on 20 to 31 July 1918. 

8 August to 3 September 1918. The Allied Offensive of August 1918. Includes the battle of Amiens 8 to 11 August 1918. Units involved included the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Divisions.

2nd Somme 1918
The fighting in the Somme region in August and September 1918. Units involved included the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Divisions. Actions included Mont St Quentin (the Second Battle of Bapaume) on 31 August to 3 September 1918 and Peronne on 1 September 1918.

Hindenburg Line
The final battle of 12 September to 9 October 1918. Battles were Havrincourt 12 September 1918, Epehy 18 September 1918, Canal du Nord 27 September to 1 October 1918, Beaurevoir 3 to 5 October 1918 and Cambrai 1918 8 to 9 October 1918. Units involved included the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Divisions.


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 28 June 2010