167: Australian Infantry Badges part 1

This entry was posted by Saturday, 27 November, 2010
Read the rest of this entry »

Australian Infantry Badges part 1

Australian military forces at Federation, 1901

The Commonwealth of Australia came into existence on 1 January 1901 as a result of the federation of the Australian colonies. Under the Constitution of Australia, defence responsibility was now vested in the new federal government. The co-ordination of Australia-wide defensive efforts in the face of Imperial German interest in the Pacific Ocean was one of driving forces behind federalism, and the Department of Defence immediately came into being as a result, while the Australian Army and Commonwealth Naval Force were also soon established.

The Australian Army came into being on 1 March 1901 and all of the colonial forces—including those still in South Africa—became part of the new force. 28,923 colonial soldiers, including 1,457 professional soldiers, 18,603 paid militia and 8,863 unpaid volunteers, were subsequently transferred. The individual units continued to be administered under the various colonial Acts until the Defence Act 1903 brought all of the units under one piece of legislation. This Act also prevented the raising of standing infantry units and specified that militia forces could not be used in industrial disputes or serve outside Australia. However, the majority of soldiers remained in militia units, known as the Citizen Military Forces (CMF). Major General Sir Edward Hutton—a former commander of the New South Wales Military Forces—subsequently became the first commander of the Commonwealth Forces on 26 December and set to work devising an integrated structure for the new army. In 1911, following a report by Lord Kitchener the Royal Military College, Duntroon was established, as was a system of universal national service.

Prior to federation each self-governing colony had operated its own naval force. These navies were small and lacked blue water capabilities, forcing the separate colonies to subsidise the cost of a British naval squadron in their waters for decades. The colonies maintained control over their respective navies until 1 March 1901, when the Commonwealth Naval Force was created. This new force also lacked blue water capable ships, and ultimately did not lead to a change in Australian naval policy. In 1909, Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, while attending the Imperial Conference in London, sought the British Government’s agreement to end the subsidy system and develop an Australian navy. The Admiralty rejected these approaches, suggesting instead that a small fleet of destroyers and submarines would be sufficient. Deakin was unimpressed and had previously invited the American Great White Fleet to visit Australia in 1908. This visit had fired public enthusiasm for a modern navy and in part led to the order of two 700-ton River class destroyers. The surge in German naval construction prompted the Admiralty to change their position however and the Royal Australian Navy was subsequently formed in 1911, absorbing the Commonwealth Naval Force.On 4 October 1913, the new fleet steamed through Sydney Heads, consisting of the battlecruiser HMAS Australia, three light cruisers, and three destroyers, while several other ships were still under construction. And as a consequence the navy entered the First World War as a formidable force.

The Australian Flying Corps was established as part of the Army in 1912, and was later separated in 1921 to form the Royal Australian Air Force, making it the second oldest air force in the world.Regardless, the service branches were not linked by a single chain of command however, and each reported to their own minister and had separate administrative arrangements and government departments.

First World War, 1914–1918

When Britain declared war on Germany at the start of the First World War, the Australian government rapidly followed suit, with Prime Minister Joseph Cook declaring on 5 August 1914 that “…when the Empire is at war, so also is Australia” and reflecting the sentiment of many Australians that any declaration of war by Britain automatically included Australia. This was itself in part due to the large number of British-born citizens and first generation Anglo-Australians that made up the Australian population at the time. Indeed by the end of the war, almost 20% of those who served in the Australian forces had been born in Britain.

As the existing militia forces were unable to serve overseas under the provisions of the Defence Act 1903, an all-volunteer expeditionary force known as the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was formed and recruitment began on 10 August 1914. The government pledged 20,000 men, organised as one infantry division and one light horse brigade plus supporting units. Enlistment and organisation was primarily regionally based and was undertaken under mobilisation plans drawn up in 1912. The first commander was General William Bridges, who also assumed command of the 1st Division. Throughout the course of the conflict Australian efforts were predominately focused upon the ground war, although small air and naval forces were also committed.

Occupation of German New Guinea

Following the outbreak of war Australian forces moved quickly to reduce the threat to shipping posed by the proximity of Germany’s Pacific colonies. A 2,000 man volunteer force—separate from the AIF—and consisting of an infantry battalion plus 500 naval reservists and ex-sailors known as the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF), was rapidly formed under the command of Colonel William Holmes. The objectives of the force were the wireless stations at Yap in the Caroline Islands, Nauru, and at Rabaul in German New Guinea. The force reached Rabaul on 11 September 1914 and occupied it the next day, encountering only brief resistance from the German and native defenders during fighting at Bita Paka and Toma. German New Guinea surrendered on 17 September 1914. Australian losses were light including six killed during the fighting, but were compounded by the mysterious loss offshore of the submarine AE1 with all 35 men aboard.


The AIF departed by ship in a single convoy from Albany on 1 November 1914. During the journey one the of the convoy’s naval escorts—HMAS Sydney—engaged and destroyed the German cruiser SMS Emden at the Battle of Cocos on 8 November, in the first ship-to-ship action involving the Royal Australian Navy. Although originally bound for England to undergo further training and then for employment on the Western Front, the Australians were subsequently sent to British-controlled Egypt in order to pre-empt any Turkish attack against the strategically important Suez Canal, and with a view to opening another front against the Central Powers.

Aiming to knock Turkey out of the war the British then decided to stage a landing at Gallipoli and following a period of training and reorganisation the Australians were included amongst the British, Indian and French forces committed to the campaign. The combined Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC)—commanded by British general William Birdwood—subsequently landed on the Gallipoli peninsula on 25 April 1915. Although promising to transform the war if successful, the Gallipoli Campaign was ill-conceived and ultimately lasted eight months of bloody stalemate, without achieving its objectives. Australian casualties totalled 26,111, including 8,141 killed.

For Australians and New Zealanders the Gallipoli campaign came to symbolise an important milestone in the emergence of both nations as independent actors on the world stage and the development of a sense of national identity. Today, the date of the initial landings, 25 April, is known as Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand and every year thousands of people gather at memorials in both nations, and indeed in Turkey, to honour the bravery and sacrifice of the original Anzacs, and of all those who have subsequently lost their lives in war.

Egypt and Palestine

After the withdrawal from Gallipoli the Australians returned to Egypt and the AIF underwent a major expansion. In 1916 the infantry began to move to France while the cavalry units stayed in the Middle East to fight the Turks. Australian troops of the Anzac Mounted Division and the Australian Mounted Division saw action in all the major battles of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, playing a pivotal role in fighting the Turkish troops that were threatening British control of Egypt. The Australian’s first saw combat during the Senussi Uprising in the Libyan Desert and the Nile Valley, during which the combinded British forces successfully put down the primitive pro-Turkish Islamic sect with heavy casualties.The Anzac Mounted Division subsequently saw considerable action in the Battle of Romani against the Turkish between 3–5 August 1916, with the Turks eventually pushed back.Following this victory the British forces went on the offensive in the Sinai, although the pace of the advance was governed by the speed by which the railway and water pipeline could be constructed from the Suez Canal. Rafa was captured on 9 January 1917, while the last of the small Turkish garrisons in the Sinai were eliminated in February.

The advance entered Palestine and an initial, unsuccessful attempt was made to capture Gaza occurred on 26 March 1917, while a second and equally unsuccessful attempt was launched on 19 April. A third assault occurred between 31 October and 7 November and this time both the Anzac Mounted Division and the Australian Mounted Division took part. The battle was a complete success for the British, overrunning the Gaza-Beersheba line and capturing 12,000 Turkish soldiers. The critical moment was the capture of Beersheba on the first day, after the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade charged more than

Lance Corporal Nielsen – Australian Machine Gun Corps – 1918     

2114 L\CPL K Nielsen

Aust.Machine Gun Corps

26th April 1918. Age 31


Name: NIELSEN Initials: K

Rank: Lance Corporal Regiment: Australian Machine Gun Corps Unit Text: 3rd

Age: 31 Date of Death: 26/04/1918 Service No: 2114

Grave/Memorial Reference: 54. 711. Cemetery: NORWICH CEMETERY, Norfolk



Karl Nielsens papers in the Australian National Archive can be seen here



He was originally enlisted as part of the 3rd Re-enforcements for the 35th battalion and signed his forms on the 1st May 1916. He was originally from Denmark, and the addresses for his next of kin, first his father, then his sister, are both in Denmark.

At that time he was 29 years and 3 months old, was 5 feet 4 inches tall, and weighed 150 lbs.


He is described as being of dark complexion, with brown hair and hazel eyes.


His first posting was to the 2nd Company,55th Battalion, before transferring in December 1916 to the 35th Battalion. On the 19.1.17 he was transferred to the 9th Machine Gun Company, being promoted to Lance Corporal on the 11.11.1917.


He sailed from Australia on the 24/08/1916. And after a short spell in England was shipped to France on the 21/11.


On the 9th June 1917 he was wounded in action. His Gun Shot Wound to the back caused him to be rapidly moved back down the medical evacuation chain. It would be October before he was deemed fit enough to return to his unit, although it took until mid-November for this to take effect.


On the 17/04/1918 he was gassed, and evacuated back over the following days to England, arriving at the Norfolk War Hospital on the 22nd. His unit is given as the 3rd Machine Gun Battalion, 9th Company, on his hospital notes.


He died on the 26th. Cause of death is given as gas poisoning, and Bronchial Pneumonia. He was buried at 2pm on the 1st May 1918, with full military honours.


Included in his papers are his seamans discharge paper. He had sailed on the Norwegian ship “Nordstern”(?tbc), from the 20.2.1912, and had been discharged in Australia on the 9th June 1914. He had served as an A>B and his conduct marked as very good.


Australian troops were heavily engaged in the Battle of the Lys

, (9th April – 29th April). In a number of the actions, the German use of gas played a key part in their tactics.



Leave a Reply