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The Australian 4th Division was formed in the First World War during the expansion of the Australian Imperial Force infantry brigades in February 1916. In addition to the experienced 4th Brigade (previously in the original New Zealand and Australian Division) were added the new 12th and 13th Brigades (spawned from the battalions of the 4th and 3rd Brigades respectively). From Egypt the division was sent to France. After the war ended and the AIF was demobilised, the division was dissolved.

In 1921, the 4th Division name was reactivated as an Citizens Military Forces (militia/reserve) formation. The division performed home defence duties for most of World War II, before deactivation in 1944.

World War I unit history

The 4th Division began forming in Egypt in February 1916. The new division included the 4th Infantry Brigade, 4th Field Company, 4th Field Ambulance and 7th Army Service Corps Company which had fought at Gallipoli. The 12th and 13th Infantry Brigades were formed by taking half the personnel of the 4th and 3rd Infantry Brigades.

The division was initially stationed on the Suez Canal. In June 1916 it moved to France, taking over part of the "nursery" sector near Armentieres. Its stay there was brief and soon it was accompanying the First and Second Divisions to the Somme sector. In August 1916 it relieved the Second Division on the Pozieres Heights and repulsed a major German counterattack. It then drove north to the outskirts of Mouquet Farm. A second tour of the Somme at Mouquet Farm followed in September and a third at Flers in October.

On 11 April 1917 the division assaulted the Hindenburg Line in the First Battle of Bullecourt. The battle was a disaster and 1170 Australian prisoners were taken by the Germans. In June it participated in the Battle of Messines. In September it participated in the Battle of Polygon Wood.

In March 1918 the division was rushed to the Somme region to stem the German Offensive. There it repulsed the advancing Germans in hard fought battles at Hebuterne and Dernancourt. In April its 13th Infantry Brigade was involved in the counterattack at Villers-Bretonneux.

The division went on to fight in the Battle of Hamel, Battle of Epehy (with distinction), Battle of Amiens and the Hindenburg Line, finally reaching the town of Bellenglise.

Order of battle upon formation in World War I

4th Brigade

  • 13th Battalion (New South Wales)
  • 14th Battalion (Victoria)
  • 15th Battalion (Queensland & Tasmania)
  • 16th Battalion (Western Australia & South Australia)
  • 4th Light Trench Mortar Battery [3 inch Stokes Mortars]
  • 4th Machinegun Company [Vickers machineguns]

Members of the 45th Battalion at the Battle of the Hindenburg Line

12th Brigade

13th Brigade

  • 49th Battalion (Queensland)
  • 50th Battalion (South Australia)
  • 51st Battalion (Western Australia)
  • 52nd Battalion (South Australia, Western Australia & Tasmania) (Disbanded in May 1918)


4th Division Artillery

Field Ambulance

4th Division Field Ambulance


1916: Maj. Gen. H. V. Cox
1916-1917: Maj. Gen. W. Holmes
1917-19: Maj. Gen. Ewen Sinclair-Maclagan


  • 1916 - Somme sector: Pozieres Heights, Mouquet Farm, Flers.
  • 1917 - Hindenburg Line: First Battle of Bullecourt, Second Battle of Bullecourt, Battle of Messines, Battle of Polygon Wood.
  • 1918 - Somme: Hebuterne and Dernancourt, Villers-Bretonneux, Battles of Hamel, Amiens and the Hindenburg Line, finally reaching the town of Bellenglise.


  • killed in action: 8,360
  • died of wounds: 2,613
  • other deaths: 872
  • prisoners: 2,076
  • wounded: 27,127
  • total: 41,048

After World War I

In 1921, the 4th Division name was revived and was assigned to an Australian Citizens Military Forces (reserve) unit based in Melbourne, which served in Australia during World War II

After the outbreak of war with Japan, the division became part of III Corps, which was responsible for the defence of Western Australia. The division garrisoned WA until it was inactivated in November 1944.

Units subordinated to the 4th Division in World War II

2nd Brigade (Victoria)

  • 5th Melbourne University Rifles

6th Brigade (Victoria)

  • 23rd/21st Battalion
  • 14th/32nd Battalion
  • 19th Battalion

13th Brigade (Western Australia)

  • 11th Battalion
  • 16th Battalion
  • 28th Battalion

14th Brigade (New South Wales)

  • 36th Battalion
  • 49th Battalion

12th Brigade (Tasmania)

  • 40th Battalion
  • 12th Battalion

11th Brigade (Queensland)

  • 31st/51st Battalion
  • 62nd Battalion
  • 26th Battalion
  • 20th Motor Regiment

3rd Brigade (South Australia)

  • 7th Battalion
  • 8th Battalion


Descriptions of the main battles can be found in the following books: Mad Harry, Australia's most decorated soldier George Franki & Clyde Slayter, Kangaroo Press 2003. (Biography of Lt Col Harry Murray VC CMG DSO and Bar DCM C de G)

No ordinary determination - Percy Black and Harry Murray of the First AIF Jeff Hatwell, Fremantle Arts Centre Press 2005.

The Blood Tub - General Gough and the Battle of Bullecourt 1917 Jonathan Walker, Spellmount 2000. (Re Sir Hubert Gough)

Somme Mud - the war experiences of an Australian infantryman in France 1916-1919, Edward Lynch, ed Will Davies, 2006 Random House, ISBN 1-74166-547-7

See also

External links

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