Australian military organisation during World War I

Australia quickly rallied behind the United Kingdom (UK) with offers to provide naval vessels and Army troops. But the Australian Government and its military forces had a vast logistical task ahead of them.

Preparation for war

When the UK declared war on Germany, Australia was poorly prepared to join the fight.

Politicians were campaigning in Australia's 6th federal election. The Army mostly comprised part-time volunteers in the Citizen Forces who could not serve outside Australia. The Navy was young and relatively small. An air force did not exist.

Within about 2 weeks, the Australian Government planned and executed its defence schemes. A volunteer unit of 2000 men had been mobilised. Recruiting personnel for the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) had begun too.

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On 6 August 1914, the Australian Government started to form the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF). The mission of this a small force was to seize and destroy enemy wireless stations in German New Guinea.

Soldiers march along the street with bystanders watching from the side of the road.
Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF) marched along Macquarie Street, Sydney, on 18 August 1914, and embarked for Townsville on HMAS Berrima the next day ANMM 00024576

Some Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ships, including the HMAS Australia, helped New Zealand forces to capture German Samoa on 29 and 30 August 1914.

Recruiting offices opened in Army barracks around Australia on 10 August 1914. Thousands of Australian men enlisted in the forces on the first day.

Logistics of supplying the Allied forces with reinforcements remained a challenge throughout the war. Especially when so many young men either returned to Australia wounded or did not return at all.


Last updated: 6 November 2019

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