Australian and New Zealand Army Corps

 

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) formed in late 1914. The unit included soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. 'Anzac' quickly became part of everyday language in Australia, New Zealand and the British Empire.

Raising of ANZAC

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was raised on 24 November 1914. At the time, the first contingent of soldiers from the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force were sailing towards Europe.

'ANZAC' was needed to shorten the 'Australian and New Zealand Army Corps' in Defence correspondence. The term quickly became an everyday word: 'Anzac'.

On 3 December 1914, the troops disembarked in Alexandria, Egypt. Then they were transported to military camps near Cairo where they would spend the Northern Hemisphere winter in training.

General William Birdwood was appointed by the British Army to command the ANZACs. Birdwood arrived in Cairo on 21 December 1914.

During the war, the Anzacs were wholly under British senior command as part of the:

  • Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in the Middle Eastern theatre (Gallipoli, Egypt, Palestine, Syria)
  • British Expeditionary Force in Belgium and France

Throughout the war, particularly behind the lines, Australian troops could be identified by their distinctive slouch hats. The New Zealand 'lemon squeezer' hat also revealed its wearer's nationality.

An Order of Battle generally shows the organisation, command structure, number of personnel, and equipment of units in an armed force.

In 1915, the Order of Battle for the ANZAC units looked quite different from how it looked at the end of the war.

Order of Battle in 1915

Australian 1st Division

18,000 men including 12 Infantry battalions in three brigades and nine Artillery batteries

  • 1st Australian Brigade - 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th battalions
  • 2nd Australian Brigade - 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th battalions
  • 3rd Australian Brigade - 9th, 10th, 11 and 12th battalions

Corps Troops

1000 men including two Mountain batteries

New Zealand and Australian Division

12,000 men including eight Infantry battalions in two brigades and four Artillery batteries

  • New Zealand Brigade - Auckland, Canterbury, Otago and Wellington battalions
  • 4th Australian Brigade 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th battalions

See First AIF Order of Battle 1914-18 for details.

Formations after Gallipoli

When the ANZAC units reassembled in Egypt after the Gallipoli Campaign, they were reorganised into two new Corps. These new corps allowed for the expansion of the force, with the addition of new soldiers.

I ANZAC Corps

  • Australian 1st Division
  • Australian 2nd Division
  • New Zealand Division

II ANZAC Corps

  • Australian 4th Division
  • Australian 5th Division

Australian 1st and 2nd divisions included mainly veterans of Gallipoli. Australian 4th and 5th divisions each had a core of Gallipoli veterans along with new troops from Egyptian training camps or men recently arrived from Australia.

The New Zealand Division was formed as an infantry division of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, with veterans of Gallipoli and reinforcements from New Zealand.

British Army command made frequent changes to where the divisions served during the war. In July 1916, for example:

  • Australian 4th Division swapped with the New Zealand Corps into I ANZAC Corps, to serve on the front near Armentières
  • Australian 5th Division fought with British XI Corps at the Battle of Fromelles

The Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division, including the Australian Light Horse brigades, was raised in March 1916 and assigned to I ANZAC Corps.

The meaning of 'Anzac'

The term 'Anzac' has changed in essence over more than 100 years of service in Australia.

The original term was devised in early 1915 as an acronym for 'Australian and New Zealand Army Corps', which was too long to write out in military reports.

The word 'Anzac' quickly gained popularity in Australia, New Zealand and throughout the British Empire. The Anzac Book, published in 1916, was written by soldiers while they were still on Gallipoli in 1915.

In 1917, it was announced that Gallipoli veterans would be entitled to wear a brass letter 'A' for Anzac, on their unit colour patches.

General Gellibrand first suggested the idea to General Godley early in 1916, and the embroidered badges first appeared later that year. The idea was well received by Anzac veterans who felt proud to wear this token of honour.

In January 1918, the right to wear the brass letter 'A' was extended to those who served "on the islands of Lemnos, Imbros, and Tenedos, on the transports or hospital ships at or off Gallipoli or these islands or in the AIF line of communications units from Egypt".

Colour patch of the 6th Light Horse Regiment with a brass 'A' in the centre, worn by Major Stuart Archibald Tooth served on Gallipoli and in Egypt and Palestine. AWM REL22612

'Anzac' also describes the geographic area on the Gallipoli peninsula where the Australians and New Zealanders mainly fought. The Anzac area included the coastal area of North Beach, Ari Burnu, Anzac Cove and Hell Spit, and inland from them.

Now, we tend to use 'Anzac' to describe any Australian or New Zealander soldier - man or woman - who has served in the military overseas, in a conflict or on a peacekeeping operation. We commemorate all the Anzacs - those who have served and those who died - every 25 April on Anzac Day.

As a proper noun, 'Anzac' is always written with a capital 'A' at the start and all other letters in lower case. Laws have been enacted in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to protect 'Anzac' as a word.


Last updated: 24 August 2021

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2021), Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 16 October 2021, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/ww1/military-organisation/australian-imperial-force/australian-and-new-zealand-army-corps
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