The Australian Army is the military land force of Australia
. Formed in 1901, as the Commonwealth Military Forces, through the amalgamation of the Australian colonial forces
; it is part of the Australian Defence Force
(ADF) along with the Royal Australian Navy
and the Royal Australian Air Force
. While the Chief of the Defence Force
(CDF) commands the ADF, the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army
(CA). The CA is therefore subordinate to the CDF but is also directly responsible to the Minister for Defence
. Although Australian soldiers have been involved in a number of minor and major conflicts throughout Australia's history, only during the Second World War
has Australian territory come under direct attack.
The history of the Australian Army can be divided into two periods, the 1901–47 period, when limits were set on the size of the regular Army, the vast majority of peacetime soldiers were in reserve units of the Citizens Military Force
(also known as the CMF or Militia), and expeditionary forces (the First
and Second Australian Imperial Force
s) were formed to serve overseas. The second period, which was post-1947, when a standing peacetime regular infantry
force was formed and the CMF (known as the Army Reserve after 1980) began to decline in importance.
During its history the Australian Army has fought in a number of major wars, including: Second Boer War
(1899–1902), First World War
(1914–18), the Second World War
(1939–45), Korean War
(1950–53), Malayan Emergency
(1948–60), Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation
(1962–66), Vietnam War
(1962–73), and more recently in Afghanistan
(2001 – present) and Iraq
(2003–09). Since 1947 the Australian Army has also been involved in many peacekeeping operations, usually under the auspices of the United Nations, however the non-United Nations sponsored Multinational Force and Observers
in the Sinai is a notable exception. Today it participates in multilateral and unilateral military exercises and provides emergency disaster relief and humanitarian aid in response to domestic and international crises.
Formed in March 1901, with the amalgamation of the six separate colonial military forces
, following the Federation of Australia
, the Australian Army consisted of the former New South Wales
, Western Australian
, South Australian
land components of their, disbanded, armed forces. Due to the Army being continuation of the colonial armies it became immediately embroiled in conflict, as during this period the Second Boer War
was still being fought over and the former colonies had committed contingents to fight for the British in the South African colonies. The Army gained command of these contingents and even supplied federal units to reinforce their commitment at the request of the British government.
The ''Defence Act of 1903
,'' established the operation and command structure of the Australian Army. In 1911, the Universal Service Scheme
was implemented, meaning that conscription was introduced for males aged 14–26 into cadet and CMF units; though it did not prescribe or allow overseas service outside the states and territories of Australia
. This restriction would be primarily and continually bypassed through the process of raising separate volunteer forces until the mid 20th century; this bypass was not without its drawbacks, with the solution usually causing logistical headaches.
World War I
After the declaration of war on the Central Powers
, the Australian Army raised the all volunteer First Australian Imperial Force (AIF) with an initial recruitment of 52,561 out of a promised 20,000 men. A smaller expeditionary force, the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force
(ANMEF) was created to deal with the German Pacific colonial holdings; with recruitment beginning on the 10 August 1914 and operations starting 10 days later. The first actions of the war by Australian personnel occurred on the 11 September with the landing at Rabaul
by ANMEF, and by the end of October 1914 Germany had no outposts in the Pacific.
During preparations to depart Australia by the AIF, the Ottoman Empire
unleashed surprise attacks on Russian ships and joined the Central Powers
; thereby receiving declarations war from the Allies between the period of 2–5 November 1914.
After initial recruitment and training, the AIF departed for Egypt where they underwent further preparations, and during this period the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
(ANZAC) was founded. Their deployment, training and reorganisation in Egypt were undertaken as preparations for the start of the invasion of the Ottoman Empire via the Gallipoli peninsula
. The invasion began in early 1915, with the AIF landing on 25 April, in what is now known as ANZAC Cove
. It quickly devolved into trench warfare, with the ANZACs having little success, and a stalemate ensued. After eight months of fighting, the evacuation of Gallipoli commenced on 15 December 1915 and finished on 20 December 1915, with no casualties recorded. After some training in Egypt and further action against the Ottoman Empire, the AIF was primarily split between Light Horse
and infantry units and further expanded. The later would go to the western front whereas the mounted units would stay in the Middle East to fight the Ottomans in Arabia.
The AIF arrived in France with the 1st
Divisions; which comprised, in part, I ANZAC Corps
and, in full, II ANZAC Corps
. The 3rd Division
would not arrive until November 1916 from England where it had been training since its transfer from Australia. The infantry units commenced operations on the Western Front with the Battle of the Somme
, and more specifically at Fromelles
in July 1916. Soon after, the 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions became tied down in the actions at Pozières and Mouquet Farm. In total, the operations cost the AIF 28,000 in casualties in around six weeks. Due to these losses and pressure from the British War Council to maintain the required, and agreed upon, levels of manpower, Prime Minister Billy Hughes
introduced the first conscription plebiscite
on 28 October 1916. It was defeated by a narrow margin and created a bitter divide on the issue of conscription throughout the 20th century.
Following the withdrawal of the Germans to the Hindenburg Line
trench system in March 1917, which was better defended and eased manpower restraints, and the subsequent pursuit by Australian divisions, the first Australian assault on the Hindenburg Line occurred on 11 April 1917 with the First Battle of Bullecourt
. On 20 September the Australian contingent joined the Third Battle of Ypres
with the Battle of Menin Road
, with the 1st and 2nd Divisions advancing and the 4th and 5th in reserve. This divisions positions were swapped with the Battle of Polygon Wood, which began on 26 September 1917 and lasted until 3 October; in total, these tow operations cost roughly 11,000 in Australian casualties. Until 15 November 1917, multiple attacks against Broodsiende Ridge and Passchendaele failed to take their objectives following the start of the rain and subsequent muddying of the fields.
On 21 March 1918, the Germans attempted to break out through the Michael Offensive
, an operation which was part of the much larger Spring Offensive
; in total Australian casualties numbered 15,000. During this operation, Australian troops conducted a series of local defences and offensives to hold
and retake Villers–Brettoneux
over the period 4 to 25 April 1918. After the cessation of offensives by the German Army, the Australian Corps began participating in "Peaceful Penetration
" operations, a strategy designed to harass and gain small tracts of territory through localised raids; it was successful enough that entire objectives of planned operations had been captured before an offensive had begun. On 4 July 1918, the Battle of Hamel
commenced and was completed in 93 minutes, this was instead of the planned 90, and significant in that it was the first time that tanks were used successfully alongside Australians in an operation. Following this success, the Battle of Amiens
was launched on 8 August 1918, in conjunction with the Canadian Corps
and the British III Corps
, and concluded on 12 August 1918; it attracted comment from General Erich Ludendorff
of the German Army, who described it as "the black day of the German Army". Subsequent territorial advances and pursuits of the enemy, led to the attack on Pèronne on 29 August 1918 and the capture of Mont St Quentin
from 31 August 1918 to 1 September 1918. Another operation was planned for 18 September 1918 to retake the British trench lines and if possible to take the Hindenburg's Outpost Line; when the fighting wrapped up later that night, they achieved their most ambitious target of taking part of the Hindenburg line.
The Australian mounted units, composed of the ANZAC Mounted Division
and eventually the Australian Mounted Division
, participated in the Middle Eastern Campaign. They were originally stationed there to protect the Suez Canal from the Turks, and following the threat of its capture passing, they started offensive operations and helped in the re-conquest of the Sinai Desert. This was followed by the Battles of Gaza, wherein on the 31 October 1917 the 4th
and 12th Light Horse
through the last charge of the Light Horse. They continued on to capture Jerusalem
on 10 December 1917 and then eventually Damascus
on 1 October 1918 whereby, a few days later on 10 October 1918, the Ottoman Empire surrendered.
Repatriation efforts were implemented following the war and finished by the end of 1919, which occurred after the disbandment of the Australian Imperial Force. In 1921, a decision was made to renumber the Citizens Military Forces units to that of the AIF, to perpetuate the honours and numerical identities of the units involved in WW1. During this period there was a complacency towards matters of defence, due to the devastating effects of the previous war on the Australian psyche. Following the election of Prime Minister James Scullin
in 1929, two events occurred that substantially affected the armed forces: conscription was abolished and the economic effects of the Great Depression started to be felt in Australia. The economic ramifications of the depression led to a decrease in defence expenditure and manpower for the army and since conscription was repealed, to reflect the new volunteer nature of the Citizen Forces
, the CMF was renamed to the Militia.
World War II
Following the declaration of war on Germany and her allies by Britain, and the subsequent confirmation by Prime Minister Robert E. Menzies
on 3 September 1939,
the Australian Army raised the Second Australian Imperial Force, a 20,000-strong volunteer expeditionary force, which initially consisted of the 6th Division
; later increased to include the 7th
Divisions, alongside the 8th Division
which was sent to Singapore.
As part of efforts to ready Australia, compulsory military training recommenced in October 1939 for unmarried males aged 21, who had to complete a period of three months of training.
The initial force commenced its first operations in North Africa, and the war, with the Operation Compass
offensive; beginning with the Battle of Bardia
This was followed by the supply of Australian units to Greece to defend against an invasion by Axis forces
, which ultimately failed and a fighting withdrawal was issued. Australian troops landed in Crete after the evacuation of Greece to defend against an airborne invasion
, which was more successful but still failed and another withdrawal was ordered. During this period the Allies were pushed back to Egypt and Tobruk came under siege
by the Germans, with the primary defence personnel being Australians of the 9th Division
; they lasted for 241 days before Tobruk was freed, however the Australians were relieved earlier than this. Also, in June and July 1941, the AIF participated in the invasion of Syria
, a Vichy French mandate, in response to German air forces being stationed there.
The 9th Division fought in actions in El Alamein before also being shipped home to fight the Japanese.
Following the entrance and announcement of war by Japan
in December 1941, alongside its subsequent victories that conquered most of South East Asia by the end of March 1942, the militia was mobilised and the AIF was requested to return to Australia. This haste was increased when Singapore fell, in which the 8th Division
was captured, and was the impetus for the relief of Australian troops at Tobruk, with the 6th and 7th Divisions immediately being sent to Australia to reinforce the defensive positions of New Guinea.
General conscription was also reintroduced, with service again being limited to Australia's territorial possessions, namely New Guinea, but was extended to cover the adjacent islands in 1943. There were continued tensions between personnel of the AIF and Militia due to the latter's perceived inferior fighting ability which led to their nickname of "chocos", short for chocolate soldiers; this was in the belief that they would melt in the heat of combat.
The naval engagement of the Imperial Japanese Navy
by the Royal Australian Navy
and US Navy
in the Battle of the Coral Sea
, and subsequent denial of the Japanese achieving their objective, was the impetus for the overland invasion to capture Port Moresby via the Owen Stanley mountain range
. This invasion, which occurred on 21 July 1942 when the Japanese landed at Gona, alongside Australian defensive actions, represented the Kokoda campaign
. Australian forces tried to slow the advancing Japanese with operations across the Kokoda track
and eventually succeeded, with the resultant operations concluded with the Japanese being driven out of New Guinea entirely.
In parallel with the Kokoda campaign being waged, another landing
took place at Milne Bay
on 25 August 1942 with fighting lasting until 7 September 1942 when the Japanese were repulsed; this is widely considered to be the first significant reversal of the Japanese forces for the war. The Kokoda Track Campaign ended after the Japanese withdrawal in November 1942, with subsequent advances leading to the Battle of Buna–Gona on 16 November 1942; this battle continued until 2 January 1943.
In early 1943, the Australian Army started offensive actions
to recapture Lae
, where the Japanese had been entrenched since 8 March 1942. This culminated in the capture of Lae in early September 1943, by a successful combined amphibious landing
and airborne offensive
; the latter, aimed to secure the airfield at Nadzab
. Additionally, Salamaua was taken days later on 11 September 1943, which was achieved by a separate joint Australian and US attack. The capture of Lae was part of the Huon Peninsula campaign
, which planned to retake the Huon Gulf
In mid 1944, Australians took over the garrisoning of Torokina
from US forces with this changeover giving Australian forces charge over the Bougainville Campaign
In October 1944, Australian participation in the Aitape–Wewak Campaign
began with the garrisoning of Aitape
—which was captured by US forces earlier that year from the Japanese, who held it since 1942—and continued with the advance east to Wewak
. The Borneo Campaign began with the Battle of Tarakan
, with the subsequent invasion of Brunei Bay
occurring six weeks after, and continued with the Battle of Balikpapan
. The entire campaign lasted between 1 May to 15 August 1945.
After the surrender of Japan, the Australian provided a contingent to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force
(BCOF), with mainly volunteers from the 2nd AIF. The units that comprised the brigade would eventually become the nucleus of the regular army, with the battalions and brigade being renumbered to reflect this change. Following the start of the Korean War
, the Australian Army committed troops to fight against the North Korean forces; the units came from the Australian contribution to BCOF. The 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
(3RAR) arrived in Pusan
on 28 September 1950. Australian troop numbers would increase and continue to be deployed up until the armistice, with 3RAR being eventually joined by the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
(1RAR). For a brief period, between 1951 and 1959, the Menzies Government
reinstituted conscription and compulsory military training with the National Service Scheme, which required all males of eighteen years of age to serve for specified period in either the Australian Regular Army (ARA) or CMF.
The Australian Army committed the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
(2RAR) in the Malayan Emergency
, a guerrilla conflict between communist forces and Malay
allies over ethnic Chinese citizenship, in October 1955. The operations consisted of primarily patrolling actions and guarding infrastructure; they rarely saw combat and by the time of their deployment, the confrontation was in its final stage. 2RAR rotated out with 3RAR and consequently 1RAR, with 2RAR completing another tour before the end of Australian Operations. The end of deployments of Australian troops occurred in August 1963, 3 years after the official ending of the emergency. The Indonesian (or Borneo) Confrontation
was the result of Indonesia's opposition to the formation of Malaysia
, with Australian support in the conflict beginning and extending primarily with the training and supply of Malaysian troops. The initial combat unit deployed was 3RAR, with the deployment of 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
(4RAR) following after.
The Australian Army commenced its involvement in the Vietnam War
by sending military advisors in 1962. This was then increased by bringing in combat troops, the 1RAR, on 27 May 1965. Just before the official start of hostilities, the Australian Army was augmented with the reintroduction of conscription, which was based on a 'birthday ballot' selection process for all male 20 year olds who had registered. These men were required to register, unless they gave a legitimate reason for their exemption, and this would prove to be one of the most controversial implementations of conscription in Australia, with large protests against its adoption. In March 1966, the Australian Army increased its commitment again with the replacement of 1RAR with the 1st Australian Task Force
; a force in which all nine battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment would serve. One of heaviest actions occurred in August 1966, the Battle of Long Tan
, wherein D Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
(6RAR) successfully fended off an enemy force, estimated at 2,000 men, for four hours. Australian forces, in 1968, defended against the Tet Offensive
and repulsed them with few casualties. The contribution of personnel to the war was gradually wound down, which started in late 1970 and ended in 1972; while the official declaration of the end of Australia's involvement in the war happened on 11 January 1973.
Recent history (1990–present)
Following the invasion of Kuwait
in August 1990, a coalition of countries sponsored by the UN Security Council
, of which Australia was a part, gave a deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait of the 15 January 1991. Iraq refused to retreat and thus full conflict and the Gulf War
began two days later on 17 January 1991. In January 1993, the Australian Army deployed 26 personnel on an ongoing rotational basis to the Multinational Force and Observers
(MFO), as part of a non-United Nations peacekeeping organisation that observes and enforces the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
Australia's largest peacekeeping deployment began in 1999 in East Timor
, while other ongoing operations include peacekeeping in the Sinai (as part of MFO), and the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization
(as part of Operation Paladin
since 1956). Humanitarian relief after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake
, Operation Sumatra Assist
, ended on 24 March 2005.
Following the 11 September 2001
terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre
, Australia promised troops to any military operations that the US commenced in response to the attacks. Subsequently, the Australian Army committed combat troops to Afghanistan in Operation Slipper
. This combat role continued until the end of 2013 when it was replaced by a training contingent operating under Operation Highroad
After the Gulf War the UN imposed heavy restrictions on Iraq to stop them producing weapons of mass destruction. The US accused Iraq of possessing these weapons and presented evidence of this from unsubstantiated reports and requested that the UN invade the country to seize them, a motion which Australia supported. This was denied, however, it did not stop a coalition led by the US, and joined by Australia, invading the country; thus starting the Iraq War
on 19 March 2003.
Between April 2015 and June 2020, the Army deployed a 300-strong element to Iraq, designated as Task Group Taji, as part of Operation Okra
. In support of a capacity building mission, Task Group Taji's main role was to provide training to Iraqi forces, during which Australian troops have served alongside counterparts from New Zealand.
The 1st Division
comprises a deployable headquarters, while 2nd Division
under the command of Forces Command
is the main home-defence formation, containing Army Reserve units. The 2nd Division's headquarters only performs administrative functions. The Australian Army has not deployed a divisional-sized formation since 1945 and does not expect to do so in the future.
carries out high-level training activities and deploys to command large-scale ground operations. It has few combat units permanently assigned to it, although it does currently command the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
as part of Australia's amphibious task group.
controls for administrative purposes all non-special-forces
assets of the Australian Army. It is neither an operational nor a deployable command. Forces Command comprises:
* 1 Brigade
– Multi-role Combat Brigade based in Darwin and Adelaide.
* 3 Brigade
– Multi-role Combat Brigade based in Townsville.
* 6 Brigade (CS&ISTAR)
– Mixed brigade based in Sydney.
* 7 Brigade
– Multi-role Combat Brigade based in Brisbane.
* 16 Aviation Brigade
– Army Aviation brigade based in Enoggera
* 17 Sustainment Brigade
– Logistic brigade based in Sydney.
* 2nd Division
administers the reserve forces from its headquarters located in Sydney.
** 4 Brigade
– based in Victoria.
** 5 Brigade
– based in New South Wales.
** 8 Brigade
– training brigade with units around Australia
** 9 Brigade
– based in South Australia and Tasmania.
** 11 Brigade
– based in Queensland.
** 13 Brigade
– based in Western Australia.
Additionally, Forces Command includes the following training establishments:
* Army Recruit Training Centre
at Kapooka, NSW;
* Royal Military College, Duntroon
in the ACT
* Combined Arms Training Centre
* Army Logistic Training Centre
at Bonegilla, Vic and Bandiana, Vic; and
* Army Aviation Training Centre
at Oakey, QLD.
Special Operations Command
comprises a command formation of equal status to the other commands in the ADF. It includes all of Army's special forces
Colours, standards and guidons
Infantry, and some other combat units of the Australian Army carry flags called the Queen's Colour and the Regimental Colour, known as "the Colours". Armoured units carry Standards and Guidons – flags smaller than Colours and traditionally carried by Cavalry, Lancer, Light Horse and Mounted Infantry units. The 1st Armoured Regiment is the only unit in the Australian Army to carry a Standard, in the tradition of heavy armoured units. Artillery units' guns are considered to be their Colours, and on parade are provided with the same respect. Non-combat units (combat service support corps) do not have Colours, as Colours are battle flags and so are only available to combat units. As a substitute, many have Standards or Banners. Units awarded battle honours
have them emblazoned on their Colours, Standards and Guidons. They are a link to the unit's past and a memorial to the fallen. Artillery do not have Battle Honours – their single Honour is "Ubique" which means "Everywhere" – although they can receive Honour Titles.
The Army is the guardian of the National Flag
and as such, unlike the Royal Australian Air Force
, does not have a flag or Colours. The Army, instead, has a banner, known as the Army Banner. To commemorate the centenary of the Army, the Governor General Sir William Deane
, presented the Army with a new Banner at a parade in front of the Australian War Memorial
on 10 March 2001. The Banner was presented to the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army (RSM-A)
, Warrant Officer Peter Rosemond.
The Army Banner bears the Australian Coat of Arms
on the obverse, with the dates "1901–2001" in gold in the upper hoist. The reverse bears the "rising sun" badge
of the Australian Army, flanked by seven campaign honours
on small gold-edged scrolls: South Africa
, World War I
, World War II
, South Vietnam
, and Peacekeeping. The banner is trimmed with gold fringe, has gold and crimson cords and tassels, and is mounted on a pike with the usual British royal crest finial.
As of June 2018 the Army had a strength of 47,338 personnel: 29,994 permanent (regular) and 17,346 active reservists (part-time); whom of which are all volunteers. In addition, the Standby Reserve has another 12,496 members (as of 2009). As of 2018, women make up 14.3% of the Army – well on track to reach its current goal of 15% by 2023. The number of women in the Australian military
has increased dramatically since 2011 (10%), with the announcement that women would be allowed to serve in frontline combat roles by 2016.
Rank and insignia
The ranks of the Australian Army are based on the ranks of the British Army
, and carry mostly the same actual insignia
. For officers
the ranks are identical except for the shoulder title "Australia". The Non-Commissioned Officer insignia
are the same up until Warrant Officer
, where they are stylised for Australia (for example, using the Australian, rather than the British coat of arms).
The ranks of the Australian Army are as follows:
The Australian Army uniforms are grouped into nine categories, with additional variants of the uniform having alphabetical suffixes in descending order, which each ranges from ceremonial dress to general service and battle dress. The Slouch hat is the regular service and general duties hat, while the field hat is for use near combat scenarios. The summarised categories are as follows:
* No 1 – Ceremonial Service Dress
* No 2 – Ceremonial Parade Dress/General Duty Dress
* No 3 – Ceremonial Safari Suit
* No 4 – Multicam Dress
* No 5 – Crewman Dress
* No 6 – Mess Dress
* No 7 – Working Dress
* No 8 – Maternity Dress
* No 9 – Aircrew Dress
Firearms and artillery
File:Australian and US Army helicopter medical rescue exercise in 2011 110712-M-PM709-051.jpg|Australian Army Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk
File:Australian Army (A40-003) NHI MRH-90 arriving at Wagga Wagga Airport.jpg|An Australian Army MRH-90
File:Australian Army (A38-017) Eurocopter Tiger ARH display at the 2015 Australian International Airshow.jpg|Australian Army Tiger ARH
The Army's operational headquarters, Forces Command, is located at Victoria Barracks
in Sydney. The Australian Army's three regular brigades are based at Robertson Barracks
, Lavarack Barracks
, and Gallipoli Barracks
. The Deployable Joint Force Headquarters is also located at Gallipoli Barracks.
Other important Army bases include the Army Aviation Centre
near Oakey, Queensland
, Holsworthy Barracks
near Sydney, Lone Pine Barracks
in Singleton, New South Wales
and Woodside Barracks
, South Australia. The SASR
is based at Campbell Barracks Swanbourne
, a suburb of Perth
, Western Australia.
, north of Melbourne
, houses the Australian Army's Combined Arms Training Centre
Land Warfare Development Centre, and three of the five principal Combat Arms schools. Further barracks include Steele Barracks
in Sydney, Keswick Barracks
in Adelaide, and Irwin Barracks
in Perth. Dozens of Australian Army Reserve
depots are located across Australia.
Australian Army Journal
Since June 1948, the Australian Army has published its own journal titled the ''Australian Army Journal''. The journal's first editor was Colonel Eustace Keogh
, and initially, it was intended to assume the role that the ''Army Training Memoranda'' had filled during the Second World War, although its focus, purpose, and format has shifted over time. Covering a broad range of topics including essays, book reviews and editorials, with submissions from serving members as well as professional authors, the journal's stated goal is to provide "...the primary forum for Army's professional discourse... nd to facilitate
.. debate within the Australian Army ...nd raise
...the quality and intellectual rigor of that debate by adhering to a strict and demanding standard of quality". In 1976, the journal was placed on hiatus as the ''Defence Force Journal'' began publication; however, publishing of the ''Australian Army Journal'' began again in 1999 and since then the journal has been published largely on a quarterly basis, with only minimal interruptions.
* Australian Defence Force ranks and insignia
* Australian military slang
* Battle and theatre honours of the Australian Army
* Conscription in Australia
* List of Australian military memorials
Australian Army website
Category:1901 establishments in Australia
Category:Cold War history of Australia