RHG with the 28th AIF

It seems that it was not until August 1915 that Reg volunteered to join the AIF. His application for a commission was signed 12 August. It is not known why he waited until August 1915 to volunteer but the Official History quoted below mentions a noted difference in the type of men and the reasons that they volunteered later, after the initial enthusiasm of August 1914.

Reg’s application for a commission was signed 12 August, his medical examination signed on 27 August, and his ‘Attestation Paper for Persons Enlisted for Service Abroad’ recording him as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 7th Reinforcements, 28th Battalion, AIF was signed by Reg on 16th September 1915.

Attestation Paper of Persons Enlisted for Service Abroad - 16 Sept 1915

The AIF

The AIF was the ‘Australian Imperial Force’. At the declaration of the war on August 4th 1914, Australia did not have a standing army for overseas service. Australia had no obligation to assist Britain in the war but, as with the other colonies, immediately volunteered an expeditionary force to fight overseas, wherever needed by the Empire. At first Australia volunteered a force of 20,000 men, but not a collection of brigades as had been sent to assist Britain in South Africa in the Boer Wars:

“It was quite clear that any force so composed would be dismembered and incorporated with units from other parts of the Empire in such a way that its national character would be lost.”

But the man in whose hands the Australian Government had placed the organisation of Australia’s contribution to the army of the Empire abroad was one who saw far ahead, and who realised something of  what it would mean to her that this force should go to the war as a national unit. William Throsby Bridges, Inspector-General of the Australian Military Forces, had been in  Queensland when the war broke out, but had been recalled to Melbourne. He was a man of great knowledge, slow of thought, but always thinking and thinking deeply, and when he arrived at a purpose lie held inflexibly to it. From August 5th, when he reached Melbourne and was entrusted with the organising of the expeditionary force, he was determined that Australia should send to this war an Australian “division”-a compact unit, to be kept and fought as an  Australian unit wherever it might go.” The Official History, Vol I, Chap II  p.30

“The contingent now being raised seemed an immense one for Australia. No  provision for anything so large as a division existed in the Australian Army system; a brigade was the largest formation yet provided for. Even Great Britain herself had never, before the present war, sent a fully organised modern division across the seas as one compact unit. No  one at this time dreamed that further contingents approaching the same size would be needed from Australia. For nearly a year the infantry division which Australia sent was commonly known as “The Australian Division” simply.” The Official History, Vol I, Chap II p.35

But because of the huge number of volunteers in Australia, which far exceeded the numbers of the initial division, including the reinforcements necessary to keep that initial division in the field, a second Division was formed:

“In June and July, 1915, there arrived in Egypt from Australia reinforcements of special importance. For some time after the departure of the Gallipoli expedition the only Australian troops regularly arriving had been the monthly drafts to maintain the strength of units already at the front. These came forward with absolute regularity, the quotas being whatever was laid down for the British Army. For example, when in December, 1914,the British War Office, after experience of the heavy losses in France, decided to send forward monthly 15 per cent. of the full strength of each infantry unit and 10 per cent. for each unit of cavalry, Australia adopted the same scale. At that time the force consisted of-

One (1st) infantry division,
One additional (4th) infantry brigade,
Three (Ist, 2nd, and 3rd) light horse brigades, and Certain base or L.-of-C. units.

For these the increased monthly reinforcement would be 3,227 officers and men. This number was therefore regularly despatched from Australia. But the recruits who continued to offer were more numerous than could be absorbed in these drafts. The great tide of enlistment which set in after the Landing had not, indeed, yet commenced, but since the sailing of the early contingents there had been steadily enrolled a somewhat different class of men from that which had first rushed to the recruiting offices. They were men who perceived that the war was likely to be longer and more difficult than had at first appeared; men who waited to settle their family or business affairs before considering themselves free to enlist ; men who had begun to realise that, if the war was to be won, each individual citizen must put his shoulder to the wheel. A high proportion volunteered not so much from impetuosity of spirit as because of a reasoned patriotism. The newspapers, in the effort to encourage enlistment, pointed out that these men were perhaps more truly representative of Australia [p.420] than the adventurous 1st Division, and that they were impressing all beholders as the finest troops yet raised in the Commonwealth. Men of the 1st Division, reduced, war-worn, sickening in their trenches at Anzac, read such eulogies with sardonic comments, and at once christened these future arrivals the “ Dinkum ” (that is, “ the genuine ”) Australians.

When this class began to maintain the flood of enrolment and the camps in Australia were found to be receiving far larger numbers than would he required for mere reinforcements, the Commonwealth Government cabled to Great Britain offering to organise, despatch, and maintain fresh units of a strength of 10,000. This proposal was accepted, the British Government asking that as large a percentage as possible should be infantry. On February 2nd, therefore, the Commonwealth notified London that the new force would comprise-

Two (5th and 6th) infantry brigades.
One (4th) light horse brigade.

On April 1st this was increased I)y the additional offer of-

One (7th) infantry brigade.

The three infantry brigades were raised as follows :-

In New South Wales –

5th (17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th Battalions).

In Victoria –

6th (21st, 22nd, 23rd, and 24th Battalions).

In other States – 7th Brigade

25th Battalion (Queensland).
26th Battalion (half Queensland, half Tasmania).
27th Battalion (South Australia).
28th Battalion [Western Australia).”

The Official History, Vol II, Chapter XV pp.419/420

 

The 28th Battalion

The 28th AIF was a unit comprised exclusively of men recruited from Western Australia. An excellent history of the early years of the 28th Battalion from 1915 until arrival in France in 1916 is written by its first commanding officer Colonel H.B. Collett and is available to read on-line here: The 28th: A Record of War Service in the Australian Imperial Force, 1915-19, Vol. I, by Herbert Brayley Collett. The 28th Battalion was created in April 1915, trained at Blackboy Hill Camp outside Perth, and departed for Egypt on the ss Ascansius on 9th June 1915 from Fremantle.

28th AIF - Some of the Original Officers

28th AIF – Some of the Original Officers

THE MARCH THROUGH PERTH - 3rd June, 1915 - The crowd in St George's Terrace

THE MARCH THROUGH PERTH – 3rd June, 1915 – The crowd in St George’s Terrace

THE FAREWELL AT FREMANTLE - 9th June, 1915

THE FAREWELL AT FREMANTLE – 9th June, 1915

Of the initial battalion that sailed that day, Col Collett’s history records that half the battalion were Australian born, and nearly all the remaining half were British born. The average age was approx. 24 years and (from approx 1,000 men) there were only 143 married men. 150 civil occupations were represented, the principal ones being: labourers 199, farmers and farm hands 109, miners and prospectors 70, timber workers 64, clerks 60, carpenters and joiners 27, horse drivers 18, pearlers 17, grocers 16, engineers 13, and butchers 13.

The battalion arrived at Gallipoli in September 1915 and was there until the evacuation in December 1915 before moving back to Egypt to reorganise and restore their numbers and then on to France for the Western Front in March 1916.

The 28th AIF, Cairo, August 1915

The 28th AIF, Cairo, August 1915

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