Australian Corps
The Australian Corps was a World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 army corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

 that contained all five Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n infantry division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

s serving on the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

. It was the largest corps fielded by the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 army in France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. Formed on 1 November 1917, the corps replaced I Anzac Corps
I Anzac Corps
The I ANZAC Corps was a combined Australian and New Zealand army corps that served during World War I.It was formed in Egypt in February 1916 as part of the reorganisation and expansion of the Australian Imperial Force and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force following the evacuation of Gallipoli...

 while II Anzac Corps
II Anzac Corps
The II ANZAC Corps was an Australian and New Zealand First World War army corps formed in Egypt in February 1916 as part of the reorganization of the Australian Imperial Force following the evacuation of Gallipoli in November 1915, under the command of William Birdwood...

, which contained the New Zealand Division
New Zealand Division
The New Zealand Division was a World War I infantry division formed in Egypt in January 1916 following the evacuation of Gallipoli. At the outbreak of war the New Zealand Expeditionary Force contained a single infantry brigade which was combined with the unattached Australian 4th Infantry Brigade...

, became the British XXII Corps
XXII Corps (United Kingdom)
The British XXII Corps was a British infantry corps during World War I.- History :British XXII Corps was formed in France in December 1917 from what was left of II ANZAC once the Australian divisions had left to form the Australian Corps...


Following the hard fighting of 1917, where the Australian divisions suffered heavily at Bullecourt
Battle of Arras (1917)
The Battle of Arras was a British offensive during the First World War. From 9 April to 16 May 1917, British, Canadian, New Zealand, Newfoundland, and Australian troops attacked German trenches near the French city of Arras on the Western Front....

, Messines
Battle of Messines
The Battle of Messines was a battle of the Western front of the First World War. It began on 7 June 1917 when the British Second Army under the command of General Herbert Plumer launched an offensive near the village of Mesen in West Flanders, Belgium...

 and the Third Battle of Ypres, the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was facing a manpower crisis. One referendum for conscription
Australian plebiscite, 1916
The 1916 Australian plebiscite was held on 28 October 1916. It was the first non-binding Australian plebiscite, and contained one question concerning Military Service....

 had already failed and another
Australian plebiscite, 1917
The 1917 Australian plebiscite was held on 20 December 1917. It contained one question.* Are you in favour of the proposal of the Commonwealth Government for reinforcing the Australian Imperial Force overseas?-The Plebiscite:...

 would be defeated on 1 December 1917. Voluntary recruitment was declining. Plans to form a 6th Australian Division were scrapped and the incomplete formation was disbanded. To make up the numbers, it was proposed to disband the Australian 4th Division
Australian 4th Division (World War I)
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 were added the new 12th and 13th Brigades...

, numerically the weakest, but this was strongly resisted by the members of the AIF.

General William Birdwood, commander of the AIF, suggested that, in forming the Australian Corps, the weakest division could serve as a depot, providing reserves for the fighting divisions. Field Marshal Douglas Haig
Douglas Haig
Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig was a British soldier and senior commander during World War I.Douglas Haig may also refer to:* Club Atlético Douglas Haig, a football club from Argentina* Douglas Haig , American actor...

, commander of the British Expeditionary Force, accepted this proposal. He had originally resisted combining the five Australian divisions into a single corps as he considered it too unwieldy.

The Australian nature of the corps was enhanced by the attachment of No. 3 Squadron AFC
No. 3 Squadron RAAF
No. 3 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force fighter squadron. It was first formed in 1916 and currently operates F/A-18 Hornet aircraft from RAAF Base Williamtown, near Newcastle, New South Wales.-World War I:...

 plus Australian siege artillery batteries. It was also considered appropriate to appoint Australian officers to all senior command positions. However, Birdwood remained in command of the corps.

General Hubert Gough
Hubert Gough
General Sir Hubert de la Poer Gough GCB, GCMG, KCVO was a senior officer in the British Army, who commanded the British Fifth Army from 1916 to 1918 during the First World War.-Family background:...

 was dismissed from command of the British Fifth Army
British Fifth Army
The Fifth Army was a field army of the British Army during World War I and part of the British Expeditionary Force during the First World War.-History:...

 following its failure to withstand the German Spring Offensive
Operation Michael
Operation Michael was a First World War German military operation that began the Spring Offensive on 21 March 1918. It was launched from the Hindenburg Line, in the vicinity of Saint-Quentin, France...

 of 1918. When Haig decided to reform the Fifth Army, he offered its command to Birdwood who accepted. This paved the way for an Australian to assume command of the corps, the highest field command held by an Australian in the war. The two candidates were Major General Cyril Brudenell White (Birdwood's chief-of-staff) and Major General John Monash
John Monash
General Sir John Monash GCMG, KCB, VD was a civil engineer who became the Australian military commander in the First World War. He commanded the 13th Infantry Brigade before the War and then became commander of the 4th Brigade in Egypt shortly after the outbreak of the War with whom he took part...

 (commander of the 3rd Division
Australian 3rd Division (World War I)
The 3rd Division was an infantry division of the Australian Army. Existing during various periods between 1916 and 1991, it is considered the "longest serving Australian Army division". It was first formed during World War I, as an infantry division of the Australian Imperial Force and saw service...

). Monash, who was senior, had experience commanding troops in battle and was favoured by Haig and Birdwood, got the post in May 1918. The Australian Corps was used extensively throughout the Hundred Days Offensive
Hundred Days Offensive
The Hundred Days Offensive was the final period of the First World War, during which the Allies launched a series of offensives against the Central Powers on the Western Front from 8 August to 11 November 1918, beginning with the Battle of Amiens. The offensive forced the German armies to retreat...

 during which it achieved great success.

The 4th Division saw little rest in its role as the "depot". In December 1917 it was moved into reserve near Péronne
Péronne, Somme
Péronne is a commune of the Somme department in Picardie in northern France.It is close to where the Battles of the Somme took place during World War I...

 following the German counter-attack in the Battle of Cambrai (1917). In January 1918, the division was returned to the front line south of Ypres
Ypres is a Belgian municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Ypres and the villages of Boezinge, Brielen, Dikkebus, Elverdinge, Hollebeke, Sint-Jan, Vlamertinge, Voormezele, Zillebeke, and Zuidschote...

 as Haig acquiesced to French demands to take over more of the front. From this time until the Australians were withdrawn from fighting in early October, all divisions of the corps saw nearly continuous action. Rather than disbanding entire divisions, any consolidation of strength was made under the British system of reducing brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

s from four battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

s to three.
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