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The relevance of miscellany administrative, support and logistic units of the AIF a postscript.


In July 1918, the following Australian support, logistic and administration units were part of the Australian Corps on the Western Front:

* 3rd (Army), 6th (Army) and 12th (Army) Field Artillery Brigade Ammunition Columns

* 3rd (Army), 6th (Army) and 12th (Army) Field Artillery Brigade Park Sections

* Australian Corps Troops Engineers

* 1st Army Troops Company

* Australian Corps Wireless Section

* Australian Corps Signals Company

* Australian Corps Topographical Section

* Australian Corps Workshops

* 98th and 99th Dental Units

* Australian Corps Salvage Section

* Australian Corps Mechanical Transport Column (1st-6th MT Coy)

* Australian Corps Sanitary Section

* 1st Employment Company

In the United Kingdom, the AIF had the following miscellaneous units:

* AIF Administrative HQ

* Australian Motor Transport Service

* AIF Kit Store

* AIF War Chest Club

* Australian Red Cross Organisation (attached to AIF)

* Australian Army Ordnance Corps (portion)

* Australian Army Service Corps (portion)

* Australian Army Postal Corps (portion)

* 1st, 2nd and 3rd Auxiliary Hospitals

HQ AIF Depots UK:

* 1st Training Brigade (1st, 2nd and Pioneer Training Battalions)

* 2nd Training Brigade (5th, 6th, 9th and 10th Training Battalions)

* 3rd Training Brigade (12th, 13th, 14th and 15th Training Battalions)

* Overseas Training Brigade

* Artillery Training Depot

* Cyclist Training Company

* Engineer Training Depot (Field Section)

* Engineer Training Depot (Signal Seciton)

* Infantry Training Depot

* Light Horse Training Depot

* MG Training Depot

* Australian Army Medical Corps Training Depot

* Railway Training Depot

* Reserve Artillery Brigade

* Reserve Artillery Park

* Australian Army Service Corps Training Depot

* Siege Artillery Brigade Depot

* Australian Army Veterinary Corps Training Depot

* 1st Flying Wing:

1. 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th (Training) Squadrons

2. 1st and 2nd Two Squadron Station

3. 1st Aeroplane Repair Section

4. AFC Hospital

* Australian Army Provost Corps (portion)

* AIF Detention Barracks

* Australian Army Dental Corps (portion)

* Dental Stores Depot

* 1st Dermatological Hospital

* Base Depot of Medical Stores

* 2nd Area Gas School

* 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Command Depots

Miscellaneous units in France included:

* 1st-5th Field Bakeries

* 1st-5th Field Butcheries

* 1st-25th Depot Units of Supply

* Infantry Base Depot

* General Base Depot

* Australian Corps Artillery School

* Australian Corps Trench Mortar School

* Australian Electrical and Mechanical Mining and Boring Company

* Australian Railway Operating Group:

1. 1st, 2nd & 3rd (Light) Railway Operating Company

2. 4th, 5th & 6th (Broad Gauge) Railway Operating Company

* 1st, 2nd & 3rd General Hospital

* 1st, 2nd & 3rd Casualty Clearing Station

* Australian Army Dental Corps (portion)

* 1st Railhead Supply Detachment

* 1st Veterinary Hospital

* 1st Veterinary Evacuation Station

* Australian Reinforcement Camp

* Australian Corps School of Instruction

* Australian Army Ordnance Corps (portion)

* Australian Army Pay Corps (portion)

* Australian Pay Office, Boulogne

* Australian Base Pay Office, Rouen

* Australian Army Postal Corps (portion)

* Australian Army Provost Corps (portion)

* 1st Convalescent Depot

* Australian Section, 3rd Echelon, British Expeditionary Force

Not to be forgotten of course were the Australians in the Middle East who were supported by:

* Australian HQ Cairo

* Anzac Training Centre and Details Camp

* Anzac Mounted Division Training Regiment

* 14th and 15th Light Horse Training Squadrons

* Engineer Training Depot (Field Section)

* Engineer Training Depot (Signal Section)

* Machine Gun Training Depot

* Australian Army Service Corps Training Depot

* Australian Army Medical Corps Training Depot

* Australian Army Veterinary Corps Training Depot

* D Field Troop and Bridging Section

* Australian Remount Depot

* Australian Army Pay Corps (portion)

* Australian Army Postal Corps (portion)

* Australian Army Ordnance Corps (portion)

* Anzac Provost Corps (Egyptian Seciton)

* Australian Section, 3rd Echelon, Egyptian Expeditionary Force

* 14th General Hospital

* 2nd Stationary Hospital

* Anzac Field Laboratory

* Australian Depot Stores

This is an enormous list and helps to illustrate, hopefully, the extent of the often neglected support effort of the AIF. While admittedly many of these units were quite small, Dental Units for example had a strength of one officer and three other ranks, it is still an impressive list.

One point that has been raised by some commentators, in particular Lindsay, is an observation that a number of Australian logistic or support units were unnecessary. Lindsay notes that from early March 1918 a number of the DUS were "lent for extended periods to work for British units." He notes for example that 1st DUS was employed as 1st Army Purchasing Board, 5th DUS operated the 4th Base Stores Depot and 19th DUS operated the 3rd BSD Forage Depot. (2) Lindsay and others infer that if these units could be released for such tasks, then what was the need for them?

These commentators miss several vital points. First, it is unlikely that the units would have been deployed as they were unless they actually were needed. It mast be remembered that by the last year of the war the British manpower pool had all but dried up. Men (and boys) who would have been rejected by any recruiting sergeant in 1914 or 1915 were swept up in the draft and fed into the fighting machine. But while the most crying need of the BEF was always for more and more bayonets in the trenches, the logistic effort could not be ignored, neglected or run down) The BEF was constantly engaged in a precarious balancing match between the needs of the fighting "teeth" and the logistic "tail." Thus it welcomed the additional support of the Australian units.

Secondly, commentators miss the point of the high number of B Class men who were employed in the support, logistic and administrative units, especially later in the war. There were a high number of instructors, for example, in the various schools who had been classed as unfit for front line service but who could still give valuable service in supporting the army in the field. Similarly, the 1st Employment Company (517 all ranks) was composed entirely of B Class men (4). Thus, the "unnecessary" units provided useful employment for a number of medically below standard men, thereby releasing more fit men for the front.

Finally, Lindsay and others ignore the fact that several of the AIF's senior officers, notably Monash and White, had their eyes firmly on the post-war development of the Australian Army. They were determined to ensure that a large pool of officers and men with experience in all areas of military operations and administration would be available to be called on when reforming the Australian Army. Never again would the Australian Army have to turn to the pages of the New Zealand Military Journal to find out details for raising a new unit! (5)

(1) The original paper was presented to the 2002 Biannual Conference of the Military Historical Society of Australia, held at Canberra from 4-6 October 2002 and was printed in the March 2003 edition of Sabretache.

(2) Lindsay, Neville, 1991 Equal to the Task Volume 1 The Royal Australian Army Service Corps, Historia Publications, Kenmore, p. 221.

(3) Macksey, Kenneth, 1989 For Want of a Nail The Impact on War of Logistics and Communications, pp. 72-73.

(4) Lindsay, op. cit., p.461.

(5) see original paper published in the March 2003 edition of Sabretache at pages 60-61 where it was noted that when the AIF set about establishing the logistic and supply units for the 1st Division, while it was known that, amongst other things, an "ammunition park" and a "supply column" were required, no one had much of an idea of the duties or probable tasks of these mysterious units. The officers appointed to raise and command the two units eventually discovered an article in the New Zealand Military Journal that gave them enough guidance to get on with the job!
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Author:Wilson, Graham
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 1, 2003
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