Australian and New Zealand Army Corps - Formation of ANZAC

Formation of ANZAC

Plans for the formation began in November 1914 while the first contingent of Australian and New Zealand troops were still in convoy bound for, as they thought, Europe. However, following the experiences of the Canadian Expeditionary Force encamped on Salisbury Plain, it was decided not to subject the Australians and New Zealanders to the English winter and so they were diverted to Egypt for training before moving on to the Western Front in France. The British Secretary of State for War, Horatio Kitchener, appointed General William Birdwood, an officer of the British Indian Army, to the command of the corps and he furnished most of the corps staff from the Indian Army as well. Birdwood arrived in Cairo on 21 December 1914 to assume command of the corps.

It was originally intended to name the corps the Australasian Army Corps, this title being used in the unit diary, following the common practice of the time, which often saw New Zealanders and Australians compete together as Australasia in sporting events. However, protests from New Zealand led adoption of the name Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The administration clerks found the title too cumbersome so quickly adopted the abbreviation A. & N.Z.A.C. or simply ANZAC. Shortly afterwards it was officially adopted as the codename for the corps but it did not enter common usage amongst the troops until after the Gallipoli landings.

At the outset, the corps comprised one complete division, the Australian 1st Division, the New Zealand Infantry Brigade and two mounted brigades—the Australian 1st Light Horse Brigade and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade (NZMR). Another convoy transporting an Australian infantry brigade (the 4th) and two light horse brigades arrived shortly afterwards. Initially the brigades were arranged by combining the two extra infantry brigades into the "New Zealand Division" and the mounted brigades into the "Mounted Division" but this was deemed unsatisfactory. Instead the New Zealand and Australian Division was formed with the two infantry brigades plus two mounted brigades (1st Light Horse Brigade and NZMR Brigade). The remaining light horse brigades became corps troops. These two divisions would remain the core of ANZAC for the duration of its existence.

Despite being synonymous with Australia and New Zealand, ANZAC was a multi-national body. In addition to the many British officers in the corps and division staffs, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps contained, at various points, the 7th Brigade of the Indian Mountain Artillery, Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps troops, the Zion Mule Corps, 4 battalions from the Royal Naval Division, the British 13th (Western) Division, one brigade of the British 10th (Irish) Division and the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade.

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