Title: The Story of the Fifth Australian Division: Being an Authoritative Account of the Division’s Doings in Egypt, France and Belgium.
Author: Ellis, A D
Edition: 2nd Edition
Publication Date: 2007
Cover: Soft Cover without Dust Jacket – 468 pages
Comments: The detailed history of the Australian 5th Division during World War 1
The 5th Australian Division began to form in February 1916 in Egypt with 8th, 14th and 15th Brigades. The 8th had been raised in Australia in June 1915 and arrived in Egypt in December, the 14th and 15th Brigades were made up half from personnel of the 1st and 2nd Brigades of the 1st Division (recently back from Gallipoli) and half from reinforcements already in Egypt. The four battalions of the 8th Brigade had already been numbered (in Australia) 29th-32nd, the eight battalions of the newly created 14th and 15th Brigades were numbered 53rd-60th.
The divisional commander was the Hon J.W McCay, who arrived in March from Australia where he had been Inspector General. The division arrived in France at the end of June 1916 and within three weeks, on 19th July, it was in action in the attack on Fromelles, the same area that saw the disastrous assault on Aubers Ridge some fourteen months earlier. This attack was equally disastrous with 5,533 casualties, the highest casualty figure incurred in a day by any division other than that of 34th Division on 1st July 1916.
Other major actions fought by the 5th Australian Division included Bullecourt, Polygon Wood, first and second battles of Passchendaele, Amiens, Avre, Villers Bretonneux, occupation of Peronne, and St Quentin Canal (capture of the Bellicourt Tunnel Defences). Seven VCs were won and from figures quoted from time to time, the final casualty figure must have numbered more than 25,000 (remembering the divison’s first action was nearly two years after the war had been in progress.
This is a very good history with much detailed descriptive writing – some of it very vivid: The fields became mere areas of dishevelled rubbish, the shell-holes filled with putrid water in which rotted the corpses of men and animals. Appendices list all honours and awards with full citation for the VC awards, and the complete Roll of Honour listed, as in the case of the honours and awards, alphabetically by units. The two colour plates depict colour patches worn by units of the division.