The Lineage of the Australian Army

From the book "The Lineage of the Australian Army" by Alfred N. Festberg, 1972

(This is an exact retype of original document - Researched by Antony Buckingham, MP History Website)

1. Assumption of Control by Commonwealth

The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act of 1900 empowered the Commonwealth to legislate with respect to "the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several states, and the control of the forces to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth" and vested the comand-in-chief of the Commonwealth, for the transference of the Defence Department from each state. This transfer was affected in March 1901, when the State Ministry for Defence, one of the seven departments of the Executive Council of the federation, took over the control of the whole forces of the States.

2. The System of Administration

The growth of the Commonwealth Military Forces may be considered to have taken place in nineteen phases -

a. The first phase, i.e, the welding together of the military forces of the states, into one homogenous army, was entrusted by the Government in 1902 to Major General, Sir Edward Hutton, KCB,KCMG, and a sound foundation was laid, upon which subsequent organization and training was based. On the 12th January 1905, a Council of Defence, to deal with questions of policy, and a Military Board, to supervise the administration of the forces, were constituted.

b. The second phase was the introduction of Universal Training in 1911. During the year 1909 a measure providing for universal training was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, and the scheme came into force in 1911 after the advice and recommendation of Lord Kitchener had been obtained. By the Act of 1908 the principle of universal training was made law for the first time in any english speaking country.

c. The third phase, Divisional Organization, came into operation from 1st May 1921. Under this system a war organization, evolved from the Australian Imperial Force, was applied to peace conditions with a minimum of permanent staff and forces. Numbers of units and formations were altered to correspond with those of the AIF and every effort was made to maintain the traditions established by those units in the Great War.

d. The fourth phase, which was initiated by the Government in 1922, entailed the reduction of the Divisional Organization to a nucleus force.

e. The fifth phase, the suspension of all compulsory obligations under part 3 of the Defence Act and the reconstitution of the forces on a basis of voluntary enlistment, was brought into operation as from 1st November 1929. The Divisional Organization was retained, but the peace nucleus was reduced by the reductions in training establishments of both Citizen Forces and Senior Cadets and by ceasing to maintain certain light horse regiments and infantry battalions. A further reduction of the peace nucleus of the Militia Forces was made in 1931.

f. The sixth phase was initiated by the Government in July 1936, whereby authority was given to raise the training strength of the Militia. This strength was attained by December 1938. The Divisional Organization was retained. Certain light horse regiments and infantry battalions which ceased to be maintained in the fifth phase and were linked with other light horse regiments and battalions were now reraised. In addition, certain new units were organized as a first step towards the modernization of the field army and coast defences. These units included light horse machine gun regiments and anit-aircraft and searchlight units.

g. The seventh phase was initiated by the Government in November 1938, when authority was given to a further raise of the training strength of the militia. The Divisional Organization was retained, and in order to absorb the increasing numbers the policy of increasing unit establishments was adopted, but new units were formed in a few special cases only.

h. The eighth phase was initiated by the Government on 2nd September 1939, when the Governor-General issued a proclamation of the existence of war or of danger thereof and for the calling out of the Citizen Forces for war service.

i. The ninth phase was initiated by the Government on 13th October 1939, when the organization of the Australian Military Forces into commands came into operation. The objects of the Command Organization were as follows:

1. to bring peace organization into line with war organization;

2. to provide for the personal and whole-time guidance and supervision, by a higher commander of divisional and other formation commanders, on questions of training and general preparedness for war;

3. to reduce the number of lower formations under the direct control of Army HQ.

j. The tenth phase was initiated by the Government on 30th November 1939, when a proclamation was issued under the Defence Act calling upon certain personnel to enlist and serve in the Defence Forces.

k. The eleventh phase: owing to a considerable expansion in the administrative functions which the three main commands were called upon to perform, it was decided to relieve the GOCs of these commands and their staffs of much of their administrative responsibilities in order that they might concentrate on operational matters. In January 1942, therefore, Northern, Eastern and Southern Commands were divided into separate command and base HQ - the command headquarters to handle operational and base headquarters administrative matters.

l. The twelfth phase; As a result of the expansion in supply and other administrative installations in Australia, it was found necessary to revise the machinery for command administration of lines of communication areas and to decentralize control. A Division into lines of communication areas was therfore made, and these areas correspond with Northern, Eastern, Southern and Western Commands and 7th and 8th Military Districts. Command and general administrative control of the lines of communication areas were placed under the respective base headquarters and 7th and 8th Military Districts and came directly under Army HQ.

m. The thirteenth phase: In August 1941, War Cabinet approved of Lieutenant General, Sir Ivan Mackay, as GOC - in - C was made superior to the GOsC Commands for the direction of operations, but subordinate to the Military Board, which remained the body advising the Minister for the Army, and through him, War Cabinet.

n. The fourteenth phase: Shortly after the outbreak of war with Japan, a number of units of the United States Forces were routed to Australia. Subsequently, additional forces arrived. By agreement among the Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the Commonwealth of Australia in April 1942, General Douglas MacArthur was appointed Commander-in-Chief, South West Pacific Area. General Sir Thomas Blamey was assigned to the command of the Allied Land Forces in the South West Pacific Area by General Headquarters, South West Pacific Area. With the appointment of General Sir Thomas Blamey as Comander-in-Cheif Australian Military Forces, the Military Board ceased to function and Army Headquarters became Allied Land Forces Headquarters, Australia.


1. General Sir T.A. Balmey, KCB CMG DSO appointed Commander-in-Chief of the AMF, with effect from 27th March 1942

2. In view of the foregoing, the control and administration of the AMF by the Military Board has ceased and the Military Board as such is now not in existence.


The designation of Headquarters of the AMF was changed from "Army Headquarters" to "General Headquarters (Australia), as from 9th April 1942.


1. In future, General Headquarters (Australia) will be known as "Allied Land Forces Headquarters". The abbreviation "LHQ" will be used.

2. The designation "GHQ" will, in future, be used only in reference to Headquarters, South West Pacific Area.

As from 9th April 1942, the system of commands and bases were abolished and replaced by the field army and lines of communication areas were established in each of the six States on the mainland plus Northern Territory and New Guinea. Field formations were formed as follows:

First Australian Army - From Northern and Eastern Commands

Second Australian Army - From Southern Command

111 Australian Corps - From Western Command

Northern Territory Force - From 7th Military District

New Guinea - From 8th Military District


With effect as from 12th October 1945, "Allied Land Forces Headquarters" (LHQ) will be known as "Headquarters AMF" (HQ AMF)

1. General Sir T.A. Blamey KCB CMG DSO relinquished the appointment of Acting Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces on 30th November 1945.

2. Lieutenant General V.A.H. Sturdee, CB CBE DSO, appointed Acting Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces on 1st December 1945.

o. The fifteenth phase; In March 1946, the Military Board and the organization of commands and military districts were introduced.


1. Lieutenant General V.A.H. Sturdee CB CBE DSO relinquished the appointment of Acting Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces on 28th February 1946.

2. The Military Board will control and administer the Australian Military Forces with effect from 1st March 1946.

M.B.I 19/1946

With effect as from 10th April 1946, "Headquarters AMF" will be known as "Army Headquarters". The abbreviation "AHQ" will be used.

p. The sixteenth phase was the commencement of the National Service Training Scheme in August 1951.

q. The seventeenth phase was a complete re-organization of the Australian Military Forces was undertaken in 1960. The re-organization involved the reshaping of the Army by:

a. the adoption of a pentropic divisional organization

b. increasing the Regular Field Force

c. reducing the command, training, and administrative structure, and

d. converting the Citizen Military Forces to a wholly volunteer force and eliminating national service which was introduced in 1951 and suspended in 1959/1960.

r. The eighteenth phase commenced in November 1964, when the Government announced that National Service Training was to be re-introduced from June 1965. The scheme provides for a period of 2 years full-time duty in the Regular Army followed by three years in the reserve. National Service registrants who are members of the Citizen Military Forces or who join prior to the ballot may elect to serve in the CMF for a total of 5 or 6 years depending on length of previous service, as an alternative to full-time continuous National Service Training. Special CMF units have been formed to provide for those persons who wish to serve in the CMF but who are unable to do so in normal units, because of remote locations etc.

s. The nineteenth phase commenced in 1965 when the pentropical organization was abolished in favour of the divisional one. Each of the three divisions has now three task force headquarters who can command varying combinations of divisional units.

t. The twentieth phase is to take place in the very near future. The report of the Army Review Committee has been presented to the Government, and the committees chairman (Maj. Gen F.B. Hassett) appointed to the newly created post of Vice-Chief of the General Staff. Thus he will be able to implement his own recommendations.


The commands at this time are:

Northern Command - the state of Queensland

Eastern Command - the state of New South Wales, less those parts included in Southern and Central commands

Southern Command - the state of Victoria and part of southern New South Wales

Central Command - the state of South Australia, plus a portion of south western New South Wales

Western Command - the state of Western Australia

Tasmania Command - the state of Tasmania

Northern Territory Command - the Northern Territory

Papua-New Guinea Command - the Territory of Papua-New Guinea.