1st Machine Gun Battalion
From Our Contribution
The establishment of machine gun battalions within the AIF was the final step in the evolution of the organisation of direct fire support during the war. At the start of the war, Maxim machine guns had been assigned within line infantry battalions on a limited scale of two per battalion. As it was realised that there was a need for increased fire support, this was later increased to four guns per battalion, operated by a section of one officer and 32 other ranks. Following Gallipoli the machine gun sections within each infantry battalion had been consolidated into companies assigned at brigade level.
While the 1st Machine Gun Battalion didn't come into being until March 1918, its resources were previously known as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 21st Machine Gun Companies. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd having been formed in Australia during 1916 and made up the original MG Battalion with the 21st which joined them in in August 1917 having been formed in England in February 1917, originally as the 16th Machine Gun Company meant to support the 16th Brigade, but later redesignated as the 21st MG Coy and allocated to the 1st Division.
The original companies undertook intensive training with the 1st Division in Australia and Egypt and arrived on the Western Front in 1916 with the rest of the 1st Division. As a Machine Gun Battalion they participated in halting the German advance in Spring 1918, and more particularly in the 100 day Offensive leading to the Armistice.
The final battalion format had a total of 64 Vickers medium machine guns, 16 per company, served by a crew of three, mounted on a tripod and they were active in the Hundred Days Offensive. Their main role being to provide enfilade fire in defence and plunging fire in support of attacking infantry. Due to the exposed position from which the machine gunners fired, they suffered heavy casualties.
As a result of the decision not to re-raise machine gun battalions in the early interwar years, no battle honours were subsequently awarded to the 3rd Machine Gun Battalion – or any other First World War machine gun battalion – as there was no equivalent unit to perpetuate the honours when they were promulgated by the Australian Army in 1927
- 5 Military Crosses & 1 Bar to Military Cross
- 2 Distinguished Conduct Medals
- 30 Military Medals & 3 Bars to Military Medal
- 4 Meritorious Service Medals
- 10 Mentioned in Despatches, and
- 4 foreign awards
Content for the history and honours sections has come from a combination of Wikipedia and the Australian War Memorial websites.