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Australian 6th Brigade marching Somme
Soldiers from the 6th Brigade, of which the 23rd Battalion was a part, at Warloy, August 1916
Branch Australian Army
Size ~1,000 men
Part of 6th Brigade, 2nd Division
Colours Brown over Red
World War I
The 23rd Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. It was raised in 1915 as part of the Australian Imperial Force for service during World War I and formed part of the 6th Brigade, attached to the 2nd Division. After being formed in Australia, the battalion was sent to Egypt to complete its training, before being committed to the Gallipoli Campaign as reinforcements in September 1915. They remained on the peninsula until the evacuation of Allied troops in December, when they were withdrawn back to Egypt where they were reorganised before being transferred to the Western Front in March 1916. Over the course of the next two-and-a-half years, the 23rd took part in a number of significant battles in France and Belgium, before being disbanded in mid-1919 following the conclusion of hostilities. In 1921, the battalion was re-raised as a part-time unit within the Citizens Forces in the state of Victoria, but was amalgamated with the 21st Battalion in 1929 to form the 23rd/21st Battalion.
The 23rd Battalion was raised in Victoria in March 1915 as part of the formation of the 2nd Division of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Its first commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel George Morton. Together with the 21st, 22nd and 24th Battalions, it formed the 6th Brigade under the command of Colonel Richard Linton. Organised into four rifle companies, designated 'A' through to 'D', with a machine gun section in support, the Australian infantry battalion of the time had an authorised strength of 1,023 men of all ranks. After completing initial training at Broadmeadows, in May 1915 the 23rd embarked upon the troopship Euripides bound for Egypt. They arrived in Alexandria on 11 June and after being moved by train to Cairo they marched to a camp at Heliopolis where they undertook further training in preparation for deployment to Gallipoli, where the units of the 1st Division had landed on 25 April 1915.
While they were training, the Allies launched the August Offensive in an attempt to break the deadlock that had developed on the Gallipoli Peninsula following the initial landing. The offensive largely failed and heavy casualties resulted. In order to replace the men that were lost and give the survivors a rest, the decision was made by Allied commanders to move the 2nd Division from Egypt. After being moved to Lemnos Island, the 23rd Battalion embarked for Gallipoli on 4 September, arriving there at 9:30 pm that evening. A day of familiarisation followed before the battalion took up defensive positions at Lone Pine.On 12 September, the 23rd, along with their sister battalion, the 24th, took over responsibility for the post from the 1st Division battalions that had held it previously. During the stalemate that followed, manning positions that, in some places, were only a few metres from the Ottoman lines, the 23rd Battalion began countermining operations after Turkish mining operations were discovered. For the next three months, due to the intensity of the fighting in the sector, the battalion alternated their position with the 24th Battalion almost every day until the evacuation of Allied troops from the peninsula occurred,embarking with the last troops to leave on the night of 19/20 December 1915.
Following their withdrawal from Gallipoli, the 23rd Battalion was moved to Lemnos Island, where they remained until January 1916 when they were transferred back to Egypt. At this time, the AIF was reorganised and expanded in preparation for future operations. Two new infantry divisions were formed from the experienced troops of the 1st Division who had deployed to Gallipoli at the start of the campaign, while a third division was raised in Australia from scratch. The 2nd Division was largely left untouched, so that it could complete its formation which had been interrupted by its deployment to Gallipoli. The 23rd subsequently spent the early months of 1916 rebuilding its strength and conducting further training in preparation for its transfer to Europe.