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To Win the Battle
The 1st Australian Division in the Great War 1914–1918



Part of Australian Army History Series

  • Date Published: January 2013
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107028685
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About the Authors
  • In 1915 the 1st Australian Division led the way ashore at Gallipoli. In 1916 it achieved the first Australian victory on the Western Front at Pozières. It was still serving with distinction in the battles that led to the defeat of the German army in 1918. To Win the Battle explains how the division rose from obscurity to forge a reputation as one of the great fighting formations of the British Empire during the First World War, forming a central part of the Anzac legend. Drawing on primary sources as well as recent scholarship, this fresh approach suggests that the early reputation of Australia's premier division was probably higher than its performance warranted. Robert Stevenson shows that the division's later success was founded on the capacity of its commanders to administer, train and adapt to the changing conditions on the battlefield, rather than on the innate qualities of its soldiers.

    • This is the first major study in ninety years of an Australian division that fought in the Great War
    • Provides a fresh approach to the subject by analysing both primary sources and more recent scholarship
    • Reflects upon the successes of the division and how it gave birth to the Anzac legend
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… an impressive piece of scholarship and, in the Australian context, a brave book that attacks some of the pillars of the Anzac myth. It is among the finest modern studies of a British Empire division in the Great War, and deserves the widest possible readership.' Gary Sheffield, War in History

    Customer reviews

    12th Apr 2014 by Robbo

    This is another fine addition to the Australian Army History Series, in conjunction with Cambridge University Press, which is providing readers with well researched, balanced and in-depth studies of various facets of Australian military history largely based on PhD studies. This series is in contrast to the shallow and parochial views of some of the “popular” versions that have so distorted Australian’s views of their military contribution since the Boer War and engender ridicule in the wider international arena. Dr Robert Stevenson is a former Australian Army infantry officer and his military experience shines through in this thorough, analytical study of the 1st Australian Division during the Great War. Using its wartime experiences and battles as background Stevenson addresses all aspects of the 1st Division’s development, and stripping away the mythology, he gets to the heart of how this hastily raised force of largely untrained men eventually became one of the finest fighting divisions on the Western Front. It was not because the Australian soldier was a natural born soldier who starred from the beginning during the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, but because of deeper reasons, including, ironically, its British regular army commander from July 1915 to June 1918, supported by several fine Australian and British staff officers. The first four chapters address what most histories don’t, an analysis of the origins and mobilisation of the division, its evolving structure and component parts as it adapted to the changing nature of war, the all important logistics and administration that made battle possible, and the essential training that turned good men into fine soldiers. The last four trace the division’s journey, performance and development through the cauldron of war, with each devoted to a year’s campaigning. Gallipoli proved a tough baptism of fire for this inadequately trained and inexperienced division and its performance, although acceptable, was far from perfect, not because of the British but through its own internal weaknesses. My own analysis for The Landing at Anzac, 1915 arrived at much the same conclusion, and while Stevenson and I differ on a few issues, it is only by degree, rather than substance. Moving to the Western Front the division steadily improved largely through battle experience, hard training, the leadership of Major General “Hooky” Walker, better staff work, and the evolution of firepower, structural organisation and tactics that emerged throughout the British Expeditionary Force BEF. As Stevenson writes the division “was not born great, it became great”, taking three hard years of campaigning before it hit its peak. To Win the Battle provides a wealth of information that will interest researchers and general readers alike. Of interest to many will be the actual number of days the division spent in the line and attacks, compared with those in administration and training each year, the way in which the Lewis gun percolated down from battalion to platoon level as more became available, the development of division and battalion structures and all arms battle tactics as the war progressed and changed in nature, and the accompanying improvement in logistic support. Above all Stevenson gives us an insight into the men who made all this work within the division, commanders and staff officers alike Refreshingly, Stevenson avoids parochial nationalism and places the 1st Division’s development and performance in the broader context of the war, noting the Canadians, New Zealanders and several British divisions acquired the same high standards. He also pays tribute to the contribution British regular officers made, highlights that several notable Australians in the division were British born, and the innovations in tactics and weaponry that helped make the division a potent fighting force in 1917 and 1918 were largely British led. This is not a book for those who want lashings of first hand accounts and personal experiences, but it will definitely appeal to those who wish to know how the Australian soldier developed from Gallipoli to the Armistice, how he fought at different times during the war and what were the reasons that eventually made this division such a war winning organisation. To Win the Battle is a valuable contribution to Australian military historiography that separates myth from reality.

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2013
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107028685
    • length: 306 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.55kg
    • contains: 46 b/w illus. 14 maps
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. In the beginning
    2. Organising for battle
    3. Sinews of war
    4. Already half a soldier
    5. Into battle
    6. Learning the hard war
    7. Hitting the peak
    8. The year of victory

  • Author

    Robert Stevenson, University of New South Wales, Sydney
    Dr Robert Stevenson served in the Australian Regular Army before joining the University of New South Wales. He has published several research papers on military fratricide for the Australian Army, journal articles for the Australian Army Journal and Wartime, and provided a paper for the Proceedings of the 2007 Chief of Army Military History Conference. His PhD thesis on the 1st Australian Division in the Great War (published as this book) was awarded the Army History Unit's CEW Bean Prize. He holds a Masters of Art (Defence Studies) and a Doctorate of Philosophy (History) from the University of New South Wales. He is currently working on a study of the operational performance of the Australian Imperial Force on the Western Front during World War One.

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