ANZAC Day Public Holiday

All National Library reading rooms will be closed on Anzac Day, Wednesday 25 April.  Regular reading room hours will resume on Thursday 26 April. See our public holiday opening hours for more information.

1916

The Western Front Campaign (March 1916)

After Gallipoli, the AIF reorganised two divisions into five and troops were sent to the Western Front in France. The majority of the AIF would remain there until an armistice was signed in 1918. War on the Western Front had been well underway since 1914, with Allied troops fighting across many fronts in an attempt to hold back the Central powers. By Australia’s arrival in 1916, a stalemate had emerged with both sides well entrenched across the French battlefields. 

Conditions on the Western Front were extremely challenging for the AIF. Men fought, lived and died in the trenches. They were exposed to the elements and vast amounts of rain made the battlefield muddy. And the constant explosions of shells churned up the earth. The horrible conditions meant that rats, lice and other insects were drawn to the soldiers, making the environment even more uncomfortable.

Somme Offensive—Western Front (1916–November 1917)

Sinai Palestine Campaign (1916–1917)

While most of the AIF moved to the Western Front after Gallipoli, a small contingent of mounted troops remained behind in Egypt. Its role was to protect the Suez Canal and to keep the Turkish forces at bay. Although this campaign did not draw as much media attention as the Western Front, it holds a significant place in Australian history for the establishment of the Australian Light Horse legend. Alongside the Light Horse rode the Imperial Camel Corps, boasting a significant advantage in the harsh desert conditions.

Fighting in the desert was a vastly different experience from those on the Western Front. The mounted troops were challenged by the overwhelming seemingly endless desert sand and extreme temperatures. Finding basic supplies such as water and shelter were hard to come by.

The Australian Light Horse conducted a highly successful campaign while fighting on the Sinai Palestine front throughout the war, beginning with Allied troops advancing into Palestine and successfully capturing Gaza and Jerusalem. By 1918, it had advanced into Syria and Lebanon, finally capturing Damascus later in 1918, resulting in the surrender of Turkish troops.