Topic: AIF - Lighthorse
The following is an extract is an excellent summary detailing the history of the Australian light horse movement. It comes from Dennis, P., et al, The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, 2nd Ed, OUP 2008, pp. 187 - 188.
A division is a military formation combining the necessary arms and services required for sustained independent operations, and is usually commanded by a major-general. In armies of the British pattern it usually comprises three infantry brigades with three artillery regiments and supporting arms and services; two armoured brigades (or one armoured and one motorised brigade) plus divisional troops in the case of an armoured division; three light horse brigades plus divisional troops in the case of a mounted division. Its establishment has changed over time: in the First World War a full-strength infantry division numbered approximately 18,000 men, which had declined to about 15,000 in the Second World War. More significant in some ways than the strength of the division was the ‘divisional slice', which is the number of men required to deploy and maintain a division in the field. In the First World War it was 30,000 for the AIF; in the Second World War it had risen to 52,000, which indicated the greater technical sophistication required to support operations but which, like the corresponding figure from the previous war, was low by comparison with most of Australia's allies.
In the First World War Australia fielded five infantry divisions (1st to 5th, formed in November 1917 into the Australian Corps) and the best part of two mounted divisions (Australian Mounted and Australian and New Zealand Mounted, which contained a New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, both in the Middle East as part of the Desert Mounted Corps). The 6th infantry division was formed in the United Kingdom in March 1917 but because of manpower shortages was disbanded in September. The divisional structure was maintained in the peacetime Army between the wars on the recommendation of the conference of senior officers which met in 1920, but the repeated cuts to the defence budget ensured that this was a skeleton organisation at best. During the Second World War Australia raised five divisions in the 2nd AIF (four infantry, 6th to 9th, plus the 1st Armoured Division), seven divisions from the militia (1st to 5th plus 11th and 12th), not all of which saw service outside Australia, together with another armoured and a motor division (2nd Motor and 3rd Armoured), all of which proved beyond Australia's manpower resources to maintain. In the post-war period the Army maintained the divisional structure at three divisions, one regular and two CMF or reserve. By 1965, when the Army prepared for the commitment to Vietnam, a division numbered 988 officers and 13,989 other ranks in a far more complex organisation than its First World War forebear.
There was some consideration given to abandoning the divisional organisation in the late 1970s but it was retained, as much to maintain some credibility in the eyes of allies as anything. Today, however, it would be a stretch to consider them genuine fighting formations. The 1st Division contains not just the largely regular Army brigades (the 1st and 3rd) but also ones with large numbers of integrated reservists (the 7th). Its headquarters was redesignated as the Deployable Joint Force Headquarters (DJFHQ) in the 1990s and is deployable in its own right to command a large inter service operation of an essentially ad hoc nature, as was done for operations in East Timor in 1999. The Army Reserve 3rd Division was disbanded in 1991 and the 2nd Division is little more than an administrative arrangement with its headquarters made responsible for such `projects' as doctrine development. These changes were made as a result of the 1991 Force Structure Review that made brigades the main deployable level of all-arms formation -a change that did little more than reflect the reality of the Army's capabilities and force structure.
Citation: The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, The Division