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The Making and Breaking of the Post-Federation Australian Army, 1901-09

By: Craig A.J. Stockings (503.2/36033)
Publisher: Land Warfare Studies Centre ISBN: 9780642296665

The Australian Army did not begin with the 1st AIF. On the contrary, the original force lived and died from March 1901 to December 1909. As responsibility for defence was transferred from colonial to federal authorities, many problems of structure, administration and training came to the fore. The task of forging these disparate structures into a national military organisation confronted a Federal Government already constrained by limited finances. This monograph shows how Australia’s first army was assembled, what this force represented, and why it failed to endure.

The post-Federation Army existed for only a decade. It was a unique and in many respects forgotten organisation – an army of regiments and batteries, of cavalry and lances. It attempted to blend militia and volunteer forces into a cohesive whole, all at a time when the higher command structures were in a constant state of flux. Worse, the personalities and interests of its leaders often clashed to the detriment of the organisation. All this happened in an era of strategic uncertainty marked by the emergence of new Asian and European powers, which in itself stimulated doubt and debate as to proper defence arrangements and force structure imperatives.

The fate of the fledgling Army was sealed with the visit to Australia, and inspection of Commonwealth Military Forces, by the famous British military figure Field Marshal Lord Kitchener of Khartoum. Kitchener’s subsequent report, an exercise in public relations more than a military revelation, lent credibility to pre-existing Government agendas and initiated a complete restructure on ‘post-Federation Army’. This is its story.

February 2009


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