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50th Battalion (Australia)
Active 1916–1919
1930–1936 (10th/50th Battalion)
1936–1945 (12th/50th Battalion)
Country  Australia
Branch Army
Type Infantry
Size ~1,000 officers and men[1]
Part of 13th Brigade
4th Division

World War I

World War II
Unit Colour Patch 50th Battalion AIF Unit Colour Patch.PNG

The 50th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. It was originally raised in 1916 for service during the World War I and took part in the fighting in the trenches of the Western Front in France and Belgium before being amalgamated with the 51st Battalion in early 1919 following the German Spring Offensive reduced the numbers in both battalions. After the war, the battalion was briefly reformed as a part-time unit based initially in South Australia and then later in Tasmania. At different periods it was amalgamated with both the 10th and 12th Battalions. The battalion did not see combat during World War II, and it was disbanded in mid-1945.

History[edit | edit source]

World War I[edit | edit source]

The 50th Battalion was originally raised in Egypt on 26 February 1916 as part of the reorganisation and expansion of the AIF following the Gallipoli campaign.[2] This was achieved by transferring cadres of experienced personnel predominately from the 1st Division to the newly formed battalions and combining them with recently recruited personnel who had been dispatched as reinforcements from Australia.[3] With an authorised strength of just over 1,000,[1] the unit's first intake of personnel were drawn from men originating from South Australia, many of whom had already served with the 10th Battalion. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Hurcombe, the battalion became part of the 13th Brigade attached to the 4th Australian Division.[4]

Private Jørgen Jensen, the 50th Battalion's sole Victoria Cross recipient

After arriving in France on 11 June 1916, the battalion was committed to the fighting, taking part in the Battle of Mouquet Farm during August and September. Following this, it saw service on the Hindenburg Line, participating in the battles at Messines and Polygon Wood in 1917.[4] During actions at Noreuil on 2 April, Private Jørgen Jensen was awarded the Victoria Cross.[4] In early 1918, it assisted in repulsing the Spring Offensive, a major German offensive on the Western Front following the collapse of Russia. On the morning of 24/25 April 1918—Anzac Day—the battalion took part in an Allied counter-attack at Villers-Bretonneux, in Belgium. In August, the 50th joined the final Allied offensive of the war around Amiens, and continued fighting until 18 September when it fought its last battle of the war against the Hindenburg "Outpost Line", forming the divisional reserve. After the cessation of hostilities, the 50th Battalion was amalgamated with the 51st Battalion on 6 March 1919;[4] together they were later also amalgamated with the 49th Battalion.[5]

During the fighting, the battalion lost 720 men killed in action or died on active service and 1,557 wounded. Members of the battalion received the following decorations: one Victoria Cross (VC), one Distinguished Service Order (DSO) with one Bar, one Order of the British Empire (OBE), 16 Military Crosses (MCs) with two Bars, 16 Distinguished Conduct Medals (DCMs), 122 Military Medals (MMs) with five Bars, eight Meritorious Service Medals (MSMs), 25 Mention in Despatches (MIDs) and eight foreign awards.[4]

Inter-war years and World War II[edit | edit source]

In 1921, the battalion was re-raised as part the re-organisation of the Australian military that took place at that time.[6] Assigned to the 4th Military District, the battalion was raised as a part-time unit in South Australia, drawing personnel from the Citizen Forces' 50th Infantry Regiment. In 1927, the battalion adopted the territorial designation of the "Barrier Regiment".[7] In 1930, amidst the austerity of the Great Depression and following the election of the Scullin Labor government and the subsequent suspension of the compulsory training scheme, the decision was made to amalgamate the battalion due to a decline in the numbers of volunteers. At this time it was merged with the 10th Battalion, with whom they had a shared history, to become the "10th/50th Battalion" assigned to the 3rd Brigade.[7][8]

These battalions remained linked until 1936 when,[7] in response to fears of a possible war in Europe following the reoccupation of the Rhineland, it was decided to expand the size of the Militia.[9] As a result, on 1 October 1936 the 10th/50th Battalion was split. It was later transferred to the 6th Military District in Tasmania.[7] It was then amalgamated with the 12th Battalion as the "12th/50th Battalion (The Launceston Regiment/The Tasmanian Rangers)" in December 1936.[10] In 1939, the 12th/50th was awarded the motto Quo fas et gloria ducunt.[7]

During World War II, the two battalions remained linked, undertaking garrison duties in Australia. The 12th/50th Battalion served as part of York Force and undertook garrison duties in the Northern Territory. On 2 May 1945 the 12th/50th Battalion was amalgamated with the 40th Battalion and became the 12th/40th Battalion with the 50th Battalion being disbanded.[10]

Battle honours[edit | edit source]

  • World War I: Somme 1916, Somme 1918, Pozières, Bullecourt, Messines 1917, Ypres 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele, Ancre 1918, Villers-Bretonneux, Hamel, Amiens, Albert 1918, Hindenburg Line 1917, Hindenburg Line 1918, Epehy, France and Flanders 1916–1918, Egypt 1915–1917.[4]

Notes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • 50th Battalion A.I.F. Club, Annual Reunion Programme (1935). 50th Battalion, A.I.F.: Brief History from Date of Inception (26/2/16) to Close of Hostilities (1918). Adelaide: 50th Battalion A.I.F. Club. 
  • Freeman, R. (1991). Hurcombe's Hungry Half Hundred: A Memorial History of the 50th Battalion AIF 1916–1919. Norwood, South Australia: Peacock Publications. ISBN 9780909209490. 

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