Unit Colour Patch

This history would not be complete without a brief resume of our predecessors, the 33rd Battalion raised for service in World War I. The unit was formed at Armidale, N.S.W. in November of 1915 and was originally composed of men from the New England district. It moved to Rutherford, N.S.W. in early 1916 under Lt-Col L. J. Morshead (who remained in command until the Armistice in 1918). Lt-Col Morshead had landed on Gallipoli as a captain with 2nd Battalion and took part in the bitter battles on Baby 700 and led a company in the epic Lone Pine attack and defence in which 7 V.C.s were won during. Later wounded he was recovering in Australia when promoted and given command of the battalion.

On May 3, 1916 the unit left Rutherford for Sydney and embarked on May 4 on H.M.A.S. Marathon together with H.Q.s 9th Brigade. The battalion was the first unit of 9th Brigade of Major-General John Monash’s 3rd Division. The division contained 9th, 10th and 11th Brigade. (Later even the British Army often remarked it was the finest trained division in the A.I.F. and of it General Monash considered the 33rd and 36th the two best of the division). In July 1916 the unit arrived at Larkhill, Salisbury Plains, and trained there until November. embarking on the 21st for France. On November 29, 1916 the unit took over a Chapelle D’Armentiers sector from 27th Northumberland Fusiliers.

Trench routine, raids, working parties and training occupied it until June 7, 1917 where during the attack at Messines the battalion carried out the attack on the extreme right flank and there winning its first V.C. won by Private J. Carroll. Then followed periods of trench warfare and training in various sectors. Its principal engagements after Messines being: Passchendaele II, Hangard, Villers-Bretonneux. Acerodi Wood, Bray, Road Wood, Hindenberg Line and Bony. The battalion came out of the line near Bony on October 4, 1918, and went into rest near Abbevil1e where it was stationed when Armistice was signed.

Of the unit, Dr C. E. W. Bean – the Official Historian – in his Volume 5 of the official history said: “During the Battle of Messines the 33rd, an especially fine unit, commanded by a young Gallipoli veteran, Lt-Col Morshead, had been specially chosen by Monash for the extreme right flank position”.

Of Villers-Bretonneux Bean says: “The 33rd was a battalion which anyone acquainted with the A.I.F. recognised as a magnificent battalion even before Messines in 1917 and one of the very best”.

During the Battle of Messines on June 6-7, 1917, which used the greatest concentration of artillery ever prepared up to that time in France when 3,200 guns were massed, one for each 7 yards of front, nearly half a million rounds were fired from 18 pounder to 9.2 inch. During it the battalion was shelled by 13,000 gas shells which fell on it when assembling with 9th Brigade for the move to the start-line. Some 200 men were gassed, and although pitch dark and a shattering crescendo of noise going on about them, wearing the primitive masks for three hours, the unit unhesitatingly crossed its start-line on time and advanced to its objective without disorganisation or pause, later successfully completing its task.

In the third battle of Ypres on October 12, 1917, when 33rd were held for the third phase and were in reserve ready to flank capture the town of Passchendaele the unit again lost 11 officers and 250 odd men in approaching its F.U.P. and in common with 2nd Army was forced to withdraw.

During the first Villers-Bretonneux on March 30, 1918 battle when 9th Brigade were hurried down from Flanders to help stem the great March 1918 offensive of the German Army, it was ordered to advance and capture the ridge beyond Monument and Hangard Woods. Lt-Col Morshead lined the unit out on the open grassland beside the Amiens-Villers-Bretonneux road and advanced at a fast pace for its objectives 3ó miles distant. Halfway to it the C.O. of the 12th Lancers asked “could he attack with them” and three squadrons galloped up, wheeled in amongst the 33rd companies and then charged the wooded ridges of the battalion’s objectives. Running or charging with the cavalry – who had done little in the previous three years of the terrible trench warfare – and anxious to kill Germans now that the Army were in the open fields were the cheering high-spirited men of “Martinet Morshead”. As they advanced streams of British Army men were hurrying to the rear from the victorious and advancing Germans. Here 9th Brigade held a German division. The unit’s second V.C. won by Private George Cartwright, was at Road Wood on August 31, 1918. The unit suffered 576 killed – or died of wounds and 1,800 wounded in its two years in France and Flanders winning the following awards:

2 V.C., 6 D.S.O., 1 Bar to D.S.O., 24 M.C., 16 D.C.M., 1 Bar to D.C.M., 79 M.M., 3 Bar to M.M., 1 Second Bar to M.M., 8 M.S.M., 1 Legion d’Honneur (Chevalier), 3 Croix de Guerre, 3 Italian Bronze Medal: a total of 147 awards .