Diggers Military MC - History of the Digger



The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was a First World War Army corps of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force that was formed in Egypt in 1915 and operated during the Battle of Gallipoli. The Corps was disbanded in 1916 following the evacuation of Gallipoli. The Corps is best remembered today as the source of the acronym ANZAC which has since become a term, "Anzac", for a person from Australia or  New Zealand. However it soon became common place for members of the ANZAC forces to be nicknamed Digger. This was due to the fact that some of the men in the ranks were from gold mining backgrounds in Australia and combined with soldiers digging holes/trenches, the name was adopted. In addition to this, ANZAC forces also had a close working relationship with Commonwealth soldiers and indeed some were enlisted into the ANZAC ranks and thus the term DIGGER was used as common place to all members of the Armed forces.
This is a term of endearment or greeting.


Plans for the formation of the Corps began in November 1914 while the first contingent of Australian and New Zealand troops were still in convoy bound for, as they thought, Europe. However, following the experiences of the Canadian Expeditionary Force encamped on Salisbury Plain, it was decided not to subject the Australians and New Zealanders to the English winter and so they were diverted to Egypt for training before moving on to the Western Front in France.


The British Secretary of State for WarHoratio Kitchener, appointed General William Birdwood, an officer of the British Indian Army, to the command of the Corps and he furnished most of the Corps staff from the Indian Army as well. Birdwood arrived in Cairo on 21 December 1914 to assume command of the Corps.


It was originally intended to name the Corps the "Australasian Army Corps" — this title being used in the Unit diary — but understandable protests from New Zealand led to the name "Australian and New Zealand Army Corps" being adopted. The administration clerks found the title too cumbersome so quickly adopted the abbreviation "A. & N.Z.A.C." or simply "ANZAC". Shortly afterwards it was officially adopted as the codename for the Corps but it did not enter common usage amongst the troops until after the Gallipoli landings.

At the outset the corps comprised only one complete division, the Australian 1st Division. In addition there were the New Zealand Infantry Brigade and two mounted brigades — the Australian 1st Light Horse Brigade (1st LH) and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade (NZMR).


Another convoy transporting an Australian infantry brigade (the 4th) and two light horse brigades arrived shortly afterwards. Initially the brigades were arranged by combining the two extra infantry brigades into the "New Zealand Division" and the mounted brigades into the "Mounted Division" but this was deemed unsatisfactory. Instead the New Zealand and Australian Division was formed with the two infantry brigades plus two mounted brigades (1st LH and NZMR). The remaining light horse brigades became Corps troops. These two divisions would remain the core of ANZAC for the duration of its existence.


Despite being synonymous with Australia and New Zealand, ANZAC was quite a multi-national body. In addition to the many British officers in the corps and division staffs, ANZAC contained at various times individuals from many countries, but had the same aim to defend and support the freedom of others.


During the Second World War the term DIGGER was always used to identify Australian and NZ forces especially during the fierce fighting at Al Aleman and Tobruk, where many a life was lost by all Commonwealth forces but at the same time great battles were fought and positions held.


Even in more recent engagements of IRAQ /AFGANISTAIN the term DIGGER has not diminished and is still used as a friendly gesture or greeting.


PS: General  Hamilton in charge of the forces at the battle of Gallipoli passed a message to General Birdwood stating that although he should evacuate, he had decided that he and his troops should remain and we will “dig dig dig”.


The DIGGERS Military MC support and honor those before us and those still fighting for us.