The 10th Battalion was raised shortly after the outbreak of World War I as part of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), an all-volunteer force raised for overseas service. Recruited in South Australia, the battalion came into being on 17 August 1914 at the Morphettville Racecourse in Adelaide, drawing volunteers mainly from the local population as well as some from Broken Hill in outback New South Wales. Volunteers included men who had previously served in the part-time forces before the war, coming from a variety of units including the 10th Australian Infantry Regiment, which had formerly been known as the "Adelaide Rifles". Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Stanley Price Weir, after formation the battalion was attached to the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, along with the 9th, 11th and 12th Battalions, and was one of the first units of the AIF raised for the war. With an establishment of 31 officers and 974 other ranks spread across eight companies, the battalion's personnel received a short period of individual basic training, culminating in the presentation of the regimental colours on 17 September and a march past the state Parliament House on 21 September. The following month, collective training at company and battalion level took place at Belair National Park and at Glenelg, South Australia. On 20 October, the battalion embarked on the ex-passenger liner, HMAT Ascanius, bound for the Middle East; it was the first South Australian infantry unit to leave Australia during the war.
After briefly stopping in Albany, where its convoy was delayed due to concerns over the presence of German warships en route, the 10th Battalion departed Australian waters in November and proceeded towards Egypt. Initially, the plan had been for the battalion to continue on the United Kingdom from where it would subsequently move to the Western Front. Poor conditions and overcrowding in training camps in the United Kingdom resulted in the decision to disembark the Australians in Alexandria instead. Arriving there on 4 December 1914, the battalion was sent into camp at Mena, near Cairo.
The 10th Battalion underwent desert training in January and February 1915, during which time it was reorganised around the four-company structure that had been adopted by the British. Designated 'A' to 'D', each company consisted of 228 men that were spread across four platoons. In late February, the 3rd Brigade received orders that it was being committed to an operation in the Dardanelles and, after moving by rail to Alexandria, boarded Ionian, a Greek steamer, on 1 March. After reaching Lemnos, a shortage of fresh water on the island meant that the battalion was housed on the ship for the next seven weeks, although this was spent ashore conducting exercises and mounting guard duty. Planning for a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula began in early April; while this proceeded, on 15 April the battalion was issued its distinctive blue and purple unit colour patch.
On 24 April 1915, the 10th Battalion embarked for Gallipoli. Two companies and the battalion headquarters were allocated to the battleship HMS Prince of Wales, while the other two companies embarked on two destroyers, Scourge and Foxhound. At approximately 4:30 am on 25 April 1915, the 10th Battalion was one of the first units to come ashore at Anzac Cove as part of the covering force – drawn from Colonel Ewen Sinclair-Maclagan's 3rd Brigade – for the main Anzac landing. Troops from the battalion landed near the centre of the cove and, ascending the Ariburnu Ridge, attempted to push inland towards the Sari Bair Range. According to the Australian War Memorial they are "believed to have penetrated further inland" than any other Australian unit. Casualties in the first weeks of the campaign were heavy, with the battalion losing 397 men killed or wounded between 25 April and 9 May. The advance stalled as Turkish resistance grew, and the Turks launched a heavy counter-attack on 19 May. By this time, the 3rd Brigade was located around Bolton's Ridge, with the brigade's four battalions occupying the line abreast; the 10th Battalion occupying a position south of Lone Pine, overlooking a wheat field through which the Turkish attack came. Caught in heavy crossfire, the attack was turned back with heavy losses. Following this, as both sides dug in, the campaign ground to a stalemate, and the battalion undertook mainly defensive duties along the perimeter around Anzac Cove. On 8 July, the remnants of the battalion, which now consisted of just over 500 personnel, was withdrawn to Imbros Island for a brief rest period out of the line, before returning to Anzac on 11 July; after this, the 10th Battalion relieved the 11th, occupying a position around Silt Spur, opposite Lone Pine.
In early August, the Allies attempted to break out from the beach, launching an offensive around Suvla, Cape Helles and Anzac; the 10th Battalion played a support role during the offensive, providing reinforcement parties and machine gun crews to support the 1st Brigade during the Battle of Lone Pine. The offensive was a costly failure and afterwards stalemate returned to the battlefield. As winter approached, conditions on the peninsula grew harsher and a large number of personnel had to be evacuated sick as a wave of dysentery swept through the battalion. In September, the 2nd Division arrived as reinforcements. In mid-November, as the Allied commanders debated the future of the campaign, the 3rd Brigade received orders to pull back from the frontline, so that it could be withdrawn to Lemnos Island for rest. On 16 November, the 10th Battalion took up reserve positions on the beach, before embarking upon the transport Princess Ena. It landed at Mudros, and spent the rest of November and December there. Meanwhile, the main Allied force was evacuated from the peninsula, with the last Australian troops withdrawing on 20 December. On Boxing Day 1915, the 10th Battalion sailed for Egypt, arriving in Alexandria just before New Years. Losses on Gallipoli had been heavy – 711 casualties were reported in the battalion between April and September 1915 – and the AIF underwent a period of reorganisation as it was expanded in preparation for its deployment to the European battlefield. As a part of this process, the 10th Battalion provided a cadre of experienced personnel to the newly raised 50th Battalion, which was assigned to the 13th Brigade, 4th Division, and was brought up to strength with fresh recruits from Australia.
In March 1916, the 10th Battalion sailed to France along with the rest of the 1st Division and deployed to the Somme. The battalion's first significant action on the Western Front came in July 1916 when it was involved in the Battle of Pozières, an effort to secure the village of Pozières and the high ground beyond it as part of the wider Battle of the Somme. For his actions during this battle, Second Lieutenant Arthur Blackburn, an original member of the battalion who had served with it during the Gallipoli campaign, was awarded the Victoria Cross. Later, the 10th Battalion fought around Ypres, in Belgium, before being transferred back to the Somme in the winter and deploying to defend the trenches. In 1917, after the German withdrawal towards the Hindenburg Line, the battalion was again moved to Belgium to take part in the Third Battle of Ypres, where it was committed to fighting around the Menin Road in September. During an attack around Polygon Wood, Private Roy Inwood's actions resulted in him being awarded the battalion's second Victoria Cross. The battalion suffered heavily during its early involvement in the Ypres fighting and was briefly withdrawn before being recommitted to support operations around Broodseinde at the beginning of October. In the early hours of 9 October 1917, a force of 88 men from the 10th Battalion carried out a raid on German positions in what became known as the "Mystery of Celtic Wood"; 32 men were killed during the raid, and a further 37 were wounded.
In early 1918, following the collapse of Russia, the Germans were able to transfer many troops to the Western Front. In March, they launched the Spring Offensive, attacking the southern part of the British sector in the Somme. As the Allies were pushed back towards Amiens, the Australian divisions were brought south to help blunt the attack. Throughout late March and into April 1918, the 10th Battalion took part in a series of defensive actions, including fighting around Hazebrouck, as the German offensive was turned back, before joining in the preliminary operations before the Allied Hundred Days Offensive that ultimately brought about an end to the war. It was at this stage in the fighting, in June, during fighting around Merris in France, that Corporal Phillip Davey earned the battalion's third Victoria Cross. The attack so impressed the British Inspector General that he described it as "the best show ever done by a battalion in France".
On 8 August 1918, when the Allies launched the Hundred Days Offensive, the battalion participated in an attack on Amiens that has since been described as one of the most successful for the Allies on the Western Front and, in the words of Erich Ludendorff, the "... blackest day for the German Army". The battalion remained at the front until late September 1918; its last battle took place at Jeancourt, during which it suffered a further 140 casualties. Later in the month, the Australian Corps, having been severely depleted due to heavy casualties and the dwindling supply of reinforcements from Australia, was withdrawn from the line for rest and re-organisation. As a result, the battalion took no further part in the fighting and when the Armistice was declared on 11 November 1918 it was still out of the line. Over 9,000 men served in the battalion's ranks during the war, including over 25 full drafts of reinforcements, and miscellaneous transfers from other units and general service reinforcements. Casualties totalled 1,015 men killed and 2,136 wounded. In addition to the three Victoria Crosses, members of the battalion were awarded one CMG, one Bar to the DSO and nine DSOs, four Bars to the MC and thirty-four MCs, sixteen Distinguished Conduct Medals, one Military Medal with two Bars, eleven MMs with one Bar, one hundred and forty-nine MMs, and nine MSMs. In 1927, the battalion was awarded a total of 24 battle honours for its war service.
Following the cessation of hostilities, the Australian government decided that it would not contribute to the proposed Allied occupation force in Germany and would begin the process of demobilisation of the AIF as soon as possible. Owing to the large number of soldiers deployed overseas, this process took some time, and it was decided to progressively return men from each battalion, rather than send them home as a formed unit. As numbers dwindled, units were amalgamated for administrative purposes, and as a consequence the 9th and 10th Battalions were merged on 5 February 1919; the final contingent of troops from the 10th Battalion did not return home until September 1919 when they disembarked in Adelaide from the transport Takada.
The 10th Battalion's commanding officers during World War I, listed in chronological order of the date they first commanded the battalion, were as follows:Lieutenant Colonel Stanley Price Weir;
Major Frederick William Hurcombe;
Major George Dorricutt Shaw;
Lieutenant Colonel Miles Fitzroy Beevor;
Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Wilder-Neligan;
Lieutenant Colonel George Ernest Redburg;
Lieutenant Colonel James Samuel Denton;
Major Felix Gordon Giles; (son of explorer Alfred Giles)
Major Rupert Anstice Rafferty;
Lieutenant Colonel Ross Blyth Jacob;
Major Alexander Steele;
Captain Gordon Cathcart Campbell (nephew of Chief Justice of South Australia Sir Samuel Way);
Major Clarence Rumball;
Captain Roy Kintore Hurcombe;
Lieutenant Colonel John Newman;
Major William Francis James McCann.
The words to the battalion song were written by C.R. Beresford and the music by H. Brewster-Jones:
'Twas not within a barrack yard they put us through our drill,
They licked us into soldier shape in camp at Morphettville;
So khaki-clad and Enfield-armed, we'll fight at Tommy's side,
To hold secure the fields of France against the German tide.
Left, right, left, right; keep the column swinging;
Every step our destination nears;
Long, long miles we'll shorten by our singing,
Kits are heavy but a chorus cheers—
All our help old Mother England's needing—
Soon we'll have to prove that we are men,
And the 10th Battalion will be leading;
We're Australians in Old Ten.
We hail from busy Rundle Street and north of Goyder's line;
But far from there, beneath strange skies, our glinting bayonets shine.
For half the world is now between us and the crowded quay
Where to the strains of "Auld Lang Syne" our troopship puts to sea.
We long to hear the maxim's purr and smell the cordite strong,
Across the busy firing line the crowded trench along;
The chatter that our rifles make, as down the line it runs
To swell that wartime music grand, the chorus of the guns.
The magic of the new lands we see won't banish from our mind
Those bright-eyed, dear Australian maids, the best of all girlkind;
The grand old Jack, wind-blown, above, with all its colours bright,
Means them and home, and all we love; so we march out to fight.
The 10th Battalion was disbanded shortly after its return to Australia, although some of its personnel were used to raise the Adelaide-based 1st Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, a part-time unit of the Citizens Force (later known as the Militia). This unit drew its lineage from the 78th Infantry Regiment, which could trace its history back to 1854, when two battalions of the Adelaide Rifles had been formed. The act of merging these units was part of a larger Army-wide reorganisation that created a convoluted lineage in many units, which according to historian Peter Stanley has resulted in confusion among military historians. In 1921, when the AIF was officially disbanded and the part-time military forces were reorganised to perpetuate the AIF's numerical designations, the 10th Battalion was re-raised in its own right in Adelaide, drawing personnel from the 2nd Battalions of the 10th, 32nd and 50th Infantry Regiments. Through these links, the 10th Battalion inherited a battle honour from the Boer War. At this time it was allocated to the 3rd Brigade, which was part of the 4th Military District.
The battalion received a King's Colour in 1925 in recognition of its service during World War I. Two years later, in 1927, territorial titles were introduced and the battalion assumed the designation of "The Adelaide Rifles". The motto Pro Patria was adopted at this time. In 1930, amid 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. It was merged with the 50th Battalion, with whom it shared history, to become the 10th/50th Battalion. Again the unit was assigned to the 3rd Brigade.
The 10th and 50th remained linked until 1936; at that time, 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. As a result, on 1 October 1936, the 10th/50th Battalion was split and the 10th Battalion was re-raised as a separate unit, and was once again assigned to the 3rd Brigade. After Japan's entry into World War II in December 1941, the 10th Battalion mobilised at Warradale to undertake garrison duties in Australia. While the 3rd Brigade's two other battalions – the 27th and 43rd – were sent to Darwin, the 10th was initially deployed to Warrawong on the New South Wales south coast, defending the strategically important industrial area around Wollongong, but in August it was ordered to join Northern Territory Force and moved to Darwin to defend the port against a possible Japanese invasion. Before it arrived, though, an Army-wide reorganisation resulted in the 10th being amalgamated with the 48th Battalion, to form the 10th/48th Battalion on 27 August 1942. The reorganisation was the result of personnel shortages that had come about due to an over-mobilisation of the Australian military, and resulted in the amalgamation of several Militia units. In 1943, the 10th/48th Australian Infantry Battalion was gazetted as an "AIF" unit, which meant that its members could be deployed outside Australian territory, but was disbanded in August 1945, never having served outside Australia.
During the war, another battalion with a similar designation, the 2/10th Battalion, was raised as part of the all volunteer Second Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF). Although many members of the Militia volunteered to join the 2nd AIF, the units of the 2nd AIF were considered separate from those of the Militia and many existed at the same time. Recruited from South Australians, the 2/10th was raised in mid-October 1939 and formed part of the 18th Brigade that was initially assigned to the 6th Division before being transferred to the 7th. Over the course of the war it served in the United Kingdom, North Africa, New Guinea and Borneo before being disbanded in December 1945.
In 1948, when Australia's part-time military force was re-raised as the Citizens Military Force (CMF), the 10th Battalion returned to the order of battle, readopting the designation of The Adelaide Rifles. Throughout the 1950s, as part of Central Command, the battalion provided training for national servicemen until 1960, when a widespread re-organisation of the CMF saw the creation of six state-based multi-battalion regiments as the smaller, regional regiments of the past were consolidated. As a result, the 10th Battalion was subsumed into the Pentropic 1st Battalion, Royal South Australia Regiment, providing two companies: 'D' (The Adelaide Company) and 'E' (The Port Adelaide Company). In 1961, the battalion, although technically off the Army's order of battle, was entrusted with the 12 battle honours that had been earned by the 2/10th Battalion during World War II.
In 1965, the Australian Army ended its brief experiment with the Pentropic divisional establishment, and on 1 July 1965 the 10th Battalion, Royal South Australia Regiment, was re-raised as a unit in its own right. This battalion remained on the order of battle as a Reserve unit until 29 November 1987, when it was amalgamated with the 27th Battalion, to form the 10th/27th Battalion, Royal South Australia Regiment (10/27 RSAR). This battalion has adopted the 10th Battalion's Unit Colour Patch, carries the colours of both the 10th and 27th Battalions, and perpetuates the battle honours of both of these units and several South Australian battalions of the 2nd AIF that were raised for service during World War II; it also recruits from the same areas, being headquartered in Adelaide with depots across South Australia and in Broken Hill.
The 10th Battalion received the following battle honours:South Africa 1899–1902 (inherited);
World War I: Somme 1916–18, Pozières, Bullecourt, Ypres, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Lys, Hazebrouck, Kemmel, Amiens, Albert 1918, Hindenburg Line, Epehy, France and Flanders 1916–18, ANZAC, Landing at ANZAC, Defence at ANZAC, Suvla, Sari Bair, Gallipoli 1915, Egypt 1915–16.
World War II: North Africa 1941, Defence of Tobruk, The Salient 1941, South West Pacific 1942–45, Buna–Gona, Cape Endaiadere–Sinemi Creek, Sanananda–Cape Killerton, Milne Bay, Liberation of Australian New Guinea, Shaggy Ridge, Borneo, Balikpapan (inherited).