Thursday, April 30, 2015

Australian War Horses Remembered

At the intersection of Macquarie Street and Shakespeare Place opposite the New South Wales State Library, on the south-west external wall of the Royal Botanic Gardens, there is memorial to Horses of the Desert Mounted Corps that served in the Desert Campaign in World War I.

Memorial to the Horses of the Desert Mounted Corps.
 Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney.

Bronze wall plate depicting an Australian Light Horse trooper
with three horses and inscription.

It was erected by members of the Desert Mounted Corps and dedicated to the "Gallant Horses who carried them over the Sinai Desert into Palestine 1915-1918. They suffered  wounds, thirst, hunger and weariness almost beyond endurance. They did not come home. We will never forget them." [Inscription on plaque].
Commemoration stone unveiled on Anzac Day 1950
The memorial was unveiled on Anzac Day, April 25 1950, by Lady Chauvel, wife of General Sir Harry Chauvel who commanded the Desert Mounted Corps.

There are two further plaques, one unveiled on 4 July 2004 by the Governor General, Major General Michael Jeffery, to mark the 90th anniversary of the first AIF and the Australian Light Horse serving in World War I.

Memorial plaque unveiled 4 July 2004
The other, unveiled by NSW Governor Professor Marie Bashir on 31 October 2007 to mark the 90th anniversary of the Charge at Beersheba on 31 October 1917.

Memorial plaque unveiled 31 October 2007
The story of Australian war horses and indeed that of the Light Horse Brigade of World War I is not etched large in the Australian public's mind.

The  MagoFilms documentary The Waler: Australia's Great War Horse as shown recently on the ABC tells the story of the 130,000 horses who served with their riders in World War I. 

It is about the horses, their riders,veterinarians, farriers,and saddlers; their journey to and agistment in Egypt; the dismounting of several of the Light Horse regiments bound for Gallipoli; the later deployment of the Light Horse Brigade to the desert campaigns on the Sinai Peninsula and in Palestine as the ANZAC Mounted Division under General Harry Chauvel; and the gallant feats of both the horses and their riders. 

The hardest part of the story was at war's end when it was decided that the horses would not return to Australia.

In order to avoid sentimentality in this story, you need to keep a perspective that is is now history. But in so doing you come to the realisation the the horses were heroes too - such is the relationship between man and beast.

Therei is exhibition at the Art Galley of NSW entitled Mad Through The Darkness  which commemorates the Anzac centenary.

One of the most striking of the exhibits is the painting by Septimus Power, The enemy in sight 1916.

The enemy in sight 1916 .
A work by Septimus Power
Power was commissioned as an official war artist in 1917 attached to 1st Division AIF. He  a great interest in horsemanship which was reflected in his work. He painted Australian soldiers tending their as well as taking them into action.

This particular work, painted before his commission, depicts Light Horsemen.The subject for one of the soldiers was Sergeant- Major B G Watts-Phillips of the 8th Light Horse Regiment, who was convalescing in London at the time.

Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness

All photos taken April 2015

If you are interested in researching Australian history go to our website at :

No comments:

Post a Comment