Horse and rider set out to war from Mulgildie
MULGILDIE station certainly produced its fair share for the war effort during the First World War.
Burnett Hughes lived on the station until he was 22 before departing with the 11th Light Horse Regiment in June 1915. The young solider was assigned a mare called Hobbleskirts, also born and bred on Mulgildie Station before being bought by the army.
Local historian Harold “Spook” Ware said there used to be horse buyers who went from property to property looking for suitable horses.
“They couldn’t be anything lighter than a chestnut, as white and grey horses would make perfect sniper targets,” he said.
“The going price might have been about a pound a head, and in just the first batch Australia would have sent over a least half a million horses.”
While records don’t divulge if the pairing was accidental, the two must have made an excellent team, as The Brisbane Courier even noted Hughes’ horse skills after a send-off for him and fellow solider David Sinclair at the Eidsvold Shire Hall on May 5, 1915.
“Both young fellows are magnificent horsemen and shots – finer it would be hard to produce,” the article said.
Hughes was part of the fourth Light Horse Brigade within the 11th Light Horse Regiment, which sailed from Australia in June 1915.
After a month landing in Egypt on July 23, 1915, Australian War Memorial records state the troops were sent to Gallipoli and were split up to reinforce three regiments already ashore, although at this stage they had been instructed to leave all horses in Australia.
Finally on July 20, 1916, the 11th Light Horse Regiment had the chance to fight on horseback, when they helped defend the Suez Canal. Over the next months, Hughes and Hobbleskirts was part of the troops conducting patrols in the Sinai Desert before moving with the regiment to Palestine in April 1917.
“The first major battle was on April 19 when they attacked, dismounted, as part of an ill-fated second battle at Gaza,” records state.
This led to what has gone down in Australian War Memorial records as “The Charge of Beersheba”.
After the two failed attacks on Gaza, the next attempt to “capture the Turkish bastion was an outflanking move through the town of Beersheba”.
The Charge of Beersheba began when the 11th’s sister regiments, the fourth and the 12th, were “unleashed on Beersheba at the gallop”.
But although the history books say the 11th was too busy carrying out flank protection duties to take part, it was during this battle that Hobbleskirts was shot and killed while carrying Hughes, although the young solider survived.
Records of Hughes’ army activities end there, although the 11th and 12th regiment was then involved in another mounted attack against Turkey at Sheria on November 7, but under heavy fire was forced to withdraw.
But after Gaza finally fell on November 7, 1917, the Turkish resistance in Palestine collapsed.
In 1918 Australian War Memorial archives state they were issued with swords and trained in “traditional cavalry tactics” before fighting the Turks again on the Palestine coast on September 19.
“The 11th Light Horse displayed its versatility again at Semakh on September 25 by first charging Turkish defences around the town on horseback, with swords drawn, and then clearing the actual town on foot, with rifle and bayonet,” records state. This was the regiment’s last major operation for the war, and they sailed home on July 20, 1919 after almost four years away.
Hughes was discharged from the army with the rank of sergeant on October 29, 1919, and returned to Mulgildie to continue life as a farmer. He married Edith Sinclair and had four children, Patricia, Shirley, Burnett and Colin, and is the great-uncle of Monto resident Paul Francis.
WORKING TOGETHER: Burnett Hughes and mare Hobbleskirts were both born and bred on Mulgildie Station, before fighting together during the First World War.