Horse and rider set out to war from Mulgildie

Central and North Burnett Times - - CENTENARY MILESTONES - Emily Smith emily.smith@cnbtimes.com.au

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.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

WORK­ING TO­GETHER: Bur­nett Hughes and mare Hob­bleskirts were both born and bred on Mulgildie Sta­tion, be­fore fight­ing to­gether dur­ing the First World War.

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