Historic traditions continue
Memory walk in Capella
THE town of Capella, although considered small, is big on history and a number of major significant events happened in that small town that have had an enormous national impact.
The original site of the Great Shearers’ Strike in 1891 was attributed to local property Logan Downs, located on the eastern side of Peak Range.
Shearers, fed up with the frustrations of a cut in pay, the conditions in which they worked, low wool prices and an economic depression, went on strike, an action that quickly spread across the Peak Downs and then into Queensland’s vast wool-growing regions.
The Queensland government of the time responded by bringing mounted infantry units into the region to protect wool sheds, government infrastructure and non-union shearers and shed hands, commonly referred to as “scabs”.
Legend has it a mounted infantry unit dispatched to the Peak Downs region to guard a gang of non-union shearers shot an emu along Capella Creek.
A number of the troopers placed the feathers of the departed emu in the band of their hats.
Other mounted troopers soon followed and emu plumes started to adorn the hat bands of other mounted infantry units.
By 1897 all mounted Queensland units wore the emu plume as part of the official uniform and it was this mounted infantry unit that became part of the Australian Light Horse Brigade.
The plume that had originally been a battle honour of the Queensland mounted infantry for their work in the shearers’ strike of 1891 had been adopted by almost all the Light Horse regiments.
This plume had become the proud badge of the light horseman and a recognised mark of the tenacity and determination of the Australian mounted infantry.
Arabs referred to light horsemen as the “the Kings of the Feathers”.
Everything the Light Horse trooper needed for living and fighting had to be carried by him and his horse.
His extra clothing, food and personal possessions were in a canvas haversack carried over the shoulder.
He carried 10 rounds of ammunition in the .303 rifle slung over his shoulder and another 50 rounds in pouches on his belt, which also supported the bayonet and scabbard.
The horses, referred to as “walers”, were purposely bred for stamina and endurance and had to have the temperament to be able to persevere while in the dire circumstances of a war.
Today emu plumes are still a significant adornment to the ceremonial uniforms of units of the Australian Army, worn proudly and recognised as a badge of honour.
To walk in silence along the Capella Parklands in the midst of the lit-up array of sculptures commemorating the Australian Light Horse and to honour the locals who sacrificed all is indeed an inspirational and emotional stroll.
MEMORY WALK: Part of the Light Horse diorama in the Capella Parklands.