The Australian Light Horse in formation. A group of officers, including Lt-Col Frank Rowell, who was appointed to command the Light Horse.
MIDNIGHT and Bill the Bastard sound like names for a pair of bushrangers but these two weren’t, even if Bill was a notorious rogue before he turned hero. He and Midnight were bush horses — two of the 136,000 Australian “walers” that went to war a century ago and didn’t come home.
No one alive knows whether Midnight ever “met” Bill but it’s unlikely. He was with the 2nd Light Horse Regiment and Midnight went to the 12th with her owner, Guy Haydon. Midnight died in battle and Bill apparently didn’t. A book loosely based on “the Bastard” claims he survived the war and was given to a Turkish family on the Gallipoli Peninsula, a Hollywood happy ending so preposterous it sounds like an invention.
But the real stories behind the legends of Bill the Bastard and Midnight are so touching they don’t need embellishing. That is why a Melbourne businessman with a big heart and deep pockets has come up with a way to honour those two as a tribute to all Anzac horses lost at war.
Bill Gibbins sold his trucking business for plenty a few years ago so he can afford a couple of hobbies: punting and philanthropy.
Back in 2007, when the “Rats of Tobruk” looked like losing their Albert Park building used for reunions since World War II, Bill quietly bought it for the surviving “Rats” to use. The $1.75 million price went to fight childhood cancer — and the old soldiers could still call Tobruk House their own.
When Bill the Good Bloke heard of Bill the Bastard and Midnight, he thought of a way to combine doing good works and going to races. That’s
Guy Haydon (also far right, in a 1916 portrait) on Midnight, the ’Black Beauty’ of the Light Horse.