Remembering a true Bastard
Legacy Race Day honours one of the great Australian war horses
OCTOBER 31, 2017 marks the centenary anniversary of that famous World War 1 mounted Cavalry-style charge by the 4th Light Horse Brigade at Beersheba.
The wells of Beersheba were vital for the welfare of the Desert Mounted Corps’ horses, many of whom had been without water for several days. Brigadier General William Grant gave the order for the Light Horse to attack the Turkish trenches head-on in a cavalry-style charge in order to capture the town of Beersheba and its water well supplies. By the end of that day Beersheba was secured.
At that time Australian Troops used the “Australian Waler”. It was the backbone of the Australian Light Horse mounted forces and was especially suited to working in the harsh climate of the Sinai Peninsula and Palestine, where it proved superior to the camel as a means of transporting large bodies of troops.
Two of the 130,000 horses to leave Australia for World War 1 and who became well known throughout the Light Horse force were “Bill the Bastard” and “Midnight”. Bill had become a legend, a symbol of the courage and unbreakable will of the Anzac mounted force. There was no other horse like Bill the Bastard. Whilst he didn’t feature in the charge at Beersheba he was very much involved in for the pivotal Battle of Romani.
Bill carried four Tasmanian troopers from the Light Horse Brigade on his back to safety after their own horses had been shot out from under them. He went for six hours, his strength and stamina was extraordinary. He would carry heavy machine guns and lead the line and was seen by the troops as a symbol of strength.
Midnight did take part in the charge of Beersheba and was unfortunately shot as he jumped the Turkish Lines. The bullet passing through his stomach and continued through the saddle and into the back of his rider. Much has been written about both these war horses and a statue of Bill the Bastard stands proudly at Murrumburrah. The life-size bronze statue of the massive horse, who weighed 730 kilograms and stood at 17 hands, depicts an infamous scene from the battle on August 4, 1916.
As a tribute to this remarkable horse, one of the races to be run at the Ipswich Legacy Race Day is titled “Bill the Bastard”. Ipswich Legacy’s race day being held on Friday October 6 commemorates the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba. This race recognises the important role the Australian Light Horse and their Waler Horses played in the desert campaign. It pays tribute to the memory of all who sacrificed so much.
Of the 130,000 horses transported overseas during World War 1, not one horse returned to Australia. This was but one of the tragedies of the war to end all wars as their riders, most of whom had become very close to their horse, shot them to prevent them from getting into the hands of the enemy.
A tragedy for both horse and rider alike.
“Captured at Beersheba”. Members of the 12th Light Horse survey damaged items and captured Turkish equipment from the battle of Beersheba.