Re­mem­ber­ing a true Bas­tard

Legacy Race Day honours one of the great Aus­tralian war horses

The Queensland Times - - NEWS - WAYNE Mc­DON­NELL

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.

PHOTO: AUS­TRALIAN WAR ME­MO­RIAL

“Cap­tured at Beer­sheba”. Mem­bers of the 12th Light Horse sur­vey dam­aged items and cap­tured Turk­ish equip­ment from the bat­tle of Beer­sheba.

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