The domestic virtues of man and horse on campaign

 



The following material is quoted from "The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine" by Lt Col C Guy Powles

Ch III, The advance on Rafa - page 66

"In the European wars of 1865 and of 1870, cavalry actions did not take place at any great distance from their base and even then there was food and water in plenty in the country. Again in America the great raids of Jeb Stuart and of Morgan were undertaken through country upon which the raiders could love. Our mounted troops (the cavalry of the Great War), on the other hand, have made their raids in the desert, where all supplies even so far as water for the horses had to be carried with the column. Our mounted troops carried out their raids in a country where, if a man fell out of the column and wandered alone he perished miserably; where, if a water bottle by mischance were overturned or leaked, there was no water for the owner for perhaps another twenty-four hours; and this under a burning sun by day and bitter cold by night, in which he became soaked to the skin with the dew; and man cannot march and fight for more than a very limited time without food and drink.

Then, again, the task set our mounted troops in these raids must be considered. To attack and overcome a stubborn enemy strongly entrenched with both field and machine guns, is at all times a difficult task. How much more so when the attacking force has a few poultry 18-pounders behind them, however well served these be. Yet these difficulties were again and again gloriously overcome by these young soldiers from the Southern Seas. It was a job that required dash and determination, combined with an infinity of painstaking fore-thought. The last round of ammunition, the last pound of "bully" and biscuits, and the last pint of water had to be worked out. When supplies could not be carried by the men they had to be carried to him and delivered at the very moment when wanted."

The Battle of Rafa - page 80

"In this campaign our men became true horse-masters; and it can be safely said that in no campaign of which history has cognisance has the horse been so well understood in all his needs, and so well fed and tended. A horse not in the pink of condition was a rare sight. The forage was good and on the whole in sufficient quantities and the hot dry climate apparently suited the constitution of the horse. Much care was taken in the early phases of the operations when near the Canal to protect the animals from the sun by the erection of sun-shelters made of matting or canvas; but as the campaign progressed and transport became difficult the sun-shelters were left behind and the horses bore the full glare of the sun's rays at al times, and apparently suffered little thereby. This was well shown later on, under appalling conditions in the Jordan Valley where these same horses maintained their condition and general fitness in a wonderful way. The men learned to live in the desert and to find their way both by day and by night in a manner worthy of the Bedouins themselves; "

Photos of Eureka Australian Light Horse figures in 15mm, from the collection of Simon Dennan

Back to 'The twilight years'