In the Footsteps of the First
The History of the 1st Light Horse Regiment AIF 1916 – 1919
Wagga Wagga, NSW: Anne L Flood, 2019
Paperback 418pp RRP $45.00
Reviewer: Neville Taylor, September 2020
Anne Flood has penned and self-published a second work honouring her grandfather and those he served with in the First Australian Light Horse Regiment (1st ALH). Her first book covered the period from the formation of the Regiment to its his picks up the Regiment return from Gallipoli back to their beloved Walers; and this volume covers next four years until it became the first complete unit to return to Sydney in 1919. The Foreword has been written by the granddaughter of Australia’s first lieutenant general, Sir Harry Chauvel who commanded the Desert Mounted Corps (DMC) which included 1st ALH. In 1919 Anne marched with 1st ALH, leading the Sydney Anzac Day Parade.
Based upon the First’s Regimental Diary there is usually a chapter devoted to each month, often several chapters when major battles were fought in the Sinai Campaign. Where necessary, personal anecdotes have been included to supplement the principal actions recorded in the War Diary. Each day lists the casualties suffered and includes the names of those killed or died of wounds or illness along with those receiving awards for bravery or outstanding service. Over 70 high definition photographs and 20 maps provide amplification and clarity to the narrative.
Desert mounted warfare is definitely one area where the ‘administrative tail wags the dog’. With so many horses to be watered, tactical objectives also had to have the capacity to water the Regiments’ needs. Sometimes this forced withdrawal after successfully capturing a town or feature. Chauvel was acutely aware of this need on 31 October 1917. After a full day attack on the South by the British XX Infantry Corps on Tel el Saba and on Tel el Sakaty by the 1st and 2nd LH Brigades and NZ Wellington and Auckland Mounted Rifles, he ordered the 4th LH Brigade to capture Beersheba and the wells before dusk. Thus the 4th and 12th LH Regiments galloped into Australian history. Overall casualties for the British at Beersheba, and immediately after at Tel el Khuweilfe, amounted to 2200 men and 330 deaths.
There were many battles fought by the DMC in the final 26 months of the War - some involved defending key points along the coast, others attacks that were not always successful. A key element in the campaign was the use of aerial reconnaissance and attack by both sides. Horse lines and drinking troughs were very visible from the air and heavy horse losses were sustained due to bombing and strafing. From the siege of Romani 5 – 13 August 1916 – the first victory to the British in WW1 – two unsuccessful attacks on Gaza [26 March and 19 April 1916] and the eventual flanking of the Turkish line at Beersheba, by sheer persistence and attrition suffered by the Turks, the DMC pushed north. Jaffa [Tel Aviv] was occupied in February 1918 and Amman October 1918 after two unsuccessful attempts in March and April in the Jordan Valley. A large number of the men from the DMC died of malaria contracted in the occupation of the Jordan Valley.
The signing of an Armistice at Mudros on 30 October 1918 saw the end of hostilities in Palestine. 1st ALH had Christmas 1918 in Rafa as the ANZAC Mounted Division awaited embarkation. [There were in excess of 11 000 horses that could not be brought back to Australia due to quarantine regulations.] 13 Mar 19 saw HT Ulimaroa carry 21 officers and 485 other ranks of 1st ALH to Sydney where it went in to quarantine at North Head on 13 April. A complete Embarkation Roll has been included. Back in Sydney just before Anzac Day, there was no celebratory march due to the Spanish Flu pandemic.
There are 80 pages of Nominal Rolls that include those who transferred into the Regiment in all 35 batches of reinforcements following its initial embarkation for Egypt. Of the 3805 on the Regimental Rolls, 224 were killed in action or died of wounds or sickness, 679 were wounded and four became prisoners of war.
This work has honoured Flood’s grandfather and father in style. Readers are invited to walk with their ancestors too, but with impeccable research and documentation it also provides a trove for military historians to further their research.
[Between the Wars the 7th Light Horse (New South Wales Lancers) became the 1st Light Horse (New South Wales Lancers). After various reorganisations and title changes, in 1956 the 1st LH (New South Wales Lancers) merged with the 15th Northern River Lancers to create the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers, a unit which continues to serve today in the Australian Army Reserve. Its colour patch is the same as the 1st ALH regiment and its guidon carries the battle honours won in the Boer, First and Second World Wars.]
Copies of this publication are available directly from Dr Flood:
Mobile: 0407 219 741
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the author for making this work available for review.