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The Last Charge of the Australian Light Horse


Peter FitzSimons

Sydney, NSW: Hachette, 2023

Hardcover ‎     512pp     RRP: $39.99


Reviewer: John Boyce, January 2024


This is the latest book by popular author Peter FitzSimons. It is an interesting and engaging narrative aimed at the general reader. It relates the exploits of these exceptional Australian soldiers from the time of their enlistment around Australia, through their training, the blooding on Gallipoli, and then their mounted skirmishes and major battles in the Egyptian desert, Palestine and Syria, including that famous charge at Beersheba in October 1917.

It wasn’t actually the last charge of the Desert Campaign, and FitzSimons does acknowledge this. His research team have provided him with much background and sufficient detail to help him create a vibrant and fast-moving tale. The book has much of the narrator’s usual dramatic style, even offering a few sound effects of battle but these are (thankfully) muted. 

He weaves in quotes from individuals’ diaries and letters, plus imagined 're-creations’ of conversations long ago in the Middle East. during the Great War. Many of the usual famous incidents and anecdotes are here, including those involving Banjo Paterson, Ion Idriess, ‘Galloping Jack’ Royston, cricketer Tibby Cotter, pilot Ross Smith, un-ride-able horse Bill the Bastard, and Guy Haydon’s beloved horse Midnight.

It is gratifying to see that FitzSimons’ descriptions of the Australian Light Horsemen’s exploits are generally accurate, and that in his observations about their leader, General Sir Harry Chauvel, he has captured much of the essence of Sir Harry’s astute approach to soldiering. Sir Harry’s calm, thoughtful leadership stands out and is repeatedly praised.

It was disappointing to see that FitzSimons succumbed to temptation with the old legend about shooting all the horses left behind at war’s end (despite his having cited historian Jean Bou, who has clearly laid that one to rest). Military historians may also struggle with his repeated references to the disastrous accidental ‘Valley of Death’ charge of the (British) Light Brigade in the Crimean War, such a contrast to the bold, deliberate, all-or-nothing final effort by Australians at Beersheba.

Nevertheless, this is a popular account which deserves a wide audience. It will definitely enhance community understanding of the Australian Light Horse and of their fine leader, General Sir Harry Chauvel.



The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.

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