TASMANIAN LIGHTHORSE IN WWI
FORMATION OF THE REGIMENT
When England declared war on Germany on the 4th August 1914, the Commonwealth Government offered to equip and send overseas an Expeditionary Force. The offer was gratefully accepted by the Mother country.
It was decided to send one complete Division of Infantry, one Brigade of Light Horse and a Regiment of Light Horse to act as Divisional Cavalry. The Brigade of Light Horse consisted of three Regiments and Brigade Headquarters. The ﬁrst Light Horse Regiment was recruited in New South Wales, the second Regiment in Queensland, and the third Regiment in South Australia and Tasmania, comprising two squadrons and Headquarters from South Australia and one squadron from Tasmania. On 15th August 1914, Lieut.—Col. F. M. Rowell was gazetted to the command of the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, and Lieut.—Col. A. Miel as second in command.
Both these officers were veterans of the Boer War. Preparations were made immediately to form the Regiment Headquarters and A and B Squadrons in South Australia and C Squadron in Tasmania. The entire officer personnel and about 25 per cent. of the other ranks were drawn from the Commonwealth Militia Forces.
The original ofﬁcers selected by Lieut.-Cols. Rowell and Miel were:
SOTH AUSTRALIA :
Major D. Fulton Lieut J. J Brooks
Major P. H. Priestly Lieut. O. L. Davey
Major J. E. Barrett Lieut. S F. Rowell
Lieut. L. A. Lewis Lieut. E. C. Derrington
Lieut. H. G. Viney Lieut F L. G. Smith
Lieut. P. A. Laurie Lieut. A. H. Bray
Lieut. F. M. White Lieut. A. Mossop
Lieut. A. Dick
Capt. W. R. C. Mainwaring (attached as R.M.O)
Capt. F. Murray Jones (attached as Veterinary Ofﬁcer)
Lieut. E. St. L. Leuis Lieut T. B. McLeod
Lieut. C. Mills Lieut. J. M. Clerke
Lieut. W. J. Bennett
Lieut. (Hon. Capt.) G. J. Bell, D.S.O.
Suitable training camps were secured at Morphettville in Adelaide on a property made available by Mr. R. M. Hawker, and at Pontville, near Hobart, in Tasmania. The CO. and senior ofﬁcers marched into Morphettville on 19th August. The enlistment of other ranks in both States began at once, and 195 were accepted on the ﬁrst day in South Australia. The remaining ofﬁcers and other ranks came into' camp during the next few days, and by 24th August enlistment was practically completed.
As the ofﬁcers came into camp they were appointed to their various positions in the Regiment. Lieut.-Col. Miel was transferred to command the 9th Light Horse Regiment, which was also being enlisted in South Australia. Lieut. S. F. Rowell was evacuated sick with pneumonia. Two additional ofﬁcers joined the unit, Lieuts. H. F. Brock and J. T. Bigg. Lieuts. E. St. L. Lewis and C. Mills were promoted to captains. The ﬁnal establishment of ofﬁcers and their respective appointments was :
Commanding Ofﬁcer Lieut.-Col. F. M. Rowell
Second in Command Maj. D. Fulton
Adjutant Lieut. H. G. Viney
Quartermaster Lieut. O. L. Davey
Machine Gun Ofﬁcer Lieut. F. L. G. Smith
Medical Ofﬁcer Capt. W. R. C. Mainwaring
Veterinary Officer Capt. F. Murray-Jones
Officer Commanding Maj. P. H. Priestly
Second in Command Lieut. L. A. Lewis
Troop Ofﬁcers Lieut. J. T. Bigg
Lieut. F. M. White
Lieut. A. Dick
Lieut. H. F. Brock
Ofﬁcer Commanding Maj. J. E. Barrett
Second in Command Lieut. P. A. Laurie
Troop Ofﬁcers Lieut. J. J. Brooks
Lieut. A. H. Bray
Lieut. E. C. Derrington
Lieut. A. Mossop
Officer Commanding Capt. E. St. L. Lewis
Second in Command Capt. C. Mills
Troop Ofﬁcers Lieut. G. J. Bell, D.S.O. (Hon. Capt.)
Lieut. J. M. Clerke
Lieut. W. J. Bennett
Lieut. T. B. McLeod
This ofﬁcer establishment remained unaltered to the date of embarkation. The other ranks were quickly allocated to their respective troops and squadrons, etc., and non—commissioned ofﬁcers were appointed. The specialized units, such as Machine Gunners and Signalers, etc., were selected primarily from men with previous training in these particular categories.
The signal troop consisted of a sergeant--major in charge, with a corporal and two men per squadron, and nine men on Regimental Headquarters, four of whom were chosen as dispatch riders. Sgt.-Major R. A. McFarlane, from the permanent staff, was appointed Regimental Sergeant—Major, and the veterinary establishment was completed by the appointment of T. Edwards as Farrier Quartermaster-Sergeant, with the appointment of N .C.Os. and shoeing smiths by the squadrons. Regimental stretcher bearers were appointed for special training under the medical section of the regiment.
Australia was very young in military experience the country was not prepared for a major war. Particularly did this apply to the supplying of the necessary equipment to maintain and equip a large force for overseas service at such short notice.
The rationing of the troops in camps was a major problem, as although the quality of the food was good the cooking at ﬁrst was poor, due to lack of suitable utensils. Sanitary arrangements, too, were very crude, and unhygienic. However, conditions improved as the unit became organized.
No large reserves of military stores and equipment were available for immediate use, and consequently emergency arrangements had to be made. This increased the responsibility of the Quartermaster and the Regimental Q.M.S. (Sgt-Major T. Kenyon), as well as the Squadron Q.M.Ss., with a considerable duplication of work.
Saddles and bridles had to be manufactured. Horses were drawn from remount depots and came into the camps in batches of 30 to 50, being issued pro rata to the squadrons as they arrived. Fortunately the supply of saddles, etc., generally kept pace with the arrival of the horses, so that by the middle of September the full complement of horses had been received. Fifty-three draught horses and one pack mule were also taken on the strength of the Regiment. Approval was given in some cases for men to bring their own horses into camp for purchase by the army if suitable. The mule was presented to the unit by Mr. R. M. Hawker, and carried the veterinary equipment through the whole of the strenuous Sinai and Palestine campaigns. A comfortable home was provided for her at the Gizerah Sporting Club, Cairo, when the Regiment returned to Australia. She was always known in the Regiment as “Lizzie.”
Training commenced immediately the organization of the Regiment was complete. In the early days before uniforms, horses and equipment were available, it consisted mainly of dismounted drill, particular attention being given to discipline. Towards the end of August riﬂes were issued and training in musketry commenced. As the majority of the troops were “rookies” they knew very little about the handling or mechanism of a military riﬂe. Difﬁculty was experienced in securing suitable N.C.O. instructors. An N.C.O. from the permanent Army Staff was eventually made available, and he gave special instructions to a selected class, who, in turn, trained the remainder of the troops. In a very short time the standard of efﬁciency attained was very high. Camp conditions were fairly rough, and the troops had to sleep on the ground, about 12 to a bell tent, with their feet to the centre pole, a case of one turning — all turning! At least everybody was warm.
Night leave until about 11 pm was fairly generous but had its disadvantages when the latecomers came home and walked over extended legs in their tents, with unhappy results for everybody. Camp amenities were reasonably good. A recreation tent was provided for the troops in camp of an evening, where they could write, play various indoor games, and occasionally listen to a decent concert party. The Regiment was not lacking in its own talent of comedians, singers and boxers, etc.
When the ﬁnal allocation of horses had been made every trooper was called upon to pass a riding test. In the majority of cases this was easily attained. However, some of the recruits were “green,” and in several cases stuck grimly to their mounts who had taken charge of them, by holding on with their arms around the horses’ necks. They were quickly taken in hand by instructors. Mounted training was now the order of the day. Stables, horse management and the care and ﬁtting of saddlery was the ﬁrst things taught. This was attained by practical demonstration and lectures by squadron and veterinary ofﬁcers. Efﬁciency in this direction is most essential to a light horseman, as his horse is always his best friend. Training Was then devoted to mounted troop drill being advanced in stages to squadron and regimental maneuvers as the troops became proficient in each section. As efﬁciency increased training in reconnaissance was carried out in the form of small competitions under squadron and troop leaders.
As experience developed the Regiment moved out occasionally from the camp areas and carried out maneuvers in advance, rear and ﬂank guards; in expeditions where the unit bivouacked for several days and were trained in night outposts and march discipline. The Special units, machine gun sections and signal troop, etc., were included in these exercises and gained valuable experience. During the night operations ofﬁcers were given instruction in compass and star reading. The opportunity was also taken to cull out the unsuitable horses, which were replaced by reinforcements from the Remount Depot. About the middle of September, the troops received the ﬁnal portion of their equipment—spurs!
Whilst a large percentage of the Regiment were seasoned horsemen, there were some who had never ridden with spurs. To the uninitiated they are very awkward to walk with for a time, and it is easy to become tangled up and stumble occasionally. Also, anything is liable to happen when mounting or riding a horse if care is not taken. This was particularly so with the unit, as very few of the horses had previously been ridden with spurs. This was emphasized when the South Australian portion of the Regiment was called on for a full-dress parade for the Colonel’s inspection. The troops were drawn up in squadron formation dismounted. On the order to mount the troops were quickly in their saddles. and some of them just as promptly bucked off with humorous results. They had forgotten their spurs and inadvertently dug them into an unsuspecting horse. One unfortunate trooper in the front line was thrown off quite close to the Colonel, and instead of picking himself up started to scratch around in the sand. On being asked by the Colonel what he had lost, he replied, “My glass eye, sir!” How he passed the medical test on enlisting is another story. He went away with the Regiment and the glass eye did not detract from his soldiering abilities.
As it was anticipated the Regiment would embark about the middle of September they were reviewed on 9th September on the Morphettville Racecourse by His Excellency the Governor, Sir Henry Galway, K.C.M.G., D.S.O., who at the same time “presented the Regimental Colours. A few days later the Regiment, mounted on their horses, led a parade through the streets of Adelaide of all the A.I.F. units located in Adelaide, His Excellency taking the salute at Parliament House. Thousands of patriotic citizens gave the units a rousing farewell. A similar parade was held a little later by our comrades in Hobart.
Owing to unforeseen circumstances the (late of embarkation was delayed for a month. EMBARKATION On 20th October, 1914, Lieut. P. A. Laurie, with Transport Sgt. E. G. Lowe and 16 men, left camp to embark on Transport A12, s.s. “Saldanna,” with the mule and draught horses. On 21st October camp was struck at Morphettville and the Regiment marched out in the afternoon for the Outer Harbour, where they bivouacked for the night and embarked with their horses the following morning on Transport A17, s.s. “Port Lincoln.” The total embarkation was 19 ofﬁcers, 347 other ranks, and 338 horses.
Similarly the squadron in Tasmania struck camp at Pontville on 19th October, and marched to Hobart for embarkation. Lieut. Clerke and 30 other ranks embarked on the transport s.s. “Katuna” With the horses, the remainder of the squadron embarking on transport s.s. “Geelong”.
The troops, both in South Australia and Tasmania were fare welled by a sorrowful yet enthusiastic crowd. The transports were crowded with departing light horsemen who clambered up the rigging or any advantageous position that would enable them to secure a good view of their loved ones. As the transports gradually drew away from the wharves, heavy hearts were temporarily lightened by the waving of ﬂags and handkerchiefs, accompanied by rousing cheers. As the boats receded in the distance, faint cooees echoed across the water, and the troops realised the ﬁrst great sacriﬁce was being made. They were departing from happy homes, parents, wives, children, brothers, sisters, sweethearts and their beloved Australia for an unknown destination, and an indeﬁnite period to ﬁght the common enemy. How many of them would return? Eyes were wet and many men had lumps in their throats. The great adventure had begun!