AT JUST 17 years of age Harry Peard distinguished himself in battle during the last mounted horse cavalry charge in the history of the world – Beersheba, October 31, 1917.
During the charge, a Turkish redoubt a few hundred yards to the left of the main attack brought heavy enemy fire, so 12th Light Horse Regiment’s Sergeant Henry Harrison (Harry) Peard, with Squadron Quarter Master Sergeant Alfred Richard Townsend, took the initiative and wended their way up to the redoubt, shot 10 of the enemy, captured two and routed the remainder, thus silencing that enemy fire and allowing the charge clearer passage to the town.
Both were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for “conspicuous bravery and gallantry in the field”.
One hundred years on will see a centenary re-enactment of the charge and among the 100 mounts will be Harry Peard’s granddaughter, Lyn Richardson.
Mrs Richardson, an accomplished horsewoman, was one of the first two ladies to be inducted in the Mounted Police Unit in Australia, being the Queensland Police Force, and as was also one of the early members of the Australian Stock Horse Society. She had no better man to teach her riding skills than her grandfather.
She now raises stock horses with her husband, Bruce, at “Eurella”, Glen Alice, but speaks very proudly of her grandfather’s war service.
“He was a tough young man,” she said.
In writing his history Mrs Richardson said the son of a dairy farmer from Benowa, Harry Peard was raised by his father from two years of age after the death of his mother and at 15, convinced the enlisting officer he was 25 and was sworn into the Australian Light Horse on January 12, 1915.
On the way to Egypt his regiment was rerouted to Gallipoli, where men found themselves in immediate action on arrival on August 29, 1915, where he was designated to “Ryrie’s Post” on the peninsula.
He was shot in the arm and moved to Malta on November 28, where he became gravely ill until, after intensive treatment, he was fit for duty on January 27, 1916 and returned to his unit at Gallipoli, where he then sustained a fractured ankle and was invalided to Australia for three months.
Harry Peard was shipped to Suez in May, 1916, and returned to active duty in November, finally arriving in Egypt to join the remaining men from his 12th Light Horse Regiment, after 18 had been killed during the Gallipoli campaign.
The 4th and 12th regiments were merged to form the 4th Light Horse Brigade, with more than 2000 men and horses with mules and camels also contributing to pulling wagons along the railway line they built while traversing the harsh desert lands.
Charge at Beersheba
After two unsuccessful attempts to win Gaza and some 10,000 casualties, the plan to seize Beersheba began, as it was halfway between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea on the northern edge of Negev and on the railway line from Istanbul to Hafir el Auja.
Traversing the desert under cover of night and after watering their horses, some 48 hours later the order was made to be in position to stage the surprise attack and create history.
To take Beersheba meant securing the water wells, and reportedly, the horses could smell that water.
In the charge those courageous horses jumped two by one metre trenches, while their riders had slung their rifles over their backs and charged with bayonets in their hands at full gallop.
Mrs Richardson wrote that if the Lighthorsemen were not mounted on tough, athletic, brave horses, their attack would have failed on that day at Beersheba.
“It was those wonderful horses that carried those skilled young men to victory.”
The charge was across 6000 metres of open country and the men and horses were subjected to rifle and machine gun fire and artillery bombardment from the flanks and trenches in front.
After jumping the trenches the Lighthorsemen would dismount and hand-to-hand fighting would follow, while the remainder following charged into town.
Excitement is mounting for the centennial re-enactment of the charge of the Light Horse regiments on Beersheba on October 31, when 100 riders in full regimental uniform including descendants of those gallant mounted infantrymen will ride the last kilometre over the same ground.
So far 160 people have booked the “In the Steps of the Light Horse” tour from October 10 to November 3, according to tour organiser and Australian Light Horse Association director, Barry Rodgers.
“They will follow the route the Australians took in 1917 from Shellal to Beersheba,” he said. “When they get to Beersheba there will be a parade through the town and ceremonies at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, then the charge re-enactment.
“The tour will also take in Gallipoli, then Egypt, where we will ride the same training track still circling the Pyramids at Mena camp, then Jordan and Israel.”
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