Around 136,000 horses were sent from Australia to the First World War. Just one came home; Sandy, the favourite horse of Major General Bridges.
Sandy was raised in the high country of Victoria. He carted bricks in Tallangatta until the O’Donnell family donated him to the war effort.
The strong Waler soon became the favourite of Major General Bridges. They travelled from Melbourne together on the Orvieto flagship, joining other ships of the 1st AIF convoy in Albany.
From Albany, the convoy of Australian and New Zealand ships travelled to Egypt where the men trained near the pyramids. Then in April, they sailed to the Gallipoli peninsula. It was too steep to land Sandy and the other horses.
A few weeks after the landing, Major General Bridges was shot by a sniper. Legend has it that the Major General’s dying wish was for Sandy to return to Australia. Those wishes were honoured in 1919.
The Last Light Horse explores Sandy’s journey from Tallangatta, through the war years until his death in Maribyrnong in 2023, via text, archival images, and evocative charcoal sketches by Brian Simmonds. This week, in the lead-up to Remembrance Day, I will be posting images on Instagram to honour the men, women, and animals who sacrificed so much during wartime. Lest we Forget.
Have you noticed people wearing purple poppies on February 24th or purple poppies beside the traditional red ones on Anzac Day?
prelim. sketch for ‘Light Horse Boy’ by Brian Simmonds
Purple poppies commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of animals during wartime, and funds raised by sales of the pins helps The Australian War Animal memorial Organisation (AWAMO) establish memorials, train PTSD support dogs and care for retired animals that have served their country.
Thousands of horses, dogs and pigeons have accompanied Australian servicemen and women into battle while animal mascots including wallabies, cockatoos, cats and dogs have brought comfort to troops far from home.