Page 29 - Chiron Calling Spring 2021
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                Bill the Bastard
ill the Bastard’ was a ‘Waler’, severely outnumbered with a force a hardy type of horse bred of 1,700 troopers pitched against under the extreme climate 26,000 Turks, and when the chips
crafting of a life-sized statue in wax, clay and polystyrene, was completed on August 4, 2016 in Murrumburrah. There is now a community group and charitable company ‘Bronze, Bill the Bastard’ Ltd, working
to have this magnificent model bronzed and placed in the 1st Australian Horse and Australian Light Horse Memorial Precinct in Murrumburrah, NSW.
A TRIBUTE TO THE AUSTRALIA’S WAR HORSES INCLUDING THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO WERE CHARGED WITH THEIR CARE “When Great Britain declared war on Germany in August 1914, the Australian Government offered 20,000 troops for immediate service anywhere under British direction and the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was raised. The AIF depended at all times on voluntary enlistments and included a large number of veterinarians already serving in the Australian Army Veterinary Corps (AAVC).
The acquisition of horses was relatively easy. Background or breeding didn’t matter, the horses just had to be disease-free and strong. The hardy Waler — the horse named for its state of origin was
the main equine export for WWI. They usually stood between 14 and 16 hands and weighed on average 500kg. They were sired by English thoroughbreds from breeding mares that were often part draft horse but could include genetic input from Welsh ponies, Timor ponies and the brumby.
The first contingent of the AIF left Albany, WA, on 1 November 1914 and consisted of approximately 20,000 men, including 19 veterinary officers and nearly 8000 horses carried in 38 transport ships escorted by four Navy cruisers.
I share the story of one particular Waler, affectionately named Bill the Bastard.
Bill was a fractious, fierce
and some thought unbreakable chestnut, Waler, stallion who became a Great War legend for his incredible
and challenging working conditions of Australia. Bill was a massive 17.1 hands high, weighed approximately 730 kg and had strength and intelligence unmatched by any others of his breed. Bill showed courage, endurance and strength that became legendary. He had
only one problem – he was the most cantankerous horse that
had ever been encountered by the Lighthorsemen.
Bill travelled over to the Middle East on a troopship under the watchful eye of his minder, Australian writer, poet and journalist A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson. Banjo,
despite all of Bill’s bad habits and behaviour, became very fond of the chestnut stallion.
Bill met his match when he
met Major Michael Shanahan, a
46 year old builder from Roma in Queensland. Major Shanahan won the horse’s respect and trust with gentleness, perseverance and a large quantity of liquorice allsorts. Major Shanahan and Bill fought together, depending on each other for their survival.
It was August 4, 1916, the noise of the battlefield at 2 am was deafening as the Australians fought the
Turks in one of the most important battles – the Battle of Romani, the turning point of the war in the Middle East. The Australians were
were down, Bill’s heroic efforts and exceptional instincts in battle, saved the lives of his rider and four other troopers at the Battle of Romani. Bill carried the 4 Tasmanian troops over 3km to safety from the Turkish Soldiers. Later in the battle of Romani, Shanahan was shot in the leg and passed out. Bill, sensing that his rider was unconscious, carried Shanahan three kilometres to medical aid.
In 1997 Carl Valerius designed
and built the many aspects of the Memorial to celebrate the Centenary of the formation of the 1st Australian Horse in Murrumburrah. Carl later learned of the story of ‘Bill the Bastard’ and Major Shanahan’s daring rescue of four Tassie Troopers from certain death at the battle of Romani. He was inspired to commemorate this feat and sculpted a small bronze statue which currently resides in the Memorial in Murrumburrah.
In Professor Roland Perry’s book ‘Bill the Bastard’ a small typing error stated a ‘life size’ rather than a ‘life like’ statue of Bill the Bastard could be viewed
in Murrumburrah, resulting in a flood of enquiries to see a life-sized sculpture that didn’t exist. As the Centenary of the battle of Romani was approaching, Carl decided
to remedy the situation and the
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