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From: Phil Rutherford
Time: 2:19:15 PM
Remote Name: 184.108.40.206
4th Light Horse Regiment was raised in Victoria in 1914 as a divisional cavalry regiment attached to the 1st Australian Division. They served at Gallipoli as infantry and in 1916 B and D Squadron, along with the Regimental HQ, was transferred to France as only one of two Australian Light Horse Regiments (the other was 13th LH). The remaining troopers were attached to the 4th LH Brigade where they served with great distinction in such campaigns as the Charge at Beersheba.
Along with the 13th LH Regt, 4th LH arrived in France to join the Otago Mounted Rifles (a NZ group) to become the 1st ANZAC Mtd Regt under LTCOL Grigor of the Otagos. The elements of the 4th, along with a single squadron of the Otagos, later became the 2nd ANZAC Mtd Regt under LTCOL Long, the CO of the 4th LH.
The Regt came under the control of II ANZAC Corp (under MAJGEN Godley) and their baptism of fire on the Western Front came on 21 July when 3 officers and 100 men of B Sqn were sent into the trenches at a place called Fleurbaix near Armentieres. They spent 6 weeks in the trenches (losing only 4 men) and were replaced by another 117 officers and men.
Whilst retaining some of their original cavalry training, the regiment was still being used as infantry when posted to the front. However, in June 1917 they took part in the attack on Messines Ridge where they were tasked to ride forward and establish an observation line as a screen for further advances by the Australian infantry. The regiment was well supplied with Hotchkiss machine guns and used them to great success during this attack.
After this the regiment was used mostly in traffic duties and fatigues. They were also used in anti-aircraft duties, although never in as peaceful a role as this might suggest. At one point of the allied position, Hellfire Corner, they lost 8 men as they tried to quickly direct traffic through an area that the Germans had pinpointed their artillery with extreme accuracy. By the end of 1917 men of the regiment were being used for all sorts of duties from filling sandbags to manning 'shell-hole lines' - lines of shell holes connected together with barbed wire in order to indicate where the front line was. While some of their tasks were, what some would call 'cushy', their ability to get very close to the enemy with their Hotchkiss guns meant that they were also used in far more dangerous roles then many infantry soldiers were.
In January 1918 the regiment left the II ANZAC Corps to join XXII Corps of the British Army as the XXIICorps Mounted Regiment. As British and French troops were being pushed back under the weight of the German Spring offensive in March 1918, men of the mounted regiment were sent forward to Ypres to support the British 49th Division. They arrived in time to prepare themselves for one of the last German offensives of the war, that being an attempt to smash through the allied lines in the north in an attempt to take the Channel ports and the Strait of Dover. Men of the 4th found themselves fighting both offensive and defensive battles at places with such enduring names as Polygon Wood, Neuve Eglise and Kemmel Hill (or Kemmelberg) where they were subject to just about everything the Germans could throw at them yet managed to hold out for nearly two weeks with Kemmel Hill only being lost after they were relieved by French Troops.
On the 25th of April the regiment was attached to the British 27th Brigade where they acted as mounted scouts, searching out and pinpointing enemy patrols. After this they returned to the line as infantry and, after several more days intensive fighting, the last German attempt to take the Channel ports was over.
They had been in action for five weeks, losing 94 men, but had gained the praise of General Godley who said that 'No troops contributed more to stem the tide of the German invasion'.
The 4th were once more called on to prove their expertise at mounted duties when they were shipped by train to Ayle-Champagne, a town neir Rheims. Here they were ordered to push up the Ardre valley without infantry support and seize a mile-long line between the villages of Bligny and Montagne de Bligny. This advance was immensely successful, as can be seen by the fact that two Croix de Guerre with Palms, a Military Cross and six Military Medals were awarded in what has been described as text-book mounted infantry warfare. A week later the battle of the Marne ended with the Germans once more on the defensive from one end of the line to the other.
The role of the lighthorseman in the Western Front has never really been seen as anything more than a glorified infantryman, galloping to and fro carrying orders or bringing up the rations. But their importance really came to the fore during the latter days of the war when, as their greater expertise at open warfare made them far more appreciated than those troops whose time had been predominantly spent in the trenches. As the Somme offensive got under way, General Godly, now in temporary command of the III Corps, asked for and was granted permission to use the mounted troops to lead the advance from the River Ancre to the Hindenburg Line. Many times the lighthorsemen saved what could have been a potentially threatening situation when, during their patrols in front of and behind the front line, they discovered gaps between troops, regiments and whole corps. It is recorded that there were many occasions when a few troopers would be manning the gaps while an officer or NCO would rush backwards and forwards bringing together the units on either side in order to present an unbroken line to the enemy. Another role they played so well was in the mopping up of the many machine posts that the Germans left behind in their retreat to hold up and delay the advancing allies. Using tactics that their mates in Palestine would have been proud of they would ride forward until the German machine gun opened fire and then, using classic lighthorse tactics, they'd dismount and move forward using fire and movement until the post was overrun. Finally, as the bad weather moved in during the final great push of November 1918, aerial reconnaissance forward of the allied advance was at most times impossible to carry out. Then, as in many times since, the lighthorseman was called upon to move well ahead of the advancing troops to report on the conditions of the ground and to identify any enemy positions left in the wake of the retreating German army. In the last week of the war, men of the 4th Light Horse won 2 Military Crosses, two Distinguished Conduct Medals, and a Distinguished Service Order. Ironically, it is said that the last man to have been wounded in the war was LCpl Vic Grist, shot in the arm at 11.15 am on November 10th, 1918.
Sadly, the end of the war was also the end of the 4th Light Horse. With the disbanding of the XXII Corps Mounted Regiment, LTCOL Hindhaugh of the 4th became the CO of the 13th Light Horse and the two squadrons of the 4th were designated as A Squadron of the 13th.
The above was taken from an article in the AHMS's Sabretache journal, Vol XXVI - April/June 1985. In a postcript it says that this information came from many people, mostly ex-4th Light Horsement, and was originally presented by Ian Jones to the AWM History Conference in February 1985.
I hope this has helped your search.