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Wednesday, 2 December 2009
The Australian Light Horse, The Australian Light Horsemen, Thomas Patrick Conway
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

The Australian Light Horse

The Australian Light Horsemen

Thomas Patrick Conway


In the early part of 1912, Lieutenant T. P. Conway from the Army and Instructional Staff with the C.M.F. in New South Wales penned an article called The Australian Light Horsemen which was published in the Military Journal, June 1912. Thomas Patrick Conway joined the Army and Instructional Staff on 1 July 1910 and remained as a permanent officer until he retired.

Conway, TP, The Australian Light Horsemen, Military Journal, June 1912, pp. 519 – 522.


At present there are about 6,000 of these troops being trained throughout Australia, and those who have served would be nearly 14,000. Thus Australia has approximately 20,000 men who can claim to have a working knowledge of the duties of the A.L.H. This is undoubtedly a great asset, the actual value of which depends on the quantity and quality of the training assimilated. The amount of enthusiasm which has been displayed in this branch of the service is truly remarkable. It is a common occurrence for a man to ride 30 miles to drill, and often the private affairs of the O.C. a squadron occupy his attention at a distance of over 200 miles from where his squadron is raised and trained, and yet he does not neglect the squadron; numerous other instances can be quoted, all of which go to show to what extent such men are prepared to spend time and money in the development of our national forces.

General Sir Edward Hutton defined the Australian Light Horse as “Horsemen trained to fight on foot." To attain this characteristic its members are required to be horsemen and horsemasters, to be proficient in scouting and shooting, to be skilful in attack and defence, and to possess the soldierly spirit which is built up by systematic training and sound discipline. The men comprising this force are drawn chiefly from the country districts, and it contains representatives of almost every trade and calling. Fine types of men they are, and splendid soldiers they make. Their stamina is equal to the most trying task, and their resource is usually equal to the situation. Field-Marshal Lord

Kitchener, speaking to a representative gathering during his visit to Australia in 1909-10, said:

“You have got first-rate material on which to work; in no other country in the world, as far as I know, do the young men show such natural military qualifications on which to base their military career. A great deal of the training that would in the ordinary course have to be supplied to obtain an efficient soldier is already part of the daily life of many of your lads. There is no reason, as far as I can see, why the national forces of Australia should not make their standard of efficiency on a par with, if not higher than, those of the military powers in Europe or elsewhere."

It is therefore to be accepted that the Australian, individually, possesses the requisite qualifications for the making of a high class soldier, and it is purely a matter of training sufficiently, it, order to bring the A.L.H. up to the required standard of efficiency. The question then arises. Is the training calculated to produce the required results? i.e., will it make these troops equal to, if not superior, to any other mounted troops. The instruction of the A.L.H. extends aver a period of sixteen days annually. Home training occupies eight of the sixteen, and the balance is spent in the annual camp of training. The training in the annual camps is sound and systematic, and every effort is made to bring all concerned up to the proper plane. But can this also be said with regard to the home training, which, generally speaking, is performed by single troops, or by half squadrons? As a rule the musters are weak, and under such circumstances the instruction of the individual is not in the right sequence, and proper progressive training is extremely difficult. The squadron is the tactical unit of Light Horse, and it is very necessary that cohesion and comradeship between troops should be fully developed. With squadrons which only assemble as such, once yearly, these important factors are neglected, and hence the troops do not work together with confidence and smoothness.

It frequently happens that to attend a half-day parade, a man rides 10 miles, Thus in going to and from a parade of three hours, and in saddling and off saddling, the man spends about four hours; under such conditions it is very easy to understand why attendances at local parades are usually bad, and why the training is not progressive.

During 1908, Lieut.-Colonel Findlater, C.O. 16th A.L.H. initiated a scheme of local squadron camps, which quite made the attendance and training at home equal to that of the annual camps. With this scheme there is something doing every quarter, and there is a special inducement for the members to attend. The year's work is divided somewhat on the following lines:



Date. Duration. Training. Remarks
Sept. 26, 27, and 28 3 days As per syllabusTroops to assemble at X, as per instructions issued.
Feb. 4, 5, and 6 3 days As per syllabus As above
 8 daysAnnual Camp 
To be completed by 31 January 19132 daysMusketryTroop leaders to arrange.


Parades held as above tend to improve the attendance and increase the interest, and when this is the case, knowledge and efficiency are concomitants. The man who makes a long journey to attend drill is catered for, as he rides only the same distance to put in three days as he did previously to put in a half day. The parades are not clashing with local fixtures, as the dates are carefully selected and are in keeping with local requirements. Local camps provide the opportunities for all ranks becoming familiar with the details of horselines, stable duties, and camp routine. They promote comradeship, develop the soldierly spirit in the man, and improve the efficiency of the unit. Keep up interest is the great thing, and it is important to keel) the military movement prominently in the public eye. Camps assist in this. It is surprising how little things help. Take the distribution of pay. With the local camp system, men are paid at every camp, and reference to the attendance roll of any squadron will show that the attendance on pay day is always considerably above the average.

If the A.L.H. is to fulfil its proper role, there can be no slackening off, and one and all must devote their time and attention to the competition for national supremacy. The start due to natural surroundings must be maintained, and there should be no wasted opportunities. Here are some squadron defects which were recently noticed:

(a) Mark III, rifles which were issued three months ago were badly neglected, and the troop officer stated that he never made a practice of examining the rifles of his troop.

(b) When a squadron was ordered into action there was, considerable noise and confusion in the ranks, due to each man not knowing what he should do; and the sergeant of each troop acted as horseholder, while in some instances a private was leading one horse.

All officers should clearly and fully realize their responsibilities, and N.C.O.'s should know that they must be in action with their troops. The leaders, troop and squadron, are responsible for the training, and they should spare no effort to do justice to the natural abilities of their men.

From the 1st July, 1912, the A.L.H. will receive drafts from the compulsory trainees; and those who are not liable to train, but are willing, will also be allowed to do so, Those now serving may continue under existing conditions, and it is hoped and expected that they will at least complete the period for which they enlisted. In the very near future, the A.L.H. will be considerably expanded, and there will be ample opportunities for those now serving to become officers and N.C.O.'s. Expense is now not a deterrent to the men with brains, and without means, becoming officers. Uniform is supplied free, and year after year efforts are being made to keep the messing within the allowance. This is as it should be; the man lives well on his rations, and the officer should manage on the ration plus the allowance.

It is accepted by the highest authorities, that the Australian possesses the natural qualification for the making of a high-class soldier to a marked extent. This should be borne in mind, and the men should be given every opportunity and encouragement to increase their military knowledge. The material is ready to be moulded, the moulding has to be accomplished in a very limited time; it should therefore, be carried out energetically, carefully, and intelligently.



Further Reading:

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, The Australian Light Horsemen, Thomas Patrick Conway

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Monday, 14 December 2009 7:51 AM EAST

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