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"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre aims to present an accurate history as chroniclers of early Australian military developments from 1899 to 1920.

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre site holds over 12,000 entries and is growing daily.

Contact: Australian Light Horse Studies Centre

Let us hear your story: You can tell your story, make a comment or ask for help on our Australian Light Horse Studies Centre Forum called:

Desert Column Forum

WARNING: This site contains: names, information and images of deceased people; and, language which may be considered inappropriate today.

Thursday, 5 November 2009
The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, December 23, 1916, Mapping the Magdhaba Redoubts
Topic: BatzS - Magdhaba

The Battle of Magdhaba

Sinai, 23 December 1916

Mapping the Magdhaba Redoubts


Map describing the action at Magdhaba from the Anzac Mounted Division War Diary, January 1917.

[AWM4, 1/60/11]


Until the ready availability of the Australian Light Horse War Diaries and the advent of Google Earth, the ability to gain a bird's eye view of the Magdhaba redoubt system built by the Ottoman Forces has been difficult indeed. Through the use of the technological tools available, it is possible to take the data from the hand drawn maps of the Magdhaba redoubts and place them upon a terrain profile provided by Google Earth. The results speak for themselves.

By courtesy of a fellow contributor, Dominic, the data regarding the  redoubts was extracted and placed upon an actual satellite picture of the landscape provided by Gooogle Earth. The result allows the observer to visualise the physical terrain facing the Anzac Mounted Division as the Commanders planned their attack.


Magdhaba Garrison Redoubts as at 22 December 1916.

[Graphics by courtesy of Dominic]


One view of this terrain leads the observer to the conclusion that the Ottoman forces chose their site well. Over a flat surface which provided no cover whatsoever for an attacking force, they dug their trenches in such a way as to produce mutually supporting fire bases. These interlocking defenses meant that any attacking force was always at a vast disadvantage.

While interlocking fire support was its strength, paradoxically, this system of defence was also its weakness. By breaching one redoubt, the others would be exposed to enfilading fire and rendering their continued resistance untenable. This proved to be the downfall of the garrison. 

One should never conclude that the taking of the Magdhaba garrison by Chauvel was a lay down mazere. It was not. Chauvel had already issued orders to call off the attack by 3 p.m.. Had his generals obeyed this order at that time, there would have been no victory to record. But one general refused to read the order and the rest was, as they say, history.


Further Reading:

The Battle of Magdhaba

The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, December 23, 1916, Roll of Honour, Australia and New Zealand

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, December 23, 1916, Mapping the Magdhaba Redoubts

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Tuesday, 10 November 2009 10:23 PM EAST
The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, New Zealand Field Ambulance War Diary
Topic: BatzG - Anzac

The Battle of Anzac Cove

Gallipoli, 25 April 1915

New Zealand Field Ambulance War Diary 


War Diary account of the New Zealand Field Ambulance.


The following is a transcription of the War Diary of the New Zealand Field Ambulance, of their role in the landings at Anzac on 25 April 1915.


24 April 1915

Sailed late at night.

25 April 1915

Arrived at Cape Helles 6 am. Passed to Fisherman's Hut bay and landed 11.30 am. 1500 casualties reported - but it was decided to take care of wounded on ships.

26 April 1915

Roughly 500 wounded men.


War Diaries

All War Diaries cited on this site should be read in conjunction with the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, AIF War Diaries of the Great War, Site Transcription Policy which may be accessed at:

Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, AIF War Diaries of the Great War, Site Transcription Policy 


Further Reading:

The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915

The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, NZEF Roll of Honour

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, New Zealand Field Ambulance War Diary

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Tuesday, 13 April 2010 10:36 PM EADT
Remount Section, AIF, The Training of a Remount By Lieutenant SJ Hardy, Royal Scots Greys
Topic: AIF - DMC - Remounts

Remount Section, AIF

The Training of a Remount

By Lieutenant SJ Hardy, Royal Scots Greys


Heliopolis, Egypt, Trooper Herbert Grey Jay, 2nd Remount Unit, riding a buck jumping horse.



The following article, The Training of a Remount, was written by Lieutenant SJ Hardy, Royal Scots Greys, and appeared in the Military Journal, April 1912 edition. This article details the optimal techniques employed at a Remount Depot to bring a horse into shape for mounted service in the various military arms. This was best practice, although not necessarily followed during the Great War due to the huge need for trained horses on an immediate basis. Regardless of the practices that emerged at the various depots, this article gives a good grounding in the expectations.

Hardy, SJ, The Training of a Remount, Military Journal, April 1912, pp. 330 – 343.


“Horses are taught not by harshness but by gentleness." - Xenophon.

The horse is one of the most timid animals, and during the period of breaking must be treated with the greatest kindness. Once insure mutual confidences between man and beast, and the task of the breaker is comparatively simple.

"It only needs the gentleness of a woman to call into operation all equine good manners, whereas harsh words and cruel usage convert a timid and inoffensive animal into a vicious brute."

The making of the horse's temper, for good or evil, depends on man, who has the opportunity of making his slave either obedient with kind treatment or vicious by cruel usage.

Colts dread to approach objects they have never seen before, and are afraid of any objects that they anticipate may give them pain.

Rarey, an American, in 1858, trained horses most successfully on a system based on the three following principles:

Firstly. - That the horse is so constituted by nature that he will not offer resistance to any demand made of him which he fully comprehends if made in any way consistent with the law of his nature.

Secondly. - That he has no consciousness of his strength beyond his experiences, and can be handled according to our will without force.

Thirdly. - That we can, in compliance with the laws of his nature, by which he examines all things new to him, take any object, however frightful, around, over, or on him, that does not inflict pain, without causing him to fear.

Rarey always inculcated the doctrine of kindness to horses; he fully recognised their nature, and he attempted to allay their fears by bringing them in close contact with objects of their aversion, and by showing them that no injury or pain could be inflicted by them.

Let the horse once recognise there is no cause for fear, and he will become docile, and obey with pleasure the orders of his rider.

The great difficulty in training a horse is to make him, understand what we want him to do, which is no easy matter, because a horse, contrary to what is generally supposed, has only a small supply of intelligence, which does not include the power of reasoning.

It is only well-developed mental quality is his memory, which is particularly acute, and should therefore be specially utilized.

The horse is, of course, capable of great affection, and the obtaining of this plays all important part in his training.

The human voice has a great influence on a horse, but it is only the tone which he remembers.

In dealing with Army horses it must be remembered that from three to four years old is the average age at which a remount commences his training: and the class required is a deep, short-legged, short-backed, good barrelled horse, of the hunter stamp, with substance and quality, true action, and going quite clear of the joints.

Naturally we do not always succeed in obtaining for £40 horses of the above stamp. We must therefore take into consideration the conformation, condition, temperament, and intelligence of each individual horse.

Most remounts arrive in what is known as "dealer’s condition," which has the deceiving effect of making a horse look as if he was well built up, whereas he has probably never known what a decent feed of oats is like, or experienced regular exercise.

Thus it is essential to remember that, with horses in the above condition, their muscles are naturally to a great extent undeveloped. Careful feeding and grooming are therefore most important with the young horse.

Let us now consider the uses to which Army horses are put, for on that must be based our system of training.

A troop horse must march long distances with a heavy weight on his back, without losing condition. Then he must be used to exposure and privation; be capable of being ridden with only one hand at all paces and over all manner of country, in company and alone; be indifferent to the noise of firing, and able to stand still as well as gallop. In fact, we require the hardiness of a Basuto pony, the handiness of a polo pony, the steadiness of a good hack, and the spirit and energy of a hunter.

Having taken into consideration the physical and mental capabilities of the horse, the material available and the standard required, we can proceed with our system of training, the fundamental principle of which we can express in one word, “Progressive."

The physical and mental training must proceed conjointly. Individual study must be made of each horse, his capabilities realized, and his efforts rewarded. One must not expect too much of a horse, his education must advance step by step. Great patience is required, especially in the early training.

The education of a horse depends entirely on the manner in which the rider applies the principle of reward and punishment; the appropriate application of the latter being even more essential to success than that of the former. When a horse deserves punishment, he should receive it with an amount of severity proportionate to the offence. A horse's intelligence enables him to connect his action with the punishment it provoked. On this account, if punishment is not administered at the precise moment the fault is committed, it will lose all its good effect, and will be an element of confusion in the memory of the animal. It is better not to punish him than to do it too late.

One should always try and discover the motive for disobedience; it will either be caused by pain or viciousness.

Just as punishment should promptly follow disobedience, so also reward should promptly follow obedience. All horses, even the most impatient, accept a pat on the neck.

"Making much of the horse gives him confidence, by placing the rider in direct contact with him otherwise than by impulsion." (Fillis)

As the body is gradually built up, so must the exercises be gradually increased, both in duration and scope, until the horse is ready for the "finishing" which will fit him to enter the ranks after a course of training lasting from eighteen to twenty-four months, according to his rate of progression.

But fundamentally and behind all theories it is the trainer and not his system that makes a horse a good or bad one.

This human element enters very deeply into the training of young horses, and it is sometimes lost sight of. Yet it is the most important, though the least tangible, of all the things which go to educate an animal.

In considering a system of training, however, we should not legislate for the "horseman born." Such a man can no doubt train his horse on any, or no, method. But it is quite certain that the majority of people are not born horsemen.

And it is equally certain that almost any one with patience and practice can learn to train a horse. And, when trained, the average man's horse is more suitable to the indifferent horseman than the horse trained by the brilliant horse man, whose animals are often too highly sensitive for any one not equally skilled.

It is for this reason that it is a good thing to have a regular and systematized method of training.

We therefore wish to emphasize the necessity of a uniform method of control; this is especially important in connexion with military horses and men, where both are continually changing.

A system carefully thought out is bound to defeat haphazard methods in the end.

But before entering into the details of his training, it might be as well to note some of the characteristics required of a successful trainer.

We use the word “trainer," and not "breaker," because the "horse breaker," as he is often with justice called, is a man who drives out, with whip and spur, all the good equine qualities, and converts a naturally quiet and kind animal into a brute.

Although the horse is a timid animal, he must be controlled by a man of courage. Timidity must not be approached with timidity, for, if such takes place, the notion of dread is at once communicated to the young horse, whose perceptive faculties are always on the alert to protect himself against mischief.

Men without nerve are useless as trainers.

It is equally important for trainers to have patience, determination, and tact. The better their hands and seat and the more practical their knowledge of the horse's temperament, characteristics, and capabilities, the better their chance of being really successful trainers.

The system of schooling horses of the late William Sherley, of Twickenham, one of the most celebrated horsemen of his day, was comprised in one word "kindness".



Every horse varies considerably in age, condition, education, conformation, soundness, character, and temper; for this reason the trainer should at once set to work to study the nature of his remount, so that he can realize what it is reasonable for him to expect of it.

The training is commenced by handling the horse, leading him about on both sides, accustoming him to the sound of your voice, educating his brain by showing him as much as you can, in the fields and on the roads.

During this stage it is an excellent plan to give your horse sugar, or handfuls of corn, every now and then.

In the early training of a remount the use of the voice is invaluable.

A horse quickly learns to obey sharp, distinct words of command, such as "Whoa," "Trot," "Walk," &c., if given in the same tone of voice, this being most essential.

The voice has a calming effect on a horse: and when once a horse gets to know your voice, you can, by using it in the above manner, not only make him obey certain commands, but also steady and calm him when nervous or excited.

Just as a dog does, he will soon be able to distinguish between your tone of voice when pleased or angry with him.

It is therefore most important that you should accustom your remount to the sound of your voice.

During this period the horse should be trained with an ordinary jointed snaffle in his mouth, the reins tied in a. knot and allowed to lie on the neck, the trainer leading him about by means of a leather rein attached to the lower ring of the back strap.

By adopting this method there is no danger of causing injury to his sensitive mouth, when a horse plays up or attempts to break away, according to the usual custom of young horses.

As soon as your horse has grown accustomed to being led about on both reins, to being handled, and becomes quiet, and has learnt to stand still and walk on, then his training may be advanced a step further. But the next stage depends on the nature, condition, and age of your horse.

For horses that are too weak to carry a man at this period, a course of "Long Reining" is advisable. But for those which are strong enough, and sufficiently tractable, this period may be dispensed with, and “Backing " may be proceeded with.

But as most remounts come under the former category, and not the latter, we propose to proceed with our training by making use of the "long reins." This stage may be divided up into four periods, as follows:

The "roller" is now put on, care being taken not to buckle up too tightly, and a sharp look-out kept for possible galls. The long reins are fastened to the head collar, and the horse lunged on either rein.

It is essential that the rein should be constantly changed and an equal amount of work done on each.

The trainer must never work his horse too hard, or keep him trotting round and round on a circle; this only sickens him and makes him feel giddy. Practice at halting, standing still, and moving on to the word of command must also constantly be carried out.

The horse should be, frequently made much of, and rewarded with lumps of sugar occasionally.

Every five or ten minutes, allow the horse to stand still and rest.

The work should only be done at the walk and trot, and the horse should never be sweated.

After a few days of this, the time depending, as it does throughout the whole of his training, on the progress of the horse, the next period may be commenced.

The long reins are now attached to the snaffle, so that great care must be taken to avoid injuring or deadening his sensitive mouth.

Similar exercises may be carried out as in the first period, though the duration may be slightly increased, say, to about an hour and a quarter.

The saddle may now be put on with the roller over it, the same precautions being taken to avoid galls. The outside rein is passed over the horse's neck, and the training proceeded with. We can now do a certain amount of forward work, which has the great advantage of teaching your horse to move straight forward, a point that will be dealt with later on.

The stirrups are allowed to hang down, and the outside rein passed over the back and round the quarters. We can now make him change from one rein to the other on the word “Change" being given.

Up to this point, our training should take place out of doors as much as possible, providing that the weather is suitable. The Riding School deadens the intelligence of the horse, whereas out-of-door work gradually develops his brain and improves his education.

The advantages and disadvantages of the long reins can now he discussed. The use of the long reins has a disciplining effect. Throughout the various periods the horse is taught to obey, and to realize the complete mastery of his trainer.

They also to a certain extent balance the horse, the pressure of the outward rein preserving him for the use of the leg. But perhaps the great advantage of them lies in their power of advancing the training of the horse, until he is strong enough to bear the weight of a man on his back.

But long reins must be properly used otherwise they do more harm than good.

Unless they are in the hands of an experienced man, the horse is apt to lean on the snaffle, swing his quarters out, and turn his head in.

The reins are heavy (leather reins weigh: 4 lbs., web over 2½ lbs., and rope is unsuitable for the purpose, as it is liable to gall a horse and your fingers, especially if he breaks away), so that mechanical means should be resorted to in order to keep the animal's head in the correct position (passing the reins through the turret, or even through the stirrups, certainly lightens the weight on the mouth).

There are certain hints which may be found useful in long rein driving, a few of which are enumerated below:

(a) The driver should never wear spurs, owing to the danger of catching the reins in them.

(b) The whip, if used at all, should always be halo point downwards in the, opposite hand to which the horse is working.

(c) Never use the whip unless the horse refuses to move on and even then the sight of it will generally be sufficient to make him move forward. If he refuses to do so, touch him lightly and carefully behind, because any roughness or abruptness is apt to make him resist.

(d) Never order a horse to halt, walk, or trot when he shows signs of doing so; make him do it when you want him to, and not when he wants to.

(e) When you wish to handle the horse go up to him quietly, drawing in the reins as you do so; never allow him to come to you

(f) Always accompany the horse, and never follow him. Place yourself so as always to keep the horse between the lunging rein in front and the whip behind, thus forming a triangle. The hands and reins constitute the apex and sides respectively, and the horse the base.

(g) Hold one or two coils of the reins in the hand to which the horse is working.

(h) Wear good stout gloves, or you will cut your fingers badly. As soon as you can consider your horse fit to carry your weight, and “perfect on either hand, and no cloth set his trot comely and stately, you may venture to put the saddle on him.'' Browne, 1624)



We should now take the horse into the Riding School and commence to "back him." To do this the trainer should have at least one assistant, if not two.

Providing that the horse is quiet, the best method is to proceed as follows

One assistant holds the head by a rein attached to the back strap, the other assists the trainer to gradually raise his weight off the ground on to the horse's hack, until the laxly is gradually in its place au the saddle. The horse should be made much of and talked to in a soothing voice throughout the proceedings, and it is advisable to give him a handful of corn.

If he shows any disinclination to move forward, he should be turned either to the left or right; everything should be done to keep on friendly terms with him.

As De Mauleon remarks, if he will not do a thing in one way, another should he tried.

As soon as he goes quietly the rider should dismount very gradually by taking lamb feet out of the stirrups and lowering himself slowly on to the ground.

In the case of a very timid horse, which will not allow the trainer on his back, it is a good plan to adopt Rarey's method of strapping up one of the forelegs with a stirrup leather, and then either placing a dummy on his back, or the trainer himself. In any of the methods for backing a horse, the great point to remember is that, whatever happens, don't allow your horse to throw you. This has a very bad moral effect on the horse, and will put him back in his work; if once he finds he can get rid of you, he will always be liable to repeat the experiment.

For the first few lessons the rider should only be mounted for a few minutes at a time, in order that the muscles may gradually become accustomed to the great and unusual strain placed upon them.

Whilst working on the long reins the horse has to a certain extent been taught to balance himself. The additional weight f the rider now being placed on his back, he finds that the balance which he acquired is to a certain degree lost, and muscles which came into use in acquiring that balance have a fresh strain put upon them.

We must therefore content ourselves with making the horse walk straight forward, using the legs only for putting him in movement, and keeping him straight, and up to the snaffle.

We shall thus give him time to get accustomed to carrying the additional weight of the rider's body, and gradually adapt his balance to suit the new conditions.

It would be as well to say a few words on this most important subject of balance.

The colt instinctively learns to balance himself from birth; by raising or lowering his head and neck he shifts his weight backwards and forwards, and does not feel it any more than we do ours; but when he is ridden, some fifteen stone weight is placed over and behind his centre of gravity, and lie has to adjust himself to the new conditions: this, and the undeveloped state of the muscles of his back and limbs, account for his awkward gait when first mounted.

Our object therefore is to make the horse carry his head in the best position for balancing his weight at all paces, or, in other words, "placing the horse's head."

This work is carried out through the combined action of the legs and hands. The legs, by compelling the horse to move forward, drive and keep him up to the bit. The pressure of the leg should be lively and springy, and applied with the leg drawn back, behind the girth. The rider must endeavour to preserve the sensibility of the horse to the leg, by avoiding anything in the nature of a dull, clinging pressure.

If the trainer is quite certain that a horse is lazy, and that the laziness is not due to weakness or indisposition, an early introduction to a blunt spur is advisable - -otherwise it is best not to wear spurs.

A light flexible cane may be carried to supplement the use of the leg, rather than as a means of punishment.

The hands, through the reins and snaffle, regulate the position of the horse's head and neck, by bringing pressure to bear on the tongue, the bars of the mouth, and the corners of his lips.

This pressure should, of course, be as light as possible, or the mouth becomes bruised or injured, and eventually callous.

The best way to raise his head is as follows: Place the reins one in each hand, passing through the fingers, and with a gentle upward and jerky movement combined with the forward pressure of the legs, gradually raise his head, relaxing the pressure as soon as he has done so, only retaining sufficient feeling on the mouth to make him maintain this position.

Then reward him, give him his head, and allow him to rest the muscles of his neck, on which an unaccustomed strain has been placed.

When the horse carries his head as required at the walk, a little trotting and circling may be attempted, care being taken to make the circles large or the turns wide, with the hindquarters following in the track of the fore-limbs.

Always make your horse stand still when mounting or dismounting; the earlier this is accomplished the better. Remember that it is just as important a part of his training as any other exercise.

As much work as possible should be (lone in the open, though it is advisable to keep in the School until the rider is satisfied that his horse will not attempt to get him off. Work on the roads is good for young horses, but very little trotting should be done or splints will result.

Elementary jumping may now be commenced, but the whole subject of jumping is dealt with in the Appendix.

Though it is impossible to lay down a fixed time, it will probably take from six to nine months to arrive at the stage where the horse's head has come into place and he goes freely tip to the snaffle.

We can now proceed with the third stage.



We can now lengthen the duration of our lessons, say, up to two hours, and work further away from stables. With the exception of, say, half-an-hour in the School for two mornings in the week, all the work should, so far as the weather permits, be carried on out of doors.

Mr. Fillis' motto, "Toujours en avant," should always he borne in mind. The objects of training your horse moving straight forward and on good going are as follow:-

(1) That most of the work which you require your horse to do will be moving forwards, not sideways, backwards, or on the circle.

(2) That it is easier and quicker to train a horse whilst moving forward, for he is less liable to try and "play up"; every time this happens much valuable time is wasted.

(3) That it is simple, and therefore you are less likely to upset his, temper.- thus man and horse quickly get into sympathy and on good terms with one another.

(4) That it is easier for the horse while advancing to balance his own weight and that of his ruler.

(5) That you are training his mind as well as developing his physical powers; continually advancing over fresh ground accustoms him to new surroundings and makes him more sure-footed.

(6) That your horse is less liable to go unsound during the course of training by working him to his front -

(a) He is not so liable to knock one leg against the other.

(b) He is less liable to strain or twist the joints or tendons.

(7) That it is easier to preserve and maintain the natural high carriage of the head, and thus from the commencement he learns to carry his own head instead of relying on his rider to carry it for him. Undoubtedly one of the reasons he carries his head better is due to the fact that he is taking an interest in the continual change of surroundings, and therefore does not get tired of his work. Notice how a horse, old or young, pricks his ears and lifts hip head when he sees, a pack of hounds.

(8) That you are less likely to spoil his mouth and temper owing to the simplicity of the work.

(9) That you balance and collect him naturally by going up and down gentle inclines. This assists the free movement of the shoulders, develops and builds up muscle in the right places.

(10) That you teach him the leg by keeping him from sniping about under you, gradually pressing him forward with your legs, and induce him to walk straight with the lightest feeling on the mouth.

In Conclusion, let it he clearly understood that the above remarks are in no way intended to depreciate the usefulness of work in the School or open Manege.

But too much of this work has a deadening effect on the intelligence of both men and horses. Too much circling and turning has a cramping effect on the horse's action.

For the above reasons, therefore, the training in our opinion should be carried out on these lines, and with that idea we can now commence the important stage of mouthing.

Mouthing consists of:

(1) Supplying the head and making it turn from the boll of the neck.

(2) Making the head turn to one side or the other, the neck remaining straight.

In both cases the bend must be accompanied by a yielding of the jaw.

If the bend is towards the withers, the flexion is called “Direct," if to one side, “Lateral."

Great patience is essential in making a horse mouth. Some never will on the snaffle, in which case you must wait until they are bitted. Very few horses’ mouth correctly at first and you can only make them by proceeding very gradually on the following lines. First keep his ruck straight by means of the left rein in the case of right flexion and both reins in direct flexion. As soon as the horse relaxes his jaw, the mouth loses its sensitiveness, and he becomes in hand, and quickly learns that obedience is rewarded.

It must be remembered that the mouth is extremely sensitive, and that mouthing will at first cause, at all events, a feeling of discomfort. While if a steady strain is kept on the reins in the hope of making the horse relax his jaws, the mouth soon loses its sensitiveness, becomes hard, and the horse leans on the hand.

In the flexions, too, the horse's head and neck are required to take positions which are not natural to them, and if the muscles called into play are kept too long in constrained positions a spirit of opposition is aroused, which may affect the horse's temper. This is especially the case with horses which have the head and neck set on wrong.

Always perform the flexions on the move, or the horse will not go freely up to his bit.

The horse, having now learnt the flexions, can be readily “collected," and in this condition should be frequently worked both at the walk and trot, and whilst turning and circling, but only for a short time, and he should frequently be given his head and allowed to walk free.

The term “collected” has been defined as follows:-

The halt. - Standing up to attention with all four legs underneath him, with his weight equally distributed, ready to move in any direction as directed by the rider.

On the move. - Limbs well under him, and in such a way that, although on the move, he is ready to act in all)- way in obedience to an altered desire of the rider.

We can now commence the canter, but, until the horse is bitted, the canter cannot be expected to be very collected. The best way to make a young horse canter is from the “trot short," by applying in rather an exaggerated manner the aid for canter.

At first the canter should be made on the straight, and afterwards in large circles. Never make your horse canter by increasing the pace of the trot. But always try to make him strike off on the application of the aid. It is too early to expect him to canter from the halt, or to change the leg; that must come later on.

A little reining-back is a useful exercise; by bringing him back on the haunches it lightens his forehand, but little should be done owing to the strain on the hocks.

The best way to teach him is to dismount and rein him back on foot, a few steps at a time, treading on his coronets if necessary to make him pick his feet up, the voice being used to assist.

Half-halts or checks, followed by forward movements, are also most effective, and the bending lesson may be taught.

All these exercises must gradually be increased both in duration and standard, the period varying from six to nine months.

No fixed rule can be laid down as regards the time at which a horse should be bitted, but as soon as he moves freely and collectedly at all paces, does a figure of 8, and flexes on the snaffle, carries his head high, if anything on the high side (as the bit tends to lower the head, and, once this has been done, it may take months to correct the fault), we may proceed to bit him.



We will suppose that we have decided to bit the horse.

If a light double-bridle is not available, take the regulation bit, with the reins on the snaffle-ring and top bar.

Certainly don't use a curb for the first few days, during which you should not ask too much of your horse. Just a few simple forward movements, until the horse accustoms himself to the new bit.

You must be very careful to be as light as possible with the hands, and avoid giving him any pain with the increased power which you obtain.

If the horse takes kindly to it, you may put the curb chain on, but only very loosely at first, keeping a sharp look-out for pinches, chafes, or bruises. (On the other hand, if you think it wiser, put him back for a little on the snaffle.)

You can now gradually ask more of the horse, and perform the following exercises:-

Cantering and circling,



figure of 8,


regulation paces,

elementary skill-at-arms, &c.

The more you train your horse on the “Toujours en avant" principle, the freer your horse will move both as regards going up to the bit, and moving in a collected and balanced manner. Beware of your horse getting cramped in his ham, especially at the canter. To avoid this, ride him tip and down hills, occasionally give him a nice steady gallop, but never race him.

Take him out in the country, ride him up and down steep banks, to bring him back on his hocks; show him strange sights, take him into farm yards, villages, &c.; ride him over rough ground; all these exercises develop his brain, strengthen his body, and improve his cleverness, making him handy and sensible.

Every other day or so take him into the School, for not more than half-an hour, gradually bringing him on to what we shall call the finishing stage.

It is a good plan to commence lessons with a good ten minutes' trotting. Firstly, it gets their backs down. Secondly, it starts them straight and brings them back to the hand. Thirdly, this gait suppler a horse best, and the legs are stretched without straining them.

Such exercises as are enumerated below are best done to commence with in the School, though half of every lesson should be carried out in the open.

1. Bending lesson; the horse being bent from the poll in the direction in which he is going.

2. Half-passage and passage, flexing on the bit.

3. Striking off at the canter, changing the leg, figure of 8, and serpentine.

4. Turning on the haunches and centre, reining back.

5. Ladies' chain.

6. Accustomed to firing, motors, aeroplanes, crowds, cheering, flag-waving, &c.

7. Simple troop drill, leaving and passing through the ranks, measured distances, led horses.

8. Skill-at-arms, dummy-thrusting, revolver shooting.

9. Galloping in pairs and then in line.

The above are a few of the many exercises through which the remount should be put, and according to the age and condition of the horse the advisability of working him in the squadron depends.

If possible, it is desirable to train your horse to cover comparatively long distances, accustoming him to the weight of a fully-equipped military saddle, providing that the work be such as would improve his condition and not prematurely break him down.

If opportunities exist, the horse might be practised in swimming, and taken out with the hounds.

All horses that are sent to the ranks before they, are six years old should be saved as far as possible, and left at home on long field-days or manoeuvres.



"If the head of a horse is well regulated, you may afterwards manage him as you please, provided his nature and strength will admit of it, for should you not secure his head, it is impossible ever to make him a complete horse, since you have only your hands and heels to manage him, otherwise, the most essential parts will fail you." (Duke of Newcastle)

In training a horse for the Army, two points must be remembered:-

1. The average stamp and quality of a remount.

2. The object aimed at, i.e., a horse capable of being ridden with only one hand by an average horseman, under every conceivable condition.

With these points in view, some practical and progressive system, such as has been outlined, is essential.

Naturally no fixed rules should be laid down, but a system based on sound principles must be carried out, varying in its method of application according to the age, nature, and condition of each individual horse.

Firmness, patience, and common-sense are essential qualities in a trainer.

There are periods of the training in which great perseverance and patience is required. But providing that too much is not asked of the horse, time will, in nearly every case, fully reward one.

He who wishes to succeed as a trainer must be prepared to meet with many disappointments, and possibly accidents.

There is a “conclusion" at the end of the Duke of Newcastle's famous book, and we cannot do better than copy it verbatim, with apologies.

“You ought to be, well informed that the art of horsemanship cannot be collected together in a proverb; nor can there be one universal lesson, as many desire in this art, any more than a universal medicine is an ointment for all wounds. For my part, indeed, I am very sure that there is nothing universal in horsemanship, nor in anything else that I know. If this work pleases you, I shall he thoroughly well satisfied; if not, I shall be content in my own mind; because I know certainly that it is very good, and better than anything that you have had before of the hind."


First of all, don't overdo it. Remember that a horse must be gradually built up, and his muscles are not strong enough at the beginning.

Secondly, endeavour to make your horse like jumping, and then he will not cause trouble through refusing.

Lord Harrington, at Elvaston, teaches his yearlings to jump by making them pop over a low rail to get to their food increasing the height of the rail as their strength and age progresses.

So with remounts, we can send them either singly or in pairs (making them follow an old horse, who is a good performer, is an excellent practice) down the jumping lane, rewarding them at the further end by a handful of oats or a carrot.

In this way we can teach the horse to associate jumping with pleasure and not with pain.

If you use a whip at all, use it sparingly. Avoid frightening.

Never ask him to do more than lie is capable of. Make your jumps small at first, even a pole laid on the ground is sufficient, and gradually increase the obstacle.

Horses can be lunged over small jumps with sliding wings, great care being taken not to job or injure their mouths. As soon as the horse jumps freely and is fit to stand it, the trainer may ride him over small jumps, endeavouring to make the horse go slowly and collectedly up to the jump, and take off from his hocks.

You will find at first that the horse will pitch on his forehand.

To enable him to get back on his hocks, and jump correctly, it is a good plan to move on circles near the jump, then take him up to the jump, rein back a few lengths, and then set him at it.

This method has the double advantage of making him jump off his hocks, as well as preventing him from rushing.

We may now dispense with the wings; this is important, as the horse is thus taught that he must take the place selected by his rider.

Various other forms of jumps can now be used, such as a wall, open ditch, stile, gate, &c.

In the case of a young horse shaping badly at his jumping, we should always try to arrive at the cause.

It is very often due to some weakness or injury, so that jumping actually causes him pain. In which case it should at once be stopped, until the hurt is remedied.

The whole course of jumping must run progressively and in unison with the remainder of his training.

The trainer must realize the temperament of the horse, as his jumping depends a great deal on it.

Some won't jump in cold blood, and others will.

Lastly, remember that the two chief causes of a horse refusing or jumping badly are

1. Jumping is associated with pain, either in the mouth or through some physical weakness.

2. Lack of determination in the rider.

" 'Osses are queer critturs, they know when you are frightened as well as you do." (Surtees.)


Further Reading:

Remount Section, AIF

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: Remount Section, AIF, The Training of a Remount By Lieutenant SJ Hardy, Royal Scots Greys

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Friday, 11 December 2009 3:13 PM EAST
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
Remount Section, AIF, Happy Dispatches, Chapter XV. “Hell-Fire Jack” by Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson
Topic: AIF - DMC - Remounts

Remount Section, AIF

Happy Dispatches, Chapter XV. “Hell-Fire Jack”

Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson


General Royston (with the walking stick) known as “Hell-Fire Jack”


The following is an extract from Happy Dispatches, Chapter XV. “Hell-Fire Jack” written by Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson. During the Great War, Paterson served with the Remount Section in Egypt and penned this entertaining story of his service. It must be viewed as a "soldier's tale" rather than taken as historically accurate. However, regardless of the exaggerated history, the setting is precise in detailing the running of a Remount Depot. 


Happy Dispatches

Chapter XV. “Hell-Fire Jack”

A man who feared nothing—“He’s gone after two Turks”—Had to try a sniff of gas—Remounts and rough-riders—A general chooses a charger—But selects an Australian buckjumper—Australian admiration for South African.

It is usual on the stage to begin by introducing some minor characters with a view to providing an effective entrance for the star. These minor characters are supposed to stand about in sycophantic attitudes, or to wave their hats with enthusiasm, as the star approaches; and then the audience starts to cheer. It is perhaps as well, therefore, before introducing Lord Allenby, to prepare for his entrance by saying something about “Hell-fire Jack,” otherwise General Royston, by instinct a bandit chief and by temperament a hero, whose name is well known in South Africa, England, and Australia.

But even a Brigadier-General, unimportant as he may be in comparison with a Field-Marshal, is entitled to have some sort of an entrance worked up for him. Let us begin, then, by setting the scene and saying something about the lesser lights (known on the films as “atmosphere”) so that we may get the principals into due perspective.

From a military point of view a remount unit is very much “atmosphere.” So it is opportune to introduce the sixth squadron of the Second Australian Remount Unit, better known as “Methusaliers,” the “Horsehold Cavalry,” and the “Horse-dung Hussars.” Their activities may serve as a foil for those of General Royston. In its un-military appearance and in its efficiency it rivalled the Australian hospital.

At Sea – En route for Egypt.

“W’ere the ’ell wos it we wos?”

Two of the troopers of the sixth squadron of our Australian remount unit had been wandering about the transport, down an alley-way and up a flight of stairs, down another alley-way and up another flight of stairs, until they were hopelessly lost. One was a little jockey enlisted as a rough-rider, and wearing a suit of uniform that fitted him all over and touched him nowhere. The other was an over-age man enlisted as a groom and bearing himself with all the smartness and dignity of a tired shearer.

For truth to tell, our remount unit in appearance, at any rate was about Australia’s last hope.

The country had been combed for efficient fighting men to make up the losses on Gallipoli and the Western front. Then it was discovered that about a quarter of the Light Horse regiments who were fighting on Gallipoli had been left behind in Egypt to look after the horses; and it was decided to organize a couple of hundred rough-riders, possibly the best lot of men that ever were got together to deal with rough horses. Horse-breakers from the back-blocks; steeplechase riders; men who had got their living by riding outlaw horses in shows—a lot of them had hung back from enlisting for fear that they would never be able to learn the drill. But when they heard that they only had to ride buck-jumpers they decided “to give the war a fly.”

All our officers were over age or unable to pass the doctor for fighting units. Not more than two or three of us knew anything about drill; the rest did not even know a sergeant-major from any other major.

November 1915—At Sea. En route for Egypt. Once we are at sea the march of the inextinguishables commences. These men may be old, but they don’t know it. A harassed little Irish non-com. comes up, salutes smartly and says:

“Trooper Whittin’ham wishes to see ye sor.”

Trooper Whittingham, a grizzled veteran from the cattle country with the marks of the scurvy still on the backs of his hands, gives a salute like a man brushing away a fly, and leans his elbows on the table.

Non-com.: “Shun! Stand at attention!”

Straightening up with the weary air of a man playing a child’s game in which he is not interested, Trooper Whittingham starts off in the unhurried style of a man who has a long day’s riding before him and must make his conversation go as far as possible.

“I was jest thinkin’ major,” he says, “that when we git over there I’d like to exchange into one of them fightin’ regiments. I was thinkin’ I’d like to go into the flyin’ corps. I never been up in an airyplane but if a man can sit a horse I suppose he could sit one of them things. I see they gets lost sometimes, and I’ll swear I’d never get lost. I can stick a knife into a tree in a scrub and let ’em lead me about blindfold for ten minutes, and when they take the blindfold off I can go straight back to that tree. Gimme one look at a mob o’ cattle and I’ll tell yer within ten head what there is in ’em so I reckon I could count a mob of Turks even if I was goin’ over ’em at a hundred miles an hour.”

I say: “They only take young men in the flying corps. You want nerves like a goat to go flying. I suppose you want to go as an observer. What would happen to you if the pilot got killed.”

“Cripes, yes, it’d be pretty tough if he got killed and I was left up there and couldn’t come down. I reckon I’d better go for the artillery.”

Enter another of the ageless men, a prospector this time, his hands all calloused from the pick and the drill.

“I suppose, major,” he says, “that a man could get off now and again to do a bit of prospectin’?”

“Prospecting! What do you want to prospect for? There’s no gold in Egypt.”

“No. But them tombs of the Pharoahs, they’re full of golden images and the like of that. If a man could strike one or two of them tombs! I’d get them Egyptians to show me a likely place, and I’d put down a shaft.”

“Put down a shaft. They’re buried under millions of tons of loose sand. You couldn’t put down a shaft.”

“Couldn’t I timber it?”

“No. There’s no timber in Egypt, except the government plantations. If you got cutting down trees there you’d get six months.”

“Well perhaps I could turn a crick (creek) on to it and wash the stuff away. Me an’ my mate we got good gold down near Tumut washin’ twenty feet of alluvial off the top of the pay dirt. What about that?”

“There isn’t a creek in Egypt that’d wash the dirt off a flea. There’s a war on, and you’ve got to look after horses. When it’s over, you can go after the Pharoahs if you like.”

The work of the Remount Depot is to take over the rough uncivilized horses that are bought all over the world by the army buyers; to quieten them and condition them and get them accustomed to being heel-roped; and finally to issue them in such a state of efficiency that a heavily-accoutred trooper can get on and off them under fire if need be.

We had fifty thousand horses and about ten thousand mules through the depot, in lots of a couple of thousand at a time. All these horses and mules had to be fed three times and watered twice every day; groomed thoroughly; the manure carted away and burnt, and each animal had to be exercised every day including Sundays and holidays. His Majesty’s Methusaliers had a perpetual motion job.

Hardly had we got our first shipment of Australian horses—very wild characters some of them— than brigadier-generals began to drop in. Every one of them wanted horses, and each general wanted the best horse; any other general could go and eat coke so far as he was concerned, for every man has to fight for his own hand in the army. Highly placed staff-officers looked in to pass their latest remarks on the war and incidentally to grab a good horse or two for themselves, their friends, or their subordinates. But Allenby’s orders were very strict. No officer, not even a staff popinjay or a brigadier, should be allowed to select a horse for himself. We had to issue the horses. The best had to go to the fighting men; the next best to the staff; and the culls and rejects to the men on lines of communication, camp-commandants, doctors, water-supply officers, and such-like cattle.

Among the first brigadier-generals who made for our depot, as Chinese junks make for port at the first smell of a typhoon, was General Royston who had made a name for himself in South Africa as Commander of Royston’s Horse. He was a square-built energetic man always doing something, a sort of prototype of “Teddy” Roosevelt when the latter was the colonel of the rough-riders.

It is said that there were sixty generals at one time quartered in Shepheard’s Hotel. But Royston was not the Shepheard’s Hotel brand of general—far from it. He had been given command of a brigade of Australian light horse. While it is altogether an admirable thing for a general to set his troops a good example by showing a contempt for danger, it must be admitted that Royston rather overdid it; and his troops alternately admired him and cursed him. It was not that he wanted to show off—he was not that sort of man—but when he got anywhere near a fight, a sort of exaltation seemed to seize him, and he took no more account of bullets than of so many house flies.

“When I’m running a show, Paterson,” he said to me. “I stick my lance in the ground; leave Dangar (his brigade major) in charge, and I go off to see how the boys are getting on.”

He would ride up behind a row of dismounted men firing for their lives and exhort them:

“That’s it boys. Pump it into ’em!” This to the accompaniment of a sotto-voce chorus from the firing line:

“Get out of that you old b——d. You’re drawing the fire on us!” The General Officer Commanding once rode up in a terrific hurry, all sweat and lather to make some alteration in the positions, shouting as he came:

“Where’s General Royston? Where’s General Royston?” An army signaller, who was eating his dinner out of a tin of bully-beef in the shade of his horse, stopped chewing for a moment and pointed to the Turkish lines:

“I last seen him (bite) gallopin’ up that gully (chew) after two Turks (swallow).”

Small wonder then that this thruster was about our first caller when the new lot of Australian horses came in. He rode up all unannounced and said that as he was passing by he had just dropped in to pick out a few horses for his brigade. When he was told that this was forbidden, he said:

“Well at any rate I’ll pick out a horse for myself. You must do the best you can to keep him for me.”

Running his eye over the compound where the horses were walking about stretching their legs, he picked out a magnificent black horse, one of the best-looking officers’ chargers that ever came out of Australia:

“My horses get a lot of work,” he said (which was true beyond any doubt) “and that fellow will just suit me.”

Then came the day when we started on the first mob of horses. General Royston must have had some kind of second sight for he turned up that morning to see the performance:

“There’s no harm in my looking at ’em,” he said. “I’m always up early (it was just on four o’clock in the morning) so I thought I’d ride round to have a look at ’em. Are you going to allot them their horses?”

“No,” I said. “I’ll let Sergeant-major Dempsey do that. He got his living riding buckjumpers in shows in Australia, and he can tell an outlaw through a galvanized-iron fence. A lot of these are old Queensland horses that have been ridden once and then turned out for two or three years.”

“Do you think they’ll buck at all?”

“Well, they’ll surprise me greatly if they don’t. I knew one big supplier in Australia who had shipped all his broken-in horses—about six hundred—and he got a rush order for a hundred more to fill up another ship. He hadn’t a broken-in horse nearer than five hundred miles, so he ran in a hundred unbroken horses and put the Barcoo polish on ’em.”

“Put the what, on ’em? The Barcoo polish. Some drug or other?”

“No. He and his boy ran them into a yard and forced them through a race, one after another, and the two, between them, caught and rode a hundred unbroken horses in two days. That’s a Barcoo polish. They could swear that every horse had been ridden. These men here would rather have one of those horses that knows nothing, than one of these old outlaws that has been ridden till he got a sore back and was then turned out for a couple of years.”

The depot was on the edge of the desert with the waters of the Nile in the background, and beyond the river the pyramids stood clear against the skyline. The General jerked his thumb towards the pyramids”

“From their summits forty centuries look down on us, but I don’t think the pyramids ever saw anything like this. What an outfit!”

The rough-riders had come out carrying their saddles and dressed for action. Field service uniform for a rough-rider consists of a shirt and riding-breeches; no leggings or puttees, and their socks were pulled up outside the ends of their breeches. They wore elastic-sided boots specially made in Australia, with smooth tops so that there would be nothing to catch a rider’s foot in the stirrup. Their saddles, also specially made, had high pommels and cantles with big knee and thigh-pads. Dust rose in clouds from the quiet horses going out to exercise; and as for the flies—there are five elements in Egypt: earth, air, flies, fire, and water, in the order of seniority.

Sergeant-major Dempsey, a six-foot-two Australian, straight as a stringy-bark sapling and equally as tough, took charge of the rough-riding. He had not yet acquired the military method of command. He said:

“Now, you, Bill, get hold of that bay horse,” instead of barking out his orders as a sergeant-major should. Men do not get on rough horses by word of command, they get on when they can.

“Charley, you take that big chestnut fellow. George, you take that black horse with the Battle Abbey brand. We’ll rub some stickfast on your saddle, for they’ll all buck. I was breakin’ in there once, and I never struck such a lot of snakes in me life.”

Having allotted the worst-looking horses to the best riders the sergeant-major says, “Now boys, grab your horses. Get to ’em.” There is a charming lack of formality about the proceedings. One rider begins to croon a song:

’Tis of a brave old squatter, boys, his name was William Binn.
He had two gallant sons was known both near and far,
He had some outlaw horses and none could break them in,
Bo I went down, rough-riding, on old Bulginbar.

“Tiger” Richards, a strapping young horse-breaker from the Riverina, says:

“This is my lucky day: look what I’ve got.” And he drags out a sleepy old bay horse that looks more like a ration-carrier’s hack than an outlaw. But Dempsey is seldom wrong. As soon as the old horse sees the saddle he tries to pull away and drags Tiger and the saddle all over the compound.

“Come on, you silly Queensland cow,” says the Tiger. “Do you think I’m an alligator?”

“Watch him, Tiger,” says Dempsey. “That cove threw Billy Waite (a celebrated rider) in our show in Queensland.”

“He’s struck something better than Billy Waite this time then. Hit him over the rump so as I can get him in the corner and have a few words with him.”

In a moment the compound was full of trouble. Horses were bucking all over the place. A big chestnut horse, as soon as he was mounted, threw himself straight over backwards and narrowly missed pinning his rider to the ground.

A waspish little bay mare refused to move at all when mounted, and crouched right down till her chest nearly touched the ground. It appeared that she was going to roll over, and her rider kicked his feet out of the stirrups. As he did so, she unleashed a terrible spring that shot him out of the saddle and sent him soaring in the air, high enough to see over the pyramids—or at any rate so he said. Some unmouthed brutes bolted back into the compound and fell over the ropes, while others set sail out into the desert as though they were going back to Australia.

Tiger Richards having mounted his horse said:

“He’s mine.” But the next moment he passed us at full gallop, the old horse boring his head down with no more mouth than the Bull of Bashan. “I’m his,” he added as the bolter tore away towards the Nile, where he fell head over heels into an Egyptian grave that had sunk below the level of the surrounding desert. As Richards got up and spat the sand out of his mouth he said:

“That’s the cove to win the war. A million b——y Turks wouldn’t stop him.”

General Royston watched all this without saying anything. But at last he burst out:

“Where’s my black horse, the one I picked for myself?”

“I’ve kept him for the last, sir,” said Dempsey. “I think he’ll show us some style. Bob Adams is going to ride him. He’s an old rider but good. How are you feeling on it, Bob? Would you like me to put one of the boys on him?”

“Not on your life, Jack. I’m just as likely to get hurt off a quiet old cuddy that’d fall down and break my neck. It’s all in the game. If this cove throws me, the saddle and the hide’ll come too.”

They were not shrinking violets, those rough-riders—not so that you would notice it.

The General’s choice was led out and gave little trouble while being handled.

“There you are,” said the General. “What did I tell you. Quiet as a lamb. Best horse I’ve seen in Egypt. Best horse I’ve ever seen anywhere. You must keep him for me.”

They lunged the black horse round for a bit, but he refused to take anything out of himself. Then Adams mounted. Whoof! Away he went arching himself almost into a circle like a watch-spring with his head right in under his girths. Straight ahead, sideways, round and round, backwards, he went in great bounds roaring with rage all the time and shaking and wrenching his rider at every prop and every spring. He wound up by landing, rider and all in an irrigation canal with a splash like the launching of a battleship. Adams could hardly walk when he got off him.

“There you are, sir,” said Dempsey. “He’ll never make a general’s charger. Best thing we can do with him is to sell him to the Turks. He’s an old hand at the game, that fellow; no matter how quiet you get him you couldn’t trust him the length of a whip. He’d be always watching you, and when he got his chance he’d set into it and he’d throw any man in the world out of one of those patent self-emptiers—those slippery army saddles.”

But Royston, like Teddy Roosevelt, did not know the meaning of the words “inferiority complex.”

“I can ride him,” he said. “I can ride anything. I’ll be very hurt, Paterson, if you don’t keep him for me.”

It seemed a good chance to say that he would be very hurt if we did keep him for him; but one doesn’t say these things to a general and off he went followed by admiring comments from the rough-riders:

“That’s Hell-fire Jack. He’d ha’ been shot fifty times, only he won’t keep still long enough for the Turks to hit him.”

We kept the black horse in the depot to give buck-jumping exhibitions which were very popular among the visiting English aristocracy, and created a good impression that we were doing our job. One titled lady asked:

“Do you ride many of the outlaws, Major Paterson?”

“Only those that the men can’t ride.”

Modesty gets no one anywhere in the army.

The gallant General’s inability to keep out of a fight might have landed him in the equivalent of Stellenbosch, or might have earned him the command of a light horse division. On one occasion he arrived at a fight in the desert (I think it was Romani) and found our forces enclosing the Turks on three sides, and apparently awaiting orders to attack. Riding up to one regiment that was waiting the return of its colonel from a conference, Royston called out: “Come on, boys.” The regiment, with howls of exultation, at once followed him. The other regiments, seeing these go in, thought that orders had arrived for an attack, and in half a minute they were all over the Turks. The victory went down to the credit of the man in charge of operations. But Royston had, at any rate, hurried things up. He was in line for a high command when his optimism proved his downfall.

Poison gas had been used by the Germans and experiments were being made with it on the Palestine front. Nothing would do Royston but that he must have a sniff of it. He was one of those men who would try anything once. He was warned against it, but no, he must have just one sniff of it so that he might be able to recognize it if it should ever be used against his troops. The result was that I found him in a hospital, a badly shaken man, passing green urine, and ordered away for long leave. But nothing would daunt him and he spoke most cheerfully of the day he would come back.

So far as I know he never got back. Thus one of the most picturesque personalities in the British army dropped out of active service.


Further Reading:

Remount Section, AIF

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: Remount Section, AIF, Happy Dispatches, Chapter XV. “Hell-Fire Jack” by Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Friday, 11 December 2009 3:37 PM EAST
The Australian Light Horse, Light Horse Duties in the Field, Part 1, Scouting for Troop Leaders
Topic: AIF - DMC - Scouts

The Australian Light Horse,

Light Horse Duties in the Field, Part 1

Scouting for Troop Leaders


Light Horse Scout in the Sinai, 1916


The following essay called Light Horse Duties in the Field was written in 1912 by Major P. H. Priestley, who at that time was on the C.M.F. Unattached List. The article appeared in the Military Journal, March 1912.

Prior to that Priestley served in South Africa 1901-2 with the 5th South Australian Imperial Bushmen in Cape Colony and Orange River Colony and was awarded the Queen's South African Medal with four clasps. During the inter war years he served with the South Australian Mounted Rifles 1900 - 1910 when he was placed on the unattached list. At the outbreak of the Great War, he enlisted with the 3rd Light Horse Regiment and embarked with "A" Squadron. He was Killed in Action on 3 May 1918.

The following is a 3 part series of this article. A fourth part was attached as his article was critiqued by Major F. A. Dove, D.S.O., A. and I. Staff, in the  Military Journal, May 1912. Both articles give valuable insights in the basic thinking around the use of Light Horse scouts, detailing both theoretical ideas peppered with experience wrung from the recent war in South Africa.

Priestley, PH, Light Horse Duties in the Field, Military Journal, March 1912, pp. 171 - 185.


Light Horse Duties in the Field


(1) Scouting for Troop Leaders

No body of men, however small, should at any time cross the picquet line without having a scout or scouts between it and the enemy. The purpose of these scouts is primarily to become a preventive against surprise. This form of work is the simplest form of scouting, and when acting with the detached mounted troops, all intermediate steps are to be found amongst the operations, between it and the highest, which is that of specially selected scouts acting for some special purpose.

With light horse, every N.C.O. or man who is with his troop usually undertakes at various times at least this step in scouting, so that it can be said of this arm that they are essentially scouting troops. Even in this elementary work is to be found scope for the excellence of a few men over the others, and these men of greater ability become selected for unusual duties of varying importance, till, ultimately, the exigencies of active service not infrequently cause these men to be permanently detailed for the work.

There is no method of working which can well be laid down for scouting unless it is that the scouts should keep well out from their troops, well extended, always in touch, never out of sight of the troop, and always keep their eyes open.

Troop leaders will not be employed in elementary scouting, but it is the troop leader who must instruct his scouts and direct them in their work, and for this reason he should be familiar with scouting in all its branches. Even in the daily work with the guards he cannot assist his scouts, nor work in harmony with them, unless he thoroughly understands the principles.

A troop leader must always support his scouts and see that they are never in want of assistance. Scouts have very difficult work to perform, and it is not every man who will desire to ride up a rise almost alone when an enemy may he expected on its summit. Of course, the general principle of scouting may be looked at in this way: that it is better to sacrifice one or two men than to sacrifice a troop; but this is not the correct aspect of the cage. There is in reality no need to sacrifice at all. There is, of course, always the chance of meeting a murderous fanatical individual who will throw away his own life or freedom for the sake of shooting or killing a scout; but in the ordinary run of warfare, this elementary scouting, if properly carried out, is no more dangerous than ordinary troop work.

Scouts must have thorough confidence in their troop leaders. A scout must know that if he meets with trouble he will not be left to get out of it himself as best he can. If he knows he is being watched and protected, he will work more confidently and with a more free use of his opportunities.

Troop leaders should be always on the look out for signals from their scouts. Series of signals between scouts and their officers may be of use, but usually are unnecessary. The troop leader is, in any case, following his scout or riding parallel to him, and there are only two signals needed, either to assist or to retire. The evidence as to the necessity of the latter is too obvious to need a signal in addition, and consequently any signal made by the scout must be read as indicating a wish on his part for the support of the troop.

An officer may wish to signal his scouts, but a whistle to attract attention, and the signals of silent drill, are all that are required, except a signal to "come in." The correct signal to recall scouts would be, perhaps, the “close," but in the screen, where all the troops are in open order and the squadron separated, such a signal being applicable to all who see it may lead to confusion. A very simple and convenient signal of recall to scouts is made by holding up the head-dress at the full extent of the arm, or better still, by holding it up on the muzzle of a rifle.

If a scout wishes to signal his troop leader he cannot order an increase of pace by signalling the command “trot," or other signal of command. He may however, use the signal of holding up his head-dress on the muzzle of his rifle to indicate a desire for support, i.e., the presence of the troop leader at the post he is on. This is simple, but it is simpler still if the troop leader trots up at once on seeing any unusual movements on the part of his scouts. There is no need for him to wait till the scouts have formed an opinion as to the desirability of calling him up. The troop leader does not wish to act on the opinions and judgments of his 'scouts, but on his own. Not their judgment on unusual incidents, but the occurrence of unusual incidents is the matter he wishes knowledge of from his scouts; and since unusual movements of his scouts must be caused by some unusual circumstance, these movements are in themselves the indication he wants; and he should press up to them at an increased pace at once, without waiting to know if the scouts think the circumstances under notice are of value or not. Any elaborate series of signals from scouts to troop leaders in the screen are unnecessary, as all the latter has to do is to increase his pace and see for himself.

The evidence of the necessity for retirement or the checking of a troop that has been termed too obvious for a signal in addition, is heavy rifle fire, or this following on the capture of a scout. Heavy rifle fire, not the fire from guns, is the only legitimate reason for a troop checking its movement. The capture of a scout is in itself not sufficient reason, it must be followed by heavy rifle fire that is too severe to permit of a rescue.

That is the standard rule, but without paradox, the exact converse of the last sentence is an urgent reason for checking the movement of even a troop of the advance guard and placing it under cover. If the capture of a scout is seen, and absolutely no rifle fire at all follows on the troop increasing its pace, the troop must be checked and taken to cover before it enters the zone of effective fire of the occupied position. The correct inference is that the enemy know they are sufficiently strong and securely placed to crush the troop in the attempt at rescue at close range. Reserved fire after disclosing the occupation of the position is an indication of strength. In other words, the enemy, who can see the positions and strength of both forces, indicate their belief that their ambush is effective by reserving their fire for close range, as opposed to the principle of the defence, keeping the attack at long range. The troop leader who encounters this special case must halt under cover and send back word of the nature of the occurrences to his squadron leader, that he may get his squadron well in hand before making the attack; and if he considers it advisable, he will report to the brigadier, so that the advance can be made under the cover of shell fire from the column.

Though the position and presence of the ambush have been indicated, yet the strength of the force in occupation has not, since there has been no rifle fire. It is to he taken that this force is not inferior to the troops which are immediately supporting the scouts, and that it is prepared to deal with them in a similar manner. It is absolutely necessary that the support be strengthened, and this can be done by delaying the advance guard till the main body of the column is in close touch so that the movement to the attack can be under the eye, and possibly direction, of the brigadier.

For this reason, if for no other, a scout must never place a skyline between his troop leader and himself, though this does not include the case of one or two scouts of a section whose other members remain in sight and are in close touch with them. A troop leader has to judge by the actions of his scouts, not by the messages they send back, and how can he see them if they cross a skyline? If a scout is captured, it should be in full view of the troop leader, so that he can see what has happened, as in this case, least of all, it is not possible for a scout to send other signal or message.

A troop leader will avoid sending scouts where he would not go himself. In ordinary work, an officer leads his troops into action, but he sends his scouts.

He must, consequently, never send them so that they bear the brunt of an action, but must only use them to find the enemy. In other words, if the troop leader expects, from some tangible reason, to find the enemy on a certain position, it is not for him to keep out of range and send on his stouts, and then when they are fired on, to wait where he is for support to comma up. Sending his scouts to his front necessitates that a troop leader be prepared to follow at a gallop at any moment. It is even better, on perceiving this tangible reason, that if a glance around shows him to be well in touch, to gallop at once.

In screening, scouts are for the purpose of finding out whether positions encountered are occupied by the enemy. By scouting the ground the troop is enabled to move forward at the even pace of the column it protects, knowing that the enemy must disclose itself in sufficient time.

The value of scouts may be appreciated when it is remembered that a troop of fifteen or twenty men is moving over hostile ground at a considerable distance or interval from any support. Yet scouting affords sufficient cover for a troop to 'work under, as long as it is in touch. If it is properly done, not only is the troop leader warned of an impending attack, but the enemy is prevented from estimating the value of the force opposing them. When the scouts occupy the sky-line between the troop and the enemy, the latter cannot form any idea of the force covered. It may be an isolated troop or one with a large support at hand; and while this cannot be determined, an enemy will always hesitate to attempt to cut off.a troop. What the guards are to the main body of a column, so are the scouts to a troop.

The system of utilizing smaller bodies of troops to seek out the enemy and to cover the advance of larger bodies supporting them is universal in the advance of an army. The outermost body of all is the chain of scouts, and the term scout may be defined as being the component of the extreme outer fringe of the screen of a moving army. There is nothing outside this line, unless, indeed, it be the single man sent out by the N.C.O. of a scouting section to ascertain the friendliness or enmity of a hesitating body of unknown men in front, or special scouts detailed for special work.

Scouts must be placed between every troop of the screen and the enemy, on whatever sides of it that may be exposed, so that it is not possible for an enemy to attack it unobserved from any direction. The task of a troop leader in the screen is a difficult one, and he can only execute it by taking every advantage the ground affords. He himself must be responsible for touch with his support by moving his troop in unison with it, and must occupy all positions within rifle shot between him and the enemy with his scouts.

A troop leader should always train his scouts to work in touch with his troop alone, except in the special case of the flank guard advance troop, and to take their direction from it only. By this means, he can at once change their objective to any position, or away from it, as he himself decides it is within the scope of his work or not, by wheeling the troop to a distinct angle towards or away from it, and can push them out or stop them by increasing the pace or halting for a short interval.

Scouting varies in certain particulars with the guard duty with which the troop is engaged, but the principles are the same, and a good scout is equally at home with them all. All scouts will work at a wide interval, about 150 yards, or not less than 50, but on attaining the summit of a position and while awaiting the oncoming of the troops they should move in to occupy its most commanding point. Troop leaders must remember that scouting is a difficult duty, and must see that scouts are afforded every advantage chance offers. It is preferable as a rule to move a troop at its own inconvenience to save the scouts from difficulty in negotiating the features of the country, rather than the converse.

Whenever a troop leader reaches, the summit of a hill or other high ground, he should halt his troop below the sky line and dismount the men to rest their horses. He himself should take this opportunity of examining the country before him with his glasses, and of observing the movements and position of the main body and troops co-operating with him. He should also endeavour to find his position on his map, and to identify with it the most prominent features of the landscape.

During this examination of the country through his glasses should the troop leader believe that he can see a convoy, or a force of troops at such a distance that its existence may be doubtful, he should mark its position, and after completing his survey should redirect his attention to it to ascertain if it has moved at all.

No troop leader should ever work so that he is in any way depending one troop of another squadron for scouting. This particularly applies to troops in the screen near the junctions of the several guards.

A fundamental principle of the system of using scouts in the screen is that they shall prevent the occurrence of the unexpected. Therefore, a troop leader entirely misses the object of his duty if he does not use scouts in a certain direction merely because he does not expect to encounter the enemy there.

A troop leader should see that his scouts are detailed for duty as soon as possible after he himself is. If the scouts are allowed to move off at once they have leisure to scout the opening positions carefully, a not unimportant point when the enemy have had the previous night to arrange their plan of operations. Scouts always work better if thus at the outset they move off in their own time instead of being rushed out at the last minute to get ahead of the troop.

When a troop attacks at a gallop it usually happens that its scouts are ahead of it, and so become apparently a small force charging in front of the troop. It is, however, one of the little differences between practice and theory. If fire has been drawn the scouts will probably be hesitating while the troop increases its pace. If fire has not been drawn there is no disadvantage in having them in front, but rather the contrary. The principal thing in an occasion of this kind is that the charging troop shows a bold determined front, and if the scouts are not in front of it they will be with it. Scouts, will always keep with their troop in the firing line, and remain there until ordered out again.


Previous: Brigade Scouts

Next: Part 2, The Scouts of the Screen


Further Reading:

Brigade Scouts

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, Light Horse Duties in the Field, Part 1, Scouting for Troop Leaders

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Thursday, 10 December 2009 10:27 PM EAST

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