“A Waler and One of the Best”
Among the numerous tombstones in the Embarkation Point Cemetery, at Anzac Cove on Gallipoli, is one that reads,
AUSTRALIAN LIGHT HORSE
1914 TO 1924
A WALER AND ONE OF
The “Bill” memorialized by this marker was a horse. Brought to the Middle Eastin 1914 from his native New South Wales (hence “Waler,” for the local breed) with the Australian Imperial Force, Bill served in Egypt for a time, and then took part in the disastrously mismanaged Allied attempt to capture Constantinople by an amphibious descent on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. He helped haul supplies up the rocky cliffs of the ANZAC beachhead, and carried dead and wounded men down to the beaches.
When the Allies evacuated Gallipoli in January of 1915, orders were issued to shoot all the horses. But the troops had a soft spot for Bill, who had come through the nine month campaign unscathed. Rather than shoot him, they abandoned him. For the next few years, Bill’s history is unknown. But in 1919, with the war over, Australia and New Zealand set about the grim task of gathering their dead, to inter and memorialize them properly.
When the first contingents the graves registration people arrived at Gallipoli, they found Bill, easily identified not only by Australian Army markings, but also by some of his old comrades. For the next five years Bill assisted in the difficult work. When he died, in 1924, it seemed only appropriate that he too be buried among the other veterans of the campaign.
--Courtesy T. Brooks
British Fair Play . . . and Pluck
In October of 1779 a British expedition from Jamaica invested the recently constructed Spanish fortress of San Fernando de Omoa in what is now Honduras. On the fourth day of the siege a party composed of soldiers, marines, and seamen managed to storm the fortress walls in a surprise attack. One member of the storming party was common sailor who mounted the walls with a cutlass in each hand.
The first opponent the two-fisted swordsman encountered was a Spanish officer who had responded to the alarm without first arming himself. This infuriated the British tar, who could hardly demonstrate his courage and skill by cutting down an unarmed man.
Thinking quickly, the sailor called out “I scorn any advantage,” or words to that effect. Presenting one of his cutlasses to the astonished Spaniard, the sailor went on to say “You are now upon an equal footing with me,” and the two promptly fell to fighting. Perhaps still a mite stunned by his opponent’s chivalrous act, the Spaniard, was soon overcome by the Briton, who was soon celebrated throughout the fleet.