The West

Only light horse survivor lives on

Military historians have often lauded the contribution of Australia's light horsemen in World War I.

Many of the soldiers' deeds relied on their sturdy horses, which played crucial roles in attacks.

The heavy work done by horses in transporting men and supplies was also vital across the history of the war.

According to the Australian War Memorial, about 136,000 of the walers, as the Australian horses were known, were shipped overseas for the Diggers and their allies.

Just one came back.

That horse was Sandy, which belonged to Maj-Gen. Sir William Bridges, Australia's first chief of general staff and founder of the Royal Military College at Duntroon and who was appointed commander of the Australian Imperial Force in 1914.

Sir William's division was the first ashore at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915. He died after a sniper's bullet hit him in May.

Sandy remained in Egypt after Sir William was killed, was moved to France in 1916 and was taken after the war to Victoria and turned out to graze at Maribyrnong.

Growing increasingly blind and frail, Sandy was put down in 1923.

Now two of Sandy's preserved hooves will be part of the new National Anzac Centre to open in Albany in late October.

Albany Heritage Park general manager Dean Lee said other unique exhibits among more than 100 to be on display included a gold cigarette case given by Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to prime minister Stanley Bruce after the war and one of only two Lewis guns used by Diggers still in the country.

Mr Lee said the building to house the centre would be completed and ready for the installation of exhibits from September 10 and tickets for one-hour visits between October 30 and November 2 would go on sale today. Another highlight of the centre would be the system of cards, each of which would represent one of 32 WWI soldiers, which visitors would receive on entry.

Visitors would be able to activate information about the Digger on their card as they moved through the centre, following his journey.

Mr Lee said another feature would mean soldiers' stories as told in their letters and journals would be audible, read by actors selected to replicate as close as possible the age and background of the soldiers so voice patterns would be similar.

The centre will have its official opening on November 1 as part of the Albany Anzac commemorative weekend.

Most recent estimates from Tourism WA are that more than 75,000 people will attend a range of commemorative events.

Albany mayor Dennis Wellington said commercial accommodation in Albany was full for the weekend but there were still sites available at a special camping area for RAC members to be set up at Centennial Park.

The West Australian

Latest News From The West

Popular videos