Beersheba Breakfast Talk - 28th October 2016
by L.W. Carter AFSM (Rtd), 7th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Menangle Historical Troop
Guidons are the richly-embroidered, swallow-tailed flags that traditionally rallied a cavalry unit and on which are displayed their battle honours. They represent a unit’s proud history and sacrifice. They are always treated with great respect, being escorted when on parade. At their passing-by, spectators are asked to stand and military personnel salute.
For more information about these Colours, see the Australian Army website at https://www.army.gov.au/our-heritage/traditions/colours-standards-guidons-and-banners
Being such an important symbol and being held in such high esteem, it is appropriate that when a guidon is no longer in service (whether due to its deterioration, or its replacement by an updated version) they should not just be cast aside and forgotten!
Accordingly, such guidons are to be ceremonially laid up in a safe location, where they remain on display until they finally turn to dust (like the bodies of the fallen soldiers who once served with them).
This laying-up may be at a local church or a cathedral, another major public building, at a military base, at a State Memorial (eg. Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance), or at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
In recent times, laying-up ceremonies have occurred in order to “retire” some older guidons. For example, those of the 8th, 13th, 17th, 19th and 20th LH Regiments were laid up at Melbourne’s Shrine in August 2005 and that of the 4th LH Regiment in 2016.
Here is the story of how the 7th Light Horse Regiment’s guidon was found and how its whereabouts were once more publicised.
The crypt at the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne with colours and guidons 'laid up'
Laying up of guidons at the Shrine of Remembrance in in Melbourne, August 2005
The 7TH Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF Historical Troop Menangle was established in December 2014 on behalf of Camden RSL Sub-Branch, and subsequently permitted to ‘photograph, replicate, and finally display the Regiment’s Colours, the Australian National Flag and Battle Honours Guidon, by the Regiment’s Colour Party, both Mounted & Un-mounted’, as we all observed earlier this morning.
The original Guidon was developed by Royal Decree, thence hand woven, some 94 years ago. The Guidon presented here is a computer-digitised exact replica of the original.
The final resting place of the Guidon & where it was laid up has remained a mystery for the past 58 years. Ten years ago I commenced investigations to locate the Guidon; unfortunately continued requests seeking information from Australian Government Departments, the ADF,the Australian War Memorial, Veterans Affairs, National & International War Archives, and Military Library Records failed to reveal any photos of the Guidon, or records of the Light Horse Parade where the Battle Honours were consecrated in 1928.
Your Excellency General David Hurley, Hon Angus Taylor MP (Federal Member for Hume and our Regiment Patron) Mr Lain Richard-Even (President Camden RSL Sub-Branch), Mr Bruce Christison (CEO Club Menangle), other Official Guests, fellow RSL Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Two years ago, by chance I read an article of some Light Horse Parade activity that occurred at Goulburn in the mid-1950s. Subsequently contact was made with Goulburn City Chief Librarian and The Goulburn Anglican Diocese Historian, that resulted in my being given copy of a press cutting from the Goulburn Evening Post dated October 7th 1958.
That article led to St Saviours Anglican Cathedral in Goulburn where I saw the Guidon, hanging on its original staff, at the entrance to the Soldiers Memorial Chapel.
The Guidon is still in excellent condition, having hung there since the 5th of October 1958 when it was laid up. Sadly and unfortunately all but forgotten by Australian Military Authorities.
Following the ceasing of hostilities in WW1 the Australian Army’s Mounted Divisions were being disbanded or re-organized, with Goulburn City being the HQ Centre for all the NSW activities.
The original Guidon was consecrated to the 7th Light Horse Regiment in 1928, during a Brigade Camp at Liverpool, by the retired Desert Column Commander Sir Harry Chauvel. It is now assumed “Sir Harry retained the Guidon after that parade”.
As a consequence, no one was aware of the Guidon’s location until the mid-1950’s, sometime after the death of Sir Harry Chauvel on 4th March 1945. Following on, some ten years later a senior serving Officer of the 7th Light Horse Regiment was contacted by a member of the Chauvel family expressing their wish of returning the Guidon to the 7th Light Horse Regiment.
The surprise emergence of the Guidon led to the final Laying Up Ceremony of the Regiment’s Battle Honours, on the 5th October 1958 in Goulburn.
That press cutting I now have reads: THE DEAN OF GOULBURN, Very Revd Arnold King, in a sermon at the Sunday Morning Service in St Saviour’s Anglican Cathedral for the laying up of the 7th Light Horse Regiment Guidon, said “The Regiment had won its spurs with great renown”. The article went on to recall: ”During the battle of Beersheba and the pursuit which followed, the 7th Light Horse Regiment sustained the fine traditions it had already established for dash and gallantry”.
In completing what has been a long & interesting journey, I wish to thank: Photographer Brett Atkins, together with the Very Revd Phillip Saunders, Dean of Canberra & Goulburn (who allowed Brett entry to his Cathedral to photograph the Guidon) Troop Sgt Rob Lowe’s daughter Jessica ( a Graphic artist in London who supplied the art work), my Service friend in Alberta Canada who supplied the Braided Tassels & King Edward Crown Finial, and Mrs Chris Boardman of Camden Country Quilters Guild (who shaped the Silk Brocade, edged the material with Gold Braid, stitched on the Location of Conflict Badges, together with the Regimental Emblem, thence finely embroidering the V11 Roman Lettering on the top mast head point of the Guidon).
The 7th Light Horse Guidon
You could rightly conclude we have most certainly circled the globe in re-searching, thence re-creating, the Guidon, to once again recognise the Regiment’s Battle Honours by displaying a replica of their Guidon.
Please feel free at the conclusion of proceedings to inspect the Colours with the Regiment’s Colour Party, and have discussions with the Regiment Colour Sergeant Mr Phil Oliver.
Leonard Carter AFSM. EFO. (Rtd)
President 7th Light Horse Regiment AIF Menangle Historical Troop, NSW.
(Camden RSL Sub-Branch)
Right: Members of the Menangle Light Horse Historical Troop
Left: Group portrait of men from the 7th Australian Light Horse resting in the sand near Asluj, Palestine in October 1917.
Identified but their exact position unknown are: 930 Private (Pte) Edgar Louis Charlton; Jenkins; Anderson; Baird; Smith; 2954 Pte Garnet Lindsay Mawbey; 1344 Pte Robert Alfred Watson (of Narrabri, NSW, who died of wounds on 10 November 1917 aged 23); 1259 Pte Alfred Edward Press (of Forbes NSW, who died of wounds on 27 March 1918); 964 Pte Wallace Gordon Wynne; 1340 Sergeant John Rupert Watson; 1320 George Edward Howard (who was later awarded the Military Medal (MM) on 2 April 1918).
Photo: Australian War Memorial P11464.047.003