About Sir Harry
Everyone has heard of the Australian Light Horse, those Australian bushmen turned soldiers who rode across the desert sands, taking all before them in the First World War. The Australian Light Horsemen are icons of the Australian military tradition. But who led them and why don’t we know much about him?
A chap feels pretty safe under a leader like him. I saw him riding backwards and forwards under heavy fire at Romani
ALH Trooper Ingham (1)
Image from Westralian Cavalry in the War (1921) Foreword written by Sir Harry
General Sir Harry Chauvel was an outstanding military leader. He served in three wars over half a century and led the army in peacetime. He grew up in Tabulam in northern New South Wales. After initial service in South Africa he commanded the 1st Light Horse Brigade at Gallipoli. A year later he led the Desert Mounted Corps across the Sinai to spectacular success at Romani, Rafa and Magdhaba, and then took command of the multinational Desert Mounted Corps. He is best known for the successful charge at Beersheba and a year later with the triumphal Australian entry into Damascus.
On his return to Australia following the end of the First World War, Chauvel was appointed Inspector General and then Chief of the General Staff. In 1929 he was promoted to the rank of full General in appreciation of his distinguished career. With foresight of likely future conflict, Sir Harry strove to establish, preserve and train the Australian Army as a peacetime force.
He retired from the Army in 1930 and as a man who thought of others before himself, he continued to serve the nation in a wide variety of involvements. He was director of a number of companies including the National Australia Bank. As Chairman of both the Australian War Memorial and the Shrine of Remembrance and patron of Melbourne Legacy, Chauvel worked to preserve the memories of those servicemen who were not fortunate enough to return home and for the welfare of those who returned.
During the Second World War Chauvel served his country as Inspector-in-Chief of the Volunteer Defence Corps until his death in 1945.
Image colourised by Loredana Crupi from AWM J00503
With the commemorations of the First World War now drawing to a close, it is time to reflect and remember the war’s humble heroes and their contribution to the nation that nurtured them.
He fought to win, but not at any price. He sought victory on his own terms. He always retained, even in heated moments of battle, when leaders are often careless of life, a very rare concern for the lives of his men and his horses.
— Henry Gullett, official Australian historian
(1) ABC News. (2014). World War I: The men who led Australian troops into battle, www.abc.net.au, accessed September 2016