Event: Presentation of a bust of Sir Harry to

The Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne

 

25 September 2018

Introduction by Lieutenant Colonel Graeme Smith, President, The General Sir Harry Chauvel Foundation

I am very proud to be able to be part of today’s special presentation to the Shrine· of Remembrance of a bust of General Sir Harry Chauvel.

General Sir Harry Chauvel is the prime focus of the Memorial Foundation formed in his name to bring his life to the attention of all Australians many of who do not know of his existence or of his extraordinary achievements.

 

The Foundation was initially formed with the idea of creating such a memorial of Sir Harry and having it placed in the vicinity of the Shrine as it was believed that such a memorial would be unveiled to coincide with the centenary of the Charge of the Light Horse at Beersheba on 31st October 1917. While this is still an objective it was decided that there were other aspects of Chauvel's life that needed to be considered. After a number of meetings, the Foundation's objectives were set down and we are now prioritising these to bring Chauvel to the public gaze

 

The objectives of the Foundation include:

 

  • Creation of a memorial of Sir Harry as leader of the Australian Light Horse as a resource of ongoing inspiration to current and future generations.

  • Establishment of a virtual museum showcasing the memorabilia of the Australian Light Horse currently held in museums and private collections throughout the nation.

  • Establishment of awards recognising the relevant service to the community and achievements of young Australians from regional and rural areas and commemorating the life of Chauvel.

  • Production of a literary anthology consisting of stories, poetry and anecdotes relating to the Light Horse which will form part of the virtual museum.

One hundred years ago today, the Desert Mounted Corps was on the longest and last of its manoeuvres to cover the last 500 km to capture Damascus on the 1st October 1918. This action was to be the culmination of the success gained in the previous 2 years whereby Chauvel's forces proved pivotal in driving the Ottoman troops from Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

It is extraordinary that one man, with the ability to comprehend and implement his Commander General Allenby's intent to engage in battles, some which were not immediately successful, but which because of his calmness and calculating preparation, got the results that were demanded. Chauvel was able to command not only Australian Light Horse, but British Yeomanry, New Zealand mounted rifles brigades, supported by horse artillery, infantry and support troops. They were later joined by Indian cavalry and a small French cavalry detachment. A total force of 32,000. I do not suggest that he undertook the task alone, but he had an incredible ability to lead, manage and endear himself to all of the men under his charge both frontline and supporting troops.

 

When the war was nearing its end Chauvel's forces entered Damascus on 1st October 1918, it was MAJ Arthur Charles Olden a Victorian dentist of the 10t h Light Horse who were the first troops formally to enter Damascus when they passed through on their way to secure the Homs road to the north. It was Major Olden who formally accepted the surrender of the city, receiving a remarkable document which hailed him as 'the first British officer to enter Damascus, in the bravest manner known of the Saxon race'. He left the city two hours before the triumphant arrival of Lawrence of Arabia. Olden was subsequently mentioned in dispatches for this event.

 

While this was an exceptional moment for the Light Horse and Chauvel and it is appropriate to reveal that Allenby warmly congratulated Chauvel on his achievement, but I want to recount a generous letter dated 5t h October 1918 that Chauvel received from MAJ GEN Phillip Chetwode who said:

 

"My Dear Chauvel,

 

I do congratulate you on your ably conducted and historic ride to Damascus., and on all the rest of the performances of the Cavalry in this epoch-making victory.

As an old cavalryman I could find it in my heart to envy my own brother the splendid command you have had and put to such fine use - but if there is any one in the service who I would grudge it to least it is you - for I shall always be in debt to you for the most loyal and whole hearted cooperation on many difficult occasions.

 

You have made history with a vengeance and your performance will be talked about and quoted long after many more bloody battles in France will have been almost forgotten.

 

I knew it would be a big success., but I must say I never thought the result would be so absolutely decisive or over so quickly.

 

We did our part with the Infantry., but it was that Cavalry who put the lid on the Turk1s aspirations forever.

 

Heaven send that now the Germans are talking about peace we will show them no mercy - or insist on a dedicated peace.

 

With renewed congratulations from your very sincere friend Philip W Chetwode"

 

This letter is quoted in "Chauvel of the Light Horse" by AJ Hill.

 

I believe that this letter adequately describes Chauvel the leader who was the man of the time and who must now step out from the shadows that he was asked to forgo on many subsequent occasions after the war. He did not shy away, he spent his post-war years aiding the sick and wounded men who returned to Australia through his work with Legacy, sitting on the Board that designed and built this Shrine, acted as a director of the National Australia Bank and, more importantly preserved and developed a Corps of Officers by sending them to the UK for training so that at the start of World War II there was a core of trained officers with the ability to expand the Army into a fighting force to take on the Japanese.

 

This bust we unveil today is not just a symbol of a person it is a representation of a man who has done so much for Australia and deserves to be present in a place that will look after him and allow all Australians to visit this Shrine and present the opportunity to form a relationship with him.

 

Louis Laumen is the artist who created the bust and he has achieved a remarkable outcome after spending many hours researching Chauvel's facial features from grainy photos, drawings and discussions with the family. Louis is an extraordinary sculptor whose work is well known but who more recently he sculpted the 4 horsemen that form the Boer War Memorial in Canberra.

 

Louis cannot be here today, as he has another work to unveil at the same time but, he has sent me a message that I now read:

 

I modelled this portrait bust as a supplementary exercise while I was making my maquette of the proposed Harry Chauvel Equestrian memorial.

This study was done as part of the process of catching Chauvel's likeness and coming to terms with his character; to get him under my skin., to sense that I know this man and feel his living presence.

 

I am happy to know that this modest sketch has met with approval and has been deemed worthy of casting in bronze.

 

I am humbled to know that it has been acquired by the Shrine of Remembrance and is to be placed not far from the very fine bust of Monash.

 

Thank you,

 

Louis Laumen, Sculptor.

 

On behalf of my fellow Board members, I thank you all for being here today to witness this significant addition to the Shrine's collection as it represents a part of the coming out of a great man General Sir Henry (Harry) Chauvel GCMG KCB, who is the ongoing inspiration for the Foundation.

 

I thank the Shrine CEO Mr Dean Lee for his and his team for their valuable assistance in bringing Sir Harry to his new home in the Shrine.

 

I would now like to invite Dr Honor Auchinleck, General Sir Harry's granddaughter and Dr Richard Chauvel General Sir Harry's grandson to unveil the Bust.