Major Harry Worthington GMVC

 

(Continued)

Major Worthington’s report illustrated these problems by way of example and expressed concern that insufficient account was being taken of either the impact of sudden changes in the range of foodstuffs available or of variations in climate and workload. He included a lament that the typical response given at rail-head depots to such complaints was: ‘take what is available or go without.’ The war diary for the 8th Mobile Veterinary Section records an increase of two pounds of grain in the daily ration per horse in late August. It is a matter for speculation as to whether this simply reflected increased availability or to some extent, a response to Worthington’s report.

 

Harry was mentioned in dispatches by General Sir Edmund Allenby, Commander-in-Chief, Egyptian Expeditionary Force for services rendered during the period from 19th September 1918 to 31st January 1919. Brigadier-General Granville Ryrie, Commanding Officer of the Australian Mounted Division also wrote that ‘this officer has carried out his duties in a very satisfactory manner being keen, energetic and capable’.  The period commencing 19 September 1918 was significant.

 

In six weeks between 19 September and 30 October 1918, the Australian Light Horse was part of an army that captured 360 guns and 75,000 prisoners and moved the front forward 560 kilometres. … Both the Anzac Mounted Division from the Jordan Valley and the Australian Mounted Division on the coast were to play important parts in the destruction of three Turkish armies and in the capture of Damascus. The only troops to fight from Romani to Damascus were three Australian Light Horse Brigades: the 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade.[25]

Major Harry Worthington, Image from the Australian War Memorial: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/ART02870/

The reference to battles ‘from Romani to Damascus’ covers the period from 4 August 1916 to 2 October 1918  and as part of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, Harry Worthington was one of the veterinarians that supported troops fighting throughout this period. One sign of the consequent fatigue and vulnerability is that Harry was admitted to hospital in October for several weeks with malaria. In 1918 ‘[a]lmost every veterinary officer would succumb to malaria’. [26]

 

The military historian Michael Tyquin has entitled his recent history of the Australian Army Veterinary Corps: Forgotten Men. The essence of veterinarians’ role is captured in a description of their Canadian counterparts:

 

The glamour ... and heroic side of warfare ... did not lie within the province of the veterinary corps... its duty, by virtue of its non combatant character, having been to remain in the rear where it could best perform its appointed function of constantly helping to maintain the mobility of the combatant units and to repair some of the ravages of the battlefield[27]

 

 

In late December 1918 Harry was again appointed to the position of Deputy Assistant Director of Veterinary Services within the Australian Mounted Division. Initially he was in Tripoli, organizing the classification of animals; destroying aged horses and selling the hides; auctioning donkeys and captured horses at the Tripoli markets; and disinfecting saddlery and other equipment. Interspersed with these mopping-up operations there were occasional horse race meetings.  By March 1919 they had returned to the Moascar depot close to Ismailia on the Suez Canal.

 

The distinguished official war artist George Lambert described the Moascar depot in March 1918 as: ‘Miles and miles of tents and desert, thousands of sweating, sun-bronzed men and beautiful horses’[28] but by July 1919 there were ‘still tents, a mile or so ... but the tents are slowly coming down, the incinerators are throwing off long, low lines of blue smoke ...’[29] Several famous large paintings as well as numerous small paintings by Lambert adorn the walls of the Australian War Memorial. The Memorial also holds Lambert’s pencil portrait of Harry Worthington probably sketched when they were both at the Moascar depot in mid-1919. Harry may have previously met Lambert behind the lines during the war artist’s visit to Palestine in the first half of 1918.