Commemorating the Light Horse Across the World: A Reflection with Reference to Chauvel’s Letters and Written from Photographs, Diaries and Travels
Just as there are no names on the cairn photographed by Allan Chauvel, names of those commemorated are sometimes obscure. And so it is with General Harry Chauvel. From time to time Chauvel’s name pops up in some of the most obscure locations. Less than a year after Chauvel returned from the First World War, he opened the new RSL building in Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn and a plaque now marks the occasion (see right).
One day driving out to La Trobe University at Bundoora, I saw a ‘Chauvel Street’. Similarly in Campbell in the ACT there is a Chauvel Street. Only those who have some knowledge of the history would understand the commemorative qualities hidden in these street names. At the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, like every other Victorian serviceman who served in the First World War, Chauvel’s name is written in beautiful calligraphy in the book of Remembrance (see below).
Hidden away in the West aisle at St Paul’s Cathedral, in a bas-relief bronze plaque, the RSL commemorate Sir Harry’s service as the Commander of the Desert Mounted Corps and also as a Lay Canon of the Cathedral.
Similarly, hidden from immediate view in the Chapel at Duntroon and depicted in obscure symbolism, Chauvel, the Australian Light Horse and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles who served with him in Sinai, Palestine and Syria are commemorated in stained glass. If you look at the window closely, you will be able to pick out among the palm fronds, a saddle, a slouch hat and a crucifix – symbols for his service. It has little direction connection with Chauvel as an individual unless you know his story.
Visitors to the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial in Anzac Avenue might note that that tucked away among the paving stones to the left of the monument is a tablet commemorating the service of Sir Harry Chauvel. During the latter years of Chauvel’s daughter Elyne’s life, she placed a bunch of roses from her home at Towong Hill on the plaque.
Perhaps bringing Chauvel, the individual, back into focus was the Re-dedication of his sword on 15th October 2017 in its new location as part of a war memorial on the north wall of Christ Church South Yarra. The Choral Evensong was a tribute to Sir Harry’s military service and his long 25-year service to his congregation as a warden of Christ Church and as a lay canon at St Paul’s Cathedral. In Christ Church, the purpose-made case now housing the sword securely names each of his major campaigns, thus anchoring both the sword and its original owner in the context of their histories.
Each of these memorials mentioned either hints or tells part of the story, leaving the viewer to complete his or her own puzzle. We need memorials to heroes as role models to study and help us to develop our own knowledge and values and to learn something about our own history and culture. History lies not only in the written and spoken word but also in its artefacts, acts of commemoration and the discussions that each of these elements provoke. People tend to commemorate not just in music and art forms but also in observances and activities, such as the commemorative rides at Beersheba marking the ninetieth anniversary and the centenary of the Charge. I hope those who took part will come home and tell their stories so that these acts of commemoration can take their place as part of our history too.
If I were to travel on, undoubtedly I would find more memorials. Commemoration of the Light Horse is after all a never-ending story.
Below: bas-relief bronze plaque in the West aisle at St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne. The RSL commemorate Sir Harry’s service as the Commander of the Desert Mounted Corps and also as a Lay Canon of the Cathedral.
Above: the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial in Anzac Avenue - to the left of the monument is a tablet commemorating the service of Sir Harry Chauvel. During the latter years of Chauvel’s daughter Elyne’s life, she placed a bunch of roses from her home at Towong Hill on the plaque
Right: in the Chapel at Duntroon Chauvel, the Australian Light Horse and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles who served with him in Sinai, Palestine and Syria are commemorated in stained glass
Above: detail from the plaque in St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne
Would you like to add more information to this page about Light Horse Memorials?
If you know about other memorials we haven't covered here, please let us know using the form below and we will be in touch!