Midnight the Warhorse: Part 11 - The Bullet
by Peter Haydon
The bullet removed from Guy Haydon's back - taken at the Bloomfield Archives
The bullet is still in the Archive Room at Bloomfield after Guy sent it home to his parents as a Christmas present. It is still in its Queen Mary Christmas container. It was a memento of his close shave with death.
When examined the point of the bullet is still sharp and intact as if it had not hit any solid object on its way through. It passed through Midnight’s stomach killing her. It then passed through the back of the saddle, and then the saddle roll, through Guy’s left buttocks lodging in the flesh next to his spine. Another inch and he would not have made it. The mare had saved his life absorbing the initial point-blank shock of the bullet.
Guy was left lying in agony in the pit with the bullet wound in his back. There was carnage all round him. Four of his mates died right next to him. He humbly accounts that there were others worse off than him, given the groans of agony he could hear. His beloved mare was lying dead just near the pit. It was a long freezing painful night. The longest in his life.
Major Featherstonehaugh writes “ Guy would not allow them to take him in that night as there were others he considered worse cases than him, so he stayed out all night.........you will all be very proud of your gallant, self-sacrificing son. God bless him for staying out all night so that other cases could be attended to.......he deserves a decoration.”
On the fifth night Guy finally arrived at the hospital in Cairo. This was after travelling by car to the casualty clearing station at Beersheba. They had captured the train so they were then transported by rail to El Arish, then to Kantara, finally getting the train to Cairo.
In Cairo, they operated to remove the bullet. They were surprised to find the point of the bullet was still sharp and intact. It had not hit anything hard to blunten the point. The bullet had lodged just a hairs distance from his spine. It was fortunate that it was the early days of X-rays and they could locate the bullet and remove it. A fraction further and he would have died along with his gallant mare. She had miraculously saved his life but his war was over.
Three days after removing the bullet they had to operate again to drain the septic wound and insert a tube to drain the puss out. This was before antibiotics were available to stop the infection. He had very high temperatures above 103 and was in a very serious condition for another two days fighting for his life. The cut in his back was 6” long and 2 ½” deep. Another was 3” deep and 2 ½” deep and would take a long time to heal, requiring six weeks in bed.
He was sent back to Sydney for further treatment arriving on 31 January 1918 three months after the charge. Infections would be a problem for the rest of his life, he had a hole in his back you could fit a fist in.
Painting of Guy and Midnight jumping the trench by Jennifer Marshall
Guy in hospital in Cairo
Photo of one of the wells
Watering the horses at Beersheba
The Wells of Beersheba
Emu Plumes on a felt slouch hat and a rifle 'cross their back
Eight hundred Aussie horsemen, many learnt to ride outback.
They swept towards the Turkish lines across the Sinai sand
To Beersheba, where the Turkish troops did elect to make their stand.
It was the secret to this desert war, the only water to be found
And five thousand British troops had failed to take the town.
These Australian Light horsemen had a commander named Chauvel
Whose orders were impossible, they were, to take the well.
Six thousand yards to the Turkish line must these gallant horsemen ride
At full gallop they must go till they reach the Turkish side.
Artillery shells flew overhead, as across the sand they raced
Not fast enough were the Turkish guns to check their lightning pace.
As they cleared the Turkish trenches, machine gun bullets filled the air
But they sped on to Beersheba with the Turks now in despair.
With bayonets drawn, they charged the town, they were a fearsome sight
But they had fulfilled their orders, they took the town by night.
And forty gallant horsemen paid the ultimate price to see
The fulfilment of God's prophecy, to set Jerusalem free.
By Warren Eggleton, July 1998
General Allenby addressed the troops a few days later with these memorable words:
“You did something that teachers of military history say could not be done. You galloped over strongly defended positions and demoralised the enemy. He’s finished. His cavalry will never face you again. You have put new life into my army and you rank with the finest cavalry the British Army has ever had”
Above and below: Buildings at Beersheba including the railway station and bakehouse
Above: Barney's Christmas Card he sent home, and Right: Abraham's well as it is today in Beersheba