Midnight the Warhorse: Part 3 - 'Off to War'

by Peter Haydon

When war broke out, along with this brother Barney, Guy enlisted on 15 February 1915 at Liverpool aged twenty-five. Although Barney was only nineteen at the time his parents relented since Guy promised to look after his younger brother. Cyril Regg their future brother-in-law enlisted with them and rode the Bloomfield horse Hughie. He was out of a Tester mare and by The Dane. Their neighbour and friend Frederick Max Wright aged thirty-two, from Bickham, also joined up with them.


On 1 March 1915, the 12th Australian Light Horse Regiment was issued with authority for active service abroad and they marched out of Liverpool camp to Holsworthy. The men were mostly from rural stations, being good horsemen and good shots. The regiment was divided into three Squadrons, each of six troops, with twenty-five officers and four hundred and ninety-seven men.

Left: Tents at Holsworthy Army Camp

Below left: Lined up at Liverpool Railway Station

Guy Haydon on Midnight at Holsworthy Army Camp 1915

Their cousin Gordon Haydon enlisted in the AIF but mostly served in the 6th Light Horse and completed the entire war returning to Australia in 1919. His brother Stuart Haydon died in the Gallipoli Landing being one of the first locals to be killed in the war.

Their older brother Frederick was to stay home to run the properties. The brothers selected homebred horses to take with them to share the upcoming adventures. Usually it would be assumed that geldings would be chosen however with Guy’s attachment to Midnight they reluctantly agreed he could take the good mare. At nine years old she was in the prime of her life. Barney selected the brown gelding called Polo and Max Wright was given a bay gelding he named Fred after his good friend Frederick Haydon. All three were by Bloomfield’s top sire Tester.

Left: Gordon Haydon

Right: 12th Light Horse Regiment colour patch

Below Right: Guy's Army 'dog tag' engraved with:

319 G B Haydon, B 12th LH C of E.

Below: Cyril Begg with Hughie - He married Guy's sister Madge

In a remarkable feat both Polo and Fred survived the entire Light Horse campaign in the Middle East. On his return from the war Max Wright presented Fred with a mounted switch off his horse’s tail to mark the achievement and the appreciation of the generous gift. The switch remains in the family’s archive today.

They assembled at Holsworthy Army camp on the outskirts of Sydney. Midnight, Polo and Fred had been transported to Sydney by train. They sat proudly on their horses while their official photographs were taken. Sam brown, hat, plums, leggings, spurs, .303 rifle, 43 centimetre bayonet, saddles and bridles all in immaculate polished condition and everything in its exact place.

Whilst in camp Guy married Jean Hindmarsh on 5 March 1915 at Strathfield. He received official notification that he had permission for leave to organise a property transfer and to get married. Everyone knew her as Bonnie and Guy called her Bon. She was a member of an old north coast pioneer family from near Lismore. The original Hindmarsh arrived from England in 1822 acquiring land initially at Gerringong. Bonnie was raised on a farm out of Lismore and her father was a member of the NSW Parliament. She was a friend of Guy’s sister Madge Haydon, often staying with her at Bloomfield, describing it as a wonderful, welcoming place where the young had many great times. She was attractive and outgoing and Guy soon became very keen on her.


Before departing they had to line up for their vaccinations. Apparently, it nearly killed them, making them very sick. Illness was ever present with some men even dying on the ship before they even reached the battlefields of the Middle East.


The group were ready to depart. Close to Guy were Barney and Max Wright. His cousin’s Gordon and Stuart Haydon had also enlisted. Tragically Stuart was shot in the shoulder at the Gallipoli landing and was buried in Egypt. He represented the first casualty of the war for the area. His brother in law Cyril Regg joined and the Ralph Purcell from their Scotts Creek property completed the group.


The calibre of the men that enlisted and their leaders proved to be exceptional. General Sir Harry Chauvel was given command over the entire British combined Desert Mounted Corps. Lt- Colonel Donald Cameron who became Commanding Officer of the 12th Light Horse was a local from Rouchel in the Upper Hunter Valley, proved a distinguished leader being awarded a DSO and Bar.

Above: Picnic before leaving Holsworthy

Left: Guy Haydon Army portrait

Below right: Lieutenant Barney Haydon on Polo by Tester


Below left: Midnight and Hughie at the lines

Left: Cyril Begg with Hughie - he married Guy's sister

The 12th Light Horse had a spectacular parade in Sydney riding in a long column through the streets to the cheering crowds. The streets were packed with well-wishers and Guy felt very proud to be riding Midnight on such a grand occasion.

They departed Australia on the steamship Suevic on 12 June 1915.

Guy wrote from Port Adelaide 5 days later to say that they had been ordered to unload the horses and proceed on without them. He said how “rotten” it was to be leaving them behind but hoped they would be reunited with them later.

On the trip over Colonel Abbott, their Commanding Officer mentions in his diary that Guy Haydon and F Bell were tying off for first place in the shooting competition held on the boat. Both had scored 49 out of 50. They shot off another 4 times but were still even. He had to then announce them as joint titleholders.

The 12th Light Horse, Sydney, June 1915

Left: The Suevic

Below left and right: The Suevic departing

Lieutenant Guy Haydon fourth from left in the back row and Lieutenant Barney Haydon third from the left in second back row.