The Great War: Racing and the 'Great Ride' (continued)

In 1930, Dorothy Brooke – wife of Major-General Geoffrey Brooke – arrived in Cairo and began raising money to establish ‘The Old War Horse Campaign of Rescue’.  The rest of the story is history, suffice to say that Dorothy Brooke’s legacy lives in the work of the Brooke Charity and in the inspiration of Michael Morpurgo’s widely acclaimed play War Horse.  Purple poppies can be worn alongside red poppies in memory of the animals that served.


As for Chauvel, he was not long without a horse. ‘Digger’ was awaiting his arrival in Melbourne and it was Digger that was brought to his house each morning and that he rode round the Tan.

Meanwhile, following the Chauvel family return to Melbourne, race fixtures and other equine events became a regular feature on the Chauvel’s calendar.  On 28th April 1922, Chauvel was photographed talking to Admiral and Mrs Napier at the King’s Cup at Flemington by Table Talk.  In October 1935 at the Moonee Valley Gold Cup, Table Talk again records Sir Harry and Lady Chauvel were out together.  She wore a tailored navy coat and a navy and white frock with her navy straw hat which was liberally trimmed with white'. [7] There is a further record of Sir Harry and Lady Chauvel attending the races on 11th November 1937 at Flemington with their daughter Elyne and son-in-law Tom Mitchell – this was the last race meeting they attended together at Flemington. In 1938 Tom and Elyne were overseas and by Race Week 1939, the Second World War had broken out. Sir Harry became Inspector-in-Chief of the Volunteer Defence Corps while in April 1941 Tom joined the 8th Division 2AIF in Malaya.  After Singapore fell on 15 February 1942, Tom became a Prisoner of War.  Sir Harry died on 4th March 1945 and Tom returned in October 1945.


As one of Chauvel’s granddaughters, I have no doubt that I was taught to ride in accordance with my grandfather’s overriding principle that the rider should always think of his mount before himself.  I can only think that like the men who served with him in the Desert Mounted Corps, Chauvel’s relationship with his horses as being one of great respect.  The fate of the horses who had served so well and so faithfully during the war years must have been a great sadness to him and his men.  In Sydney on the southwest outside wall of the Royal Botanic Gardens and almost opposite the Mitchell Library, there is a plaque entitled the ‘Horses of the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial'.  On Anzac Day 1950 Lady Sibyl Chauvel unveiled the memorial. The inscription explains that the memorial was ‘erected by members of the Desert Mounted Corps and friends to the Gallant Horses who carried them over Sinai Desert into Palestine 1915 – 1918'.[8]




[7] Table Talk (October 31, 1935, p.45)


King's Cup Day at Flemington 28 Apr 1927.  Chauvel’s interest in racing had a long history stretching back to his young adulthood and riding in picnic races in the 1880s and 1890 at Warwick and Killarney in Queensland.  It was a long way from Flemington! (State Library of Victoria)