Jamie Gibbins and his father Martin Gibbins – better known as ‘Joe’ – were among the descendants of Light Horsemen who shared their stories at the centenary commemoration.
Martin Joseph Gibbins Snr was working on a station when he joined the war effort, and at that time the enlistees were able to take their station horses with them as Martin did.
“It soon became clear that they were no longer in an adventure, but in a horror movie,” Jamie said.
Martin had various postings in Egypt and Palestine before finding himself in the trenches of Gallipoli, leaving his horse behind in Egypt. Surviving that, he and his horse were in the charge on Beersheba, after a long period of water rationing where the soldiers shared their precious canteen water with their dehydrated mounts.
During the charge the horses smelled the water beyond the Turkish line, and many fell into the trenches where the enemy sat with bayonets raised.
“It was the last great charge, turning the course of the war,” Joe said.
Barred from returning to Australia, the horses had to be handed over to other troops and face an uncertain future, or destroyed by their rider.
“He said it was the hardest thing he’d ever done,” Joe said of his father.
“They took them down to the beach and shot them.”
Joe said Martin often spoke of war atrocities, convincing his son, “There’s no future in war.”