The Day The Cavalry Arrived

Horses have played a special role in the story of Australia. For the first hundred years of European settlement, they were the only means of transport across most of our vast country.

During World War 1 the Australian Light Horse played a pivotal role in many conflicts. But, as the motor vehicle was replacing horses as a means of transport, they were also replacing horses on the battlefield. Some AIF regiments had been motorised by the time Australia joined Britain in another war. Each infantry division of the 2nd AIF had a Light Horse regiment attached to it. But these light horsemen rode in tanks. The day of the Australian mounted soldier hadn’t quite passed as there was extensive cavalry action on the Russian front. In Syria, Australia’s 6th Cavalry Regiment formed a mounted unit called “The Kelly Gang”, which did valuable scouting work.

On this day in January 1940, final preparations were being made at Torquay to accommodate about 5000 men and 2500 horses of the Second Cavalry Division for three months of training which begin arriving tomorrow. Unfortunately, the area on the northeast corner of South Beach Road was not a suitable location during winter, so the cavalry division decamped on 12 April 1940.

Light-horse-training
Light Horse cavalry advancing in columns along the beach between Torquay and Barwon Heads, Victoria.

In addition to the Light Horse, there were mechanised units from across the State. During battalion training, automatic weapons such as the Bren gun were used in the ranges and around Breamlea. They travelled through town and along the beach on their horses on their way to bivouacs and night exercises. The township of Torquay was very thankful for their help in fighting the Torquay bushfire that destroyed much of the town.

Further information can be found

Light Horse Brigade Camp at Torquay – Torquay Museum Without Walls (torquayhistory.com)

AND

Exhibition – Torquay Light Horse – Torquay Museum Without Walls (torquayhistory.com)

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