Light Horse colours fly again

23 Apr, 2015 07:36 AM
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 John Donaldson.
I rode with the Australian Light Horse Association at the 95th anniversary of Beersheba
John Donaldson.

A DETECTIVE story worthy of Sherlock Holmes has kept alive a Tasmanian connection to Australia's iconic Light Horse Regiment.

Westbury, Tasmania, resident John Donaldson has a number of connections with the Light Horse.

He owns and rides a horse descended from the Walers which carried the cavalrymen of the time and owns gear and equipment they would have used.

But probably his most important link has been his role in the creation of a replica of the 22nd Tasmanian Light Horse Regiment's guidon, the swallow-tailed pennant carried by the cavalry.

His interest in the regiment was sparked by an illicit expedition to Hobart's Anglican cathedral as a boy.

"When I was going to school there were a lot of fellows who used to swap bits and pieces of equipment as their grandfathers and fathers were in the Light Horse," Mr Donaldson said.

"I first saw the guidon in Hobart in 1958, when me and a few of the boys sneaked down to have a look at it at St David's Cathedral.

"It is something I have never forgotten – it was a really brilliant red."

In the intervening 50 years the guidon was misplaced, but Mr Donaldson said it never left his mind.

As a regimental color it had been "laid up" in the cathedral, which mean it was likely it was still there.

"I had that gut feeling you get, knowing full well it had been laid up and could never be taken out of the cathedral."

So began a search for the guidon, which was eventually discovered in a broom cupboard.

Knowing it could not be removed from the cathedral, he took down the dimensions and asked his mother, Patty, to make an exact replica.

"It's still a military color so you can't just willy-nilly display it anywhere," he said.

Mr Donaldson's ties to the regiment don't end there: his grandfather served with a NSW contingent and he had a horse called Beersheba, named after the cavalry charge.

It was at Beersheba, now in Israel, that the Light Horse cemented its name when it mounted a charge to take the town back from the Turkish army.

Once the guidon was made, it seemed right that it should be taken back to the places where the original first flew.

"I rode with the Australian Light Horse Association at the 95th anniversary of Beersheba in Israel, and we also went to Gallipoli and carried the guidon," Mr Donaldson said.

As the guidon must be placed somewhere of significance to the parent regiment, it was decided to present it to the Westbury RSL, where it is today.

It is used as part of the annual Anzac Day parade and will again be carried by Mr Donaldson this year.

"It's the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landing and a lot of the Light Horsemen went there and fought as infantry," he said.

"It's something I have always been very proud to do as I have always had a very keen interest in the regiment."

The 22nd Light Horse regiment also has ties to the Westbury area, with many of its original members having come from the town and its surrounds.

The regiment itself can be traced back to Tasmania's early days when a mounted band was formed at Campbell Town to combat bushrangers.

It became the Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, which fought in the Boer War, then the 22nd Light Horse Regiment.

At Oatlands, Tasmania, there is also a memorial to one of the regiment's members who died in the Boer War.

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