readers might enjoy this poem I wrote https://soundcloud.com/maureen-clifford-1/bill-the-bastard ... although it is a bit long but you can't tell this story in just a few verses.
BILL THE BASTARD ... Maureen Clifford © THe #ScribblyBark Poet 11/12
They’d named him Bill the Bastard; he was big, tall, strong and tough
but meek enough in manner though sometimes he cut up rough
but only one thing riled him and the men were all aware
there was no riding Bill – he’d send you flying through the air.
There were many who tried – oh yes – and always their downfall
was thinking he was placid till he bucked and then they’d sprawl
on their backsides in desert dust and Bill would then come near
and look them in the eye and curl his lip and give a sneer.
Bill soon became a favourite of Banjo who would joke
they shared a great affinity. He’d tell the other blokes.
They shared similar attitudes neither would suffer fools
throughout their long acquaintance, for Bill , Banjo broke the rules.
Bill served in many conflicts he was at Gallipoli,
still nobody could ride him but as stretcher bearer he
could carry two men strapped upon his broad and willing back
and carry them to safety, through the enemy attack.
He took a bullet or two in his time but carried on
though wounded, still he galloped and was cheered on by a throng
of diggers there at Anzac cove who’d placed bets he’d get through
from Suvla Bay with dispatches. They knew what Bill could do.
For seven miles he galloped taking his own zig zag course
like a rampaging rhino, this brave bloody Waler horse
was unstoppable, though twice he flinched and twice he broke his pace
both times when bullets hit him – just two miles into the race.
Banjo was now a Major serving in the Middle East
and reunited with Chauvel and Bill the Bastard beast.
‘twas on the field at Moascar that Bill met Shanahan
the bloke who fed him liquorice drops – a gentle kind of man.
He knew Bill never would be tamed, but he’d earn his respect
and let the chestnut choose him as a friend, let him connect
to allow then a partnership of sorts to be arranged
with mutual love, and trust and understanding then exchanged.
It took a while but Bill came round, let Michael on his back
he was the biggest Waler there, no ladies riding hack.
They fought through many battles; Bill the Bastard knew no fear
for always Michaels soft caress was felt, his voice he’d hear.
At Romani the lines were breached, twenty light horsemen killed.
the west flank outposts pulverised, and now with Turks were filled.
The sound of Aussie voices Michael heard behind a dune,
he turned Bill round and headed there, their path lit by the moon.
He called out ‘Tassie Troopers’ then he called out once again,
four men on foot now hustled out as Turks tried to restrain
them, Michael told Bill to go hard, the big horse promptly charged
barrelling two Turks off their feet, crushing ribs as he barged.
‘Come on you blokes mount him ‘Mike cried, ‘take hold - a stirrup each’;
praying Bill would take note of desperation in his speech.
Two blokes climbed up behind him, two more men in stirrups stood
‘OK move on now Bill’ Mike said and Bill thankfully could.
He took the weight of five men, dug his hooves into the sand,
began to canter groaning now with every stride he planned
‘Go Bill, go cobber’, Michael urged – they heard hoof beats behind.
Turks riding stolen Walers – revolver shots firing blind.
‘We can’t outrun them boys’ Mike said, ‘let them get close – aim well’ -
not easy to do hanging on to this chestnut from hell,
but the Turks were distracted and now Bill had a clear run
to Et Maler, Aussie HQ, The iron horse had his fun.
But soon he indicated he would return to the fray
he’d drunk his fill of water - time they should be on their way ,
but this time Lady Luck had turned and Shanahan was shot
and Bill the Bastard turned and carried him back at fast trot
to the vets at Et Maler, two kilometres he’d run
with Michael slumped unconscious in the saddle, with a gun
shot to his thigh that ultimately saw him lose that limb.
but still alive to tell the tale – doubtless ‘twas Bill saved him.
No more the field of battle for this mighty Waler steed
with no Shanahan to ride him, he’d fill a desperate need.
A pack horse he would now become, the biggest and the best
four hundred pounds he’d carry One big heart in one huge chest.
October nineteen eighteen – there was one more card to play
Captain Arthur Olden called troops before the dawn of day.
Damascus was the goal and the 10th Regiment would charge.
No Kangaroo shoot this would be, but expectation large.
The Captain had a devious plan something out of left field
that would confuse the Arabs and he hoped would make them yield.
He ordered Bill saddled, stirrups reversed and called for boots
to be placed in them – in honour of other now dead troops.
Twelve thousand Turks would see the column proudly being led
by a riderless charging horse, the symbol of the dead.
Let the men know Bill’s a symbol of cobbers not here today
they are gone to God, but still they ride with us in every way.
They headed to Damascus, Bill at full pelt, with head up
setting a hot pace forward like it was the Jericho Cup.
‘Swords drawn’ the cry from Olden came, they galloped straight ahead
‘keep close column formation’. The men followed where he led.
They entered through the town gates and Bill shouldered clear the way
through crowds to where surrender papers would be signed that day
When remounted Olden leant over Bill, said tongue in cheek
‘Syria and Damascus conquered, what’s left for next week?’
Then orders came advising that all horses must be shot
which didn’t sit well with the men and most of them would not
follow this order as it stood – they’d not stand by and see
their loyal steeds machine gunned by their own artillery.
They chose another course and took their mates for a last ride
into the desert where they praised their courage and their pride.
So these horses’ final moments were with blokes they did trust.
Though coup de grace was swift and clean - the end was far from just.
But Bill the Bastard; he escaped this fate thanks to a friend
Harry Chauvel to the remount section had letter penned
requesting ten mules or pack horses for Gallipoli,
to collect artefacts from there for folks at home to see.
And so it came to pass that ten horses were sent plus two;
seems maths was no one’s strong suit there, but what’s a bloke to do.
They smuggled Bill along with his sweet lady love – Penny.
Perhaps they said he was a mule and she a good strong Jenny.
And Turks who once had fought against them recognized the pair
and promised the Australians that they would keep them there.
The village elder Ahmed was a pleasant toothless man
who offered five pounds for the pair – coin in his gnarled hand
the Aussie blokes refused and said the horses were a gift
‘but be sure never try to ride old Bill for he will lift
you skyward in an instant – are you sure you understand.’
They got the nod and left Penny and Bill to their new land.
sure as Hell a long trip...but time well spent.
Always enjoy tales with History combined.
thanks for the read...
Thanks Bernie for the comment and taking the time to read and/or listen to it. Glad you liked it. ;D
lov ..... ely maureen, and it doesn't seem that long. a great tale.
such a shame they killed all those beautiful horses,especially after such service
Thanks for reading and commenting Therese - it is appreciated. I agree with you and I reckon most Australians would but in real terms I suppose they just had no way to bring them home. The logistics would have been too hard. How would they load them, or find sufficient fodder to keep them fed and watered for the journey? Were they able to even source enough ships to get them back even presuming they had the feed situation sorted?
War is hard on man and beast - we didn't even bring our dogs of war home from Vietnam nor I believe from Afghanistan a more recent conflict - although I haven't been able to get a definitive answer on that last one. It has to do with quarantine and rabies - if we can quarantine them for 6 months in another country they can come back in apparently.