The 4th Light Horse Regiment was formed as the divisional cavalry regiment for the 1st Australian Division on 11 August 1914. Belying traditional stereotypes, over 20 per cent of the original regiment were city dwellers from Melbourne. The regiment sailed from Melbourne on 19 October 1914 and disembarked in Egypt on 10 December.

The light horse were considered unsuitable for the initial operations at Gallipoli, but were subsequently deployed without their horses to reinforce the infantry. The 4th Light Horse Regiment landed on 22 and 24 May and its squadrons were initially scattered to reinforce the infantry battalions already ashore. The regiment was not reunited until 11 June. Much of the regiment’s time at Gallipoli was spent defending the precarious ANZAC position, most frequently around Ryrie’s Post, but its squadrons were involved in several minor attacks. It left the peninsula on 11 December 1915.

Returning to Egypt, a fourth squadron - “D Squadron” - was formed for the regiment and it was promptly detailed, along with B Squadron, for duty as divisional cavalry for the 1st and 3rd Australian Divisions on the Western Front. These two squadrons arrived in France in March and June 1916 and would eventually become part of the II ANZAC Mounted Regiment.

A new B Squadron was formed for the 4th Light Horse in Egypt, and the regiment spent the remainder of 1916 engaged on rear area security tasks in the Suez Canal Zone. In April 1917 it moved up into the Sinai desert in the wake of the main British and dominion advance, but continued to undertake security duties.

The regiment’s first major battle would also become that which made it legendary. On 31 October 1917 an attack was launched to outflank the Turkish bastion of Gaza, against which two previous attacks had failed, by capturing another heavily defended town to the east - Beersheba. A deteriorating tactical situation late on the first day of the operation caused the 4th and its sister regiment, the 12th, to be unleashed on Beersheba at the gallop - an action which has gone down in history as the charge of Beersheba.

After Gaza fell on 7 November 1917, Turkish resistance in southern Palestine collapsed. The 4th Light Horse participated in the pursuit that followed, and then spent the first months of 1918 resting and training. It moved into the Jordan Valley in time to participate in the Es Salt raid between 29 April and 4 May.

In August, the regiment was issued with swords and trained in traditional cavalry tactics in preparation for the next offensive against the Turks. This was launched along the Palestine coast on 19 September 1918 - its objective, Damascus. The mounted forces penetrated deep into the Turkish rear areas severing roads, railways and communications links. On 1 October 1918, a patrol of the 4th Light Horse, commanded by Sergeant Frank Organ, were the first allied troops to enter Damascus. The regiment was soon involved in the next stage of the advance and was on its way to Homs when the Turks surrendered on 30 October. Some long-serving troopers began to embark for home soon after and while the rest awaited their turn, the 4th Light Horse were called back to operational duty to quell the Egyptian revolt that erupted in March 1919; order was restored in little over a month. The regiment sailed for home on 15 June 1919.

Glossary

Battle Honours

Battle Honours source: Australian Army Orders (112), 1927. Army Head-Quarters, 9 March 1927. 'Award of Battle Honours for the Great War to Cavalry and Infantry Units.'

Casualties

  • Gallipoli, Egypt, Sinai and Palestine only. 105 killed, 332 wounded

For more information please see the Roll of Honour, Wounded and Missing, First World War Nominal Roll and Embarkation Roll databases.

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 4 DSO, 1 bar
  • 1 OBE
  • 6 MC, 1 bar
  • 14 DCM
  • 43 MM, 1 bar
  • 1 MSM
  • 31 MID
  • 4 foreign awards

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

Collection Items

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References

  • AWM4/10/9/1: August - October 1914 unit diary
  • D. Holloway, Hooves, wheels and tracks: a history of the 4th/19th Princes of Wales's Light Horse Regiment and its predecessors, (Fitzroy: Regimental Trustees 4th/19th Prince of Wales's Light Horse Regiment, 1990).
  • N. Smith, Men of Beersheba: a history of the 4th Light Horse Regiment 1914-1919, (Melbourne: Mostly Unsung Military Research and Publications, 1993).