Tuesday 19 August 2008 by Ann Penhallow. 4 comments
Collection, First World War, Animals in war, Official records

This week the Research Centre received a call from a fan of Sandy, Major General Sir William Throsby Bridges' favourite charger.  November this year sees the 90th anniversary of Sandy's return to Australia, after a tour of duty which included the coast of Gallipoli, Egypt and France.  Sandy's fan wished to confirm the information the Research Centre has about this much-loved animal in preparation for a ceremony to mark the anniversary.

Although General Bridges had the use of three horses, Sandy was believed to be his favourite.  This impressive portrait in the Memorial's photographs collection clearly acknowledges the General's feelings, as he allows his charger's head to obscure his own!


Major General Sir William Throsby Bridges holding the bridle of his favourite charger, Sandy.  P05290.001 Major General Sir William Throsby Bridges holding the bridle of his favourite charger, Sandy. P05290.001

General Bridges died in May 1915 from a wound sustained at Gallipoli and Sandy, who was presumed to be offshore at the time, was eventually shipped back to Egypt.  Nearly a year later he was transported to France.

In October 1917, the Minister for Defence, Senator George Pearce, called for Sandy to be returned to Australia.  Copies of the ensuing letters, cables, minutes and memos between the organising parties comprise an official record held in the Memorial archives.  This record AWM13 7026/2/31 can be viewed in the Memorial's Research Centre Reading Room.

Sandy sailed from Liverpool in September 1918, arriving in Melbourne in November.  As the official record says, he was "pensioned off", or turned out to graze at the Central Remount Depot in Maribyrnong.  Blind and unwell, Sandy was put down in 1923.

Sandy's claim to fame is not just as the favourite horse of General Bridges, but that, of 136,000 Australian horses sent away to the First World War, Sandy was the sole horse brought back.

Information resources about Sandy:

Australian War Memorial Encyclopedia

Australian War Memorial Collection Databases

Coulthard-Clark, Chris "One came home" Wartime: official magazine of the Australian War Memorial 19 (2002):37-39.

National Archives of Australia Recordsearch

AWM13 7026/2/31


Bob Meade

It's worth noting too that General Bridges was, until 1993, the only Australian who died overseas in World War I to be repatriated to our country. The only other being the Unknown Soldier.


When were soldiers first returned to Australia for burial?

Ann Penhallow

The Office of the Australia War Graves states: "Since 1966, Australian war dead have been repatriated to Australia, if practicable. The majority of the 521 servicemen and women who died during Vietnam are commemorated at their grave or crematorium niche or at Gardens of Remembrance throughout Australia. However, 25 are commemorated at gravesites in Malaysia and Singapore." http://www.dva.gov.au/oawg/remembering_war_dead/

Andrew Gray

Note that Sandy's head will be on display for the first time in many years as part of the A is for Animals exhibition, which opens and the Memorial in late February 2009.