James Moffat Reid was born on 9 September 1881 in New South Wales, to John Holmes Reid and Emily Reid (née Coxall). He joined the Commonwealth Military Forces before the First World War rising to the rank of captain. With the outbreak of the War, he applied for a commission in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 27 August 1914 and was appointed a major with “A” Squadron, 1st Light Horse Regiment, one of three in the 1st Light Horse Brigade. This was the first mounted formation committed by Australia to the war, leaving from Sydney on 20 October 1914 aboard HMAT Star of Victoria.
After reaching Egypt in early December, the regiment was deployed to reinforce the infantry at Gallipoli in May 1915. Reid was temporarily detached to a mining unit, in charge of operations beneath the Turkish trenches.
The 1st Light Horse Regiment played a defensive role for most of the campaign, but mounted an attack on the Turkish position known as “the Chessboard” as part of the August Offensive. In the early hours of 7 August 1915, the two squadrons of the regiment charged towards the opposing Turkish lines. Reid, leading “A” Squadron, was killed in the fighting. Eyewitness reports differed: some reported that he fell as he left the Australian trenches, while others said that they saw him in the captured Turkish trenches, his hand badly wounded. Some reported that they could see his body but were unable to retrieve it. Turkish soldiers retook their trenches a few hours later. Of the 200 Australians involved in the attack, three-quarters had become casualties.
Many in his unit described him as one of “the best” and official war correspondent Charles Bean wrote that he was “an officer whose high and chivalrous bearing had made him in a sense the real leader of his regiment”. Reid was 33 years old. His body was never recovered and he and is commemorated at the Lone Pine Memorial.