In 1915, 21-year-old Rupert Reginald Clayton rode in from Wellshot Station south of Ilfracombe to enlist in the Australian Light Horse.
One of many young men from outback Australia for whom riding a horse was part of his everyday life, he was sent to the Middle East, disembarking in Egypt with the 17th Reinforcements of the 6th Light Horse regiment, on the troopship Port Macquarie.
During the heaviest fighting his horse was shot from under him, after which he was transferred to the Imperial Camel Corps in July 1916, taking part in operations at Magdhaba, Rafa, and three battles at Gaza.
It’s one of thousands of stories being remembered as the centenary of the Light Horse charge at Beersheba comes close, but it’s also a story encapsulated in a new piece of public art unveiled at Longreach on Wednesday.
The barbed wire ball fixed to the top of a sandstone plinth at Longreach’s new water park was created by Grace Gray, a former Longreach and Yaraka resident.
The young man who enlisted from Wellshot Station was her grandfather, on her mother’s side.
Not only that but her paternal grandfather, David Marwedal Archer, was also a Light Horseman, enlisting early in 1916 at the age of 18, in the 3rd Mobile Veterinary Section, travelling to Egypt with about 300 horses on board.
Grace said she was so thrilled to be asked to contribute, and to remember her grandfathers this way.
Longreach Regional Council mayor, Ed Warren, said the story of the Light Horse was very close to western Queenslanders and their connection with the men who signed up.
“They were working on stations and were naturally great horsemen,” he said. “We contributed our horses too.”
The Member for Gregory, Lachlan Millar, agreed, telling the Longreach audience that it was the knowledge the western Queensland enlistees had of horses that saw them placed with the Light Horse in World War One.
“Their work was synonymous with the values we share today, of courage and sacrifice, and their spirit lives on through the Australian Defence Force,” he said.
Both of Grace’s grandfathers returned home after the war.
Rupert Clayton was transferred to the 15th Light Horse regiment in July 1918 and returned to Australia in July 1919.
David Archer served nearly two years in Egypt, being transferred to the 26th Battery, 7th Field Artillery brigade as a bombardier, and saw action on the Somme.
“He was demobilised in Sydney in October 1919,” said Grace. “Although he survived without a scratch he suffered throughout the rest of his short life from the effects of mustard gas.”