He died half a world away in a pre-dawn Light Horse charge, but Samford Valley grazier, Howard Taylor, has been remembered in a poignant service conducted at a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery at Haifa, Israel.
Brisbane’s Austin Short, travelling with the Australian Light Horse Association tour for the centenary of the charge at Beersheba, laid a wreath on the weekend for the grandfather he never knew.
A member of the 11th Light Horse regiment, Howard was part of an unusual action, a pre-dawn charge on the town of Samakh, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, on September 25, 1918.
He and fellow soldiers had to ride under cover of darkness, from 9pm to midnight, fording the Jordan River, and again from 3am to get in position.
When they were fired upon before dawn, the decision was made to go into battle, across unseen ground, immediately.
Austin, brought up by his female relatives, said they didn’t talk about his grandfather’s death but he had done a lot of research to fill in the gaps of knowledge.
“I was so proud to honour him,” he said. “All the family was behind me coming here and doing this for him.”
Some 19 Allied horsemen didn’t survive the Semakh battle. Another of those, buried just down from Howard, was trooper Walter Lewis.
Known as Splinter, the soldier gave his name to his great nephew, rugby league football legend, Wally Lewis.
Austin’s tribute will be enhanced by his donation of an oil painting of the historic charge, painted by Tweed Heads artist, Harry Henderson.
It will be unveiled on Monday at Semakh, when the restored Turkish railway station is opened before a number of dignitaries, including Australia’s ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma.
Austin describes the canvas as lifelike.
“Harry put a lot of thought into it,” he said. “It’s quite ghostly. You have to look further into the picture, and ask why swords are a feature.”
It was the first time the Australian soldiers charged with swords rather than bayonets.