The true story of Taffy, the remount horse of Trooper Austin Edwards (No. 1090),
of the 1st Lighthorse Regiment, who was wounded in the Battle of Romani, 1916.
(c) Graham Fredriksen (1956 - 2010)
Well, I’ve seen, boys, a full many horses
... the length of my travels, and yet
’twould be fair to admit that the Forces
... had the ones I shall never forget.
And there’s one stands alone from the others,
... though I don’t know a thing of his blood,
where he came from or what, but his mother’s
... just the type you would want in your stud.
I have ridden this wide land all over,
... from the high country scrubs on the coast,
to the dry inland tracks of the drover,
... seen the best of which horse breeders boast.
And the handiest, too, and the tamest,
... doing feats quite extraordinary and grand,
but intelligence-wise and the gamest
... was this horse in the old Holy Land.
There they carried us days without water—
... and the khamsin a furnace’s breath;
and they stood steel to steel in the slaughter
... as we charged the barrages of Death.
And amidst all the bullets and bayonet,
... in an act such as I’ve never seen,
this brave horse——the Romani campaign, it
... was August of nineteen sixteen.
We’d been months in the North Sinai desert
... under General Sir Harry Chauvel;
not the place I would want to revisit—
... it was hot as the hobs of all Hell.
We were camped at some wells and our squadron
... was employed doing garrison works;
and our only relief was the odd run
... in with Arabs on side with the Turks.
Then, one day we were detailed a mission—
... the road to Kantara was cut;
Abdul Johnny had taken position
... to ambush the King’s “Mounted Fut”.
And we chance rode right in to the fracas
... (’twould be stretching to call it a stunt)—
no artillery column to back us,
... and a legion of Turks to our front.
Still, we soon had our Lee Enfields cracking,
... and our bayonets we slipped to the stem,
and we turned and charged heedless, attacking
... the centre and nearside of them.
The “mad bushmens” they’d named us; we earned it
... as we galloped full, headlong and bold,
and the tide of the battle, we turned it—
... till their sheer weight of numbers took hold.
It was then, in the heaviest clashing,
... when the order came round to retire,
that I saw through the bayonets slashing
... and the gunsmoke and withering fire,
one of ours on this red taffy gelding,
... a young trooper, lurch back in his seat,
take a shot through the hip and was felled in
... to the dust at the red horse’s feet.
I wheeled round on my own mare and quickly,
... but I couldn’t get near to his side,
for a fresh wave of Turks rolled in thickly,
... and my own health had me occupied.
They came on us with wild shrieks of “Allah !!”
... “O sweet Jesus !”—I sighed in response;
and it seemed that the gates of Valhalla
... had let loose all its warriors at once !!
We were caught between anvil and hammer,
... and the air was a cauldron of lead,
and the rifles ran hot with the clamour,
... and the sands of Romani ran red.
There were stumbling men, shell-shocked in stupor;
... there were dying men, dead horses, too;
and I looked to that young wounded trooper—
... and I swear what I’ll tell you now’s true !!———
That red horse by his master had waited,
... though grim Death swung the scythe all around,
and the rifle fire roared unabated—
... he’d stood hard by that man on the ground.
And the rider tried reaching his stirrup
... from a crawling position, half prone,
but he hadn’t the strength to get near up,
... for the shot, I’d say, had broken bone.
And when next I looked, he was a-straddle:
... that red taffy’d crouched down on all fours
for the man to crawl onto the saddle
... where he swayed to a momentary pause.
And then slowly, and steady, ascending,
... one brave Lighthorse eased off through the fray,
through the carnage, determinedly wending,
... and he carried them safely away.
'Twas compassion, ’twas courage exquisite—
... never since such a horse have I seen;
and his coat was as red as the desert,
... and his eyes, they were Charity’s sheen;
and his mane was the colour of honey,
... and his heart . . . well, I’d have to endorse . . .
O what colour is Love ?——all the money
... in the world would be cheap for that horse.
And the trooper, they say he recovered,
... and our squadron . . . well, we won that day;
and, sometimes, thinking of our beloved
... faithful comrades that bore us away,
I look back down the long years abating,
... and that image, boys, stays in my mind,
of Romani and red Taffy waiting
... for the mate he would not leave behind.
"If a picture paints a thousand words - that's Art!
However if a few words paint a thousand pictures - that's POETRY"
(Graham Fredriksen 1956 - 2010)