Spent a wonderful, entertaining and informative weekend at Murrumburrah, north of Canberra, for the unveiling of the grand sculpture of BILL THE BASTARD carrying five troopers away from danger on the battlefield in the Battle of Romani, This battle against the Turks on 4 August 1916 (a century ago) -marked the turning point in the battle for the Middle East. Until that date the Turks were dominant, as they had been in the region for 400 years. They were marching through the Sinai desert to take Egypt from the British. They were confident. They had pushed back the Allied invaders at Gallipoli in 1915. They had smashed the British in Iraq early 1916. Hence the feeling among the 26,000 Turkish troops that they would have no trouble in taking over Egypt. They however, did not count on one factor. The 1700 Australian Light Horse troopers would have their mounts (unlike on Gallipoli).
The seminal moment in the battle of Romani was the effort of Major Shanahan and his mighty war horse BILL THE BASTARD.. It inspired the rest of the force. In an exclusively Australian defence and holding of the line, They stopped the Turks against huge odds. The Turks had to retreat. It was the beginning of the end of the Turkish Empire in the Middle East. From that battle on, with two hick-ups at Gaza, the Anzac 'Cavalry' led and dominated the fighting over two years. It resulted in the Turks being shoved right back over the border with Syria, never again to have influence over the Arab tribes they had dominated. The sculpture by CARL VALERIUS is magnificent in its own right but it also signifies this historic moment in Australian history. Over the next few years the statue will become the most iconic in the nation, first because it is an excellent work of art, and second, it represents a significent historical event.