Ideas & Stories

Celebrating “the Ruse”

A little over 100 years ago (18 September 1918), the Australian Light Horse planned a surprise attack against the Turkish forces in Northern Palestine.

In an effort to hide the build up of forces, a 3 mile “Melbourne Cup” style horse race was scheduled for the day before the attack. The main race was named the Jericho Cup, after a town near the Jordan River where the Turkish defences were based.

The spectacular event attracted 10,000 spectators, including 1,000 ANZAC troops.

The extraordinary story of the race (and the Ruse) can be found in Chapter 24 of Roland Perry’s book, “Bill the Bastard”, named after the amazing winning horse that won the event across the desert course, with his courageous Australian Aboriginal rider, Mullagh.

Jericho Cup Sculpture

The Charge of Beersheba was one of many famous and courageous battles already fought by the 4th Australian Light Horse. It was hoped that this surprise attack would be just as successful.

And as history shows, on the next day the British and ANZAC forces commenced their campaign to drive the Turkish forces into retreat. The Ruse worked well.

Our long-time client and former trucking icon, Bill Gibbins, has been a driving force in recognising the efforts of the Australian Light Horse, Bill the Bastard and Mullagh.

In 2018, Bill founded the modern Jericho Cup, a multi program horse race held in Warrnambool annually since the 100-year anniversary of the battle. Even in our Covid year!

2020 was a challenging year for the Jericho Cup. As Bill says:

“The day went on as best it could with no crowd. All trophies were made months in advance, but with no date on them, just marked Mk III, signifying the third running of the event – whenever that may occur.

Planned trophy presenters were happy to wait until next year as most were coming long distances and there was no certainty that there would be anybody to present them to. The one exception was the Charge at Beersheba race. Whilst every other race on the program has a constant theme this one is different. It still consistently honours the Charge, but each year honours a different participant, and the 2021 recipient is already lined up, and trophy made.

The first year was Scotty Bolton, the second was Guy Hayden and for 2020, it was Major Eric Montague Hyman’s turn. He led the ‘A Squadron’ of the 12th Australian Light Horse regiment in the charge and was nominated for a V.C. That was what brought him to my attention, but his personal background was what was the “icing on the cake”.

Eric was of Jewish decent. His father had come out to Australia in the mid-19th Century and settled in Tamworth. The Jewish people have always regarded the Charge at Beersheba as the first step down the road to the creation of the Jewish State. It is celebrated every year on its anniversary in Israel. What a fantastic legacy for an Australian of Jewish descent to play an integral part in such an historic event.

I tracked down Eric’s grandson William (Bill). He had not strayed too far from Tamworth and was residing in Armidale (NSW). There was total uncertainty of who would be there to actually accept the trophies, but it was now or never. Bill bit the bullet and decided to make the trip. Not only that, but he diverted to Sydney to pick up his sister Libby on the way – total travel time nearly 20 hours, huge effort.

Fortune certainly favoured the brave in this instance. Both trainer and owners of the winner were on course to receive the trophies in person.

 A 4,600m flat horse race is not going to have too much going for it held anywhere else than through the paddocks at Warrnambool on the Grand Annual course. It is a brilliant spectacle, and it is made for TV.

Good on you Bill. It is great to see such a passionate dedication to the memory of those men and horses who gave so much over a hundred years ago.