GREAT LEADER: General Sir Harry Chauvel
GREAT LEADER: General Sir Harry Chauvel

General ‘Harry’ Chauvel, hero of Gallipoli

ON 16 April 1865 a baby boy was born in Tabulam to Charles Henry Edward and Fanny Ada Mary Chauvel (nee James).

He was to become one of Australia's greatest soldiers and the first Australian to reach the rank of General.

This was Sir Henry George Chauvel, known as Harry, hero of Gallipoli, leader of the great Charge at Beersheba, diplomatic administrator, and idol of the men under his command.

Chauvel came from a military family.

His grandfather, Major Charles George Temple Chauvel was in the British Army.

Three of his great-uncles were also British officers.

After 20 years in India his grandfather retired to Australia where he purchased the 96,000 acre Tabulam Station. It was here that Sir Harry was born, after his father had become Manager.

He grew up learning how to control a large workforce over a vast distance, how to ride in rough terrain while mustering cattle, how to fire a rifle, and how to survive in dangerous situations.

In the 1880s there was much interest in forming military units in the area, especially mounted regiments.

In 1886 his father, who had also been a soldier, organized the Upper Clarence Light Horse. Harry and three of his brothers joined this unit and Harry was commissioned as a Lieutenant. Some time later the family left Tabulam and moved to the Darling Downs.

As this was before Federation Harry had to resign his commission. He joined the Queensland Mounted Infantry as a lieutenant and during the 1891 shearers' strike showed great skill in initiating a peaceful settlement.

Later he became a regular officer commanding one of two companies which went to the Boer War. He was also chosen to attend the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

He had always wanted to follow the family tradition of joining the British Army and training at Sandhurst but this was not financially possible.

He therefore threw himself into his duties at home and soon found himself an officer in the newly established Australian Army concerned mainly in training men of the Australian Light Horse. In 1913 he was promoted to Colonel.

When the First World War began he was sent to Egypt in command of the 1st Light Horse Brigade. He led his dismounted troops to Gallipoli where they were involved in some of the most dangerous parts of the campaign.

After Gallipoli he returned with his men to Egypt and their horses.

By 1917 he had become a lieutenant-general, the first Australian to reach this rank.

He was put in charge of the Desert Mounted Corps (another first) and in October 1917 led his men in the capture of the town of Beersheba, so providing the men and horses with a vital water supply.

This became known as possibly the last great cavalry charge in military history. He followed it with a surprise attack which won the Battle of Megiddo and fame as one of the fastest pursuits in military history.

After the War he held various senior posts and in 1929 became the first Australian to be promoted to the rank of General.

He retired in 1930 but on the outbreak of the Second World War he was recalled as Chief of the Volunteer Defence Corps. He had married Sibyl Campbell Keith Jopp, a Queensland squatter's daughter, in 1906.

Their two sons became army officers and one of their daughters became famous as Elynne Mitchell, the author of "Silver Brumby" and other Snowy Mountain stories.

Harry Chauvel died on 4 March 1945. He was given a state funeral and later cremated. However, he lives on in the film produced by his nephew, Charles Chauvel, filmed on the sand dunes at Cronulla, and called "Forty Thousand Horsemen".

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