Light Horse Brigade remembered
PETER Kerkenezov sits tall in the saddle, his hat and feather brushed by the wind, a sword by his side, ready to march.
As a riding member of the Australian Light Horse Association, this year holds special significance for Dr Kerkenezov as it marks the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba.
During the battle near Gaza, in an area now known as Israel, 800 soldiers of the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade famously charged the trenches sheltering 4400 Ottoman soldiers. Their horses jumped the 3m deep and 1.2m wide trenches at the gallop during the battle on October 31, 1917.
The order to charge came from General Henry George Chauvel, who was born in Tabulam and adds a further local angle to the historic battle.
Dr Kerkenezov is the only ALHA member in Ballina and was selected to join the Reserve Forces Light Horse and New South Wales Police mounted contingency in 2016 to escort the Governor of NSW, His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley from Government House to the Anzac Memorial at Hyde Park South on Reserve Forces Day.
He said he felt it was a patriotic action to participate in Anzac Day marches.
"Horses are a part of Australian culture and I believe Australian culture is something we need to nurture,” he said.
"There is a real camaraderie among troopers and we don't just do ceremonial duties but we also do skills-at-arms drill including the use of bayonet, lance, sword and rifle.
"I feel proud to be part of the light horse (association) and to commemorate the earlier soldiers.
"There were a 130,000 to 160,000 horses that went to war in the First World War and they need to be given the recognition that they deserve, as well as the 125 qualified veterinary surgeons, 95 of whom were graduates from Melbourne and Sydney veterinary schools.
"Today I represent the 9th mobile vet section of the Australian Light Horse 4th Brigade.
"That section treated all horses at Beersheba.”
Dr Kerkenezov said the General Chauvel- authorised attack was generally remembered as the last great cavalry charge in history.
He said what was unusual about the charge was that Australian Light Horse soldiers usually dismounted, with one of a team of four leading the horses to safety.
The charge also meant the soldiers had to use bayonets because their rifles were strung across their backs.
Of the hundreds of men in the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade, 35 were killed and 39 wounded during the Battle of Beersheba.
Dr Kerkenezov said he supported a campaign to see Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull posthumously elevate General Chauvel to the title of Field Marshal.