Bill the Bastard

From Trevor Lee in Canberra comes a photo of Bill the Bastard and a timely reminder as ANZAC DAY has just passed, of the role animals (particularly horses, dogs and yes, pigeons) have played in times of conflict.

Bill the Bastard by Carl Valerius Harden-Murrumburrah, NSW Australia Photo: Trevor Lee

Bill the Bastard is considered by many to be Australia's greatest warhorse and certainly the one with the best story!

The life-size sculpture by Carl Valerius commemorates an epic feat when Bill and his rider Major Michael Shanahan saved four Tasmanian soldiers from no man's land at the Battle of Romani during World War 1.1

Bill, a fierce and powerful 730 kg chestnut stallion was one of 130,000 Australian horses that served in World War 1 and were never to return home. His is a remarkable tale that touches on many features of Australian history.1

The sculpture is now positioned on a plinth in parkland at the corner of Bathurst Street and the Burley Griffin Way, Murrumburrah, New South Wales, Australia. The positioning of Bill in this outdoor setting is the culmination of a long-held dream by the local sculptor and the many people who have supported this exciting project.1

But Bill's start in the war didn't have him cut out to be a hero. He earned the unflattering nickname of Bill the Bastard because he was considered to be unrideable. In fact, the big, partly broken-in stallion played up so badly while being loaded onto the troop ship he was nearly left behind in Australia.2

"He was called Bill the Bastard because no man could mount him and ride him. He threw them off, he didn't just smash them into the ground, he put them into orbit," historian Roland Perry said. So the 17.1-hand chestnut was put to work as a packhorse at Gallipoli.2

However, at the Battle of Romani, Egypt (3-6 August 1916), Bill made an astonishing rescue and saved four soldiers. This brave act has been immortalised in a bronze statue to commemorate Bill and his rider Michael Shanahan's noble actions.2

Here is an article giving more details.

This war horse rode four wounded Anzacs to safety in World War I
Hero war-horse ‘Bill the Bastard’ helped take four injured soldiers to safety in the Battle of Romani. He’s now being immortalised, along with his rider, with a bronze statue.

If you do know a story of an heroic animal, including those who have participated in war times, please email me at [email protected].

And tomorrow, thanks to Maureen from Birchip in Central Victoria we are off to learn more about the work of the sculptor Cyrus Dallin from Utah, USA. And you will see some more images of horses!