Sunday, January 8, 2023

Ties Between the 13th Australian Light Horse Regiment and Casey/Cardinia

13th troops on camels in Egypt next to the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid, Australian War Memorial, accession number: P08353.013

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the 13th Australian Light Horse Regiment was created in 1915, at Broadmeadows, Victoria (1). Three friends from Pakenham who enlisted to serve in World War 1 together called the 13th home: Benjamin Turner, Archibald McDonald Blackwood, and Andrew James Blackwood. The two blackwood brothers were born to John Blackwood and Mary Ann Cadd. Benjamin, born in England, boarded with the Blackwoods’ at the 100-acre property the mother Mary Blackwood had acquired. Turner had previously attempted to enlist but was not permitted to join due to his height of 1.61m (2).

13th Regimental Colours with names and dates of where the regiment fought, Australian War Memorial, accession number: P01444.014

After enlistment, Turner travelled to Egypt on the SS Hawkes Bay on the 26th October, 1915, and the two brothers followed a day later on the HMAT Ulysses on 27 October 1915 (1) with the trio arriving in Egypt during March, 1916 (2).

Before this, the 13th was then deployed to Gallipoli. Due to the uneven terrain and the extensive use of trenches, similar to that on the Western Front in France, the 13th was deployed as a dismounted regiment, and remained largely at Lone Pine from September until December 1915 when the regiment was sent back to Egypt once more (1).

At this point, the 13th was broken down into four divisions. These divisions were sent to France in March and June of 1916 (1) respectively with Turner arriving in June (2). This division did not last long, as in July, the 13th was reformed. In France, the 13th became a part of the 1st ANZAC Light Horse Regiment. The regiment took part in a number of operations on the western front including the German Spring Offensive of 1918, the capture of the Hindenburg line in September 1918 as a part of the advance guard, and the Allied Offensive from August to September in the year 1918 (1), and anti-aircraft operations, which Andrew was a part of (2).

13th on Patrol at Gressaire Wood, Australian War Memorial, accession number: E03069

13th near Bray during an advance in 1918, Australian War Memorial, accession number: E03836

The 13th also consisted of a militia, which had strong ties with the local area surrounding Berwick. The 13th Light Horse Regiment was disbanded on 30th of April, 1919, only to be reinstated in 1936, present in the Dandenong, Caulfield and Berwick surrounds. WWI marked the end of mounted regiments, and during the next major world conflict, WWII, these units transformed from mounted to armoured or motor-powered units (3).

Despite the regiment being dubbed the ‘Devil’s Own’ for their unlucky number 13 (1), all three men made it back home. Turner returned to Australia on July 5th, 1919, and married Violet Stephenson in 1920, Andrew married Gladys Ann McLaine in 1922, and in 1924, Archibald married Elsie Jeremiah.

If you would like to read more about the Blackwood brothers and Benjamin Turner, you can find further details on their stories in ‘A century After the Guns Fell Silent: Remembering the Pakenham District’s WWI Diggers 1914-1918,’ by Patrick Ferry, available at Myli and Casey Cardinia Libraries.

[1] Australian War Memorial (2023), 13th Australian Light Horse Regiment,
[2] Ferry, P. (2018), A Century After the Guns Fell Silent: Remembering the Pakenham District's WWI Diggers 1914-1918, Berwick-Pakenham Historical Society, Australia.
[3] Good, I. (2011), Pages from the Past: Snapshot Histories of People, Places & Public Life in Casey & Cardinia, National Trust, Australia.

Written by Brooke Pickering, Myli.