Page 1082 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 25 March 2015

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In addition to the events and exhibitions promoted across the centenary year at the Australian War Memorial and the ACT government’s involvement in the marketing of these, the ACT Heritage Library also this year has a number of other activities planned to acknowledge the contribution of ACT men and women in World War I. These activities include a virtual calling of the roll of the 520 ACT men and women who served in World War I, through social media. This is taking place from March through to 11 November, Remembrance Day, through Libraries ACT and social media outlets. The library will also pay tribute to each of those men and women and share their stories with a younger audience who will engage through this digital platform.

Many Canberrans and other Australians have family who served in World War I. My grandfather, Walter Hamilton Gentleman, was one of those. He served in the 6th Light Horse Regiment. The 6th Light Horse Regiment was raised in Sydney in September 1914 from men who had enlisted in New South Wales and became part of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade. They sailed from Sydney on 21 December 1914. The regiment disembarked in Egypt on 1 February.

The 2nd Light Horse Brigade became part of the Anzac Mounted Division, and in April 1916 joined the forces defending the Suez Canal from the Turkish advance across the Sinai Desert. It fought at the battle of Romani on 4 August and Katia the following day, and participated in the pursuit that followed the Turks’ retreat back across the desert.

The regiment spent late 1916 and early 1917 engaged on patrol work, until the British advance into Palestine stalled before the Turkish bastion of Gaza. It was involved in the two abortive battles to capture Gaza directly on 27 March and 19 April, and then the operation that ultimately led to its fall, the wide outflanking move via Bathsheba that began on 31 October.

With the fall of Gaza on 7 November 1917, the Turkish position in southern Palestine collapsed. The 6th participated in the pursuit that followed and led the capture of Jerusalem in December. The focus of the British operation was then moved to the Jordan valley, and in early 1918 the 6th was involved in the Amman battle, on 24 to 27 February, and assault, on 13 April to 4 May. Both of those battles were tactical failures but helped to convince the Turks that the next offensive would be launched across the Jordan. Instead the offensive was launched along the coast, in September 1918, with the 6th taking part in the subsidiary effort east of Jordan. It was part of the force that captured Amman on 25 September, and that proved to be its last major engagement of the war. The Turks landed on 30 October 1918, and the 6th Light Horse were employed one last time to assist in putting down the Egyptian revolt of early 1919. They sailed home on 28 June.

The ACT government is proud to be involved in commemorating 100 years since our nation’s involvement in the First World War. I again thank Mr Hanson for the opportunity to speak on this motion and look forward to paying tribute to those who fought for our country by paying tribute to their efforts as part of the national Anzac Day ceremony, which will take place at the Australian War Memorial next month.

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