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Sandy, the only war horse to come home

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We want to share with you an incredible and touching story about Sandy, the only war horse to come home.

Champion horses such as Phar Lap, Black Caviar and Winx, are all well known in the public eye for their exceptional achievements.

Then there are other horses, who have also played a part in Australian history, whose names are not mentioned as much, but their stories and legends live on….

Australia sent 136,000 horses overseas during World War I, according to the Australian War Memorial, only one came home. His name was Sandy. A bay, he stood 16 hands (163cm) at the withers.

Major General William Throsby Bridges was a tall statured man at 6ft 7inch. Having already distinguished his military career, he was then appointed to the Command of the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Forces (A.I.F.). Bridges initiated a campaign of intense training. 

He had three assigned horses for his private mount, and Sandy was one of them. The quiet stock horse became his favourite charge. Sandy had already experienced plenty of action with Bridges before he was one of the 6,100 horses sent to Gallipoli.

Commander Bridges landed at Anzac Cove with the 1st Australian Division on 25th April 1915. He was an officer who believed in leading from the front and was an inspiration to his troops who would see him in forwarding areas showing complete disregard for his safety, even under heavy fire. 

This bravery cost him his life. Bridges were shot in the leg by a Turkish sniper in Gallipoli on 15th May 1915. He died a few days later from his wounds, on the way to the hospital in Egypt.

King George had learned of his fate. The day before he died, Bridges was awarded a Knight Companion of the Bath (K.C.B.) making him the first Australian to be knighted.

Bridges had a dying wish, and it was to have his beloved 'Sandy', be returned home for retirement at war's end.

Once the Major died, Sandy was then given to Captain Leslie Whitfield. It wasn't until 1916 that the authorities were able to grant the Major's request to send Sandy back to Australian soil, home, as Sandy knows it. 

'Sandy' lived out his days in Melbourne's West spending his final days in the famous Fisher stables, munching green grass, around the place named Remount Hill. With his eyesight failing and debilitating old age, a decision was made in May 1923, to have 'Sandy' guaranteed a merciful death. 

Sandy, the legacy lives on.

A very special thank you to Bryan Smith from the newly formed, "Sandy War Horse Memorial Committee Inc.", who is very passionate and dedicated about achieving a memorial to "Sandy, in Tallangatta.   

*Many thanks to Mrs Jean Merbach for her personal contribution to this article (Jean is the daughter of Jim Campbell and the niece of Bonner O'Donnell).

Army Australia Australian pride Hero Sandy War Horse World War I

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  • Is it possible to order a smaller shirt than S, as I find that the shirts are bit larger than i need. I take a size 12 in ladies t-shirts. But I do like my Firefighters shirt, but it tends to slip off my shoulders. Thanks, and so very pleased to hear about the memorial shirts for Sandy. Thanks, Skippy

    Skippy Flink on

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