More than words

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When Redpa Primary School student Chloe Grey put pen to paper, the power of her words captivated a community. 

The grade four student stood alongside grade five students Tilly Goodger and Kyah Waterhouse at the Anzac Day service in Marrawah on April 25. 

The trio moved many hearts while sharing at the address. 

Many people – men, women and children – gave up much for the sake of future generations, for us,” begins Tilly. 

“But it isn’t just people who we need to be grateful to.” 

In the lead up to Anzac Day, Redpa Primary School researched the roles of animals in conflict. Students soon discovered horses, donkeys, camels, mules and even elephants carried soldiers, weapons and supplies throughout the First World War. 

“Worldwide there is an appreciation for the animals that never returned,” continues Chloe. 

“Soldiers who fought alongside animals knew how important they were in raising the spirits of the men in hopeless situations. 

  • “They offered the men comfort and provided a diversion from the horror of battle. 
  • “Cats, for example, were generally unaffected by the gunfire and were a great source of entertainment [and] companionship.”
  • Red Lead was a feline from Australia, who was slipped aboard HMAS Perth by Bob Collins, says Kyah. 
  • “He hid her under his jacket. Bob thought the cat was a lucky charm and he organised a special hammock for her to sleep in,” says Kyah. 
  • “At first, Red Lead didn’t have a name. Then one day she tipped over a tin of red lead paint.” 
  • On February 27, 1952 in Indonesia, HMAS Perth was struck by two long range missiles. The crew was forced to abandon ship. 
  • “Bob took Red Lead with him, cuddling her to him for as long as he could,” says Kyah. 
  • “But the fast-flowing tide swept her away. Bob called her but he could only hope that she found land.”

While reflecting on this reality Chloe turned her thoughts to history a little closer to home. 

Sergeant Norman George Harvey fought on horseback in the Battle of Beersheba in Egypt on October 31, 1917. He is Chloe’s maternal great great grandfather. 

Upon his return to Australia, Sergeant Harvey preserved the bridle and stirrups which had served him so well throughout the First World War. Passed down through the generations, the heirloom is treasured by Chloe’s family. 

The century-old pieces adorned a military saddle – similar to that which Sergeant Harvey would have rode the Egyptian desert in – at the Anzac Day service last month for all to see. 

“The saddle has travelled to Egypt and Be’er Sheva in Israel in the Negev desert,” says Chloe. 

“I imagine it has been through horses shot from beneath it and [carried] many soldiers.” 

It is this frightening thought that prompted Chloe to untether her creativity to compose a poem from the point of view of a solider and his horse. 

Inspired by snippets from letters sent home to Sergeant Harvey’s mother and sister, Chloe scripted this piece. 

My horse and I

October 31st a long time ago, I saddle up my steed

Then I see the camels coming, they’ve brought us feed

I feel the sand burning beneath my feet

I climb up into my saddle seat 

My waler gallops off into the distance

My reins holding back in resistance

I hear the shots ring all around

Then suddenly my horse falls down to the ground

I hope you’ll still remember me for years to come

The sacrifice we made still lives on. 

Chloe Grey, 9 

Redpa Primary School student Chloe Grey, 9, pens a piece from the point of view of a solider and his horse in commemoration of Anzac Day. 

The poem is inspired by her great great grandfather Sergeant Norman Harvey and the bridle and stirrups which he returned home with. Photo courtesy of Jocelyn Flint of Mengha’s Back Paddock.