INSIGHT INTO THE MIND OF THE SERGEANT OF THE LIGHT HORSE
Painting by George W. Lambert, 1920:
A Sergeant of the Light Horse [A Sergeant of Light Horse in Palestine]War. How do you describe it? It is a thing of horror and unchecked violence and mayhem. If you’ve never been you can never truly know. When we set out from
Australia we were filled with glorious ideas of courage, valour and adventure… the naive dreamings of an idle mind. What awaited us was so much more, and so horrific, words can’t even touch upon it. War. How do you describe it?
I was a farmhand before the war. That statement sums it up completely: ‘before the war’. My life is forever broken in two: before and after the war. When I came back home I was met with a mixture of tears and cheers from family and friends, those same familiar faces and smiles… the same and yet forever changed. No matter what they say or how hard they try they can never understand what I have witnessed, never know the deepest depravity of man that I have seen and even participate in. How can they know the sheer overwhelming power of grief that can only be achieved through severest loss?
The numbness was truly the worst part, when you’re able to look behind you and no longer see the man riding behind, and not feel it in the pit of your stomach. Now I feel as though I am incomplete, as though I have forever lost an essential part of my being. The innocence I once possessed in my very heart has been forever stripped from me. Oh we all make pretence of being men of courage and valour, but until you see the life blood drain from a man you once loved as a brother, you are nought but a child.
Now I look on their faces shining with love and relief and feel the yearning pit of emptiness inside of me. How I wish I could again be that man they once knew, feel the subtle pleasures of life once more, but then how can I? Life seems more important now than it ever was before, yet the more I try to grab at every moment the more it feels as though it is slipping away.
I need to remember who I was and who I could still be. I can never forget those left behind and yet I must never fail them either. I can almost hear Charlie’s laughter telling me to ‘pull It together and get with it’. And that’s exactly what I’ve got to do: pull it together and get on with it, there’s no point moping and wasting my life away, I have to live… if not for me for the rest of the fellas who’ll never get the chance.
I chose this picture as it spoke to me of the horror that all men who see war must face. The Sergeant expression is not one of glowing smiles of victory; it is instead a downcast look of loss. It showed to me a more human side of the ANZAC legend, not the courageous young men who fought against insurmountable odds but of the simple devastation that a single man feels after such trying circumstances. Yet the picture also gives up hope for the sergeant, as while his expression is deeply saddened, it is not the face of one ready to give up either. In his stance we see an inner strength that will never bow, no matter the odds.
©Copyright 2009 by Jared Dougheney-Earle
Jared (right) and brother Riley Dougheney-Earle (left) with WWII Veteran Ron Beer MC who was their Great Grandfather Viner Phillips’ and Great Uncle Bruce Rule’s Lieutenant. The Photograph was taken after the 2010 ANZAC Day March in Melbourne
Webmaster’s Note: The following information was provided by Jared’s father, Paul Earle:
“I have ensured that my sons are very aware of their family’s military history and the debt we owe all Australian veterans. Between my wife and I they have 26 ANZACs on their family tree.
So when asked to pick any picture and write a passage about it, my son chose the famous painting “Sergeant of the Light Horse” and wrote the above piece. He was 17 at the time.”