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The Light Horse - enlistment criteria


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I'm researching a soldier who was a part of the Australian Light Horse.  I remember reading once about the criteria to enlist with the Light Horse.  Something about needing to be a very good rider, tall and very healthy....now I can't find anything on the criteria online....does anyone have any web sources or book quotes on this?  It was a very popular unit so I got the impression that they could be very fussy about whom they chose to join them.  Thanks!


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FWIW in the film "The Light Horseman" when the main character asks a Light Horseman what he need to do to get in to the Light Horse, he is told, "You need to be able to ride and Jump a five bar gate"

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Requirements for joining a Light Horse Regiment. Hopefully the following from my research into the 8th Light Horse Regiment, 3rd Light Horse Brigade, will give you an indication of the requirements.


For Victorian Light Horse Regiments from August of 1914 forming at Broadmeadows Camp most men who had prior experience with the Light Horse Militia units were automatically taken on strength of a regiment, nearly all others who enlisted from around the middle September commenced training at the Light Horse Depot under the direction of the (Administrative and Instructional) A & I Staff, which was made up of permanent officers, warrant officers and NCO’s of the regular army.

On the 20th August men wishing to be in the Light Horse were given a simple riding test. Prospective recruits were required to be able to ride a horse bareback and then take it over a chock and log jump of five feet before being accepted.

Tpr William McMillan No. 43, 4th LH Machine gun Section had this to say:- “Men from all over Victoria began to arrive at Broadmeadows Camp (some eight or nine miles north of the city of Melbourne) about the 21st August, a motley crowd in all kinds of garb from dungarees to the fine uniforms of the volunteer regiments. There was one thing in common with the Regiment that was to become the 4th ALH; we were all horsemen.”

At question 11 of the attestation form the following was set out “Do you belong to, or have you ever served in, His Majesty’s Army, the Marines, the Militia, the Militia Reserve, the Territorial Force, Royal Navy, or Colonial Forces? If so, state which, and if not now serving, state cause of discharge?”

On the second page of this form the “Certificate of Attesting Officer” was signed by the attesting Officer as having being read to, and understood by, the applicant. The second part of this form had the sworn oath of the applicant pledging to serve the King in the Australian Imperial Force from the date of acceptance until the end of the war, and a further period of four months until discharge. The third page carried the description of the applicant upon enlistment and the “Certificate of Medical Examination”. The minimum height requirement was 5 feet 6 inches, as compared to that of the British soldiers, being a minimum height of 5 feet. A minimum chest measurement of 34 inches was required, as well as passing the requirements of the medical examination - able to see the required distance with both eyes, sound heart and lungs, free use of joints and limbs and declaration of not being subject to fits of any description.

Tpr J. B. Pickett No. 232, 8th LH Regt, commenced training at the Light Horse Depot, Broadmeadows Camp. From his narrative that he started to write on board the “Star of Victoria”, 25/2/1915, he has left this account of his entry into Broadmeadows Camp: “I joined the 2nd Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force at the beginning of September and commenced training at the camp at Broadmeadows. As you join you automatically go into the Depot where all the raw recruits are trained. Owing having had previous experience as a Senior Cadet and holding the rank of a 2nd Lieutenant I was put in charge of a troop.” He had gained the rank of 2nd Lieut in the 65th Battalion, Senior Cadets.

In a letter home to his mother he also has left an account of volunteering for the Light Horse: “Volunteers were called for L. Horse and 100 men stepped out. The Officers then gave a very tragic account of how 4 men were killed at the jumps. If we failed once at the jumps of 5 feet 10 inches, we would be thrown out at once. He then said, ‘If any men want to go back to the infantry they can’. Immediately 60 men went back leaving 40 of us. The Officer then marched us to our tents and then said, ‘Boys I admire your grit’; there are no jumps at all’. This shows how they pick the L.H. However I don’t think there was much ‘grit’ in us, in fact I think we all felt ‘pretty dicky’.”

On Thursday 17th September the Argus newspaper reported; “The new men comprising the second contingent are coming in so fast that some difficulty is being experienced in housing them.  Another batch of 250 men arrived yesterday, some for the Light Horse and others for the infantry. The volunteers for the Light Horse are called out  and the officer in charge explains to them that only really good horsemen are wanted, adding that they will be put through severe jumping and riding tests.”



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On 13/12/2020 at 22:53, Jeff Pickerd said:

The minimum height requirement was 5 feet 6 inches, as compared to that of the British soldiers, being a minimum height of 5 feet. A minimum chest measurement of 34 inches was required, as well as passing the requirements of the medical examination - able to see the required distance with both eyes, sound heart and lungs, free use of joints and limbs and declaration of not being subject to fits of any description.


Hi @tamiwell, plus thank-you @frev and @Jeff Pickerd, for sharing the Trove link and your fascinating research respectively.


That said in doing research on a First World War collection (including working on an article about the Didcote brothers mentioned below), of artefacts amongst other items that I have inherited associated with my great-grandfather George Telford Bell and great-grandmother Violet Margaret Bell née McGregor. I have found two Englishmen who served in the Australian Light Horse, who did not meet the height requirements as has been posted.


One of whom is pictured below on a postcard (one of two of the same that I have) sent to Australia showing three Englishmen from Wetherill Park, New South Wales. Prior to their embarkation for Gallipoli, when they were in Egypt during 1915.


Anyway the man who is seated in the middle was Regimental Number 194, Trooper Albert Henry THOMAS of the 12th Light Horse Regiment, Australian Imperial Force (AIF) who was born in Dartford, Kent, England. Who at the time of his enlistment was 5'2¾" tall with chest measurements of 33" and 35" respectively.


While his younger brother also originally from Dartford (not pictured), Reg No. 1418 Charles Richard THOMAS of the 7th Light Regiment, AIF. Was 5'2" at the time of his enlistment with chest measurements of 32½" and 34½".


Of which Albert survived Gallipoli and further campaigns with the Light Horse, finishing the war as a Corporal. While Charles who didn't see action at Gallipoli, did serve on subsequent campaigns and survived the war, with the 7th Light Horse Regiment and 2nd Light Horse Brigade Headquarters.


The men who Albert was pictured with, were two brothers from Tewkesbury, England, with (incidentally) Reg No. 194 Private Harry Fifield DIDCOTE on the left and Reg No. 1617 Private Wilfred Bartlett DIDCOTE on the right. Who were both members of A Company, 17 Battalion, AIF. With Wilfred being killed (first listed as missing) when both Didcote brothers participated in the attack on Hill 60 on the  Gallipoli peninsula, during 27 August 1915.


While Harry was also wounded during that campaign when he received a gunshot wound to his face during 14 October 1915.  Which was near the date when his older brother Reg No. 3194 Corporal Albert James DIDCOTE, was killed at Loos, 8 October 1915, while serving with the 1st Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment. Later followed by Harry becoming a Sergeant on 13 November 1916, being Mentioned in Despatches 15 May 1917, before being killed in Belgium with 17 Battalion on 12 January 1918.


On the Didcotes, they were associated with and were close friends and residents with my Bell family ancestors, who were a prominent immigrant family in Wetherill Park from Durham, England. While the Thomas brothers were also friends as well. Of which I have a collection of items associated with the Great War service of both the Didcote and Thomas brothers amongst others.


Back to the subject of enlistment criteria, for comparison Harry was 5'8½" tall, with chest measurements of 35" and 37" at the time of his enlistment. While Wilfred was 5'7½" tall, with 30½" and 33" chest measurements.


So short story long, some Light Horseman didn't always meet the enlistment criteria, yet still ended up serving on campaign.







Edited by Daniel Cox
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I'm glad you like the picture @tamiwell, and it is a tragic story including being very personal for my great-grandfathers sister as well.


I hope you have a great Christmas, and good luck on your research.

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Hi All,


For your interest I have identified another picture that I have of Albert Thomas (5'2¾") and Charles Thomas (5'2") mentioned above who served in the Australian Light Horse. Showing them together at the end of the war.








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