War Horse

Thomas Goodwin’s diary is one of the few extended accounts Australian soldiers kept at Helles. Some ten miles south of Anzac, the flat ground of the Peninsula was held by the British and the French, aided by an army of colonial troops from Africa. As such Australians and New Zealanders often forget the war at Helles, although this part of the Peninsula actually bore the brunt of the fighting. It also saw the bungled assault on Krithia, a bloodbath as bad and as pointless as the Nek and one which claimed the lives of just as many Anzacs.

Goodwin’s account is also one of very few to focus on the role of horses on Gallipoli. The Light Horse was dismounted when they came ashore at Anzac. Though a few daring dispatch riders raced between the beaches. But at Helles, horses (particularly the horses of the Field Artillery) helped to hold the line. And Thomas Goodwin was well aware of that.

The farrier from Sydney was often critical of the soldiers who served beside him at Helles and he poured scorn on any officer he thought callous or incompetent. While the men may have been found wanting, Goodwin’s horses never failed him. It was not just their feats of endurance, as sick, hungry, and tick-ridden animals laboured to bring supplies to the frontline. The most graphic accounts in Goodwin’s diary occur when exploding shells wreaked havoc on the wagon train, mauling the bodies of men and beast.

Goodwin and his horses would go on to serve on the Western Front, in conditions as bad as Gallipoli, if not worse. But the cruelty of the Peninsula, and suffering of the men and animals that served there, was etched forever on Goodwin’s memory. ‘This is a game of waste,’ Goodwin wrote after yet another day of ‘awful slaughter’, and it was poor dumb animals that paid the price of it.