<p>
	A righteous man has regard<br />
	for the life of his animal</p>
The Driver & His Horses

A righteous man has regard
for the life of his animal

PROVERBS 12:10


Chaplain Andrew Gillison was praised in one soldier's war diary as 'the bravest man he ever knew.' Dearly loved by the Gallipoli soldiers for whom he gave his life, Gillison's memorial still sits at Embarkation Pier, just north of Anzac Cove in Gallipoli.

Alan Broadribb grew up in southern NSW. When war broke out, he enlisted in the 4th Field Company Engineers in July 1915 but his parents had him discharged a month later. In his brief period with the Engineers, Alan learned that they urgently needed experienced horse handlers to drive the horse-drawn wagons.

They were happy to accept his re-enlistment in September. Renumbered the 7th Field Company Engineers they boarded a troop ship, the Suffolk, just before Christmas, bound for France and the Western Front. He was 23 years old. As he boarded the ship his father handed him a Bible.

Alan arrived in Egypt in January, 1916. "There were quite a number of horses, and most needed a lot of attention. I showed the others how to modify a horseshoe to fit a horse exactly”. After two months, they headed for the battlegrounds of northern France, with 28 horses. There Alan met his own horses. “I was allocated two beautiful chestnut horses, fresh from England. I suppose they already had names but I named them Downside and Tarcutta – Downy and Tarky for short”.


Alan was part of a contingent of wagons and limbers hauling artillery and ammunition further up to the front line just south of Armentières. “The Padre turned up, walking up and down the line talking to the men. When he got to me I showed him my little Bible Society Bible and told him I read it. “So you should!” he said. "I asked him to pray for the horses and he did. They needed steady horses to haul the field ambulance, and Downy and Tarky were the best so they put us onto that. But then we were moved on to the Battle of the Somme, to the horror of Pozières”.

The whole company: men, horses and wagons boarded a train at St Omer for the slow journey to Amiens. “We were about five miles from the front. The night sky was constantly lit with that fearful orange glow and always in your ears was the thunder of distant bombardment”.


"We were about five miles from the front. The night sky
was constantly lit with that fearful orange glow and always in
your ears was the thunder of distant bombardment.”

Alan was put in charge of a six-horse limber, hauling heavy artillery pieces to just behind the line where they fired over the top of the Australian trenches. It was dangerous work. The enemy targeted horses. Supplies and weaponry could not reach the front without them.

“I rode at the head of the team, just ahead and to the side of Downy and Tarky. They could see me and it calmed them. Bodies were a problem because Downy and Tarky would not tread on them. We dragged them out of the way to pick up on the way back if we had a chance”.

The severe northern winter descended upon them, bitterly cold and exceptionally wet, and in the midst of it, on November 6, they were unexpectedly moved to the battlefront at Flers, a different sector of the Somme.

“We thought Pozières was hell, but this part of the Somme was worse still, the forgotten offensive at Flers: so much death for so little purpose”. The forward trenches were simply ditches filled with a slimy mud in which men stood, over their knees, day and night. The mud and deep shell holes were a nightmare for the drivers and horses.


The forward trenches were simply ditches filled with a slimy
mud in which men stood, over their knees, day and night. The mud and deep shell holes were a nightmare for the drivers and horses.

By late November, Alan was quite sick, slowly succumbing to a combination  of infections brought on by the terrible conditions. He forced himself to lead the horse team back to the front time and time again but eventually collapsed.

“They moved me from hospital to hospital in France and then in England. I would try to get up and sit with men who had lost their limbs or eyes or their mind. I read to them from the little Bible Society Bible when I could.

"Eventually they sent me back to Australia. I prayed for my horses all the time I was sick. I never found out what happened to them. I hope they inherited a kind driver. I hope they survived the war. I hope they ended up with a kindly French farmer who treated them well. They, like all of us, are in the hands of God”.

Lance Corporal Alan John Hannaford
Broadribb recovered in Australia. He died in
1961 at the age of 70. On his bedside table was the little New Testament his father had obtained from the Bible Society in Victoria. Inside was written this prayer:

“O God, protect me and protect my horses. In the name of him who was born in a stable. Amen.”


SHARE THIS STORY

Use the links below to share the entire story