Anzac Day in the New South Wales community of Gundagai will have fitting trappings for a regal Australian military occasion when the 7th Light Horse Gundagai Troop comes riding into town. The group will feature Wes Leseberg and his father, Paul, who are both SSAA members with the Tumut branch.
Not only will the band be trotting along aboard six impressive-looking horses, but the equine contingent will also be towing a restored 18-pounder gun from the First World War era put together under the Anzac Centennial Gun Project.
Such horse-drawn units were used as mounted infantry over a period which spanned from the Second Boer War to the end of the First World War. The Gundagai branch was formed in 2012 ‘to preserve the history and traditions of the Australian Light Horse and its predecessors’.
“We do re-enactments and parades both as World War One soldiers and bushrangers from the 1860s,” said Wes. “The big gun hasn’t been fired yet but it is quite capable of being fired. And we use real firearms, with black powder for the bushranger occasions.”
On Anzac Day, the group, who could number up to 10, will arrive for the start of proceedings at the Gundagai Dawn Service. Then it will be off to Tumblong for the Anzac Day commemorations there. It’s back to Gundagai for the main parade at midday, finishing off at Jugiong with the 3.30pm service. By the end, they will be joined fellow aficionadas from the 7th Light Horse Troop Harden so numbers could have grown to between 15 and 20.
So what is the reaction when the horsemen turn up with such an imposing piece of military hardware? “Some of the older folk say that it brings a tear to their eye,” said Wes, “and the rest are mostly fairly excited.”
The horses are well-trained and are looked after individually by group members. At the moment, Wes has some extra numbers on his property at Jugiong. “The horses have to be desensitised so that they get used to the noise and color of the big days out and aren’t bothered by people and flags,” said Wes.
“We have the gear and replica firearms to carry out re-enactments of bushmen from the 1860s and the military personnel from World War One.”
Wes is a police officer in his day job, while his father, Paul, is a mechanic by trade. Both have been SSAA members for about 20 years. “I have been a member since around 1996, basically ever since I got a shooter’s licence. I think my dad signed me up at the same time as him,” said Wes. They have a military connection in that Paul’s father William served in North Africa in the Second World War, while his uncle, Jack, was killed in action in the Borneo campaign during the same conflict.
When they operate as bushrangers, they are under the banner of the Gold Trails Reenactment Group, while when they take the 18-pounder Centennial Gun out in their World War One fatigues, it is as part of the Royal Australian Artillery Company. The group will be impeccably turned out for the occasion on Anzac Day and will no doubt receive a rousing reception from the assembled crowds.