A hard-fought campaign to honour the only horse to return to Australia following service in World War I has finally borne fruit.
Defence minister Marise Payne visited Maribyrnong on Monday to unveil a memorial dedicated to ‘Sandy’ the Light Horse and the Australian Light Horse Brigades.
Community group The Friends of Sandy and the Australian Light Horse Inc have spent close to 30 years working to establish a lasting memorial to Sandy, who belonged to Major General Sir William Bridges, who died in battle at Gallipoli.
President Pauline Ashton said the group was “absolutely ecstatic” the memorial, created by Footscray designers BiGfiSh, had finally seen the light of day.
“This has been going for such a long time, with my dad before me, so we are really celebrating,” she said.
Ms Ashton welcomed the unveiling of the memorial on the eve of the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, where four of Australia’s Light Horse Brigades played a pivotal role.
She said it was fitting that the memorial was being located near the Maribyrnong Defence Site, the final resting place of Sandy.
“This is also for all those horses that didn’t come back after their service, which numbers between 120,000 and 150,000,” she said.
Ms Ashton paid tribute to the assistance of Maribyrnong MP Bill Shorten and his office, along with the Department of Defence, the federal government and Maribyrnong Council.
Defence minister Marise Payne said the memorial will serve as a reminder to future generations of the important role light horses played in Australia’s military history.
“Australia’s light horses, including Sandy, were deployed from the remount depot at Defence Site Maribyrnong,” she said.
“Today’s unveiling is a fantastic achievement; the Friends of Sandy have been working toward this goal for years. They have been organised, committed and most importantly, persistent.”
Maribyrnong MP Bill Shorten said it was wonderful to see the memorial proudly displayed for all in the community to enjoy.
“In 2014 I was able to assist the Friends of Sandy in raising funds for the memorial through an ANZAC Centenary Grant,” he said.
“Sandy, who lived out his retirement in the fields at Maribyrnong, has become the stuff of local legend.
“Through the work of the Friends of Sandy, his memory – and the memory of all those who have served our nation – continues to be honoured.”
Maribyrnong mayor Catherine Cumming said the community has been pushing for the memorial for the whole of her 20 years on council.
The memorial has a temporary home next to the Maribyrnong Community Centre on Randall Street.
Once the Maribyrnong Defence Site is decontaminated and redeveloped, it will be relocated to its permanent location at the Fisher Stables.