Bill the BastardPrint Page Print this page

The life-size bronze statue commemorates World War One war horse "Bill The Bastard."

The big, partly broken-in stallion played up so badly while being loaded onto the troop ship he was nearly left behind in Australia.  On arrival in Egypt, he was declared unrideable and given an unflattering nickname, "Bill The Bastard" and the 17.1-hand chestnut was put to work as a packhorse at Gallipoli.

While Bill was recovering from bullet wounds to the rump, Major Michael Shanahan won Bill over with kindness and licorice allsorts.  It was at the Battle of Romani in 1916 where Bill and Major Shanahan made an astonishing rescue galloping towards advancing Turkish soldiers to save four soldiers.  Major Shanahan got the soldiers onto Bill, and under Shanahan's calm direction he took the five of them off the battlefield.

Bill and Major Shanahan returned immediately to battle.  Shanahan collapses due to a wound in his leg and Bill walks him slowly back to the horse depot.

Very few war horses returned to Australia. Most were shot to save them from a life of misery after the war, but Bill escaped that fate. He returned once again to Gallipoli as a packhorse to assist soldiers collecting battlefield artefacts.  It's believed he lived out his life with Turkish farmers.

ABC News 11-Nov-2018
The little-known story of Australia's greatest was horse will be enshrined in the ANZAC legend with a life- size bronze statue

Bill the Bastard is widely considered Australia's finest equine export of World War I.  Serving in the Middle Eastern theatre of the conflict, the 17-hand-high stallion was notorious for his unrelenting stubbornness, endurance and courage.

Bill became a legend at the Battle of Romani, where he and Major Michael Shanahan rescued four Tasmanian troops from certain death on the battlefield

Sculptor Carl Valerius is honouring Bill and Major Shanahan's legacy with a true-to-scale statue depicting their rescue effort during the battle, in which Major Shanahan lost his left leg. Mr Valerius said the statue would help to educate Australians about a widely overlooked part of Anzac history.    The statue, when finished in June 2019, will stand in the south-western New South Wales town of Murrumburrah-Harden, the birthplace of the 1st Australian Horse infantry in 1897.

The town has rallied to raise more than $830,000 to cast the statue in bronze once it's completed.  "Bronze is a very endurable material, and to be there for generations to come is something I can leave behind that honours what these men did," said Mr Valerius.  "It doesn't just get lost in the ether."

From pack horse to legend.

Bill's military life began at Sydney's Liverpool Army Camp, used by recruiting officers to test the skill and strength of would-be lighthorsemen.

After bucking each eager recruit with ease, Bill was labelled unrideable and delegated to work as a pack horse carting supplies and munitions.  Along with 130,000 other Australian war horses, Bill began his voyage to the Middle East in late 1914, cared for by bush poet and war correspondent Banjo Paterson, who later commanded the Australian Remount Squadron.

During the journey, Paterson noted in his diary: "you can't lead Bill the Bastard to anything and you certainly can't make him drink".    After arriving in Egypt, Bill was sent with Anzac troops to the shores of Gallipoli.  He began work as a pack horse and eventually carried the body of war hero John Simpson from the battlefield after his death on May 19, 1915.

Journeying between Suvla Bay and Anzac Cove, Bill suffered two gunshot wounds. One bullet was never removed.  It was during his recovery that Bill became inseparable from Major Michael Shanahan, who grew determined to break-in Bill and become his rider.  Major Shanahan adopted a strategy of whispers, pats and licorice allsorts, soon earning Bill's trust and becoming the only man to ever ride him in battle.  It wasn't until the Battle of Romani on August 5, 1916, however, that Bill and Major Shanahan's heroics would become legendary.

Fighting off Turkish troops, the pair rescued four stranded Tasmanian soldiers, who piled onto Bill as he rode almost three miles to return them to safety.  Returning to battle, Major Shanahan passed out on top of Bill after suffering a gunshot wound to his left leg, which was later amputated once Bill returned him safely to base.  Bill survived the war but was unable to return to Australia. He died in 1924 at the age of 21 and is buried at Walker's Ridge in Gallipoli.


Address:Albury Street (Burley Griffin Way) & Bathurst Street, Mill Park, Murrumburrah, 2587
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -34.548782
Long: 148.351133
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
View Google Map


Monument Type:Sculpture
Monument Theme:Conflict
Designer:Carl Valerius (Murrumburrah, NSW)
Artist:Carl Valerius (Murrumburrah, NSW)
Monument Manufacturer:Crawford`s Casting Pty. Ltd (Sydney, NSW)


Approx. Monument Dedication Date:December-2021
Front Inscription


Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au