Charles Livingstone

Portrait of Charles Livingstone in military uniform

Rank

Trooper

Roll title

6th Light Horse Regiment

Convoy ship

HMAT Bakara

Trooper Charles Livingstone

Courtesy of Jo and Rod Cook

Charles Livingstone was born in Fremantle on 26 January 1892. His father was killed in an accident when he was four years old and his mother, alone in a new state, had friends who raised money to help her. As a young man, Livingstone worked on the sheep station of a friend near Broomehill.

At the age of 20, after the death of his maternal grandfather in Queensland, Livingstone travelled there with his mother, leaving their home in Harvey, Western Australia. They spent time with relatives before travelling to Sydney by train. He decided to see more of the state, and before returning home, Livingstone took a working holiday in New South Wales. He had several jobs, including cutting furnace wood for a copper mine, working on the railway and managing a picture theatre. He was working as a tram conductor when war was declared.

Livingstone enlisted at Victoria Barracks in early October 1914. Despite his Western Australian roots, he joined a New South Wales unit, the 1st Reinforcements of the 6th Australian Light Horse Regiment. After a short period of training at Liverpool Showground, he went to Holsworthy for mounted training and was then ready to ship out to war. 

Livingstone’s attestation papers, dated 1 October 1914.

Courtesy of the National Archives of Australia: B2455, LIVINGSTONE CH TROOPER

Livingstone’s attestation papers, dated 1 October 1914.

Courtesy of the National Archives of Australia: B2455, LIVINGSTONE CH TROOPER

Livingstone’s attestation papers, dated 1 October 1914.

Courtesy of the National Archives of Australia: B2455, LIVINGSTONE CH TROOPER

HMAT Bakara.

Courtesy of the State Library of NSW a636376

Livingstone embarked from Melbourne on 20 December 1914 aboard HMAT Bakara. On board, the men were on duty for two hours and off duty for four hours to care for the horses. Not one to suffer from seasickness, Livingstone was able to enjoy the sun on deck with his fellow recruits. During the passage through the Great Australian Bight, he was on deck when the hatch cover blew off, disgorging smoke and flames. There was a fire in the coal stores, and though the ship was repaired, it left Albany after the other ships in the Second Convoy.

Livingstone’s family had not seen him for four years and had travelled to Fremantle hoping to see him, but sadly for all of them, he remained in Albany while repairs were carried out.

The men on board Bakara had a swimming pool made in one of the loading hatches that was used to great advantage. Livingstone and the others in the regiment enjoyed the crossing the line ceremonies that involved being lathered with soap suds and dunked into the pool.

The Bakara arrived in Alexandria, Egypt and the light horse was encamped for training just outside of Cairo at Maadi.

 

Members of the Australian Light Horse in Cairo

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial PS0463

Phillip Schuler’s image of Anzac Cove from the sea.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial PS1472

After heavy losses on Gallipoli, reinforcements were badly needed. The men in the light horse regiments were required to leave their horses behind in Egypt with a portion of troops staying back to care for the horses. They then undertook the same roles as the rest of the infantry. Serving on Gallipoli involved routine duties such as digging in, improving positions, and carrying food, water and other stores to those on the front line.

Livingstone and the 6th Light Horse Regiment landed on Gallipoli on 20 May 1915. Only a few days later he participated in the armistice, during which both sides buried their dead. He exchanged souvenirs with the Ottomans in no man’s land. He recalled:

Our troops carried the dead Turkish bodies over the dividing line and the Turkish troops did the same for our dead. We also handed their rifles back to them. These rifles were lying around the ground, but we first removed their bolts. The armistice lasted until approximately 6pm, and almost immediately the Turks opened fire on our parapets. We were once again enemies.

The regiment spent the next three months in the trenches, holding the line. In August, Livingstone was admitted to hospital with enteritis, returning to Gallipoli in early October.

After the evacuation, the 6th Light Horse decamped to Egypt, where they spent the next year training and carrying out armed reconnaissance into enemy territory.

A constant issue for the mounted regiments was securing a good supply of fresh water for both men and horses. Living in the desert and being subjected to extreme temperatures, there were times when obtaining water became a matter of life or death. Livingstone recounted:

…one night during our stay… we set out for Davada which was held by the Turks. The only water we carried was in our water bottles (not more than a pint). It turned out to be extremely hot, and by morning most of the water had been drunk. Next day the temperature rose to 121 degrees, and by the time we reached Davada men were falling off their horses – fortunately for me I was situated in the centre of the troop. We saw the Turks disappearing over the sand dunes and when the wells were examined they were practically empty… I easily climbed down the well with a dixie and a canvas bucket which, when filled, were hauled up for the men around us to quench their thirst. The troops on the flanks had no water and we lost many men that day from heat exhaustion.

We knew of a good well some 6 miles on the way back and of course were anticipating a good supply of water. We had no luck there either. A New Zealand reserve regiment had been enjoying the water, showering themselves and even their horses, consequently very little water was left. I climbed down the well as before to get water for those mostly in need. Some of the men tried to rush the well, but Major White stood firm and soon had the troops in order again. He told those of us able to ride back to Katia to do so, as Abraham’s well had a plentiful supply of water.

 

It was wonderful to reward our faithful horses with a drink, and to be able to boil the billy over a fire made of palm branches. After that terrible experience we were issued with an extra water bottle, and better still, with a water bag which was carried around the horse’s neck. The water in these bags was kept cool by evaporation.

An Australian party burying both Australian and Ottoman dead during the nine-hour armistice observed on 24 May 1915.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial P02648.025

Australian light horsemen watering their horses at Esani, Palestine.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial H16048

In late October 1917, the 6th Light Horse Regiment was sent to Esani, in Palestine. From here, Livingstone was given orders to ride out to cut off the Hebron Road which led to Beersheba, before the famous charge which captured the town.

Listen to Livingstone’s account of the critical action at Hebron Road.

The 6th regiment was sent to Esani to form a camp and to clean out the wells in that area. They had been blown up by the enemy, and were needed to fall back on if necessary. We rode out one night to cut the Hebron Road between Beersheba and the Dead Sea… We were able to water our horses and replenish our water supply. We galloped under fire to take up positions on the Hebron Road, which ran between 2 very high ridges. I was posted on one side of the ravine with my Hotchkiss gun. With me was my No. 1 and No. 2, and on the other side a man named Watson. Our job was to stop the Turkish reinforcements from reaching Beersheba, and we had the regiment protecting our rear at the foot of the ridge. One of my men, Jeff Warren, was killed by a bullet in the head, and some time later my No. 2 was also killed. Rolf Warren, on the other side of the defile, had his leg broken by a bullet and as he was being taken to our clearing station he heard that his brother had been killed. We managed to hold our position until Beersheba was captured by a charge of the Light Horse with fixed bayonets. [Narrator] For his part in the action just outside Beersheba, Livingstone received a Distinguished Conduct Medal. His citation reads: For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When in charge of a machine gun in an advanced post amidst rough and difficult country, he, together with two other men, were isolated and kept under fire for over two hours by enemy snipers, during which period his two comrades became casualties. He nevertheless continued to fire his gun, and engaged the enemy at close range. His determined action assisted materially in the occupation of the line, which formed the objective and in driving out a group of enemy snipers. His conduct was beyond all praise.

Jordan Valley

In early 1918, the allies were gradually driving the Ottomans back. Livingstone and the 6th Australian Light Horse moved on through Jerusalem and then down to Jericho in the Jordan Valley. The objective was to surround a large party of Ottomans in the town of Es Salt. The road was cut between Amman and Es Salt and the town was captured, the Ottomans retreating. By capturing Es Salt, the main road back into the Jordan Valley was re-opened.

The Jordan River offered the chance to swim, providing relief from the hot weather and dusty conditions that saw them constantly covered in a fine layer of white dust. They could also catch fish to supplement their usual diet of hard biscuits and bully beef. Being a religious man, Livingstone somehow managed to convince a monk to baptise him in the River Jordan.

Work primarily consisted of patrols to locate the enemy front line. They were often being fired on by German planes overhead, and under shell-fire, they would ‘right wheel gallop’ in a zig-zagging movement to avoid being hit. Livingstone felt he was living a charmed life, because despite being sent on dangerous missions, he had some narrow escapes. Prior to an attack on Amman, he had been ordered to collect rations for the squadron. On return, he found the attack had taken place with disastrous consequences; all except one man had been killed or wounded, and the wounded had been taken prisoner after dark.

Following this action, a large offensive was planned, and Livingstone witnessed what he believed to be the last charge on horseback, when a squadron of light horsemen charged the Ottoman redoubt and forced their surrender. The capture of Amman was the end of the war in Jordan for the light horse. The 6th Australian Light Horse moved back to the camp near Jaffa, and later occupied Damascus. Unfortunately the ranks of the light horse were severely hit by the Spanish Flu while in Damascus.

Having enlisted in 1914, Livingstone was given special veteran’s leave and the choice to return to England or Australia. He opted for Australia as it was winter in England; however, before he had landed back home the war was over.

 

 

The Australian Light Horse en route from Esani to Beersheba.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial J06564

Light Horse men draw water from a well near Beersheba

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial J03165

Charlie Livingstone (left) with his family, Sydney, 1953.

Courtesy of Jo and Rod Cook

Livingstone returned to Australia on Christmas Day 1918. Almost immediately he was taken to Caulfield Hospital with a high temperature and a cough. He spent several days in hospital and was released to spend two weeks with his stepfather’s family at Castlemaine. He was discharged with the rank of corporal in January 1919. Soon after, he travelled to Perth to meet his mother and half-sisters. They were now young women; he had not seen them for more than eight years. He also met his five-year-old half-brother for the first time on his return to Harvey.

After years in the desert, Livingstone was experiencing problems with his eyes from the glare off the sand. Doctors at Fremantle Hospital operated on both eyes, and after two weeks he was discharged. He fought for reimbursement for the time spent in the hospital, but was told that as he had already been paid for leave, he would not be paid again. Years later, he received a cheque for the time he had spent in the hospital.

After returning to Harvey, Livingstone injured his back while tossing the caber at the local sports. The injuries meant that heavy lifting or digging for prolonged periods were painful, and put paid to his plans to become a farmer. He decided to return to Sydney.  He worked as a tram driver for a short time before establishing a car hire service with two other returned soldiers. They set up a garage in Penny Lane, Kings Cross and bought two Studebakers. The small company struggled against competition from bigger companies, getting business only for weddings and christenings. The three men decided to fold the company and Livingstone returned to driving trams.

Livingstone met his wife, Vera, in Sydney, when she was visiting to welcome her brother back from war. He and Vera lived in Elliot Street, North Bondi, in a three-bedroom house with a small garden. Livingstone had a green thumb and packed the garden with fruit trees, grafting one type of fruit to another. He and Vera raised four children: Charles, Terrence, Maree and Betty. They were married for 60 years, had 14 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren.

At the age of 92, Livingstone went to live with his son Terrence in Tasmania. He died the following year on 14 May 1985. 

References

Berrie, G 1919, Under Furred Hats, The Naval & Military Press with Imperial War Museum, London

Bou, J 2010, Light Horse: A History of Australia’s Mounted Arm, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne

Livingstone, C 1984, Some Memories of an A.N.Z.A.C., unpublished memoir

National Archives of Australia: Australian Imperial Force, Base Records Office;

B2455, Trooper Charles Henry Livingstone’s First Australian Imperial Force personnel dossier, 1914-1920; LIVINGSTONE, C H, 1914-1920

Anonymous

Thank you for keeping our country safe.

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Anonymous

Good luck.

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meta

I will keep the card in my purse as a reminder that our existence today is not so bad, and remember what you all endured.

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harrison

Cheers for risking your life.

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sarah

You were very brave to fight in the war.

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Anonymous

Thanks for your sacrifice. Glad you made it back to your family.

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Anonymous

Thank you for your service in 6th Light Horse Regiment AIF. Your skill and bravery helped write history at Beersheba.

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Anonymous

Thank you for all that you did in the service of our country and to preserve our choice to live our lives free of oppression.

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Tracey

Thanks for being such a brave hero.

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murrey

Thank you for defending our country. Lest we forget.

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jon

May we never have war again.

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Anonymous

You came back but so did all your memories. I hope you found peace.

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Estelle Pearce ...

Thank you for your sacrifice. We will always remember you.

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Anonymous

Thank you for serving in the war.

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Aidan

Thank you for your amazing service Charles.

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Anonymous

Thank you for your sacrifice.

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Linda

Thank you for giving us a future.

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Anonymous

What a great man! A hearty thank you. So pleased you went on to lead such a fulfilling life.

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HALEY

Thank you. Forever grateful.

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Anonymous

Thanks for your efforts mate. We are forever in your debt. We will think of you and the rest of the ANZACS every year on ANZAC day. We will always remember.

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BRALEY HAY

I would like to thank all the soldiers who fought for this country. LEST WE FORGET.

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braley rap gang...

Love the story. Very brave. ;}

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Anonymous

Was an honour to learn about your journey. So proud of you and your sacrifices.

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Rod

A true hero. Lest we forget.

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Bradley

Dear Charles, Thank you for protecting this country.

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Anonymous

Very proud.

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sue

A LIFE WELL LIVED.

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sandie little

Thank you for your service.

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Ruby

REST IN PEACE - YOU WERE VERY BRAVE. THANK YOU FOR WHAT YOU DID.

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Anonymous

God bless you and all who fought with you. Thank you from my heart and all my family. You will all be forever remembered.

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Anonymous

God bless you.

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me22

Thank you for fighting for our country. I'm sorry that so many innocent men died.

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claudia

Thank you for protecting us. Rest in peace.

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LISA NICE

An incredible story and journey! Thank you for fighting for our country.

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TOM

What you did was very special. It must have been the most terrifying thing ever. So thank you so so much for making it safe here for me and everybody. Thank you.

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Anonymous

What an incredible story! Thank you fighting for our country.

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stewy

May no person have to go through what you and your mates had to again. There are no winners of war.

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Daniel Nock

So impressed with your dogged bravery and nerve.

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tyler

You were so brave during WW1.

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Brady Reynolds

Thank you for leaving everything behind to go and fight for our freedom. You showed amazing confidence. I am so glad you were able to survive and settle down.

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grace t

Thank you for being brave and kind to others.

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Anonymous

Thank you for being brave and helpful for others.

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Anonymous

You were a very courageous character who showed bravery in times of adversity.

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ellie

I thought he was really brave.

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cheyenne d

Very sad stories. You will never be forgotten.

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Anonymous

Thank you for your service to your country. Regards Cheyenne.

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Anonymous

Thank you, you are missed. Love Cheyenne.

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Sophie

LEST WE FORGET.

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cassin

Thank you for your service to the great nation.

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Tyson McEachran

Thank you a lot for helping us live with freedom.

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