Saturday, 25th April, 2020
By Craig Brealey
On this extraordinary Anzac Day that will pass with neither march nor official service we remember the extraordinary life of Andy Patterson who rode in the last great cavalry charge in history at Beersheba in World War One.
Mr Patterson never missed an Anzac Day service at the war memorial in Argent Street where he always turned out in full uniform and wearing the famous slouch hat of the Light Horse adorned with an emu feather.
He stood straight to attention for the playing of the Last Post, well into very old age. When he died in 1989 he was the last and best known Broken Hill veteran of the “Great War”.
James Andrew Patterson was born in Wentworth in 1897 and came with his family to live in Broken Hill when he was a boy.
He was working on Netley Station in 1916 when he enlisted at the age of 18 in the First Australian Imperial Forces and fought as a Trooper with the 9th Light Horse in Egypt and Palestine.
“Andy took part in the Light Horse charge under ‘German’ guns at Beersheba in the Sinai Peninsula, the last such charge in any battle,” wrote former mayor and State MP, Peter Black in one of his columns for the BDT a few years ago.
“Many of the horses used in the charge came from the Louth district on the Darling River.”
The famous Broken Hill-born author, Ion Idriess, enlisted with Mr Patterson and witnessed the cavalry charge that routed the Turkish troops and opened the way to Jerusalem for the Allies.
Idriess wrote an account of the Battle of Beersheba which was published in his book “The Desert Column”.
During the war Broken Hill led the nation in opposition to the government introducing conscription and Mr Patterson was also, “in part, responsible for conveying the ‘NO’ vote to conscription in 1916 from Flanders, Belgium, to London”, wrote Mr Black.
The vast majority of soldiers who had volunteered to fight were also against having others conscripted to the horror of war.
After the war, Mr Patterson returned to Broken Hill and worked on the Menindee railway line before getting a job on the mines where he stayed for nearly 40 years.
He played cricket for the Zinc mine and on his retirement served for 30 years as secretary of the Pensioners Association, and World War One Veterans’ Association, and was awarded Citizen of the Year.
Mr Black said he met Mr Patterson in about 1980 when he first became Mayor and the Anzac Day luncheons were held in the Crystal Street RSL Hall.
“Fourteen World War One veterans were present, one of whom was Andy. A truly remarkable man, his stories were endless,” he said.
“The best story about him however was when the local RAA was summonsed to a breakdown in Williams Street and found to its astonishment a 90-year-old Andy who had been in the process as a volunteer Meals on Wheels driver, delivering a meal to a widow 30 years his junior.”