House debates

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Constituency Statements

Parramatta Electorate: 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers

10:04 am

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business) Share this | | Hansard source

Parramatta is known for its colonial and convict heritage, but perhaps it is less well known for its extraordinary military history. We have in the heart of Parramatta a unique part of Australia's military history dating right back to Macquarie. The Lancer Barracks was built between 1818 and 1820 to house the colonial troops and it is still in use. It is the oldest working barracks in Australia and home to the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers and to the Lancer Museum, which documents the regiment's extraordinary history.

The 1st/15th Lancers is Australia's most decorated unit, with 21 honours, and is currently a light cavalry regiment in the Australian Army Reserve. Its history will be on display on Saturday when our very own lancers parade down Macquarie Street in the first of the commemorations of Anzac in Parramatta and probably in Australia. It is fitting that they be the first. The Royal Lancers are not only the most decorated regiment in Australia but also the oldest, being the first colonial volunteers to land and see action in the Boer War mounted on 13-hand high Cape Colony ponies as the famed Light Horse. In 1914, when World War I broke out, militia could not serve overseas, so members of the regiment enlisted en masse when the first Australian Imperial Force was raised. They enlisted into the first Light Horse. They served in Gallipoli, in the Suez Canal and as part of the ANZAC Mounted Division to Beersheba, Jerusalem, Jericho and Amman. Through those battles in World War I, 224 lancers died and 679 were wounded in action.

The '1st' in the 1st/15th Lancers' name was added and designates the lancers as the successors to the 1st Light Horse Regiment of the AIF. The '15th' in their name was added in 1956 and marks the regiment as a successor to the 15th Light Horse Regiment formed in Palestine in 1918 from the Camel Corps. As the horse was replaced with machines, the regiment became the first motorised machine gun regiment in the British Empire. With the outbreak of World War II, the lancers were incorporated into the AIF as an Army regiment, where they pioneered the use of tanks in the New Guinea jungle. It was the lancers that drove the first Matilda tank off the landing craft in the assault by the 7th Division of Balikpapan in Borneo, which is now known as the heaviest Australian tank attack of the war. It was the only armoured regiment of militia origin to go overseas and the only Australian armoured regiment to be sent twice.

On Saturday we will see the regiment's history on parade. That first tank off the landing craft, known as 'Ace', one of only three restored Matildas, will make its first public appearance in 70 years. We will also see a 50-tonne Centurion main tank drive along Macquarie Street in Parramatta. The parade commemorates 100 years since the raising of the 1st Light Horse in August 1914. It is an opportunity for us all to remember and commemorate all those men and women who volunteered to serve in what is now known as the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers. (Time expired)