Remembering local servicemen – Frank Brazill

Albert Borella was one of 462 Territorians who volunteered to fight in World War I. Read the story of Frank Brazill, a stockman from Alice Springs who became a Light Horseman and was involved in many battles and raids in the Middle East.

Frank was a stockman, born and bred in Alice Springs. At the age of 44, making him a comparatively old enlistee, he decided to join the Forces in Darwin. This he did, leaving the northern capital with the Fifth Contingent on 16 August 1915 on board the Eastern.

Brazill was formally enlisted in Brisbane on 27 August, and was posted into the 5th Light Horse Regiment with the service number of 1766.

He completed initial training and embarked from Sydney on board HMAT Hawkes Bay on 21 October 1915. By this time the 5th was part of the bigger formation of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade and the ANZAC Mounted Division.

In February 1916 the 5th Regiment joined forces defending the Suez Canal from a Turkish advance across the Sinai Desert. The main activity in the Sinai was long-range patrolling, but there were several small engagements during August, as the Turks retreated after a defeat at Romani.

One of Frank’s letters home was reprinted in the Northern Territory Times and Gazette in December 1916. It read in part:

Since we came over the Canal on Easter Sunday we’ve had plenty of rough times. Jacko and Abdul [nicknames for the Turks] are very tricky customers. However, any of us who are bushmen know this country well enough to enable the Anzac Mounted Division to beat them at any stage of the game.  

We held up and defeated the German-led Turks, inflicting a notable defeat on them. Not, of course, without losses and great hardships on our side; but as our Major-General Chauvel said “partly avenging Gallipoli." We often had our saddles on for 30 hours straight out; no water or food for man or horse yet in the best of spirits. Without doubt it would be hard to beat the Australian as a fighting man, but as an organisation I think we could be greatly bettered.

The ANZAC Mounted Division advanced into Palestine in late December. The 5th’s work continued to be patrols and raids until the advance stalled before the Turkish bastion of Gaza. The regiment participated in all three battles aimed at capturing the town, most notably the first abortive attempt on 27 March 1917. On this occasion the 5th attacked Gaza from the rear and was fighting its way through streets and gardens when ordered to withdraw.

With the fall of Gaza on 7 November 1917, the Turkish position in southern Palestine collapsed. The 5th was involved in the pursuit that followed, and then spent much of the first half of 1918 holding the west bank of the Jordan River.

During this time it was involved in the Amman (24-27 February) and Es Salt (30 April-4 May) raids, both of which were tactical failures but helped to convince the Turks that the next offensive would be launched across the Jordan.

Instead, the offensive was launched along the coast in September 1918, with the 5th taking part in a subsidiary effort east of the Jordan. It attacked at Amman on 25 September, and on 29 September at Ziza 4,500 Turks surrendered to just two squadrons from the regiment. Turkey surrendered on 31 October 1918, but the 5th Light Horse was employed one last time to assist in putting down the Egyptian revolt of early 1919. It sailed for home on 28 June 1919.

Frank Brazill returned to Australia in June 1919. He was awarded the three medals of most Australians who served in Europe: the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal. Little is known about Frank’s later life. He died in 1953, in Queensland, where he is buried.

Written by Dr Tom Lewis, Lead Historian