Skip to content
26 March 2023 / leggypeggy

Bill the Bastard was a real hero

Bill the Bastard rescuing soldiers

Last year my book club decided to do different things on alternate months—a book one month and an outing the next. Our first outing was to Jugiong for lunch at the Long Track Pantry and a stop at the twin towns of Harden/Murrumburrah on the way back.

First off, I’m super fussy about reuben sandwiches and the Long Track Pantry served up one of the best ones I’ve ever had. But the stop at Harden was equally rewarding.

That’s where we saw the statue of Bill the Bastard—an amazing and clever horse from World War I. His fame stemmed from a fearless rescue during the Battle of Romani in Egypt in August 1916.

The billboard in Harden says Bill had the heart and lungs of an elephant. It goes on the say:

‘He had the power, intelligence and unmatched courage that stood above all the 200,000 Australian horses sent to the middle east in The Great War. He was a big 17.1 hh with a long back and big rump. Chestnut in colour; and a Waler—named after New South Wales. The first person who tried to ride him was a young lad called Ben Towers—a questionable 17 years of age. He came from Cootamundra. Young Ben claimed to be a capable rider—but Bill had other ideas.

‘After several attempts it seemed that Bill would allow only one person to ride him—Major Michael Shanahan.

Bill the Bastard rescuing soldiers

‘Shanahan managed to persuade his Captain “Banjo Patterson” to take Bill into battle. He felt sure that Bill would be the ideal horse for the job. In the thick of The Battle of Romani, with four soldiers down, Shanahan rode Bill under heavy Turkish fire and with super strength, got the four soldiers on—making it five in total on Bill—and returned them to safety.

‘After Bill had a big drink, Shanahan said to the horse, “It’s time to get back, Bill, you’re a bloody marvel!” and so they rode back into the thick of raging war.

‘It was soon after that Shanahan was shot in the thigh and Bill was shot twice. Still they continued to fight until Shanahan collapsed into the saddle. Bill was aware of the seriousness of the situation and took Shanahan three kilometres through the fighting, straight to the vet.’

I love the fact that Bill knew to go straight to the vet. Shanahan was soon taken to the medic. Sadly, he lost his leg, but he and Bill both became heroes.

Bill the Bastard rescuing soldiers


Leave a Comment
  1. Derrick Brown / Mar 26 2023 9:06 pm

    I saw this statue when I was in Oz a few years back, its one impressive statue, So are all the rest down the Avenue
    Parking is a bugger, but it seems the police dont mind if you nip out of the car for quick pictures
    Its really worth driving down there

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 26 2023 9:11 pm

      Great that you have been there. I’m so glad we stopped there too. I hadn’t heard of Bill before.


      • Derrick Brown / Mar 26 2023 9:13 pm

        We saw this when we stayed at your house, we drove down there, stopped and started, as usual took far to many photos
        I think there was a book or film about ‘Bill’

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Mar 26 2023 9:22 pm

        We should look up whether a film was made. You go first. I have to do dishes

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Klausbernd / Mar 26 2023 9:43 pm

    Hi Peggy
    What a hero.
    All the best and thanks for sharing
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Monch Weller / Mar 26 2023 10:31 pm

    Great post! Interestingly, you’re the second Aussie blogger I follow that wrote about Bill the Bastard. Gotta agree, despite Bill’s moniker — the horse is no bastard, but a hero alongside the likes of El Cid’s Babieca.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Mar 27 2023 8:55 am

      Bill really was a hero, but his moniker had to do with the fact that he tossed off every rider but Shanahan.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen / Mar 26 2023 10:50 pm

    What an amazing story! The statue is pretty cool too!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sherry Thomas / Mar 27 2023 12:38 am

    Fun fun fun.. So happy to see you writing! S T

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 27 2023 8:57 am

      Next time you’re here we’ll have to visit Bill.


  6. Lynette d'Arty-Cross / Mar 27 2023 1:13 am

    That statue is amazing and it’s such a great story. I love that Bill went straight to the vet!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Monkey's Tale / Mar 27 2023 1:25 am

    What a great story, but it would be nice if they dropped The Bastard from Bill’s name. It seems like he’s actually not one 😊😊 Maggie

    Liked by 2 people

  8. beetleypete / Mar 27 2023 1:26 am

    A great tribute to a brave war horse, Peggy. Such an unusual true story.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. lexbartlem / Mar 27 2023 2:17 am

    Wonderful to see you here again Peggy. Love this story Xxx.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 27 2023 9:00 am

      Come to Canberra and we’ll go see Bill. Hint, hint!


      • lexbartlem / Mar 27 2023 9:02 am

        I’d love to see Bill with you, but would love to see you a lot more than Bill! xx

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Mar 27 2023 9:12 am

        Always welcome.


  10. Jolandi Steven / Mar 27 2023 3:43 am

    Love the statue and story. What a feisty hero he was.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Rebecca Budd / Mar 27 2023 7:17 am

    We owe a debt of gratitude to the amazing creatures who share our world. Thank you, Peggy, for introducing me to Bill the Bastard. A great way to start my week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 27 2023 9:05 am

      An excellent point Rebecca. We do owe a great debt of gratitude to the creatures of this world.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Robert Parker / Mar 27 2023 8:32 am

    Wow that’s a good story, I can’t believe Hollywood hasn’t used that in a movie yet. Deciding to take the wounded rider to the vet shows he had brains and not just brawn

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Anna / Mar 27 2023 10:05 am

    What a great story! Love our Aussie heroes, be it animal or human!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Carol Taloni / Mar 27 2023 2:09 pm


    Great to read another story. Certainly an interesting one. You certainly find all different ones. Thanks. Carol

    Liked by 1 person

  15. derrickjknight / Mar 27 2023 9:55 pm

    Good to see this well written reminder of a story I have seen before

    Liked by 1 person

  16. chattykerry / Mar 28 2023 6:53 am

    What a fascinating tale, Peggy! So many animals participate in war from horses in the past to landmine sniffing dogs today.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. 100 Country Trek / Mar 28 2023 8:17 am

    Thanks for sharing this idea . This Statue caught Mt attention. I found your site and let’s follow each other. Anita

    Liked by 1 person

  18. gerard oosterman / Mar 28 2023 9:31 am

    What an interesting story.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Alison and Don / Mar 29 2023 7:40 am

    I’ve heard of walers – my niece is a horse podiatrist – but not the rest of the story. Sounds like a great day out – a good Reuben and a heroic horse – what more could you want.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 29 2023 8:27 am

      It was a wonderful outing. Monday on the radio they asked people to call/text in with names of professions that started with H. Wish I’d known about horse podiatrists.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Lesley Snow / Apr 1 2023 2:25 am

    That is an amazing story!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Emma Cownie / Apr 3 2023 5:21 pm

    I thought Bill the Bastard was going to be a human until I read your text. I looked at the statue and thought “Its the horse that’s the hero”. Turns out I was right. Great Aussie name!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Dave Ply / Apr 5 2023 1:27 am

    I’ve heard horse lovers make all sorts of claims about their favorite equine, but it’s hard to top that story. Did you see the movie War Horse? It wasn’t Bill, but still a good flick.

    And now I wonder, as you’re a connoisseur of reubens (probably my favorite sandwich), what constitutes the perfect one?

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 5 2023 6:59 am

      I didn’t see War Horse. Pity. As for the perfect reuben, all I can say is you know it when you first bite into it. My favourite sandwich too.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. MichaelStephenWills / Apr 11 2023 11:29 pm

    It is a rarity for a horse to be named in a monumental statue, almost as rare as a war hero who lived to tell the tale.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Enoble Asuquo / Apr 25 2023 4:22 pm

    What a lovely n great story.
    Thanks for sharing ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Garrulous Gwendoline / Apr 25 2023 10:54 pm

    Oh hey Peggy. WordPress just pushed this through to me. I wrote about Bill the Bastard last month too! Isn’t that funny? Didn’t get the kind of response you have though.Sighhhh.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Sy / Apr 30 2023 7:28 am

    >>Shanahan rode Bill under heavy Turkish fire and with super strength, got the four soldiers on—making it five in total on Bill—and returned them to safety.<<
    An amazing horse and story!

    Reuben Sandwiches are great, one of my tasty favorites! The diners in my area make it as an "Open Sandwich"! Aside: A diner is a small, inexpensive restaurant found across the United States, as well as in Canada and parts of Western Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 30 2023 9:59 am

      I knew you’d love reubens. Maybe someday we can meet for one at a New York diner.


  28. Brenda / Apr 30 2023 10:11 pm

    What a wonderful story about Bill. Many people aren’t aware of what the amazing role horses played in WWI. Sadly, most were put to death at the end of the war. I believe Bill was lucky enough to escape that fate. On that bleak note, it’s great to see a blog post from you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 1 2023 7:30 am

      Thanks Brenda. It’s about time I got to posting again.


  29. Americaoncoffee / May 30 2023 6:22 pm

    What a name to claim.😵‍💫

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: