Did you know a farmer who signed up for World War I in Milton, took part in both the Gallipoli and Palestine campaigns, also won a prestigious horse race in the Middle East?
The story of Sergeant Rupert Clyde McCarthy (number 875) has come to light through his great-nephew, Culburra Beach man Trevor McGuire.
Racing was popular among the men and later, of course, approaching the end of WWI the Australian Light Horse were planning a major offensive against the Turkish Empire and in order to lull the enemy into believing nothing unusual was afoot, a race meeting was organised on the eve of the assault (September 18, 1918).
The main race was The Jericho Cup, more than three miles through the desert sands near the town of Jericho in Palestine.
The winner was Bill the Bastard, probably Australia's greatest war horse, whose exploits are detailed in the book Bill the Bastard by noted historian Roland Perry.
Sgt McCarthy won the Richon Plate 6 furlongs cup staged at Richon Le Zion onboard a bay gelding called Mazar on December 14, 1918, as part of an Anzac Mounted Division race meeting.
They raced over six furlongs (three-quarters of a mile) or 1200m in today's measurements.
A member of the 6th Light Horse Regiment AIF, he was presented with a superb sterling silver cup by Brigadier General W Meldrum CMG DSO.
Two months later, he would be dead.
On February 20, 1919, he was admitted to hospital dangerously ill with pneumococcal meningitis.
He died February 23 and was buried in the Dair El Belah War Cemetery in Palestine.
But somehow the cup and some of his other possessions made it back to Australia and to the McCauley and McGuire families.
How the cup made it back to Australia is a bit of a mystery - all I know it was in our family's possession for a number of years with my uncle Vivian before he passed it onto my mother Katie (nee McCauley).Trevor McGuire
"We don't know how the cup got back here to Australia," Mr McGuire said.
"It's a bit of a mystery - all I know it was in our family's possession for a number of years with my uncle Vivian before he passed it onto my mother Katie (nee McCauley) who donated it to the Australian War Memorial in 1991.
"A few of his other possessions, a set of binoculars, his diary and some other photos were also given to another aunt."
Rupert Clyde McCarthy, a farmer, was originally from Nelligen, NSW where he also went to school.
He enlisted in the AIF on December 5, 1914, aged 22.
He signed up in Milton, with his next of kin listed as his mother Susanna Jane McCarthy (nee McCauley) and his father was Mr W "Bill" McCarthy.
Their address was Main Street, Milton.
The cup's inscription
The cup is engraved (with some mistakes) with the Anzac Muonted (sic) Division Race meeting Richon Le Sion (sic) 14-12-18 Richon Plate 6 furlongs cup.
Presented by Brigadier General W Meldrum CMG DSO won by Sergt McCarthy's B G Mazar.
He sailed with the 4th reinforcements of 6th Light Horse Regiment from Sydney aboard HMAT Shropshire on March 17, 1916.
His number was 875 and he served initially as a private.
He participated in the Gallipoli campaign from May until December 1915 and then during the Palestine campaign.
During the war, he was promoted to Lance Corporal and then Temporary Sergeant Cook in November 1918.
"Even though they were cooks, they all still rode and had guns," Mr McGuire said.
"We also understand he went on and saw action."
Now on display at the war memorial, the maker of the cup is unknown, but it is known it was made in the United Kingdom in 1916.
The sterling silver cup, with Birmingham 1916 marks, has fine beading around the stem and the base but is otherwise plain.
A great photo of Sgt McCarthy shows him looking resplendent in his Light Horse uniform, complete with a wallaby fur puggaree on his hat.
"Apparently they [wallaby fur puggarees] were pretty common, a lot of them must have had them," Mr McGuire said.
"We are all very proud when we see the cup on display with mum's name as the donor."
Interestingly the Warrnambool Racing Club has been re-running the Jericho Cup annually starting from the 100th anniversary of the original race in 2018, to honour Bill the Bastard, the Australian Light Horsemen and their magnificent mounts, the Walers.
The 2020 edition will be held on Sunday, November 29 at Warrnambool Racecourse.
Rupert McCarthy also features on the war memorial at Nelligen.