Over the last few weeks I have followed the pursuits of William Lyons, I have felt the full weight of those ancient desert sands and the angry piercing eyes of the sun as I have trudged through the remnants of his war. Although it ended 100 years ago, the guns have been firing from all directions, confusing my search for a simplified version of what transpired.
In my confusion, I keep questioning how much detail I need to include. Wars are complex and, as in the case of the 1916 war in the Sinai Desert, an entanglement of scuffles resulting in death and destruction. The trails are many and varied and have left me wondering where I should begin or indeed finish. My major problem is that I have no way of knowing when William Lyons was present, if at all.
The fifth light horse regiment during the period April to August 1916 was not actually attached to a Brigade. Its main purpose was reconnaissance. They conducted night patrols in the hope of averting a surprise enemy attack. I have scouted through various websites and books to furnish my mind with what transpired. My bible, “The History of the Fifth Light Horse Regiment” by Brig. Gen. L.C. Wilson, which outlines the details in simple layman’s language, has provided the bones of the story. Meanwhile, Ion Idriess fleshes out the skeleton in “The Desert Column”. My biggest dilemma is how to work my way through the obesity of flesh and bones to find William’s story. Then I had an aha moment.
My biggest concern has been how to fill the gaps in William’s story, and of course his absence from this world makes my task all the more challenging. However, in a flash, I realized that this story does not belong to William Lyons alone. He represents the hundreds of thousands of Australian Light Horsemen who were present at the time. The story needs to be told for all of them. This is a universal story.
This brings me to my predicament of how much detail to include in the story. Perhaps I should not worry about possible inaccuracies pertaining to William’s personal story, as long as the basic historical facts are correct. There is little doubt that he experienced the harshness of the desert, the whizzing of enemy bullets and the nervous night patrols waiting for the shadows to come to life with messengers of death.
My intention was never to write a detailed account of war. Rather, my story is about how the war moulded William the man. He was a military man from he age of 17. The Great War was his last chance to prove himself as a soldier; as a light horse instructor; to follow his passion. I wish to honour that passion, because it came at a price.