The news of a Military Cross was usually received with great pride by the Anzac Mounted Division, however on August 19, 1917, the despatch was received one hour after the news that Lieutenant Reg Black had died from wounds received the day before while on patrol near Um Urgan in Palestine.
Reg was buried at the Rafa Military Cemetery and was the 4th Gordon cricketer to die in the war. One hundred years later we commemorate one of our decorated fallen cricketers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
Reg Jr. was born in Sydney on 4 July 1885, the son of the Hon Reginald James Black, a Director of the Bank of NSW and the first President of the Gordon District Cricket Club. He would remain in that role until his death in 1928 and is still to this day the longest serving president of the club.
Reg Jr. Was educated in his senior school years at the Sydney Church of England Grammar School, North Sydney. However, he had spent a lot of his childhood in Mudgee where his father represented the district as a member of the NSW Legislative Assembly. It was here he gained his expertise as a horseman. Reg played several games for Gordon in its City and Suburban team in 1905 and 1906 before he left Sydney to live near Boggabri, having bought Jeralong Station in the Liverpool Plains district of Northern NSW.
He enlisted on 14 December 1914 in the 6th Australian Light Horse Regiment.
The following announcement was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 17 December 1914:
Mr. Reginald Black, owner of Jeralong estate, Boggabri, a son of Mr. R.J. Black MLA, has set a splendid example to the young men of means in this State by volunteering for the front as a trooper in the 6th Light Horse Regiment. Advices received yesterday from Boggabri stated that the residents were disappointed that they were unable to give him a send-off on account of his sudden departure from the district to go into camp. Mr. Black is a fine rider and a good bushman and has taken from Boggabri a fine well-bred horse, the gift of a neighbour.He is a native of Sydney, 26 years of age, and was educated at the Church of England Grammar School, North Sydney. Mr. Black is an enthusiastic cricketer and is unmarried.
Having prepared for the war in Sydney with the 6th Light Horse Regiment, Reg certainly would not have envisaged arriving at Gallipoli to play the role of an infantry private only a few months later. With the numbers of trained soldiers severely reduced by the losses at Gallipoli, the Anzac Mounted Division, who had been sent to fight on the Eastern Front in Palestine, found themselves in the thick of the action at Gallipoli without their horses.
Reg actually arrived in Gallipoli on the night of the death of Fred Easton, a tragic example in this case of how the paths of the Gordon cricketers crossed during the war. Reg’s 6th Light Horse Regiment were involved in many of the famous battles at Gallipoli, however, ironically Reg was put in charge of a machine gun section of thirty-five men from the 6th Light Horse, whose job it was to cover the evacuation of the final infantry and artillery battalions and then make a dash themselves.
As history shows, Alan Bruce was in the first wave which arrived on that fateful day in April, while Reg Black was in the final boats to leave the shores of Anzac Cove. One wonders what Reg were thinking as his boat pushed off and he looked back at the pock-marked countryside where 8,000 Australian had died with effectively nothing to show for it.
After the Gallipoli Campaign, Reg and his fellow light horse troops would have expected at least a brief rest in Egypt. However, mounted men were urgently needed to fight within The Sinai and Palestine Campaigns, in the Middle Eastern theatre of the war, which were fought between the British and the Ottoman Empires supported by the German Empire.
A letter from Reg Black Senior enquiring about his son's dislocated shoulder
Reg and his 6th Light Horse saw action throughout this campaign including the Battle of Romani which was fought between the 3 to 5 August 1916 against a joint Ottoman and German force. They had marched across the Sinai in a final attempt to defend their hold on the Suez Canal which they had held since January 1915. Reg Black and the 6th Light Horse were immediately into the action, taking up a position at 4am on 4 August on Wellington Ridge in the firing line of the Turkish forces. They held their position against the full force of the Turkish offensive before slowly retreating. This ultimately proved to be a decisive factor in the battle. The war diary notes of the Anzac Mounted Division identified the role Reg and his troops played in this battle:
The advance with the 6th Light Horse Regiment on the right, the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment on the left, and the 7th Light Horse Regiment in reserve was carried out with spirit and energy pressing forward to within 500 yards of the enemy’s position. Constant pressure was maintained upon the enemy until dusk and considerable casualties were inflicted by machine gun and rifle fire at close range. At dusk the Brigade was ordered to return to Et Maler for supplies and water for horses, some of the horses having been without water for forty hours.
For his gallantry, Reg Black was Mentioned in Despatches by General Sir AJ Murray, Commander-in-Chief of the Egypt Expeditionary Forces. Unfortunately, while on patrol on the outskirts of El Arish on 22 February, he fell from his horse and dislocated his shoulder. He was taken to the unit hospital at Kantara and then later to a hospital in Cairo for further treatment. He didn’t return to the frontline until 4 April 1917.
On the night of 30 July, Reg Black was faced with a situation that would clearly define what we already know about the character of this fine Australian. For his actions, Reg received the Military Cross. The citation read:
Regiment: 6th Light Horse Regiment Brigade:
2nd Light Horse Brigade Division: Anzac Mounted Division Date of Recommendation: 19/8/17
Rank and name: Lieutenant Reginald James Black,
MC Action for which commended:
As described earlier news of his Military Cross was received one hour after the news of his death on August 17.
The news back home was devastating for the Black family, after having heard of him surviving the horrors of Gallipoli and then the major Eastern front battles of Romani, Rafa, Magdhaba, Bir el Masar and Gaza.
The Sydney Morning Herald broke the news after the family was told on 22 August 1917. While Reg hadn’t played a lot of cricket with Gordon, his father would continue in his role as President of the club a further eleven years. Like all of our members who went to the First World War we continue to remember and recognise their sacrifices. Reg Black was a great Australian, a talented cricketer, a skilled horseman and a person who defended his men till the very end.
Reg Black we salute you.