Sydney artist Geoff Harvey has won the 2021 Gallipoli Art Prize ($20,000 acquisitive prize auspiced by the Gallipoli Memorial Club) with his painting ‘Forgotten Heroes’ depicting Australian ‘Waler’ horses used by Australian light horsemen during the First World War. This is the second time Geoff Harvey has won the Gallipoli Art Prize. His previous win was in 2012 with his large-scale mixed media work ‘Trench Interment’.

Originally known as ‘New South Walers’, Waler horses were bred in Australia as hardy stockhorses and were prized for being able to travel long distances in extreme heat with little water. More than 120,000 Walers were sent overseas to the allied armies in Africa, Europe, India and Palestine. Due to the costs said to be incurred for returning horses home and Australia’s quarantine laws, only one Waler is known to have been returned to Australia. The surviving horses were either culled or sold to the British army as remounts for Egypt and India.

So special and deep was the bond between rider and horse that many of the soldiers were traumatized by the realization that their faithful ‘mate’ was not coming home with them,” says Geoff Harvey in his artist statement “By the end of the war in 1918 those horses that survived the battlefields and the cull stayed in Egypt, France and India where they faced an uncertain future. No official records were kept of these brave horses.”

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