Robert Stanley Trethewey was born in Orange N.S.W. in 1888 – the third child of nine born to Robert and Bessie Trethewey. He joined the 1st A.I.F. on 22 August 1914 at Roseberry in N.S.W. at the age of 26 years and one month. His listed his occupation as labourer on his attestation papers, and his religion as Wesleyan. His next of kin was shown as Robert Trethewey (father), Race Course Road Orange N.S.W. At the time of enlisting he had been a member of the militia for over five years – 4 ½ years with the 41st Infantry Battalion and one year with the 9th Light Horse Regiment. He was 5 foot 8 inches tall with dark complexion dark hair and brown eyes.
Robert joined the No1 Light Horse Regiment on 22 August 1914. Training was conducted at Roseberry Park from late August until October 1914. On 20 October 1914 Robert embarked H.M.A.T. Star of Victoria at Sydney for overseas service.
While still training in the Egyptian desert in late 1914 the First Australian Division and the New Zealand/Australian Division (which later included the 1st Light Horse Brigade) were reformed into the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – ANZACs.
As mounted troops, the Light Horse were considered to be unsuitable for work at Gallipoli. The mounted troops volunteered to operate as infantry and thus the 1st Light Horse were sent to Gallipoli landing on 12 May 1915. Only once was the regiment used for offensive operations which occurred on the morning of 7 August 1915 with an attack on the Turkish position known as “The Cheeseboard”. The tragic result of this action was some 147 casualties from the 200 men involved in the charge. For the balance of the time the 1st Light Horse remained at Gallipoli the unit played a defensive role.
There is a gap in Robert Stanley Trethewey’s service record from 22 August 1914 to 15 July 1915. The entry for 15 July 1915 reads “Re-joined unit Gallipoli”. Written in red ink at a later date is “casualty not stated – re-joined unit 15/7/1915”. It may be assumed that in the confusion at Gallipoli and the large number of casualties suffered the recording of the dead and wounded and the evacuation of the wounded would have been difficult to say the least – or then again he could have joined his unit late from other duties in Egypt. This could explain the gap in Robert’s service record and the later addition of the red ink correction entry.
The next entry in Robert’s service record is dated 29 December 1915 when he disembarks in Alexandria from the ship Valsova. From this point the record is fairly comprehensive. On returning from Gallipoli the 1st Light Horse became part of the Western Frontier Force and the unit was reformed and re-equipped. The reorganisation of the Light Horse led to the formation of the ANZAC Mounted Division to which the 1st Light Horse Regiment became a foundation member.
For the first five months of 1916 the 1st Light Horse was deployed through the Nile River Valley to defend the Egyptian economic centre from interruption by the Senussi infiltrating from the Silva Oasis. On 14 May 1916 the 1st Light Horse joined the parent Brigade (1st Light Horse Brigade) which was taking part in the defence of the Suez Canal. They moved to the Romani region to bolster the defence of that region.
The regiment took part in the Battle of Romani from 4-6 August – the Battle of Katia and then Bir el Abd on 9 August 1916. All of these actions led to the defeat of the Ottoman Canal Expeditionary Force and its retreat to Bir el Mazar. Over the next few months the regiment took part in the allied advance over the Sinai leading to the fall of Bir el Mazar then El Arish and Bir el Magdhala and finally Rafa in January 1917.
The 1st Light Horse protected the rail line in Palestine for the first months of 1917. They missed the First Battle of Gaza but were back at the front by 6 April and took part in the Second and Third Battles of Gaza on 19 April 1917.
The regiment took part in the Battle of Beersheba and follow up actions lasting to January 1918. After the fall of Jerusalem the 1st Light Horse moved to the Jordan Valley and took part in operations in this region including the taking of Jericho and the attack on Amman 27 March – 2 April 1918 and the Es Salt raid 30 April to 4 May. The regiment also took part in the action to repel the German Asien Corps attack at Abu Tellul on 14 July 1918.
In Amman at the opening of the final allied offensive on 19 September 1918 the 1st Light Horse Regiment took part in the invasion of the Moab Hills for the 3rd time. This time Amman was captured and finally the Ottomans called for an armistice on the 30 October 1918.
Robert Stanley Trethewey is commemorated on the Methodist Church Orange Honour Roll and the Ancient Order of Foresters Orange Roll of Honor.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Pte RS Trethewey”; it was donated by Ancient Order of Foresters Orange. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Robert’s brother, Norman Thomas Trethewey also served in WWI; he died of wounds in Belgium in October 1917.
* Graeme Stanley Trethewey (Robert’s great nephew), April 2014
Central Western Daily, 15 April 2015
Wartime death honoured: family pays tribute to the uncle they never knew