Brigadier General John Royston


Royston was a South African, born 29th April, 1860 at Durban. He saw action in the Zulu War of 1879 and was a Sergeant, Natal Mounted Rifles by 1884.  His outstanding service led to a commission as Lieutenant.

Royston’s promotion to Captain came in 1901, when he took on leadership of the Australian troops in the 5th and 6th contingents of the Western Australian Mounted Infantry. In 1902 he was awarded the DSO and CMG. In the Zulu rebellion of 1906, he formed and led ‘Royston’s Horse’, cavalrymen who were mostly Australians. In 1911 he became the special aide-de-camp to Lord Kitchener.

At the beginning of W.W.I, Royston spent time fighting against pro- German rebels and German troops in South Africa. He became Colonel of the 12th Light Horse Regiment A.I.F. and was at the battle of Romani. Royston well and truly earned his nickname of ‘Galloping Jack’, as it is said that he rode fourteen horses to exhaustion that day. He sustained a gunshot wound to the leg, yet was seen, half-applied bandage trailing behind him, galloping off to re-join the fighting. Apparently the bullet remained in his leg for the rest of his life.

Later at the Battle of Magdhaba, Royston confronted a group of Turkish soldiers who surrendered to a man fiercely shaking a riding cane and ordering them to “Hands Up!”

 Just before the battle of Beersheba in October 1917, Royston was suddenly repatriated to hospital in London: it was claimed by Banjo Paterson that Royston had inhaled poison gas hoping that his experience would somehow assist his men to recognize its effects. Sadly the consequence of his sacrifice was that he was unable to ever return to his beloved Australian troops in action. In 1934 at the opening of Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance, Royston received a hero’s welcome as would befit any Australian-born soldier.

He passed away at Durban on 25th April,1942 ; a great and triumphant soldier was lost to the world. Banjo Patterson writes:

“Where’s General Royston? Where’s General Royston?” An army signaller who was eating  his dinner out of  a tin of  Bully-beef  in the shade of  his horse, stopped chewing for a moment and pointed to the Turkish lines: “I last seen him (bite) gallopin’ up that gully (chew) after two Turks (swallow).”

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