Birbeck's Horses

A November 1918 image identified as members of the 2nd Australian Light Horse Regiment headed by Major Gilbert Birkbeck, four of their original horses

The stock inspector, Gilbert Samuel Birkbeck DSO, heads the list of 92 names on the Roll of Honour in National Trust House, the building that for a century was the head office of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock.

Born in Brisbane on 15 March 1876, GS Birkbeck was married and working in Mackay as a stock inspector at the outbreak of war in August 1914. He was also the officer commanding the 27th Light Horse Regiment (LHR). Along with 25 men from this group, the 38 year old Lieutenant Birkbeck headed for Brisbane early in September to enlist. He was posted to C Squadron of the 2nd Light Horse Australian Imperial Force (AIF), promoted to captain and embarked for Egypt.

At Gaba Tepe, Gallipoli, Captain Birkbeck was injured in the right eye and later the right arm, injuries which healed while he was on two months leave in England. Returning to the Middle East in May 1916, the now Major Birkbeck was seconded to a training regiment.

In March 1917 Major Birkbeck was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for ‘conspicuous gallantry in action. He displayed great initiative and excellent leadership in moving his squadron over most difficult country round the enemy left flank thereby materially assisting in the defeat of the enemy and preventing any escape’. Within a month he was convalescing again.

Late in 1917 Gilbert Birkbeck returned to the desert, specifically to the Desert Mounted Corps, following staff training. He was stationed at Beersheba. Thereafter, Birkbeck periodically assumed command of the regiment during the absence of its commander, Lt. Colonel GH Bourne. He returned to Australia in March 1919.

After World War 1, Gilbert Birkbeck went back to work as a stock inspector, stationed at Mackay, Gympie and then Toowoomba in the interwar years. He retained his connections to the Light Horse, as a Lieutenant-colonel commanding the 47th Batallion between 1928 and 1933. Retiring to Toowoomba in 1942, Gilbert Birkbeck died on 15 December 1947.

The Roll of Honour in National Trust House is unable to be accessed during the construction work being undertaken for the Queen’s Wharf Integrated Resort Development.

Additional Reading

Additional Image

Birbeck's letter

A copy of the letter advising Anna Jacinta Birkbeck of Mackay that her husband had been awarded the DSO.


  • Australian War Memorial B00525
  • NAA: B2455, BIRKBECK G