Ref Adapted from a story by Darryl Kelly in Just Soldiers.
Trooper Sloan Bolton or ‘Scotty’ as he preferred to be called was an engine driver from Geelong in Victoria when World War 1 broke out. He volunteered to serve and eventually ended up in the 4th Light Horse Regiment. He was shipped off to Cairo and ended up in Gallipoli serving as infantry in early June 1915. In the trenches dysentery and diarrhea were rife. He fell sick but was loathe to abandon his mates and battled on till late August when he was finally evacuated to hospital in Alexandria in Egypt. He rejoined his regiment in early January 1916 only to fall sick again with mumps a few days later.
Before he could see action that year, he was once again in hospital, this time with malaria. By the time he was released, the unsuccessful attacks on Gaza had taken place and preparations were now taking place for the march to Beersheba. The 4th Light Horse Regiment was held in reserve for most of the 31st October, 1917, but were called upon late in the afternoon for the charge. Two regiments of 400 men each were to charge straight into the full face of over 4,000 Turkish entrenched soldiers with 28 field guns and a mass of machine guns.
Bolton was riding ‘Monty’ that day and at one stage in the charge, his horse nearly fell almost throwing Bolton off, and he was later to discover that a bullet had just missed his leg but gouged the horse’s rump. Bolton and Monty leaped over the first row of trenches, lashed at 2 Turks in the second with his bayonet and galloped into town. He saw a Turkish soldier heading for a house. Bolton kicked him to the ground and grabbed his revolver. At that point, a well exploded, then another. He saw wires on the ground leading into a building. Looking through the windows he saw a German officer at a switchboard wired to detonate all the wells. Bolton jumped from his horse and burst into the room pointing the revolver at the officer. His mate, Trooper Ray Hudson, joined him and took the officer prisoner, thus saving most of the wells intact.
As he came out of the building he saw a German officer leading six men and Turkish field gun, escaping town. He took off in pursuit and ordered the officer to stop, which was ignored. He took aim but the revolver was empty. He then pushed the revolver into the face of the officer and knocked him to the ground. He grabbed the reins of the lead horse and stopped the escapees, keeping them bluffed with his empty gun until help could arrive. He headed back to town and collected about 25 more Turkish prisoners on the way. For his bravery he was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal.
He was involved in March and April 1918 with the attacks on Es-Salt and Amman. As part of this operation he was caught in an explosion as they pursued the retreating Turks. He fell to the ground and crawled behind a rock with badly bleeding, mangled legs. He cried out for help as he felt his life ebbing away. A mate came to his aid as he fell unconscious. For days his life hung in the balance.
When he recovered consciousness, he found himself in hospital in El Arish. An Australian nursing sister attended him and she sadly broke the news that he had lost both legs. He was repatriated to hospital in Melbourne where he was given artificial legs. Despite several setbacks with gangrene, his determination was bolstered when the pretty nurse from El Arish hospital paid him a visit. Their affection grew and Scotty finally walked out of the hospital. In 1922, he married Elsie and settled in the Geelong area. They bred cattle and produced a champion Jersey bull for the Melbourne Show of 1934. Scotty battled with health problems during the Depression and died in December 1947. About six months later, the homestead was engulfed in flames and his medals were destroyed. Elsie tried to get replacements but was turned down. In 1970, Bolton’s 10 year-old granddaughter wrote to the Queen who was to visit Australia. This time, they were replaced.
The 1987 Light Horsemen movie is based on the story of 4 soldiers including Scotty Bolton. Jon Blake who stars in the movie was on his way home to Adelaide after completing the film and was involved in a tragic car accident that cut his career short and left him with severe head injuries and brain damage.
Scotty’s story is typical of the determination, courage, mateship and sacrifice that made the ANZACs a legend and enabled them to break through impossible odds to achieve a victory that no one thought possible. The ‘last great cavalry charge in history’, as the Beersheba victory has become known in military history, is a testimony of what can be accomplished by a couple of outnumbered regiments of dedicated soldiers determined to fight to the end.
- Bolton and Monty https://anzacday.org.au/trooper-sloan-scotty-bolton-dcm
- Captured Turkish artillery at Beersheba. Australian War Memorial photo AWM H01373
- Scotty and Elsie wedding photo https://anzacday.org.au/trooper-sloan-scotty-bolton-dcm