At the Battle of Romani on 4 August 1916, two sand-carts of the 2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance were sent to bring in severely wounded men from an exposed part of the line. On the return journey a Turkish battery fired at them, whereupon the horses immediately tried to break into a gallop. The corporal, remembering the wounded, signalled ‘walk’ and, galloping to the head of the party, helped to steady the teams.
The horses resumed the regulation pace, and the enemy gunners, apparently recognising their mission, turned their fire elsewhere. The corporal and drivers were awarded the Military Medal for their gallant behaviour.
Lambert portrayed the moment when the four horses pulling the two-wheeled ambulance cart break into a gallop, with dust flying up behind them and a rider galloping up beside the cart to pull them up.
This painting was commissioned in 1919 by the 2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance in Palestine for £100, to be painted as soon as Lambert was released from his official war art contract. On 18 June 1919 Lambert wrote to Amy from Palestine, telling her about this commission and that he found it ‘very interesting’ (ML MSS 97/4, item 1, p.165). The heroic incident was re-enacted at Kantara after Lambert arrived there in 1919 to enable him to make sketches of the event. He began work on the canvas on his return to London, and it was delivered to Australia House in January 1921, to be shipped to Australia. The initials A.R.A. appended to his signature indicate that the painting was completed after Lambert was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in November 1922.
In its subject of a team of horses pulling a wagon, this painting resembles Lambert’s early icon Across the black soil plains (cat.9), but in the way he captured the movement of the horses and the action of the event it reveals the skills he had gained in the intervening years.