It's horses for courses in Danette's 'K' Troop debut

March 14, 2001

LACW Danette Brown, astride Snowy, takes a break with fellow 'K' Troop members Charlie Reddy and PTE Michael Graham (ADFRO) during the Australian War Memorial Open Day. (Photograph by CPL Mark Eaton.

'Fabulous' and 'outstanding' were just two superlatives used by Leading Aircraftwoman Danette Brown to describe her first experience as part of 'K' Troop, a mounted regiment famous for parading at ceremonies and special events across the country.

Danette was one of six 'K' Troop riders who took part in Australian War Memorial Open Day celebrations on Saturday, 16 February.

And after her first official event aboard one of 'K' Troop's highly trained mounts, she can't wait to be part of more events in the future.

'It was the most amazing first experience, something I definitely want to do again,' she said.

Fine weather drew big crowds to the Open Day, and the members of 'K' Troop, who were decked out in authentic Boer War uniforms, proved popular with young and old alike.

'Kids were patting the horses and pulling their tails, and we had a lot of adults and old diggers approach us throughout the day,' Danette said.

She said the horses behaved themselves impeccably, even when a Seahawk helicopter landed in their vicinity.

Danette was the sole female rider on the day and was paired with fellow RAAFie, Flying Officer Neil Foate, whose advice and experience proved invaluable.

'You're always nervous when you're doing something for the first time so it was great to have him nearby,' LACW Brown said.

'K' Troop New South Wales Lancers was raised in 1891 at Parramatta, and some of its men, together with those of the other Lancer Troops, were the first Australians in action in 1899 in the Boer War.

Their successors fought as Light Horsemen in World War I and as a Matilda Tank Regiment in World War II.

And if you think a RAAFie seems a little out of place on horseback, think again.

There is a strong historical link between our mounted troops and the Air Force.

According to Troop Leader, Captain Mike Fitzgerald, some of Australia's original mounted troops, the Lighthorse Brigade, provided a significant crop of officers who went on to become 'famous' flyers, including Ross Smith and the legendary Charles Kingsford-Smith.

'K' Troop was officially reformed in 1987 as a Ceremonial Mounted Troop manned by serving Defence Force members, who all ride as volunteers.

While primarily a NSW Lancer Troop, the uniforms, weapons and equipment paraded represent Federation-period permanent Mounted Units from every state.

Since reforming, 'K' Troop has completed over 200 parades and ceremonies, and has paraded at a number of important and historically significant events.

It had the distinguished honour of providing a mounted escort to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1993, took part in the Royal Salute to Prince Charles in 1994 and performed in the Centenary of the Australian Army Parade last year.

'K' Troop has also paraded for ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day commemorations, Reserve Forces Day parades, Ministerial and Vice-Regal escorts, Air Force Open Days and numerous other parades and activities.

By Ben Caddaye