Commemorating 100 years since the charge of Beersheba

Australia commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba this week.
Australia commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba this week.

October 31 marked one hundred years since the last great mounted charge was carried out by the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba (Palestine) on October 31, 1917.

The capture of this strategic town was the turning point in the British campaign to expel the Turkish Ottoman Empire which had ruled the Middle East for 400 years.

Most of the troops were from the country and the volunteers from the Boorowa area were in the seventh Light Horse Regiment which was part of the 2nd Brigade commanded by Major General Granville Ryrie. 

Margie Arnott’s father, Trooper Mark Lamond (Nowra) enlisted at sixteen and was in the 7th Regiment. Some Boorowa area names were Williams, Willsallen and Knight-Gregson.

After thwarting the Turkish attack at Romani in August 1916 the Light Horse brigades advanced with victories at Magdhaba and Rafa, but were twice beaten at Gaza. There followed plans to capture Beersheba which would allow for another attempt at Gaza.

At this point it was vital to capture the 17 wells at Beersheba as the troops were running out of water for their horses and themselves.

The night before the attack troops and horses had a dusty ride of 48 miles to arrive at a striking point. This was when the second Brigade was sent to systematically capture strategic Turkish positions around Beersheba.

There had been bitter fighting all day on October 31 and in the afternoon time was running out to attack before dark.

Major General Chauvel asked Brigadier William Grant of the 4th Brigade to mount a charge of the 4th Regiment (Victoria) and the 12th Regiment (NSW) with the 11th on outpost duty. He ordered them to charge cavalry style.  

Approximately 800 men and horses assembled behind some rising ground, and began the advance around 4.30pm.

The momentum of the surprise attack caused the Turks not to have time to lower their sights and the shells burst behind the Australians.

The battle was over in less than an hour, the wells were cleared and there was water for men and horses. Thirty one men killed, thirty six wounded, seventy horses killed and an unknown number wounded, and 738 prisoners taken.  

Gaza fell the next week and the ALH continued north to engage in many hard won victories across the Holy Land, until the capture of Damascus and the Turks surrender at Allepo and the Armistice signed on October 30, 1918 and enacted on October 31, 1918.

Tribute must be paid to the men and their faithful horses who carried them until the victorious end.