To see a short clip of the Charge click on the link below
31st October is one of the most notable dates in Australian history as it commemorates the charge of the Australian Light horse at Beersheba on 31st October 1917.
At the Centenary Commemoration in Beersheba in 2017 Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu stated:
“103 years ago brave Anzac Soldiers liberated Beersheba for the sons and daughters of Abraham and opened the gateway for the Jewish people to re-enter this stage of history…brave soldiers who are buried here played a crucial role in defeating the Ottoman Empire, liberating the Holy Land and ending 400 years of Ottoman rule in one great dash.”
Remember Beersheba – Courageous Charge, Or the Hand of God? “Two aspects of Australian military history have etched themselves indelibly in the annals of Australia’s heritage: that is, the landing at Gallipoli and the Light Horse charge at Beersheba.
Beersheba: it should be noted; was a victory by Australians led by Australians, we find all the elements of what Australian folklore and true Australian nationalism is about. In 1917 General Edmund Allenby took command of the Anzac forces from General Murray…Ideally, he needed to take Jerusalem which would shake the very foundations of the then existing hierarchy and its jubilant masses. But there was much territory to be fought over before Allenby could present himself at the gates of Jerusalem.” (‘Men of Beersheba’ by Lt-Col Neil Smith).
The key to the doorway were the precious water wells of Beersheba! To put things in the proper perspective let Ion Idriess, an actual eye witness to this magnificent charge relate the strength of the Beersheba defences: “It’s the boast of the German engineers…that the redoubts of Beersheba are impregnable, and that it is ridiculous to imagine that mounted troops could destroy the infantry redoubts surrounding Beersheba….Intelligence informs us that the Turks have massed guns along the Beersheba front…. The plan is: the Anzacs must smash Beersheba. So there will be merry hell to pay. I wonder if my luck will pull me through!” Idriess continued: “Here goes for the great fight and the grandest charge of mounted men in history. English cavalry officers are now swearing it was so, anyway!…All were excited, each in his own quiet way…We were the Anzac Mounted Division, marching 25 miles from Asluj to assault Beersheba.
The Mad Aussies the ‘mad Aussies’ charged magnificently across the dusty plains, so fast that the Turkish artillery could not keep pace with them and they were able to slip under their guns. As they leapt the trenches a cheer went up from the British ranks, such was the magnificence of the feat. Although outnumbered and outgunned they charged on. Beersheba – the gateway to Jerusalem, was opened that day, not by Crusaders, Napoleon, or the British Army but by the Australian Light Horsemen! Let me quote ‘True Australian War Tales’: “The British swept towards Gaza. They stormed the city on 26 March but were thrown back by determined enemy resistance. A second attempt on 17 April also ended in failure. The Turks, with Germans of the crack Asia Corps, stood firm along a fortified line from Gaza on the coast, to Beersheba…The key to victory was Beersheba. Many nations claim to have mounted the last cavalry charge in history, but most of these actions were minor skirmishes of no real significance in the outcome of the war in which they fought. The Australian Light Horse attack on Beersheba was the last important cavalry charge in history and the last to win a resounding victory that altered the course of a war.” (And Israel).
Thunder from Down Under “The afternoon sunlight flashing on their bayonets, Australians of the 4th Light Horse Brigade made a proud sight as they spread in a khaki flood over the stony Palestine plain. The thundering hoof beats of their mounts rolled over the arid land ahead like some macabre overture ..Wearing their distinctive plumed slouch hats at a variety of jaunty angles the troopers seemed nonchalant in the face of death …Beersheba came into sight, the graceful minaret on its Mosque pointing the way to glory.
“As one, the big warhorses surged forward in a mad gallop, their hooves striking thunder from the hard-sun-dried earth. Then from within the barbed-wire-encircled town, artillery began firing. The shells roared overhead, exploding in fiery geysers amid the charging ranks. Yelling men and horses went down in tangled heaps amidst the choking smoke clouds swirling everywhere. But not even shrapnel could halt their fierce onslaught. Leaping their mounts over fallen comrades, they swept towards the Turkish line.
“Then someone shouted, pointing through the sunset towards the invisible headquarters. There, at the trot, was regiment after regiment, squadron after squadron, coming, coming! It was just half-light, they were distinct yet indistinct. The Turkish guns blazed at those hazy horsemen but they came steadily on. At two miles distant they emerged from clouds of dust, squadrons of men and horses taking shape. All the Turkish guns around Beersheba must have been directed at the menace then. Captured Turkish and German officers told us that they never dreamed that horsemen would be madmen enough to attempt rushing infantry redoubts protected by machine-guns and artillery…At a mile distance their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man – they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze – knee to knee and horse to horse – the dying sun glinting on their bayonet points.
Soon the shells were falling harmlessly behind the advancing ranks. With the first gauntlet behind them the Australian horsemen raced into the next. “From the flanks Turkish machine-guns took over the defence. More men and horses went down, but still they came on. The tough Turkish infantry had been unnerved by the seemingly invincible horde bearing down on them. Wild with fear, for they knew their foe by reputation, the Turks put up a formidable barrage in a frantic effort to stop the mounted madmen. Troopers pitched from the saddle; others had their mounts shot out from under them: and yet the suicidal charge swept on. As the horsemen galloped nearer the excited Turks forgot to lower their sights and began firing high. Bullets buzzed harmlessly over-head as the squadrons thundered across the last kilometre, jumping their mighty “walers” over the trenches.”
The rest is history. “Beersheba was in Australian hands by the time the last rays of daylight had faded from the desert sky. The deed would live on as the proud achievement of the legendary Australian Light Horsemen. These Light Horsemen were the finest mounted soldiers in history, rated better even than the Cossack or the American Plains Indian.” In fact the British Commander – General Allenby rated the Cavalry charge as one of, if not the most magnificent in history.
These ‘Aussie’ Light Horsemen had achieved what 60,000 British troops with tanks could not do. What even the Crusaders or Napoleon could not do! They had opened the doorway to Jerusalem against unbelievable odds. Jerusalem, after centuries of occupation was about to be freed! Courageous charge, or the hand of God? (From my book 800 Horsemen – Riders of Destiny).