Aug 27, 2008

Battle of Beersheba – Charge of the Light Horsemen



The Australian Light Horse
Australian Light Horse were mounted troops with characteristics of both cavalry and mounted infantry. They served during the Second Boer War and World War I. The “Mounted Service Manual for Australian Light Horse and Mounted Infantry” was authorised for publication by Major General ETH Hutton in July 1902 in which it stated the Light Horse had the following responsibilities;
• Fight on foot in the offensive and defensive;
• Perform duties classified as information gathering and reconnaissance and screening;
• Afford “protection” from surprise for all bodies of troops both halted and on the march
Australian Light Horse were like mounted infantry in that they usually fought dismounted using horse holders to increase mobility. To engage with their enemy the light horsemen would dismount and hand their reins to a horse holder who would direct the horses away from the combat area. A highly skilled horse holder could handle as many as 5 extra horses. A famous exception to this rule though was the charge of the 4th and 12th Light Horse Regiments at Beersheba on 31 October 1917.

The Capture of Beersheba
From the crest, Beersheba, with its Mosque in patent view, offered the most desirable treasure, the ancient wells of water. Between them lay the enemy defences. Beersheba was a southern outpost of Turkey’s Ottoman Empire, today it is a city in Israel. It was defended by Turks, who were Imperial Germany’s eastern allies. The mission was to secure the 17 water wells of Beersheba as water was vital for the welfare of the desert mounted corps and their horses, many of whom had been without
water for several days. Without this attack the whole Sinai and Palestine campaign would seize and the Gaza Beersheba line would remain unbroken. A conquest over the Turks would help avenge the defeat of Gallipoli. Behind a ridge overlooking Beersheba the 4th (Victorian) and 12th (New South Wales) regiments formed what was soon to be a thundering line of charging Light Horsemen who would be followed by a second and then third squadron.

The Last Successful Charge
On 31 October 1917 the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade charged more than four miles at the Turkish trenches with
force and power not to be reckoned with. This battle is now said to be ‘The Last Successful Cavalry Charge In History’. Just on sunset the ‘crazed’ charge began. In an atmosphere of urgency every man knew that only a wild and frantic charge could grasp Beersheba before nightfall. They deployed at a trot in artillery formation leaving five yards between horsemen and five hundred yards between squadrons, they quickened into a gallop. As the trenches neared, 800 Aussie Horsemen swore, yelled and waived bayonets around their heads. The Turks opened fire with heavy artillery, machine gun and rifle fire; this however only intensified the speed of the charge. The bewildered enemy taken back by the sheer audacity and roar of 800 horses were soon firing aimlessly as they had failed to adjust the
sights on their rifles and the clouds of dust made selecting targets near impossible. The 4th took the trenches and the 12th rode straight through an opening into the town of Beersheba. The conflict at the trenches was to only last for a very short time, some Turks surrendered, some fled into the nearby Judean Hills and were pursued and others refused to give up until large numbers had been bayoneted or shot. In less than one hour it was over, with a total of 738 prisoners taken.

Charge of the 800
The heroics at Gallipoli is one of the ANZACS best known battles in military history, yet the Battle of Beersheba, is one of Australia’s greatest military triumphs. Armed with their greatest weapon of sheer bloody audacity 800 ANZACS defeated 4,000 Turks and against fearful odds losses were 31 dead, 36 wounded and 70 horses killed. This remarkable and decisive victory changed the history of the Middle East and helped create The Australian Light Horse Legend. The 4th Light Horse Brigade charged over the Turkish trenches and into immortality.

Lest we Forget
Limited Edition of 1917

Framed item $350 + $35 S&H.

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