Battle of Beersheba

October 31, 2018

On 31 October 1917, the all-day Battle of Beersheba (now in southern Israel) occurred which, as the final phase, included the famous mounted charge of the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade into the fortified town to capture this German-led Ottoman Turk stronghold of World War I.

The battle was Australia’s first great victory of WWI, and all off the back of the history's last cavalry charge - arguably, history’s greatest (see further details below).

The sheer speed of the charge, number of skilled horsemen involved and its shock value on the enemy was the basis of the success. It ensured that the small town was left largely intact and not looted, booby-trapped and/or destroyed by the fleeing vanquished.

It was a turning point in the three-year Palestine campaign of WWI – cracked open by country-Aussie ingenuity and extreme gallantry. Once Beersheba was conquered and secured, the broader forces of the British Empire were able to soon break the line near Gaza, defeat the occupying forces of the Ottoman and German Empires in the region, take control of it, secure the Suez Canal and enable the Balfour Declaration (which, two days later, proposed a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, realised three decades later).

Celebrate/commemorate the anniversary of this battle and amazing cavalry charge (the 100th anniversary of which was last year) by:

  • watching the 1987 movie, “The Lighthorsemen” (excerpt of the great charge embedded below)
  • [if you are in/near Canberra] visiting the Australian War Memorial and taking in the Beersheba and other WWI battle displays
  • [if you are in/near Melbourne or Hamilton, Victoria] visiting the monuments there in honour of the battle and the gallant horsemen
  • viewing these clips on the events of Beersheba and their significance
  • reading further about the battle and its historical context
  • having a meal and/or a drink down at your local Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) Club and paying respects to the men and women who have served our country and are doing so now
  • following the Royal Australian ArmyAir Force and/or Navy on Facebook to show your support for our land, air and sea defences (but without painting the nail of your pinky (finger) pink), and/or
  • sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, veterans, conservatives, anti-nihilists, fellow proud Aussie patriots and those that still think our borders, national interests, values, freedoms, culture and way of life are worth fighting for.

Further details of the Battle of Beersheba

Beersheba was a desert town in what is now southern Israel, about 50 kms east of Gaza. It was strategically important due to its fresh water (the only source in the region) and its proximity to the Suez Canal. The Ottoman Turks had fortified the town, surrounding it with trenches and securing them with barbed wire on all sides besides the east (as only “madmen” would try to attack from the east - or so the Turks thought).

The charge involved 800 horsemen – all enlisted young male volunteers (stockmen, ringers, jackaroos and bushmen with their own Aussie outback-trained horses) from country NSW and Victoria – and all out of water from their days in the desert, with thus dangerously little to lose. On horseback, with bayonets in rifles, they gallantly charged the town’s eastern flank at dusk amid Turkish artillery fire, leapt over the unwired trenches and fought the enemy troops inside the town, all before those that fled could take their stores and weapons or sabotage the town as they left.

Around 31 light horsemen were killed in the charge, with 36 wounded. (Over 70 horses died.) The Ottoman Turks suffered many more casualties (500 killed) and over 700 troops (some say up to 1,500) were captured.

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