Topic: AIF - 1B - 1 LHR
The Battle of Beersheba
Palestine, 31 October 1917
1st LHR, AIF, Unit History Account
PV Vernon's 1985 centenary celebration of the Royal New South Wales Lancers included a section on the work performed by the 1st Light Horse Regiment during the Great War. The pages specifically related to the battle of Beersheba are extracted below.Vernon, PV, editor, The Royal New South Wales Lancers 1885-1985, (Sydney 1986), pp 130-1
PALISTINE AND THE JORDAN VALLEY: OCTOBER 1917-MARCH 1918
THE regiment left the beach on October 24 and marched with the brigade to Fukhari, where Captain M. E. Wright rejoined from duty at Anzac Mounted Division headquarters. Next day the movement was resumed and after passing Esani and Khalasa, Asluj was reached on the night of October 29-30. At Asluj Regimental Sergeant-Major J. R. Wright and Squadron Sergeant. Major A. I. McDonald were promoted to commissioned rank.
The 2nd Light Horse Brigade was covering Asluj until 6 am, on October 30, when 2nd Lieutenant J. R. Wright and 12 other ranks relieved them on their clay observation post. One troop under Lieutenant Frost was detailed as escort to "B" Echelon transport, and 2nd Lieutenant Parbury and 40 other ranks were detailed as a working party with engineers developing the water supply. The regiment less the two troops left Asluj at 5.30 p.m. and, after watering, joined the brigade near Asluj railway station, which was the rendezvous of the Anzac Mounted Division prior to its advance against Beersheba. After a long night march, the high ground east of and overlooking Beersheba was reached at dawn and orders were issued to the 1st Brigade to attack Tel el Saba, the 2nd and 3rd L.H. being detailed to initiate the attack, while the 1st L.H. was held in reserve. At 10.30 a.m. the regiment was detailed to take up a position on the left flank of the Inverness Battery, which had come into position a mile southeast of Saba, near Khurbet el Watan. The advanced troops were heavily shelled, and all led horses had to be taken back some distance to the broken ground. Lieutenant Wright, with two sections, carried out a very daring reconnaissance of the enemy's position in Wady Saba, bringing back much valuable information. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles materially assisted the attack by a flanking movement from the north, and Tel el Saba was occupied at 3 p.m.
At 4.10 p.m. the regiment received orders to attack the town of Beersheba on the line Hill 970 to the mosque in the town, both inclusive; this line, which was on the northern side of the
town, was made good just after dark. Before the order to attack had been received, however, the position generally had become grave. The enemy, though driven off Saba, was still strong south of the town and stronger north of it. Only a few hours of daylight were left, and the possession of the wells in the town was imperative, for both the infantry and the cavalry. It was neck or nothing, and General Chauvel ordered that Brigadier-General Grant's 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade should make a mounted attack on the trenches on the south-east. At 4.30 p.m. the 4th and 12th Regiments commenced their famous charge. Within an hour Beersheba had been entered, the lightning attack so disorganising and demoralising the Turks that the opposition to the 1st Light Horse Brigade, on the north, failed.
The regiment, strengthening the position, sat tight all night. "A" Squadron under Major White and "B" under Captain Kater held the outpost line, with two troops of "C" Squadron, under Captain Mack, in reserve. A few enemy cavalry approached during the night, but retired on being fired on, at least one of their number being killed. The regiment had taken 90 prisoners, including 11 officers, at the small cost in casualties of two killed (including the R.S.M, P. J. Lenehan) and one wounded. The "A" Echelon transport had had a bad time, two enemy 'planes dropping bombs which killed one other rank and wounded 2nd Lieutenant W. G. Drummond and eight other ranks, while 17 draught horses and five riding horses were killed. Within a few days the infantry had broken the Turkish line at Sheria and, again, between Gaza and the sea. This blow was the opening gambit in the great cavalry drive up the Philistine Plain to Jaffa.
On the morning of November 1, officers' patrols under Lieutenants James, Edwards, Guthrie and Gray were sent forward at 4 a.m. to the front and reported all clear by 6 a.m. Guides went back to escort the camel convoy which arrived at the south side of Beersheba during the afternoon, and at midday the unit was relieved by infantry and moved to a new bivouac site, 1,000 yards east of Beersheba. The weather was wet. The transport with "A" Echelon reached camp at 6 p.m. with horses obtained from other units, as so many had been killed. During the afternoon 20 men under Lieutenant Otton were employed digging graves and 20 more under Lieutenant Parbury were detailed to guard the prisoners.
Citation: The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 1st LHR, AIF, Unit History Account