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Saturday, 11 October 2008
The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 3rd LHFA, AIF, Unit History Account
Topic: AIF - 3B - 3 LHFA

The Battle of Beersheba

Palestine, 31 October 1917

3rd LHFA, AIF, Unit History Account 

 

3rd LHFA camp in Wadi Saba, 1 November 1917

 

Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Eugene Macdonald Stuart produced a unit history of the 3rd Light Horse Field Ambulance, AIF, in which included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and extracted below.

Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Eugene Macdonald Stuart, 3rd Australian Light Horse Field Ambulance from Formation to March 1919,  pp. 48 - 50:

 

Chapter 11 - BEERSHEBA.

BEERSHEBA OPERATIONS.


[48] On October 27th. 1917 the cacolet camel detachment consisting of 12 sitting and 8 lying cacolets (making a total carrying capacity of 40) moved out from SHELLAL to join a similar detachment from the 4th. L.H.F. Amb. The O.C. 73rd. Austn. Dental Unit took charge of the column which moved to ESANI, reaching there at 0300 on the 28th. The camels were camped during the hotter portion of the day and a further move was made to KHALASSA at 1600 which was reached at 0200 on the 29th. Although very little experience of camel transport work was possessed by the officer and 2 N.C.OS, in charge, they had learnt during the SINAI campaign that camels invariably travel freer at and after sundown so this method was adopted as soon as possible in order that the strength of the none too fit camels should be preserved.

On the 28th. the unit moved out from SHELLAL with the 3rd. Bde. at 1530. The bearers, ambulance sandcarts and tent division on riding camels with three natives on donkeys moved with the main column. The Q.M.S. with one limber and two assistants reported to B. ECHELON for supply purposes. An account of the doings of this part appear in the appendix "SUPPLIES". The maltese cart, limber and water cart reported to and travelled with A. Echelon.

A halt was ordered at 1700 near GAMLI where the horses were fed up and the men partook of a snack. Nearly all the men had provided themselves with small bundles of deal and billycans made from preserved fruit tins. In a few minutes hundreds of tiny fires were going in order to make tea. At 1730 and order was passed down to get ready to move and only fifteen mins. would be allowed before all fires, pipes and cigarettes must be extinguished. It might be here said that native drivers were not used on the transport as their behaviour under fire had yet to be proved hence all the sandcarts were driven by white drivers.

At 2130 ESANI was reached where the Brigade bivouaced for the night. Several patients were evacuated from here by sandcarts to the Anzac Rec. Stn. situated at RASHID BEK. On the 29th. the unit moved to KHALASSA arriving there at 2100. These night moves were tiring to the men for very little rest was obtained in the day time owing to evacuations &c. The weather was very hot, flies extremely troublesome and water for ablution purposes hard to obtain.

On arrival at KHALASSA horse lines had to be put down and a stable picquet posted for the night. On the 30th. the Brigade moved out about 1800 in the direction ofASLUJ. Prior to moving off the C.O. addressed the parade telling them that a strenuous night and day was to follow. The column pushed on towards ASLUJ, the night was very cold and very little dust was caused. ASLUJ was reached at 2200 where the horses were watered. Watering two thousand horses in the darkness at unknown troughs usually leads to confusion but the job was finished in good time and the column moved off again along the road designated N.N. on [49] the military maps. A short halt was ordered at midnight and all ranks availed themselves of this opportunity for a short sleep. At 0200 the unit was again on the move and EL SHEGEIB was reached about 0800.
The camel cacolet section had pushed on from KHALASSA to ASLUJ on the night of the 29th., bivouacking there all day and moving on again at nightfall. The O.C. of this party was anxious to keep ahead as long as possible in order to keep in touch with the faster moving horse units. By adopting this method the camels arrived at EL SHEGEIB almost simultaneously with the Brigade. During the short stay at EL SHEGEIB horsemen seized the opportunity of collecting tibbin from heaps in the vicinity. Poles of carts were dropped but horses remained harnessed and in position. Some of the riding camels were showing signs of fatigue as the pace right through from SHELLAL had been a little too warm for them. This brought trouble to the riders as they were in unknown country and it was necessary at all costs to keep in touch with the main column.

On the 31st October the unit left EL SHEGEIB at 1030 and proceeded over very heavy ground and up steep ascents over the hills near KASHIN ZANNA. A halt was made at mid-day and the horses fed up, and several patients (sick) were transferred to the 4th. L.H.F.Amb. Several short moves were made to keep in touch with the Brigade which was manoeuvring prior to supporting the Anzac Div. When moving over the sky line at KASHIN ZANNA the brigade drew shell fire from a battery of .77s causing casualties 4 in number (1 officer, fatal and 3 0/Ranks).

Three sand carts with four bearers to act as guides were posted with each R.M.O. while 3 carts were held in reserve. The tent division reported to the N.Z. F.Amb. Dressing Station. During these movements the area was bombed by hostile aircraft, one bearer had a very narrow escape and had to be admitted to hospital the following day suffering from shell shock.
Several tent division camels now definitely knocked up and on crossing some high ground were shelled by the enemy. The camels refused to increase their pace but luckily no damage was done.

Sandcarts collected wounded from the Brigade and conveyed them to the Anzac Dressing Stn. Later the sandcarts but not the bearers concentrated at WADI EL SABA. Certain of the sandcarts were busy throughout the night collecting casualties the result of the bombing of the 3rd. Bde. and transport at 1800 which caused 30 casualties.

The tent division moved on to the 1st. L.H.F.A. dressing station one mile East of BEERSHEBA at 1700. Orders to rest and proceed at dawn to BEERSHEBA and take over the Turkish hospital were received. This party reported'to the D.A.D.M.S. AUSDIV. at the town hall building, BEERSHEBA but owing to the personnel of the Ausdiv Rec. Stn. arriving by motors from ASLUJ their services were not required. They then rejoined the unit which was camped just on the outskirts of town. Here the camels and horses were watered and a supply of tibbin was obtained from an abandoned Turkish dump. From here all the transport for the conveyance of wounded, including camel cacolets, was sent back to KASHIN ZANNA to collect the wounded from the hills. Portion of the camel section brought in the bodies of those [50] who had been killed or had died from wounds the previous day. All the wounded brought in were evacuated to the Ausdiv Rec. Station.

November 1st. was exceedingly windy, dusty and hot and the men improvised small shelters and seized the opportunity of washing in water obtained from WADI EL SABA. All endeavoured to cook a hot meal but the wind and dust made this difficult. Bully beef, onions etc. were in most cases turned into a palatable meal. Several days on cold or sun heated bully causes one to appreciate a hot meal of any kind.

Towards evening the wind abated and all ranks obtained water and indulged in cooling baths. About this time a hostile plane bombed the 4th. L.H.F.A. camped only a few chain away from us. Some of our personnel narrowly escaped being wounded but the 4th. were not so fortunate, several casualties occurred among them.

 

Further Reading:

3rd Light Horse Field Ambulance

The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917

Australian and New Zealand Roll of Honour

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920



Citation: The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 3rd LHFA, AIF, Unit History Account

Posted by Project Leader at 5:29 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 4 October 2009 9:15 AM EADT

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