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Sunday, 12 October 2008
The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 8th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account
Topic: AIF - 3B - 8 LHR

 The Battle of Beersheba

Palestine, 31 October 1917

8th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

 

Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Cecil Maygar, VC, Killed in Action at Beersheba

 

Captain Thomas Sidney Austin produced a unit history called The history of the 8th Light Horse Regiment A.I.F. which included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below.


Austin, TS, The history of the 8th Light Horse Regiment A.I.F. :   


BeershebaThe 28th proved a busy Sunday. By 1200 the camp was dismantled and the Regiment all packed and ready to move on the Beersheba offensive. Our first job proved to act as escort to the main convoy to Khalasa and at 1500 that afternoon the foot of Tel el Fara presented a wonderful scene. Parks of supply wagons, ammunition limbers, and guns were formed up in the vicinity, covering acres of ground. Busy staff officers and horsemen were to be seen galloping hither and thither giving orders and sorting the many different units into their respective places in the column. This convoy is probably the record convoy of the war. It carried all the supplies and materials to be used by the Mounted Divisions in their attack on the east and S.E. side of Beersheba - a brilliant stroke which did much to crown with success the first of General Allenby's offensive in Palestine.

The column got safely started by 1700 on the road to Esani, 8 miles distant and which was to be our first halting place. As the wagons strung out the column covered a length of 6 miles, there being 307 4 wheeled vehicles, besides innumerable horses, pack mules and donkeys and the head of the column was almost at Esani before the rear had got clear of the Wadi Ghuzze. Thanks for a very bright moon, everything went off without a hitch. On reaching Esani fresh orders were received and the column was broken up, "B" Squadron going on to Khalasa with a large portion whilst the rest of the Regiment went in to bivouac near Tel Itweil. On the 29th. Brig. General Wilson assumed command of the Brigade and Lieut. Col. Maygar rejoined the Regiment.

Four N.C.O's were granted commissions to complete establishment, namely:- Sgt. C.G.T. Williams, Sgt. H.A. Patterson, Sgt. E.M. Jenner and L/Cpl. F. Moore. The Brigade moved on to Khalasa at 1700 and reached there at 2230. Horses were watered and "B" Squadron rejoined. The Regiment received orders to report to Anzac Mounted Division at Asluj before 0500 on the 30th. and our trek was resumed for that place. Asluj was reached in darkness at 0400 and after reporting to Headquarters there a bivouac site was selected on the North side of
the town near the railway station. A spell was made up to 1700 when the Regiment joined the Divisional column in its march to the east of Beersheba, When just North of Iswaiwan, the Regiment branched off and though not in touch again came under the command of the Australian Mounted Division. By 0700 on the 31st. we had taken up the line running through points 1210, 1180, and 1280 (Sq.Q) which were our place in the dispositions for the attack on the town which could be plainly seen about 3 miles to the N.W. Ras Ghannam redoubt which appeared very strongly held was about 1500 yards directly West. We were linked with the 7th. Mounted Brigade who were some distance to the South of this redoubt, and on our left, whilst on our right were the N.Z.M.R. extending towards Khashim Zanna.

The line advanced slightly but was ordered not to go further forward as the rest of Australian Mounted Division would be up in the afternoon. Patrols were thrown out in endeavours to gain information and a good deal of fire was exchanged between both side. Our casualties were light, 1 man and 1 horse being killed. Meanwhile the attack on our right was developing and concentrating an Tel el Saba, a feature in the Wadi bed about 2 miles due East of the town. This place which was very strongly held fell to the New Zealanders and the 1st. Light Horse Brigade at 1800 after a very determined and bloody fight. Its fall helped very greatly in the capture of other redoubts, The 4th Brigade took over the line held by the Regiment at 1600, and soon after from here made their magnificent charge over the trenches and captured the town and many prisoners. The Regiment was ordered to report to Desert Mounted Corps Headquarters at the rear of Khassim Zanna and arrived there at 1730. Just then 2 enemy aeroplanes swooped down and as there were very many troops and transport vehicles concentrated there a good target presented itself to them and of which they took full toll. At a very low altitude, they bombed and machine gunned assn .mod horses, causing a large number of casualties to our side. Lieut Col. Maygar was seriously wounded by a bomb bursting almost under him, and his horse, also wounded, bolted into the darkness and confusion and we never saw the Colonel again. After much searching his horse was found covered in blood and news was obtained that the Colonel had been got safely to hospital, though he succumbed at Karm two days later. Capt. Sproat and 2 Other Ranks ware also hit, while 2 horses were killed. Neighbouring Units suffered much more heavily.

Major McLaurin took command and the Regiment moved in the darkness to the wadi near Bir Haman, where the houses were watered. The 3rd. Brigade was picked up by the flash at a signal lamp and after an hours spell we moved to a bivouac about a mile east of Tel el Saba. At dawn the next morning enemy aeroplanes again raided, but the horses had been scattered over a wide area and presented poor bombing targets. Luckily the men were standing to arms at the time and rear quickly formed into position where good fire control was obtained on the machines. One machine flying extremely low was caught by a terrific burst of fire and subsequently fell among the hills just to the north, the pilot being found dead.

Orders ware received from BHQ to gain up and this was done by 0800 at new site half a mile west of the Tel. A good days rest was enjoyed here, the horses obtaining a plentiful supply of water and the men fresh rations.

 

 

Further Reading:

8th Light Horse Regiment, AIF

8th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Roll of Honour

The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920



Citation: The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 8th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

Posted by Project Leader at 6:47 PM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 3 October 2009 10:22 AM EADT
The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 6th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account
Topic: AIF - 2B - 6 LHR

The Battle of Beersheba

Palestine, 31 October 1917

6th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

 

Watering horses on Beersheba Hebron Road
 
[From: Berrie, Under Furred Hats, plate facing p. 111.]


Lieutenant George Lachlan Berrie produced a unit history published in 1919 called Under Furred Hats (6th ALH Regt) which included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below.

Berrie, GL, Under Furred Hats (6th ALH Regt), (Sydney 1919), p. 110:   

 

Chapter V

The Promised Land

For five days the Regiment remained at Asluj cleaning out wells which had been blown in by the enemy. This work proceeded in shifts day and night and was undoubtedly one of the most arduous undertakings the Regiment ever accomplished. The water supply available was so small that a large number of horses had to be sent back to Khalasa. In addition we found day patrols to various points and night outposts around the camp area.

On the night of the 30th, the Regiment moved out to take its part in the flanking movement around Beersheba. The country travelled over was very difficult, hilly and stony, but by daylight the flanking movement was complete. Reconnaissance was carried out towards Sakaty, and that night outpost positions were taken up astride the Beersheba-Hebron Road. The water supply in this locality was almost non-existent, save for a few Bedouin underground reservoirs and a scanty surface supply in the wadis, the latter due to a providential storm a few days previously.

On the 2nd November the Regiment moved out along the Hebron Road to the Dhaheriyeh Hills,, and were held up by strong forces of the enemy and by snipers in impregnable spots about 12 miles from Beersheba.. Till the 6th inst. a very unequal warfare continued in rough country, the difficulty of water supply for both horses and men, the heat by day, and the continuous night outpost work, was very trying to all ranks.

 

Further Reading:

6th Light Horse Regiment, AIF

6th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Roll of Honour

The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920



Citation: The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 6th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

Posted by Project Leader at 5:57 PM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 3 October 2009 10:27 AM EADT
The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 5th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account
Topic: AIF - 2B - 5 LHR

The Battle of Beersheba

Palestine, 31 October 1917

5th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

 

5th Light Horse Regiment on the march


Brigadier General Lachlan Chisholm Wilson and Captain Henry Wetherell, collaborated to produce a unit history published in 1926 called History Of The Fifth Light Horse Regiment, 1914 - 1919 which included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below. A copy of this book is available on the Lost Leaders of Anzacs website.

Wilson, L.C. and Wetherell, H., History Of The Fifth Light Horse Regiment, 1914 - 1919, Motor Press, Sydney, 1926, pp 127-8:

   

PART II. By CAPTAIN H. WETHERELL.

CHAPTER 30. BEERSHEBA TO JERUSALEM. (October to December, 1917)

[127] On the departure of Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson, Lieutenant-Colonel D. C. Cameron took over the command.

The plan for the attack on Beersheba on October 31st, 1917, was briefly as follows:-The 60th and 74th Infantry Divisions were to attack the outer defences on the west and south-west and, having captured them, were to hold the high ground west of the town. Meanwhile, the Anzac and the Australian Mounted Divisions, starting respectively from Asluj and Khalassa were to march during the night right round the enemy left flank, and attack the town from the north-east. The 7th Mounted Brigade, marching direct from Esani, had the duty of masking the strongly entrenched southern end of the outer defences. To the cavalry, thus fell the task of seizing the town of Beersheba itself.

On the night of 30th October, the full Regiment ("B" Squadron having returned from outpost duty with the Canal Brigade) started with three days' rations from Asluj with the Anzac Division for the attack on Beersheba, a distance of 25 miles. The country traversed was difficult and was unknown to us and the maps lacked detail. But there was a bright moon, and no serious enemy opposition was encountered. At dawn next morning the Brigade attacked the entrenched hill of Tel-el-Sakaty, which was captured about one o'clock, and half an hour later were astride the Hebron-Beersheba Road, The general battle, however, lasted all day, and as the resistance increased the Division was reinforced by the 3rd Brigade [128] under our old commanding officer. New reinforcements from Hebron had to be held up and the strong position of Tel-el-Saba was not captured by the Division until late in 'the afternoon. If Beersheba were not taken by nightfall, we should have been in serious straits among other things for water, but the brilliant charge of the 4th Brigade at dusk over successive lines of trenches finally captured the position.

Having watered our horses during the night at Beersheba wells, the Regiment was detached next morning and ordered to reconnoitre in the Judean Hills towards Hebron, in the direction of Dhaheriyeh. On reaching a point near Makruneh, the enemy were found to be holding the ridges in some strength and they opened fire with two guns and machine guns. They had created a new flank based on the commanding position of Khuweilfe. In the afternoon the Regiment moved forward to reconnoitre Deir Suideh, but found the enemy holding a strong position, which checked our advance. A withdrawal was made to B.H.Q. at dusk, where we watered and bivouacked for the night.. The following days, from the 2nd November to the 5th November, further reconnaissances with the full Brigade were made, and at night touch was maintained with the enemy who were still holding the hills in strength. It had been the intention on the 3rd to attack if possible and work round the enemy's left flank. The country, however, was extraordinarily rugged and difficult, and in many places the horses had to be led up and down the hills. Enemy reinforcements could be seen hurrying down the Hebron Road in motor lorries. We were shelled most accurately during these days although we had good cover, and it was apparent that Bedouin spies were at work. On the 5th four guns concentrated their fire on us and caused casualties-nine men wounded, 14 horses killed and 17 horses wounded.

 

Further Reading:

5th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

5th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Roll of Honour

The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 5th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

Posted by Project Leader at 5:22 PM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 3 October 2009 10:32 AM EADT
The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 12th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account
Topic: AIF - 4B - 12 LHR

The Battle of Beersheba

Palestine, 31 October 1917

12th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

 

12th Light Horse Regiment Killed in Action at Beersheba

[From: AWM P02279.003]

 

Despite the only reference being AWM 224 MSS 38 called the History of the 12th Regiment from its Formation on 1st March 1915 to date of embarkation to Australia it is written in such a manner as to indicate that the manuscript was written from first hand experience and so it included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below.

Anonymous, History of the 12th Regiment from its Formation on 1st March  1915 to date of embarkation to Australia.

   

Beersheba Operations.

On the afternoon of 28th. October the 4th. Brigade moved out to Esani and the following day continued the march to Khalasa.

On the 30th, the Brigade accompanied by a Battery of H.A.C. Horse Artillery travelled by night across the desert and by a long detour arrived on the morning of the 31st, at a point approximately 9 miles North East of Beersheba. All that day the Brigade remained bivouacked under cover of the hills resting both horses and men in anticipation of heavy work ahead.
At 4.p.m. the same day it was decided that the 4th. Brigade should attack Beersheba mounted, the horses being greatly in need of water. A hasty reconnaissance of the ground in front was made with a view of selecting a covered way of approach for the Brigade to the point of deployment. This was necessary as the 3rd. Brigade had just previously been heavily shelled in attempting to cross exposed ground. A. & B. Squadrons of the 12th, and two squadrons of the 4th. Regt., with one Squadron from each in support moved forward, all pack animals and Hotchkiss Guns being sent to the rear.

On reaching the crest of a hill Beersheba about three miles distant could plainly be seen at the foot of the Beersheba Hills. Moving forward in line at the trot with drawn bayonets the men and horses eager for the fray, the pace soon increased to a gallop.

As the first line of galloping horsemen neared the outer defences of the town it was noticed that many buildings were in flames, the enemy evidently attempting to destroy stores and works of military Importance.

On topping the rise 800 yards in front of the enemy trench system, a terrific rifle and machine gun fire from a line of semi-circular trenches met the oncoming horses, emptying many saddles and filing many trusty steeds, but the line continued unchecked. On reaching the Trenches many horses whilst attempting to clear then were brought down, and others were impaled on enemy bayonets. The greater number of horsemen who successfully cleared the trenches or avoided them by veering to the right or left, galloped straight for the enemy guns, capturing them intact, then continuing the gallop entered the town which soon capitulated.

The rapidity of the attack seamed to demoralise the enemy as they mostly fired high, and it was afterwards found that the sights of their rifles were never lowered below 800 metres. The enemy artillery was al so unable to estimate the pace, and the shells all went over the heads of the advancing troops.

In the charge for the Trenches one Troop of "A" Squadron and portion of a Troop of "B" dismounted for action, and together with those who had been unhorsed, after a stiff fight were instrumental in collecting many prisoners.

"C" Squadron in reserve, on finding that the Left flank of the Regiment was unguarded through a Yeomanry Regt failing to arrive in time, moved forward and filled the gap.

It was now dark and great disorder prevailed in the enemy camp, armed and unarmed Turks were scattered about in small groups awaiting capture. By 10pm 1,080 prisoners, 9 guns, and 180 animals had been collected and placed under guard. In the meantime the Regiment had been reorganised and preparations made to resist a counter attack. Next morning after burying the dead and attending to the wounded, the work of salving all enemy abandoned war material commenced.

The casualties amongst men and horses although severe, were small compared with the task accomplished. The charge of two Light Horse Regiments mounted, armed only with bayonets, against a line of trenches fully manned by a formidable enemy and a nest of Machine Guns, is without parallel in the History of Warfare.

 

Further Reading:

12th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

12th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Roll of Honour

The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 12th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

Posted by Project Leader at 4:01 PM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 3 October 2009 10:37 AM EADT
The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 4th LH Bde, AIF, Unit History Account
Topic: AIF - 4B - 4 LHB

The Battle of Beersheba

Palestine, 31 October 1917

4th LH Bde, AIF, Unit History Account

 

Australian Light Horse going into action at Beersheba

 

Over the period of some four decades, Gerald William Nutting worked at producing his History of the Fourth Light Horse Brigade, Australian Imperial Forces, War 1914-1918 and Egyptian Rebellion 1919. When it was realised that the number of survivors was fast fading, with the help of Ernest W the book was completed and published in 1953. In the book there was included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below.

Nutting, GW, History of the Fourth Light Horse Brigade, Australian Imperial Forces, War 1914-1918 and Egyptian Rebellion 1919, 1953, pp. 25 - 29.

   

CHAPTER IV

THE FALL OF GAZA—BEERSHEBA DEFENCES

[25] In June 1917 General Sir Edmund Allenby succeeded Sir Archibald Murray and decided to take command of the troops in the field himself. This action was appreciated by all ranks.

At this period the enemy position extended from Beersheba to Gaza facing the Wadi Ghuzze.

The plan of attack provided for the turning of the Turkish left flank at Beersheba by the mounted troops. The main difficulty was lack of adequate water supplies.
A study of the Journal of the Palestine Exploration Fund, however,

disclosed that Khalasa, thirteen miles south of Beersheba, had once been a large city and that Asluj (about the same distance from Beersheba) had maintained a considerable population.

Reconnaissance revealed that the wells had been used in modern times —a fortnight's work by Australian and New Zealand Engineers, assisted by men of the 2nd L.H. Brigade and Imperial Camel Corps, provided water for two cavalry divisions at Khalasa and one at Asluj, thus making projected operations possible.

On the 28th October the Brigade moved to Esani, bivouacking there until the evening of the 29th, when a move was made to Khalasa.
On the 30th the Brigade moved with the Australian Mounted Division via Asluj and arrived at Iswaiwin on the 31st.

At 1600 on the 31st October 1917 the Anzac Mounted Division attacked to the east and north-east of Beersheba, and pushed the enemy down the Wadi el Saba. This division was operating dismounted, but, owing to stiff opposition, progress was slow, and it appeared as it the town would not be won from that direction before dark. It was essential that Beersheba be captured quickly, as the horses had been thirty-six hours without water, and had made a night march of over thirty miles. Failure to capture the town would have meant failure of the whole operations.

At 1615 orders were received from the G.O.C., Australian Mounted Division, and also direct instructions from the Corps Commander that the 4th L.H. Brigade should directly attack Beersheba and take the town before dusk. The Brigade was then in reserve about six miles east of Beersheba.
It was realised by the Brigadier that he would have to act quickly, as only a little over an hour of daylight remained. The Brigade was assembled in a valley about half a mile south of Hill 1390, with the exception of the 11th L.H. Regiment, which was on detached duty two miles south-west of that position.

Orders were sent to the 11th L.H. Regiment to concentrate and follow the Brigade. The Brigade was ordered to saddle up and move when ready under the second in command of each regiment, the senior to command. The Brigadier and Brigade Major, accompanied by C.O.s of the 4th and [26]  12th Regiment, galloped to reconnoitre a covered way of approach for the Brigade to the point of deployment. This was necessary as the Brigade had just previously been heavily shelled in an attempt to cross exposed ground. The Brigade moved at 1630 at the trot. Shortly after two enemy planes passed over and dropped bombs, and, on return, one Hew low and machine-gunned the Brigade Headquarters personnel and signal troops which were moving in the rear of the Brigade, but no material damage was done.

The route taken was along the Wadi for about a quarter of a mile south and the Brigade deployed where the road crossed 1100 contour. The 4th Regiment advanced on the left of the Anzac Mounted Division and the 12th Regiment advanced on the left of the 4th L.H. Regiment, these two regiments attacking mounted in three successive waves each one squadron. The files were at about four yards' interval and three hundred yards' distance between squadrons. They charged with a drawn bayonet held in the hand and rifles slung as the troops were not issued with swords. The 11th Regiment followed in the rear and acted as a reserve. The leading squadron of the 4th Regiment was commanded by Major Lawson, and Major Harrison commanded the leading squadron of the 12th. "C" squadron of the 12th Regiment, under Captain Lane, was sent down the Wadi to protect the left rear of the advancing troops from machine gun and rifle fire. The 4th machine gun squadron (less one section), under Captain Harper, was ordered to cooperate with this squadron in protecting the left flank. The Notts Battery, R.H.A., under Major Harrison, which had then come up to the point of deployment, was ordered to open fire on the trenches. It was practically dark and impossible to take ranges, but Major Harrison opened fire and found the range with his second shot, speedily driving the enemy from their positions. The leading squadron of the 4th Regiment, with great dash, galloped to the Turkish trenches under heavy fire. The squadron dismounted and charged the trenches in front, and eventually, with the assistance of "B" squadron, commanded by Captain Reid, succeeded in capturing the main Turkish trenches which had been strongly held with machine guns. From this point the resistance slackened considerably until near the town it ended in a rout. "A" squadron of the 12th Regiment had not proceeded more than halfway to the enemy trenches when it encountered broken ground, thus enabling "B" squadron, under Major Fetherstone-Haugh, to come up to the right and keep in touch with the 4th Regiment which had now dismounted. This squadron galloped over the trenches as they pushed on. Major Fetherstone-Haugh and Lieutenant Haydon were both wounded.  The charge by the leading squadron had been so rapid that the first rush of horsemen had poured across the trenches without accounting for the occupants. Major Hyman, seeing this, dismounted with part of his squadron and cleaned, up the trenches. The leading troops, now led by Captain J. R .C. Davis,' raced across the Wadi Saba and entered the town. On their approach building after building burst into flames. The enemy fled in disorder and the object of the charge was achieved, the water supply being in our hands.
Following is an extract from the History of the 11th Light Horse [27] Regiment relating to the charge at Beersheba, written by Sergeant Murray
Hammond.

"As the afternoon wore on the position became serious. The outer defences of Beersheba had not fallen to our attacks and the mounted troops could not endure another night without water. Occasionally, as we worked on to the high ground, we could see the town of Beersheba lying in a saucer-shaped dip at the foot of the Judean hills. A barren, treeless plain sloped easily down to the town four miles away. It was too far to permit an organised attack before darkness set in, and with every moment that passed the position became more critical. Earlier in the day General Chauvel had established his headquarters on a slight rise some distance in our rear, in the vicinity of Khashm Zanna, and here, as the afternoon waned, a tense military drama of tremendous importance was being enacted. General Chauvel had just made up his mind that a galloping charge was his only hope of saving the day. With him were General Hodgson, Brigadier-General Grant, of the 4th Australian Brigade, and Brigadier-General Fitzgerald, of the 5th Imperial Mounted Yeomanry Brigade. Generals Grant and Fitzgerald both pleaded with their leader for the honour of the charge. Those few brief moments, made tense by a desperate situation, must rightly occupy a place amongst the 'memorable moments in history.'

"General Chauvel had always tried to remain impartial in his treatment of the Australian and Imperial horsemen under his charge, and for an instant he remained silent, showing no outward sign of the conflict taking place within him. Turning quietly to General Hodgson, he settled the matter in one swift, crisp sentence, 'Put Grant straight at it,' he exclaimed.

"General Grant wasted no time in formalities, but running to his horse he mounted and galloped away to assemble his Brigade. The 11th Regiment was spread over a long line of outposts, and considerable time must elapse before they could be assembled, but the 4th and 12th Regiments were already assembled near at hand, and were soon drawn up in battle formation behind the crest of a ridge looking down upon the plain of Beersheba. At 4.30 the first line of Australian horsemen went over the ridge at a trot, which soon developed into a hand gallop as the troopers, with bayonets flashing in their hands, warmed to the occasion and spurred their mounts onward. A second and third line followed at intervals of 300 yards, and, ere long, the great plain echoed to the beat of a thousand horses.

' "A handful of picked horsemen, acting as ground scouts, raced ahead of the main body, eyes alert for the first signs of barbed wire, but, fortunately, the Turks had thrown up no wire entanglements around the trenches in that area.

"The enemy opened fire with shrapnel, which burst in white puffs over the galloping lines. As the horsemen neared the first line of trenches they came under the fire of machine guns and rifles, but, without checking their speed, they swept across the Turkish defences. Some of the men dismounted and went to work with rifle and bayonet, [28] while others raced on to the town, chasing the Turks into the hills beyond. In one brief, glorious hour the Turkish left flank was shattered, and Beersheba was ours. The spectacle of Light Horsemen, with bayonets in their hands, charging infantrymen in strongly entrenched positions was something quite unique in the history of warfare in any period, and the boldness of the charge and its unparalleled success fired the imagination of the British peoples. The newspapers in England, Australia, and America flashed the news around the world in bold headlines.

"For many nights 'Grant's Brigade' was the toast of honour in every officers' mess along Allenby's front. Its counterpart in the troopers' lines was an equally spontaneous cheer for 'Grant's mob' wherever the 4th Brigade colours were seen.

"The Commonwealth official historian relates that an intercepted wireless message sent by the Turkish Commander as he fled in the night from Beersheba stated in effect that his troops had broken because they were 'terrified of the Australian Cavalry.'

"The historian states further that a German Staff Officer captured in Beersheba said that, when the 4th Brigade was seen to move, its advance had been taken for a mere demonstration. 'We did not believe,' he said, 'that the charge would be pushed home. That seemed an impossible intention. I have heard a great deal of the fighting quality of Australian soldiers. They are not soldiers at all; they are madmen.'"

The 11th Regiment in Brigade reserve was pushed through the town, and, as night had fallen and they were unable to continue the pursuit, took up an outpost line for the night on the west of the town, linking up with the Anzac Mounted Division. The 4th and 12th Regiments withdrew to reorganise. When this was done the 4th Regiment occupied an outpost line from the Wadi Saba to the Mosque linking up with the 11th L.H. Regiment. The 12th Regiment was held in reserve.

Preparations were made for a counter-attack, and all night the troops were busy bringing in prisoners. The number of prisoners captured was fifty-nine officers and 1,090 other ranks, nine field guns and a large number of machine guns and automatic rifles. The rapidity of the attack seemed to demoralise the enemy as they mostly fired high, and it was found that the sights of their rifles had not been lowered below 800 yards. Their artillery, too, under-estimated the pace, and their shells mostly went over the heads of the advancing troops.

The fall of Beersheba commenced the rout which ended in driving the Turks out of Palestine. It was hurriedly conceived and apparently the mounted attack was initiated by Brigadier-General W. Grant, D.S.O., of the 4th L.H. Brigade, who was decorated on the field by General Allenby for this action with a bar to his Distinguished Service Order.

Actually the operation was a gigantic bluff, because the Light Horse units were not trained in the use of the sword and, in any case, the bayonet is not a suitable weapon for this class of action, being too short and not [29] sufficiently pointed for effective use. However, the bluff was effective, and the flank of the Turkish Army turned.

A comparison between the effect achieved by this mounted attack and the dismounted attack at Gaza supplies some interesting figures. On 19th April 1917 the Brigade made a long advance on foot with two Regiments, the 11th and 12th, and the machine gun squadron, and had 187 casualties without any satisfactory result. At Beersheba our casualties were thirty-two killed and thirty-two wounded—a small price for the capture of the town with its important water supply in addition to prisoners and material. The high percentage of killed in comparison to the number wounded was due to hand-to-hand fighting against superior numbers in the trenches.

 

Further Reading:

4th Light Horse Brigade, AIF

The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 4th LH Bde, AIF, Unit History Account

Posted by Project Leader at 3:21 PM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 3 October 2009 10:42 AM EADT

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