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Thursday, 16 October 2008
The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, Auchterlonie Account
Topic: BatzP - Beersheba

 The Battle of Beersheba

Palestine, 31 October 1917

Auchterlonie Account

 

Bedouin digging up hidden grain to feed the horses.

[Auchterlonie, Dad's war stuff: the diaries, p. 68.]

 

During the Great War,  George Auchterlonie (1887-1949), a member of the 8th LHR, maintained a diary of his day to day life during the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns. In 2001, his daughter, Gloria Auchterlonie edited the diaries and published them. Within the diary is included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below.   

 

Auchterlonie, G. ed., Dad's war stuff: the diaries - Complete personal diary entries and selected phototographs of George Auchterlonie an Australian Lighthorseman, who served in the 8th Lighthorse Regiment in Egypt, Sinai and Palestine during World War 1, Morwell 2001, pp. 54-5:

 

29 October. Left camp yesterday at 3.30 but didnt go far till dark, then moved on as escort to a transport column, miles of it. Pulled up from ten till two, Then on another hour campg on the wadi near Esani All the donkeys were ridden & it was an odd sight. There is a great movement of troops from Fara up this way, & supplies are being brought out by dozens of caterpiller tractors. these are splendid for this country but are very slow. We are carrying 2 days emergency rations & horse feed so have heavy loads.

30 October. Left Esani at 5 last night & went to Khalasa Were to have camped there but an alteration was made, & we left here at 0130 & went 9 miles to Asluj, stopping the day near the railway bridge blown up some months ago Understand that our regt is temporarily attached m the Anzac Div. Couldn't get any sleep.

31 October. At five o'clock last night we were ready for the track again with a 27 mile ride ahead. Had operations explained re attack of Beersheba today, bit did not leave for some time owing to the number of troops moving. We rode all night with practically no sleep & at times very slow with many halts Went NE then NW till on the East side of Beersheba. After day break we advanced on to a ridge overlookmg the old town & I am writing this while on a post over looking & giving a splendid new. The infantry are operating from the other side & a heavy bombardment is going on. The Mtd Div have advanced on to a great flat & their batteries pouring it in to Tel el Sheba (Saba). Our horses we very tired & leg weary & short of feed, while we are on halfration & emergency stuff. A deserted Bedouin camp is near & we got a feed of barley for the rags & also water for ourselves. Beersheba appears to have a few buildings, a big one of three stories, the usual minaret & a lot of hovels.

1 November: Left the post I was on yesterday just as the Anzac Div were getting round Tel el Saba & went to the left by that time they had taken the hill. Believe their casualties were heavy & they lost a lot of horses with machine guns in the mud houses. Towards evening we were relieved by the 11th who were to take the small redoubt in front after dark. We then went back to Div HQrs & were going to water when a taube came over unobserved & emptied his load of bombs. Talk about confusion, horses galloping everywhere, we handed over & pumped thousands of shots into him, but he returned & dived, emptying his machine gun into us, then departed. Soon found that the regt. was extremely lucky, tho Col Maygar, who only rejoined us two day' ago, was badly hit in leg & arm, & we hear he will lose the latter. Capt Sproat & groom were also slightly hit. Jack Gallagher was hit earlier in the day. Just behind us there were three killed & several wounded. A great number of horses had to be shot, while motor cars & water carts were bloom up. In our troop several horses were grazed. We then went down & watered at pools in Wadi Saba & camped the night near there at 10. Had to go on outpost so had another broken night. Stood to at 4.30 this morning d moved off at 8. Only went down the Wadi a mile or two & camped the day. Everything was quiet last night & today & we find the 9th & 10th are in the town, while the inf. have taken some positions & 1900 prisoners, one redoubt still undertaken but practically surrounded. Also 16 guns taken. Aust's have 250 prisoners & may have more. We got plenty of barley & tibbin from Bedouins, stored in holes in the ground & covered over with straw & dirt. Their fowls also suffered. Four Commissions came out by wire when at Asluj, Sgts Paterson, Williams, Jenner & L/Cpl Moore.

 

Further Reading:

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, Auchterlonie Account

Posted by Project Leader at 6:37 PM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 6 October 2009 11:30 AM EADT
The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, Lock Account
Topic: BatzP - Beersheba

The Battle of Beersheba

Palestine, 31 October 1917

Lock Account

 

Suffolk Yeomanry bivouac on the Gaza-Beersheba defence line.

[From: AWM H10590]

 

At the conclusion of the Great War, at the end of 1918, Major Henry Osmond Lock, an officer with the Dorsetshire Regiment, produced a book about the Sinai and Palestine Campaign. The subsequent book was published in London, 1919, called With the British Army in The Holy Land, which included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below.  

 

Lock, HO, With the British Army in The Holy Land, (London 1919), p.  51-7:

 

CHAPTER VII

GAZA AND BEERSHEBA

[51] The plan by which General Allenby defeated the Turks and captured their Gaza-Beersheba line, involved three distinct operations. It will be remembered that the enemy defences consisted of a substantially continuous line from the sea at Gaza to Arab el Teeaha, where the left flank was bent back or "refused" at or about Sheria. Some 4½ miles farther on were the detached works covering Beersheba, which thus constituted a strong outwork protecting the left flank of the main position. The decisive blow was to be struck against the left flank of the main Turkish position at Hareira and Sheria. Before this blow could be struck, it was necessary to clear away the obstacle presented by Beersheba. It was also necessary to keep the enemy in doubt as to where the decisive blow was to fall; so another operation, on as large a scale as the available force would permit, and calculated both to mystify the enemy and to draw off a portion of his reserves, was undertaken on the immediate sea front at Gaza. Thus we get, firstly, the capture of Beersheba; secondly, the attack on the Gaza coastal defences; and, thirdly, the main attack delivered against Sheria.

"This plan of operations was chosen for the following reasons. The enemy's works in the Hareira-Sheria sector were less formidable than elsewhere, and they were easier of approach than other parts of the enemy's defences. The capture of Beersheba was a necessary preliminary to the main operation, in order to secure the water supply at that place, [52] and to give room for the deployment of the attacking force on the high ground to the north and north-west of Beersheba, from which direction the main attack was to be developed. When Beersheba was in our hands, we should have an open flank against which to operate, and full use could be made of our superiority in mounted troops. Moreover, a success here offered prospects of pursuing our advantage, and forcing the enemy to abandon the rest of his fortified positions, which no other line of attack would afford."

The difficulties to be overcome in the operations against Beersheba and the Hareira-Sheria line were considerable. Foremost among them were our old friend, the shortage of water, and, scarcely less formidable, the difficulty of transport.

With regard to water, no supply existed in the area over which operations were to take place. "An ample supply of water was known to exist at Beersheba, but it was uncertain how quickly it could be developed or to what extent the enemy would have damaged the wells before we succeeded in occupying the town. Except at Beersheba, no large supply of water would be found till Sheria and Hareira had been captured. Arrangements had therefore to be made to ensure that the troops could be kept supplied with water, while operating at considerable distances from their original water base, for a period which might amount to a week or more." This was to some extent met by developing the water supplies at Ecani, Khalassa and Asluj, all places in No Man's Land some miles beyond our right flank.

The transport problem was no less difficult. Beersheba, itself some thousand feet above the sea level, lies in a recess on the western slopes of the Judæan Hills. In the bed of this recess runs the Wadi Es Saba. Towards the north-east a good metalled road leads gradually to the summit of the hills and on through Hebron to Jerusalem. North-west a good road led along the enemy's front to Gaza. The railway line, avoiding the heights, for the first ten or twelve [53] miles follows approximately the direction of the Gaza road, and then turns northwards along the Plain or Foothills. But south of the Gaza-Beersheba line there were no good roads, "and no reliance could therefore be placed on the use of motor transport." Owing to the steep banks of many of the wadis which intersected the area of operations, the routes passable by wheeled transport were limited, and, in many places, the going was heavy and difficult.

Practically the whole of the transport available in the force, including 30,000 pack camels, had to be allotted to one portion of the eastern force, to enable it to be kept supplied with food, water and ammunition, at a distance of 15 to 20 miles in advance of railhead.

There already existed a branch from the Kantara military railway; which branch, leaving the main line at Rafa, ran to Shellal and Gamli, supplying the right of our line. Arrangements were made for this railhead to be pushed forward as rapidly as possible from Shellal towards Karm (some 7 miles to the east-south-east of Shellal), and for a line to be laid from Gamli towards Beersheba for the transport of ammunition. No Man's Land being some 10 or 12 miles wide in this sector, railway construction was carried on in front of our front line under cover of yeomanry outposts.

This line of outposts was attacked on the morning of the 27th October by a strong reconnoitring party that the Turks sent out from the direction of Kauwukah to make a reconnaissance towards Karm. On a Division of our infantry coming up, the Turks withdrew.

By the end of October all our preparations were ready. The bombardment of the Gaza defences commenced on the 27th and continued nightly. On the 30th, warships of the Royal Navy, assisted by a French battleship, began co-operating in this bombardment. The actual infantry attack on Gaza was not intended to take place, however, until after the capture of Beersheba, and was delayed accordingly. [54]

The date fixed for the attack on Beersheba was the 31st October. The plan was to attack with two divisions the hostile works between the Khalassa Road and the Wadi Saba, that is, the sector to the south-west of the town. The works north of the Wadi Saba were to be masked with the Imperial Camel Corps and some infantry, while a portion of the 53rd Division further north covered the left of the Corps. The right of the attack was covered by a cavalry regiment. Further east, mounted troops took up a line opposite the southern defences of Beersheba. A mounted force, starting from Khalassa and Asluj, beyond our original right flank, were detailed to make a wide flanking movement and attack Beersheba from the east and north-east.

The units detailed for the attack moved by a night march, and were in their appointed positions by dawn of the 31st. As a preliminary to the main attack, in order to enable field guns to be brought within effective range for wire-cutting, an attack was made upon the enemy's advanced works on the high ground about a couple of miles south-west of the town, at Hill 1070. This had been successfully accomplished by 8.45 a.m., and the cutting of the wire proceeded satisfactorily, though pauses had to be made to allow the dust to clear. The assault was ordered for 12.15 p.m., and proved successful. By about 10 p.m., the whole of the works between the Khalassa Road and the Wadi Saba were in our hands.

"Meanwhile the mounted troops, after a night march of, for a portion of the force, some 35 miles, arrived early on this same morning, the 31st, at about Khasim Zanna, in the hills, some 5 miles east of Beersheba. From the hills, the advance into Beersheba from the east and north-east lies over an open and almost flat plain, commanded by the rising ground north of the town and flanked by an underfeature in the Wadi Saba, called Tel el Saba.

"A force was sent north to secure Bir es Sakaly, on the Hebron Road, and protect the right flank. This force [55] met with some opposition, and was engaged with hostile cavalry at Bir es Sakaly and to the north during the day. Tel el Saba was found strongly held by the enemy, and was not captured till late in the afternoon.

"Meanwhile, attempts to advance in small parties across the plain towards the town made slow progress. In the evening, however, a mounted attack by Australian Light Horse, who rode straight at the town from the East, proved completely successful. They galloped over two deep trenches held by the enemy just outside the town, and entered the town at about 7 p.m., capturing numerous prisoners.

"A very strong position was thus taken with slight loss, and the Turkish detachment at Beersheba almost completely put out of action. This success laid open the left flank of the main Turkish position for a decisive blow."

The actual date of the attack at Gaza had been left open till the result of the attack at Beersheba was known, as it was intended that the attack on Gaza, which was designed to draw hostile reserves towards that sector, should take place a day or two before the attack on the Sheria position. After the complete success of the Beersheba operations, it was decided that the attack on Gaza should take place on the morning of the 2nd November.

"The objectives of this attack were the hostile works from Umbrella Hill (2,000 yards south-west of the town) to Sheikh Hasan, on the sea (about 2,500 yards north-west of the town). The front of the attack was about 6,000 yards, and Sheikh Hasan, the farthest objective, was over 3,000 yards from our front line. The ground over which the attack took place consisted of sand dunes, rising in places up to 150 feet in height. This sand is very deep and heavy going. The enemy's defences consisted of several lines of strongly built trenches and redoubts.

"As Umbrella Hill flanked the advance against the Turkish works farther west, it was decided to capture it by a preliminary [56] operation, to take place four hours previous to the main attack. It was accordingly attacked and captured at 11.0 p.m. on the 1st November by a portion of the 52nd Division. This attack drew a heavy bombardment of Umbrella Hill itself and our front lines, which lasted for two hours, but ceased in time to allow the main attack, which was timed for 3.0 a.m., to form up without interference."

This attack partook of the nature of a modern trench to trench advance, as seen on the battlefields of France, with the co-operation of tanks and the accompaniment of other products of modern science. It was successful in reaching most of its objectives. The enemy losses were heavy, especially from the preliminary bombardment.

"Subsequent reports from prisoners stated that one of the Divisions holding the Gaza Sector was withdrawn on account of casualties, a Division from the general reserve being drawn into this Sector to replace it. The attack thus succeeded in its primary object, which was to prevent any units being withdrawn from the Gaza defences to meet the threat to the Turkish left flank and to draw into Gaza as large a proportion as possible of the available Turkish reserves. Further, the capture of Sheikh Hasan and the south-western defences constituted a very direct threat to the whole of the Gaza position, which could be developed on any sign of a withdrawal on the part of the enemy."

Here the force attacking Gaza stayed its hand, merely holding on to the positions already captured, while the main attack was being developed on the right.

Having captured Beersheba on the 31st October, a force was pushed out early on the following day, the 1st November, into the hills north of Beersheba, with the object of securing the flank of the attack on Sheria, while mounted troops were sent north along the Hebron road. Accordingly, the 53rd Division took up a position from Towal Abu Jerwal (6 miles north of Beersheba) to Muweileh (3½ miles farther west) and [57] the 10th Division occupied Abu Irgeig, on the railway, 6 miles from Beersheba.

Next day, the 2nd, our mounted troops found and engaged considerable enemy forces to the north of Towal Abu Jerwal. Accordingly, on the 3rd, we advanced in that direction towards Ain Kohleh and Khuweilfeh, where the enemy were found to be holding a strong position with considerable and increasing forces. It will be borne in mind that this was only the right flank-guard; our main attack, which was to be delivered against Sheria, was not timed to commence until two or three days later. However, the enemy elected to employ the whole of his available reserves in an immediate counter-attack. During the 4th and 5th he made several determined attacks on the mounted troops in this locality. These attacks were repulsed; and the enemy's action was not allowed to make any essential modification to the original plan, which it had been decided to carry out at dawn on November 6th. It was this exhausting of the Turkish reserves, so early in the operations and so far away to the East as Khuweilfeh, that paved the way for the success of our attack on Sheria.

 

Further Reading:

The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917

British Forces Roll of Honour  

Australian and New Zealand Roll of Honour

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, Lock Account

Posted by Project Leader at 5:20 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 5 October 2009 8:46 AM EADT
The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 20th Machine Gun Squadron Account
Topic: BatzP - Beersheba

 

 

The Battle of Beersheba

Palestine, 31 October 1917

20th Machine Gun Squadron Account

 

Officers, Warrant Officer and Sergeants At Belah, January 1918

[From: Anon, Through Palestine with the 20th Machine Gun Squadron, p. 70.]

 

At the conclusion of the Great War, an anonymous officer produced a book about the 20th Machine Gun Squadron. The subsequent book published in London, 1920, and available for a limited private distribution was called Through Palestine with the 20th Machine Gun Squadron, which included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below.  

 

Anon, Through Palestine with the 20th Machine Gun Squadron, (London 1920), pp. 16 - 25:

PART II.  The Beersheba Campaign.

March to Esani.

[16] On the morning of October 28th 1917, the Squadron marched from Amr, across the 16 miles of desert to Esani. It consisted of—

Seven officers, 182 men, 10 guns, 156 riding horses, 70 draught and 31 pack animals, 13 donkeys; with transport of ("A" Echelon), water cart, 12 limbered G.S. wagons; ("B.1" Echelon) three L.G.S. wagons, carrying reserve day's forage and rations; ("B.2" Echelon) one G.S. wagon.

So far as can be ascertained now, the following were the W.O. and N.C.O.'s of the Squadron at this time:—

Headquarters: S.S.M. Larwood, S.Q.M.S. Harrison, Far.-Sergt. Robertson, Transport-Sergt. Conuel, Sig.-Corpl. Billam, S.S.-Corpl. Holmes, Saddler-Corpl. Mellett.

"A" Sub-section: Sergt. Fisher, Lance-Corpl. Rouse, Lance-Corpl. Keetley.

"B" Sub-section: Sergt. Potts, Corpl. Hazlehurst, Lance-Corpl. Hughes, Lance-Corpl. Peadon.

"C" Sub-section: Sergt. Wright, Corpl. Gill, Nos. 1. Pte. S. Kidd, Pte. P. Lee.

"D" Sub-section: Sergt. Fleet, Corpl. Barrett, Lance-Corpl. Green, Lance-Corpl. Marriott.

"E" Sub-section: Sergt. O'Neill, Corpl. Franklin, Lance-Corpl. Grice, Lance-Corpl. Thompson.

Upon arrival at their destination, everyone who had previously been there, on reconnaissance, was [17] struck by the great changes that had taken place within such a short time; the locality had, in fact, become one huge camp. There were armoured cars, R.E.s, motor-tractors, besides thousands of camels—indeed, every branch of the service was represented. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that these preparations were not hidden from the Turks, whose aeroplanes came over every day and dropped bombs, without, however, doing much damage.

The camping site for the Squadron proved to be in a wide gully, leading up from the Wadi Ghuzze, between two hills. After watering in the wadi (to reach which a rather steep slope had to be negotiated), "lines" were put up and the new bivouac sheets recently issued, erected, after which, having had something to eat, the Squadron was able to enjoy a well-earned rest. In the very early hours of the following morning "C" Sub-section, under Sec.-Lieut. Kindell (who now took command in the absence of Lieut. Macmillan), proceeded with the "S.R.Y." to take up the day outpost-line some few miles north-east of Reshid Beck. It soon became evident that the Turk had intended to occupy this line, as he [18] contested it with rifle fire; he was, however, just a little too late and had to withdraw! The position we now occupied afforded splendid observation of all the surrounding country. In fact, the ground dropped abruptly to a plain several miles wide, cut by wadis and studded with low mounds; on the right the Wadi Ghuzze with a narrow stream of water on one side, wended its way across the plain, almost to our lines.

On the other side of the plain, on the banks of the wadi, the tents of a Turkish camp could plainly be seen, and (by the aid of a pair of field glasses), the Turks themselves, going about their work. During the day various officers from an infantry division came up to the post in order to view the ground, over which, they stated, they were going to attack, in two days' time. At dusk our troops withdrew through the night-outpost line; "C" Sub-section, with the one limber that accompanied it, returned to camp, independently. On this day the Squadron watering-party was bombed by hostile aircraft, but no casualties occurred. October 30th was spent in "resting," and in the afternoon every man was directed to lie down in his "bivvy" from 13.00 to 17.00 hrs. (1 p.m. to 5 p.m.)! Upon being [19] asked by the Orderly Officer why he was not complying with this order, one man remarked to his pal: "Well, that's the first time I've been stopped doing work in the Army"! It was, however, very necessary, as, that night at 20.30 (8.30 p.m.), the Brigade, commanded by Brig.-Gen. J.T. Wigan, C.M.G., D.S.O., started on its approach-march after watering.

The Approach-March to Beersheba.

The "going" was, most of the way, through thick sand with a lot of green scrub. Doubtless, everybody who took part in that march will ever remember the incidents and details of the operations—and the indescribable dust. Temperature very cold; "loads off"; "loads on"; at frequent intervals. So—on, through the night; generally at the walk, occasionally trotting; hearing, at one point, intermittent rifle-fire (on the left flank), and, with now and then, "Very Lights" being put up. Later on, a white stone building was passed (apparently unoccupied) called "Ibn Said".

After several hours' marching, a road and a narrow gauge Turkish railway were crossed, both of which were understood to lead to Beersheba. At length, the position was reached on Itwail El Semin, 7 miles [20] south of Beersheba, just before daybreak, where the transport ("A" Echelon) soon found us. "A" and "B" Sub-sections were immediately attached to the "S.R.Y." and "S.N.H." respectively, and took up positions in front of Ras-Hablein and Goz-el-Naam.

It was not long before it became evident that there was "something doing". Yes, the great event for which the Squadron had been preparing since its formation was about to take place! The 7th Mounted Brigade found itself "up against" a series of strongly-held trenches on Ras-Hablein to Ras-Ghannam. The 60th Infantry Division was on its left and the Australians on its right. The plan of attack, as given in the official publication: "A Brief Record of the Advance of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force" was as follows:—

"... for the 60th and 74th Divisions to seize the enemy works between the Khalasa Road and the Wadi Saba, while the defences north of the Wadi were masked by the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade and two battalions of the 53rd Division. The Anzac Mounted Division, Australian Mounted Division and 7th Mounted Brigade were to attack the defences of the town from the north-east, east and south-east".

The progress of the attack all along the line could be seen from the top of Itwail. The Turk, everywhere, clung tenaciously to his main positions. [21] During the whole morning and afternoon, rifle and shell-fire were continued on both sides. "B" Sub-section covered the advance of the "S.N.H." The Essex Battery R.H.A., in action at this time, came in for a bad quarter of an hour, but fortunately escaped with slight casualties, when, at 16.00 (4 p.m.) orders were issued to attack Beersheba!

The Brigade at once formed up in a cloud of dust, and, led by its General as if on a ceremonial parade at home, started off at the trot to the attack. Soon, the dust became so dense (especially in the centre of the Brigade), that it was impossible to see two yards in front. After going a mile or two, a halt was made under cover of a hill for a few minutes, then on again. To the surprise of everyone, little opposition was now offered, and it soon became apparent that the Turk had fled, although reinforced during the day, the sight of an English Cavalry Brigade advancing, proving too much for him! Another halt, another trot, then the position was taken!

We take Turkish Trenches.

Until quite recently, the Turk had been content merely to patrol the country south and east of Beersheba, but our concentration at Esani had made [22] him uneasy about his left flank, and he had hastily dug a line of trenches and manned them, hoping to put up a strong opposition to our advance. These were the trenches we had now taken; and they constituted a strong position too, the hills being particularly steep in front of them.

Having captured the position and enjoyed a short rest, the Brigade pushed on again after dark—this time in column of route, but "at the walk," as it was "pitch-black" and the ground rough and rocky. Well on in the evening, a welcome change in the going occurred, as we came out upon a road (the same one crossed in the morning); a proper road, a real road like one at home in England! It seemed strange, indeed, after the miles of desert; the horses appreciated it too! Later, the moon having risen, a long halt was made, after which the road towards Beersheba was resumed. Every mile or so, by the wayside were now passed remains of Turkish camps, dead animals, overturned wagons, abandoned ammunition, etc., etc. The enemy had evidently left in "some" haste. But there were still isolated parties of the enemy in the hills, from which direction shots could be heard from time to time. [23]

Beersheba at last!

After a long and gruelling journey, during which everyone was dead tired and the horses badly in need of water, the outskirts of the "town" of Beersheba were at last reached. Here the Squadron halted, whilst the units in front "watered". It then became known to us that Beersheba had already been occupied by the Australians, who, no doubt, had come in from the flank. As regards the "water," this was contained in a long stone trough, and, although it was thick with mud, it was all that could be had. Yet, of this filth the animals drank deeply, not having tasted a drop of liquid for 24 hours!

After "watering," a camping-area for the night was allotted to the Squadron near by. The animals having been off-saddled and fed, everyone was glad to be able to lie down in his clothes and snatch some sleep during the few remaining hours, until it was time to "stand to" in the morning. Before daybreak the Squadron saddled-up and moved off into the plain outside the town. Here it halted in "Line of Sub-section Column" and dismounted. No sooner had the sun risen, however, when machine-gun fire broke out from all directions. At once the order was given to extend for rifle fire. Everyone expected to [24] see the dust thrown up all round by the thousands of bullets which were being fired, and prepared for a great mêlée, but—nothing happened! A perfect tornado of fire and nothing whatever could be seen! After a few minutes, to the surprise of all, everything was quiet again! The explanation was obtained afterwards: all that had happened was that a Boche plane had appeared over our outpost line. He must, certainly, have had a hot reception!

Then "lines" were put down, animals off-saddled again and a much needed wash-up and shave indulged in—after watering and stables. To feel clean once more and to be able to have a sleep in the heat of the day, which at this time was intense (in spite of the cold nights), was a treat enjoyed by all.

Beersheba was very disappointing. Instead of being a town, as Europeans understand that term, a place where one can buy such things as cigarettes and something to eat, nothing at all was obtainable, and the only buildings in it, that were not mud huts, were empty.

During our stay at Beersheba, enemy planes, often flying quite low, paid us several visits, for [25] whose benefit one Sub-section always had its guns mounted for anti-aircraft work. On one of these raids two men and several animals, in an Australian Field Ambulance a couple of hundred yards from the Squadron Camp, were killed. One man had a "narrow shave". He was standing beside his horse when the plane appeared, and, for safety, he jumped into a trench that happened to be at hand still holding the reins. The animal was killed, but he himself escaped without a scratch!
 
Further Reading:

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, 20th Machine Gun Squadron Account

Posted by Project Leader at 4:31 PM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 6 October 2009 11:41 AM EADT
The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, The Fife and Forfar Yeomanry Account
Topic: BatzP - Beersheba

The Battle of Beersheba

Palestine, 31 October 1917

The Fife and Forfar Yeomanry Account

 

Turkish trench with dead Turks. Hill 1070, near Beersheba

[From: Ogilvie, The Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, plate facing p. 62.]

 

At the conclusion of the war, Major D Douglas Ogilvie produced a book about the The Fife and Forfar Yeomanry from a mixture of the Official Diaries and a personal diary maintained by Lieutenant Colonel J. Younger, a former CO of the Battalion. The subsequent book published in London, 1921, The Fife and Forfar Yeomanry and 14th (F. & F. Yeo.) Battn. R.H. 1914-1919, included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below.  

 

Ogilvie, DD, The Fife and Forfar Yeomanry and 14th (F. & F. Yeo.) Battn. R.H. 1914-1919, (London 1921), pp. 60-6:

 

[60] At the moment of kicking off we were as well trained as we were ever likely to be, and, what is more important, were very fit and full of the offensive spirit. The concentration started on 25th October, when we marched some six miles to Abu Sitta. Our transport establishment had been very carefully thought out, and, though both animals and vehicles were undoubtedly overloaded at the start, this soon rectified itself, as consumable stores could not be replaced. We had one camel per battalion for officers' mess, and he started out very fully laden. He was a good deal less heavily loaded towards the end of the operations. Next day we marched on beyond the Wadi at Gamli—a very dusty and tiresome march—and were to have remained there throughout the next day. Word came in, however, that the Turk was attacking our outpost line at El Buggar, some ten miles out, and the Battalion had to move off [61] at a moment's notice about noon. The march through the heat of the afternoon was most trying, and on arrival it was found the enemy were occupying part of the line we were to take up. They withdrew, however, in the evening, and we constructed a series of strong posts from the Beersheba road to south of El Buggar.

During these days of concentration the plain lying between Shellal and Beersheba had been the scene of great activities. Karm had been selected as the position for a forward supply dump, and both light and broad gauge railways were being pushed out towards it at top speed. The first blow of the campaign was to be launched at the defences of Beersheba, which were facing west and extended both north and south of the Wadi Saba. They occupied a commanding position and were continuously wired. The main attack was to be pushed home south of the Wadi Saba by the 74th and 60th Divisions, and at the same time the enemy's extreme left flank was to be turned by the cavalry, who were to make a wide detour through very difficult and waterless country and attack Beersheba from the east, and, if possible, cut off the retreat of the garrison of the Beersheba area. Covering all these preparations an outpost line was established some miles east of Karm and El Buggar, held on the left by the 53rd Division, then the 74th Division, then the Imperial Camel Corps, and, south of [62] the Wadi Saba, where it was much more lightly held, a mere line of cavalry observation posts. These cavalry posts were covering, and slightly in advance of, the positions selected for battle headquarters for the 74th and 60th Divisions.

The preliminary arrangements for the troop movements went like clockwork, as did also the approach marches to the positions of deployment, and at the appointed time on 30th October, the Divisional H.Q. moved up the five or six miles to the battle stations selected. There was no sign of crowding or confusion—the only indication that there was anything unusual on, was the dust which could be seen here and there. The moves of the infantry began just as it was getting dusk, and long before dawn both the 60th and 74th Divisions had their two brigades on the line of deployment, which stretched southwards some three or four miles from the Wadi Saba.

As soon as it was daylight a bombardment of the Turkish advanced position on Hill 1070 was started, smothering the entire landscape in clouds of dust. This first attack, which was carried through by one of the brigades of the 60th Division, was ordered at 8.30 A.M. Hill 1070 was carried at 8.45, and during the next hour all the remaining advanced positions fell, and it was even reported that the enemy was here and there evacuating portions of his main line. There was now another interval for [63] bombardment, whilst the gunners were wire-cutting for the attack on the main positions. During this period of waiting, which was longer than had been expected, our infantry suffered a good deal from shelling, much of which was in enfilade from positions north of the Wadi, and it was with relief that they received the order about 12.15 to proceed with the main attack. In about forty minutes all the trenches opposite the 60th Division were captured, and the 74th completed their task only about twenty minutes later, one brigade having had some difficulty owing to incomplete wire-cutting. The 60th had, by 2 P.M., advanced some way beyond the captured trenches towards Beersheba, and the 74th crossed the Wadi Saba and cleared the trenches northward to the barrier on the Fara-Beersheba road.

Meantime the cavalry had found their detour even lengthier than had been expected, with the result that they were some hours later than they should have been, and were held up for most of the day by trenches at Tel-el-Saba, a mile or more east of Beersheba proper. These were, however, rushed towards evening, and Beersheba was occupied that night. Very few of the troops allotted for the defence of Beersheba escaped, the whole operation being completely successful. The Engineers at first reported that the water supply and wells were intact; but this proved to be far from the fact, and within forty-eight [64] hours the shortage of water was being severely felt. After this smashing success in the first stage of operations all our tails were well up, and everyone was keen to know what was to be the next move.

The next day found the 60th concentrated at Beersheba; the 74th just north of the barrier on the Fara-Beersheba road, while an advance northward had been begun by the 53rd and, in the evening, by a party of the 74th. One brigade group for the former advanced in a northerly direction west of Ain Kohleh, and the remainder in a north-westerly direction on Kuweilfeh. The left advance was successful, and a line was established on the desired objective, a ridge running east and west some five or six miles north of Beersheba. The other advance was not so fortunate; something went wrong with the supplies both of water and ammunition, and strong opposition was encountered. Also, it was impossible country to campaign in; practically roadless, and very much broken up with wadis and rocky precipices, which made it most difficult to maintain communications, even though a mounted brigade was thrown in to help.

The situation up here was much the same next day. No great progress had been made, nor were good communications established, but they had managed to get through both water and ammunition. Other divisions were, however, [65] kept on the move. The 74th were moved up to take over some line from the left of the 53rd, the 60th were concentrated some three miles N.W. of Beersheba, and one brigade of the 10th was moved to Irgeig. This was an anxious day, as the 53rd seemed to be quite held up at Kuweilfeh and not too well provided with supplies, and there was considerable doubt, in view of the general scarcity of water, whether it would be possible to carry on the campaign, which involved rolling up the Sheria and Kuwauka defences from the east.

Our Intelligence Department had for the moment "lost" a Turkish division, which complicated the situation very much as, if it were suddenly to appear on the right flank of our attack on Sheria, a most serious situation would be created. However, on the afternoon of the 5th, word was received from the 53rd Division that they had captured prisoners from numerous different battalions, some of which were known to belong to the missing division. This settled the question, as it was quite clear that the 53rd were keeping them too busy at Kuweilfeh for them to be able to send any serious force to Sheria. The "lost" division it seems was one which had been sent to reinforce the forces defending Beersheba, but by the time it got to Sheria the Beersheba defences were taken, and it was obviously no use going there. It was accordingly then sent to Kuweilfeh [66] in anticipation of an attempt by us to turn their extreme left flank.

 
Further Reading:

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, The Fife and Forfar Yeomanry Account

Posted by Project Leader at 10:22 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 6 October 2009 11:40 AM EADT
Colonel Husnu, Yildirim, Page 101
Topic: Tk - Bks - Yildirim

Another entry from the book written by Lieutenant Colonel Hüseyin Hüsnü Emir, called Yildirim. Every day, one page of the book will be posted. This is Page 101.



Colonel Hüsnü, Yildirim, Page 101.

[Click on page for a larger print version.]


Citation: Colonel Hüsnü, Yildirim, Page 101

Posted by Project Leader at 1:01 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 14 October 2008 6:17 PM EADT

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