Topic: AIF - 3B - 3 LHB
The Battle of Beersheba
Palestine, 31 October 1917
3rd LH Bde, AIF, Unit History Account
[From: Likeman, R, From Law to War, p. 3.]
Brigadier General Lachlan Chisholm Wilson wrote his Narrative of Third Light Horse Brigade from 27th October 1917 to 4th March 1919, in which included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below.
Wilson, LC, Narrative of Third Light Horse Brigade from 27th October 1917 to 4th March 1919, p. 3:
Shortly after 0530 our advanced troops gained touch with the Anzac Mounted Division in the vicinity of Iswaiwin. Here water in shallow pools was discovered and many of the horses were given a short drink, although time would not permit all horses being watered.
The Australian Mounted Division shortly afterwards concentrated. Final orders for the Division were to be received at the point of concentration. The Division would be called upon for either one or two tasks by the Desert Mounted Corps, whose double mission was,
[a]. To attack Beersheba, from the east, and envelope the enemy's left rear; and,
[b]. To seize as much water supply as possible in order to form a base for field operations. The 20th Corps would cooperate with Desert Mounted Corps by attacking Beersheba defences from the west and south west.
The capture of Beersheba being primary object of the army.
The Australian Mounted Division was to be prepared at Iswaiwin for a quick move either north westward on Beersheba or northwards to assist Anzac Mounted Division, who were moving to attack Tel el Saba.
From the rear of the Anzac Mounted Division, 8th Light Horse Regiment, under Maygar, Lieutenant Colonel LC, VC DSO, was detached at 0630 to take up the line 1280 - 1180 - 1210, and get signalling communication with 7th Mounted Brigade [operating on right of 20th Corps], on the left, and New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade [operating on the left of Anzac Mounted Division], on the right.
8th Light Horse Regiment was linked up with right and left by 1800. Enemy positions and works at Ras Ghannam were reconnoitred vigorously and discovered to be very strongly held.
After receipt of reports of the patrols, who had been reconnoitring enemy positions east south east, south and south west of Beersheba, during the morning, orders were received that the main attack would be launched against the enemy's position at Tel el Saba.
The Anzac Mounted Division were pushing the attack now on the right, and at 1400 the Brigade [less the 8th Light Horse Regiment] received orders to move to assist the Anzac Mounted Division at Tel el Saba, being temporarily attached to the Division for this purpose.
On moving across open country immediately towards Bir Salim Abu Irgeig, the Brigade came under heavy shell fire. The formation of the Brigade in this movement was Squadron column in line of troop column, with double interval and distance.
On the arrival of the Brigade at the point of deployment Bir Salim Abu Irgeig at 1500, the 9th Light Horse Regiment under Scott, Lieutenant Colonel WH, DSO was ordered into the attack on the right of the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade, supported by the rest of the Brigade, less the 8th Light Horse Regiment. The 9th Light Horse Regiment moved forward across the open ground to the north of the main wadi where it came under intense enemy shelling, but suffered very few casualties. The movement was carried out with the Regiment in column of squadrons, each squadron in line of troop column, with 100 yards interval and distance between troops. The determination with which the movement was executed undoubtedly had a moral effect on the enemy which was now being closed in on. The balance of the Brigade moved in support along the bed of the main wadi.
The enemy's position at Tel el Saba was at 1530 captured with the garrison by the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade before the 9th Light Horse Regiment dismounted for action.
The 10th Light Horse Regiment at 1630 was ordered to seize the positions 1020 and 970, and cut off any enemy retreat along the Beersheba - Hebron Road.
The 9th Light Horse Regiment was now ordered to move from 1080 to Tel el Saba, and take up a second line 1040 - 960, to cooperate with the 10th Light Horse Regiment holding the line 1020 - 970, in cutting off an enemy's retreat [from Beersheba towards] Hebron.
When nearing Tel el Saba the 9th Light Horse Regiment was bombed by two enemy aeroplanes flying at the extremely low altitudes of 800 feet, and suffered very heavy casualties in both men and horses. Including the sub - section Machine Gun Squadron attached to 9th Light Horse Regiment, casualties sustained were: - 13 other ranks killed, and three Officers and 17 other ranks wounded, 20 horses wounded and 32 horses killed.
The 8th Light Horse Regiment had received orders from Headquarters, Anzac Mounted Division to rejoin 3rd Light Horse Brigade Headquarters. When so doing they were also bombed by enemy aircraft flying at a very low altitude. The CO, Maygar, Lieutenant Colonel LC, VC DSO, was here mortally wounded, and died the following day.
At about 1900 news was received that Beersheba had been captured. The enemy had been taken by surprise; they had not expected a serious attack on this flank. Information of the movement in force of the mounted troops towards Asluj was not gained by the enemy. The enemy aeroplane which did detect the movement of troops to the south failed to return.
The 10th Light Horse Regiment was meeting strong opposition from an enemy rear guard, who advanced against one squadron and entrenched themselves in front of the 10th Light Horse Regiment position. The opening up of machine gun and rifle fire at about 2130 drove the enemy back. 10th Light Horse Regiment advanced troops had now entered Beersheba from the north east. All Regiments and the machine gun squadron of the Brigade had during the day taken part in the attack. The casualties in the Brigade incurred for the day's operations were: 13 killed and 33 wounded, with 36 horses wounded and 32 killed.
There were captured by the mounted troops nearly 2,000 prisoners, 14 guns and huge quantities of booty of all descriptions.
During the night the Brigade was continually sniped at from a ridge north of Beersheba. 25 prisoners, chiefly snipers, were taken by the 9th and 10th Light Horse Regiments during the night.
Citation: The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 3rd LH Bde, AIF, Unit History Account