Topic: BatzP - Beersheba
9th LHR On Manoeuvres
The Alleged Elliott Photograph Examined, Part 1
9th Australian Light Horse Regiment "On Manoeuvres".
Schramm Photograph Album
[Click on photograph for a larger version.]
The above photograph is possibly the most controversial photograph of the Palestine campaign. There are many different beliefs from the reasonable to the outright bizarre. This particular photograph was in our family collection with the heading "On Manoeuvres". The person who wrote that description was a veteran of the Sinai and Palestine campaign and was on Tel el Saba when the charge began.
Later on, after the Great War, when the "Charge at Beersheba" had cache,Trooper E.G. Elliot of the 4th Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron claimed authorship of this particular photograph. This claim was examined by Ian Jones in and article called: Is This The Charge At Beersheba? It was published in the Journal of the Australian War Memorial, October 1983. A copy of this article is located on the web site of the Australian Light Horse Association at this address:
Elliott claimed that the photograph portrays the historic charge of the 4th and 12th LHRs of the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade at Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917. His Statutory Declaration claims that he was in an advanced position performing range finding duties and was unaware that the charge was planned but fortunately had a small camera with him and so took a quick snap as the horses charged towards him. In his latest work, The legend of the Light Horse written by Ian Jones in 2007, the arguments are reiterated with a few modifications but essentially alleging the same conclusion as made in 1983.
Matthew Woodhead and and Jacqui Lobach, in The Australian Charge at Beersheba, 1917: Is the Photograph Genuine or Staged, Wartime, Issue 1 (November 1997) refutes the Jones' thesis and formulates the hypothesis that the photograph was produced by Frank Hurley, the Australian Official Photographer, on 7 February 1918. They claim it portrays a re-enactment of the charge. The location of this photograph was around the Deir el Belah township south of Gaza where the Australian Mounted Division was resting for three months.
The relationship between Hurley and Brigadier General LC Wilson of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade was very much in evidence when Wilson escorted Hurley around the front lines in late December 1917. The various diary entries are found on this site at this address:
My personal research agrees with this conclusion by Woodhead and Lobach and indicates that it is more than probable that the regiment in the photograph is the 9th Australian Light Horse Regiment. There are two reasons for this.
The first relates to other photograph albums claiming that the photograph is of the 9th LHR. In addition, there is a letter from Major Jack Davies, the Officer Commanding "C" Squadron, 12th LHR to his wife detailing his purchase of this very photograph from Lieutenant Colonel Scott, the Commanding Officer of the 9th LHR on 26 March 1918. No mention in his letter that this was a photograph of the charge at Beersheba yet the officer in question was quite happy to let his wife know in great detail other events in which he participated during the campaign. His photographs were always well described. Elsie Ritchie compiled all his letters in 1998 in a self published volume called Crusaders of the Southern Cross at p. 218.In addition, it requires an examination of the Massie Map:
Special attention should be paid to the third line in the picture compared to that shown in the Massie Map. The representation of the third line in the Massie map indicates that the troops are in line of column. The alleged Elliott photograph shows the third line as a single line, a totally different concept. It comes down to whose evidence is accepted in this case. Massie's map was fully authenticated by the men who took part in the action at Beersheba. He was a thorough man who knew his task and produced a map accordingly. In the alternative there is Elliott who claims he took the picture but never saw it until years later. There does not appear to be any contest on credibility with the evidence put in sharp relief. The Massie map is accurate. It is the third line of the photograph that undermines the claim of Elliott.
Finally the topography of the picture needs to be qualified by that portrayed quite accurately in the Official Map:
One major item missing from this picture is Tel el Saba which should have been clearly seen in the photograph as it is in any other photograph of the point where the charge was formed. An examination of the alleged Elliott picture requires a comparison of the topography. This is clearly undertaken in an earlier post and presented at:
The thing to keep in mind, if this was a photograph of the charge as alleged by Elliott, is the background.
In addition to topography, on the day of the charge, to the left of the horse lines the alleged Elliott picture, there should by signs of many thousands of men on horses as well as field guns in place. The below photograph illustrates this principle of visually picking up horsemen in the distance.
Had the alleged Elliott photograph been taken at Beersheba, the presence of 12,000 cavalrymen would have left even the slightest trace in the picture. It is impossible to hide such a number of horses and men. These would be picked up as black dots over the picture. The alleged Elliott photograph shows none. In other words, either the two divisions of cavalry disappeared and the war stopped for the sake of the photograph, or the photograph does not describe the charge at Beersheba.
Vast quantities of evidence exists indicating that the Elliott claim to authorship of this photograph is very much in doubt. That is not to say that Elliott did not take a photograph on that day, only that he did not take this photograph. This evidence will progressively be added to the blog.
One of the most bizarre claims is that the photograph was taken by a Turkish soldier in the trenches facing the charge. He was subsequently killed. The film was removed from the camera and this was on that roll. Unless this valiant but unlucky Turk had a telephoto lens attached to his camera and took the charge at its formation, then this photograph is an impossibility. By the time the Turkish trenche shad been reached, the charging horses had broken up into smaller units. While these were coherent fighting units, it would have appeared to be a shambles in front of the trench with horses and men going every which way.