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Thursday, 16 October 2008
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
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, Keogh Account
Topic: BatzP - Beersheba

The Battle of Beersheba

Palestine, 31 October 1917

Keogh Account


Colonel Eustace Graham Keogh, Military Training, 1945.

[From: AWM 120551]


Colonel Eustace Graham Keogh was commissioned by the Directorate of Military Training to produce a survey of the Sinai and Palestine campaign for training purposes of the Army in 1954. The result was his book called, Suez to Aleppo, published in Melbourne in 1955. This particular book was little used in the study of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign because of the embargo placed upon it by the Army which meant that its pages were only available to those who were members of the Army. Consequently the value of this small work has never been brought to the attention of the public and consequently is often ignored as a source by many scholars of this period. It is a fine book written specifically from a military point of view and thus looks at issues as the men would have done so at the time when these events were being recorded.

Keogh, EG, Suez to Aleppo, (Melbourne 1955), pp. 152 - 6:


Capture of Beersheba

[152] Beersheba lies on the Wadi Saba at the foot of the Judaean range. There are steep, rocky hills to the north, east and south of the town, which lies in a wide hollow. On the west the ground is comparatively flat and open.

On the south-west and south the defences consisted of a series of redoubts along a line of heights three to four miles from the town. These works were strongly built, with good observation, overhead cover and some wire The defect of the system was a lack of depth; in most places it consisted of a single line only. With the exception of a formidable redoubt at Tel el Saba, the defences east and north of the town were less strongly constructed and were without wire since the Turks did not apprehend attack from this direction.

The British plan for the attack on Beersheba was as follows:-

20 Corps was to assault the works south-west of the town between the Khalassa-Beersheba road and the Wadi Saba with two divisions - 60 and 74. The Camel Brigade, with two battalions of 53 Division as to mask the defences north of the Wadi Saba. The remainder of 53 Division was to cover the northern flank of the Corps against interference from the Turkish forces in the Hareira-Sheria area.

Starting from Khalassa and Asluj, the two mounted divisions of Desert Mounted Corps were to make a night march of some thirty miles and appear in the early morning to the east of Beersheba. After blocking the Hebron road they were to break into the town as rapidly as possible, seize the wells, and cut off the retreat of the enemy engaged west of the town with 20 Corps.

7th Mounted Brigade (Army troops) was to operate against the defences south of the town and form a link between 20th Corps and Desert Mounted Corps.

A detachment of Hedjaz Arabs, with a stiffening of British machine-gunners and mounted on camels, was to strike the Hebron road well to the north, and harass any Turkish reinforcements moving towards Beersheba.

[153] The role of 20 Corps was not to capture Beersheba or, indeed, to send any troops into the town except engineers to operate the wells. The role of this Corps was to pin the main garrison firmly down, and thus, it was hoped, give the Desert Mounted Corps the chance to swoop into the town on its least protected side.

On the night of 30/31 October some 40,000 troops of all arms moving to take up their allotted stations for the attack on Beersheba. The date had been fixed to take advantage of a full moon, but the night sultry and still and dense palls of dust enveloped the marching was columns. The assaulting infantry of 20th Corps had to be in their positions, some 2,000 to 2,500 yards from the enemy's works, by 0400 hours. They had eight miles to march over difficult ground. Through careful and meticulous staff work, and the good, solid training Chetwode had given to his Corps, every man and gun was in position well before time.

Desert Mounted Corps had to march thirty miles over rough, confusing country, much of which had not been reconnoitred, using maps [154] compiled chiefly by guesswork. Every unit reached its allotted station by the specified time. And that was no mean feat, even for experienced troops.

The front of attack of 20 Corps was a little over 5,000 yards, equally divided between 60 and 74 Divisions. Opposite 60 Division lay a strong outwork on a commanding knoll known as Hill 1070. Besides directly barring 60 Division's approach to the enemy's main line, it also prevented the batteries of 74 Division from getting within wire cutting range. The capture of this hill, therefore, constituted the first phase of the attack. At 0555 hours a heavy bombardment was opened on the hill. But the air was so still that the hill was soon enveloped in dense clouds of dust, and it became impossible for the gunners to observe the effects of their fire. The bombardment had to be suspended for three-quarters of an hour. It was then resumed, and at 0830 hours the infantry went in and carried their objective.

During this phase the battalions on other parts of the front had been working forward. As soon as Hill 1070 was taken batteries moved up, under heavy artillery fire, to wire culling range. From 1030 hours to 1200 hours the guns battered the Turkish defences while the infantry edged steadily forward to assaulting distance. At 1215 hours the infantry of both divisions went in with the bayonet. Few of the enemy, however, stood to meet the steel, and by 1330 hours the whole position between the Khalassa road and the Wadi Saba had been captured and an outpost line was being established about 2,000 yards further east.

The task of clearing the works north of the Saba was impeded by heavy dust, but they were finally carried by 74 Division by 1000 hours. 20 Corps had thus fulfilled its role in the attack on Beersheba.

While 20 Corps was attacking Hill 1070 Anzac Mounted Division had reached the line Bir Hamam-Sir Salim, at about 0800 hours. Australian Mounted Division was in Corps reserve just south-east of Khasim Zanna. 7th Mounted Brigade was in dismounted action against Ras Ghannam, south of Beersheba.

At 0800 hours Anzac Mounted Division advanced to carry out the first phase of Desert Mounted Corps' programme - the reduction of the enemy's defences east and north-east of Beersheba. These defences were anchored on strong redoubts on Tel el Sakaty and Tel el Saba. The former objective was allotted to 2nd ALH Brigade, the latter to the New Zealand Brigade, with 1 ALH Brigade in reserve.

Starting from Bir Hamam, 2 ALH Brigade rode hard towards Tel el Sakaty and the Hebron road. Their pace saved them from heavy casualtles, but they were forced to dismount just short of the road. Thereafter progress was slow and it was nearly 1300 hours before the Brigade had made good Tel el Sakaty, the wells near by, and the line the road. There it remained for the rest of the day, protecting the right flank of the Corps.

[155] Tel el Saba was a more formidable obstacle. The mound lies on the northern bank of the Wadi Saba, about three miles east of the town. It is 400 yards by 200 yards in extent, with a flat, rocky top. On the wadi side its face is a cliff; on the other sides its face is steep but not sheer. It had been trenched for infantry and machine guns, and in places had two tiers of fire which swept the wadi bed and the bare plain.

Shortly after 0900 hours the New Zealand Brigade advanced with the object of assaulting the mound from the north and east. Progress was slow in the face of heavy and accurate machine gun and rifle fire, the 13-pounder shells of the divisional artillery making little impression on the Turkish defences. At 1100 hours the divisional commander put in two regiments from his reserve brigade Both regiments galloped across the bare plain to within 1,500 yards of their objective before dismounting. They then advanced on foot against the south face of the mound. The Somerset and Inverness batteries, handled with great skill and dash, came into action at a range of only 1,500 yards in an effort to master the Turkish machine gunners. In a intense fire fight the two brigades gradually closed on the mound, which was finally carried at 1500 hours.

3 ALH Brigade of Australian Mounted Division, in Corps Reserve, was now directed on objectives north of Beersheba in order to isolate the town. Meanwhile it had become clear to General Chauvel that if he was to carry out his orders to seize Beersheba before nightfall, orders which had been emphatically repeated by Allenby a little earlier, methodical progress must be abandoned in favour of action designed to produce quicker results. He still had two brigades of Australian Mounted Division in reserve. One of these - 4 ALH - he now ordered to make a mounted attack direct on the town.

In consequence of air attacks 4 ALH Brigade had been somewhat dispersed, and one regiment was on outpost duty. It was 1630 hours before it was concentrated and ready. Between Khasim Zanna and the Turkish trenches on the east of the town lay four miles of bare, open ground, good galloping country. The brigade deployed with two regiments forward - 4 ALH on the right, 12 ALH on the left - and 11 ALH in reserve.

The leading regiments rode in three successive lines each of a squadron extended at four or five paces interval between riders. The men had no swords so carried drawn bayonets in their hands trenches machine gun squadron moved out to the left to engage on that flank.

As soon as the leading squadrons appeared on the plain the Turkish guns opened on them, but the pace and open formation of the horsemen saved them from heavy casualties. Presently they came under heavy machine gun fire from the left flank, but the supporting artillery - "A" Battery, Honourable Artillery Company and the Notts Battery - picked up the flashes in the failing light and quickly found [156] Then the squadrons encountered rapid and sustained musketry fire from the entrenched infantry in front of them. The men rode on at full gallop, and the fire soon became erratic.

The leading horsemen galloped over two lines of trenches straight on into Beersheba, overrunning buns, transport, and infantry. Succeeding waves dismounted and cleared the trenches with the bayonet. The defence fell apart in wild disorder. Night came down with Beersheba firmly in British hands.

The highlight of the capture of Beersheba was the dramatic charge of 4 ALH Brigade. The charge succeeded because from first to last it was pushed home with terrific elan; because it came as a complete and shattering surprise, and because the pace at which it moved defeated the efforts of the Turkish Gunners to correct their ranges. Rifles examined after the action showed that even the infantry had failed to lower their sights below 800 yards. Consequently most of the fire at the shorter and more dangerous ranges passed overhead. The brigade had only 64 casualties, and most of these were sustained in the hand-to-hand fighting in the trenches.

The charge had a notable effect besides the capture of Beersheba. It gave 4 ALH Brigade immense pride in its achievement and confidence n its prowess, and it created in very other brigade in the Corps a spirit of emulation which had important results in subsequent engagements.


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, Keogh Account

Posted by Project Leader at 7:48 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 4 October 2009 11:19 AM EADT
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
1st Australian Signal Troop, AIF account about the fall of Beersheba
Topic: BatzP - Beersheba

1st Australian Signal Troop, AIF, description of the Beersheba fall

1st Australian Signal Troop operating a heliograph.

[From: AWM picture P00228.06]

At the conclusion of the war, Major R. Smith produced an unpublished  manuscript in 1919 called 1st Australian Signal Troop, which included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below.


Smith, R, 1st Australian Signal Troop, unpublished, pp. 2 - 3:


[2] 30-10-17 The attack on Beersheba On 30-10-17 observation posts were established on Gebel el Sherief - Point 1615 and Point 1240 in communication with 1st Signal Troop by visual. At 1800 1st Signal Troop moved with 1st ALH Bde in rear of Anzac Mounted Division on the Asluj - Gebel el Shegeib Road to attack Beersheba from the east. At 1000 on 31 October 1917 Headquarters 1st ALH Bde were established at Point 1370 Iswaiwin. At 1015 the 3rd ALH Regiment moved across the open plain to attack Tel el Saba establishing Regimental Headquarters in the Wadi at the "W" of Kh el Watan in touch with 1st ALH Bde Headquarters [3] on Point 1130 by visual. Lateral communications was established with NZMR Bde on our right, this touch being maintained throughout the day. At 1300 the 2nd ALH Regiment moved up to support 2rd ALH Regiment on a frontal attack on Tel el Saba and 1st ALH Bde Battle Headquarters were established at the old 3rd ALH Regimental Headquarters, this Regiment moving forward up the Wadi towards Tel el Saba. The 3rd ALH Regiment mad a frontal attack on Tel el Saba at 1400, their headquarters being in communication with Battle Headquarters by telephone and the line ot them was twice extended during the attack as the Regiment closed on Tel el Saba.

 Telephone communication was also established with Headquarters 2nd ALH Regiment operating on the left flank of the 3rd Regiment on the bank of the Wadi el Saba, the 1st ALH Regiment in reserve on the plan and Divisional Headquarters on Point 1130 by visual.

 The Inverness Battery in the Wadi immediately north of Kh el Watan, which was supporting the attack on Tel el Saba, was placed in telephone communication with Battle Headquarters and with Headquarters 2nd and 3rd ALH Regiments making the attack.

 Each Regiment in the line had telephone and visual communication with their Squadrons and Machine Gun Sections. The telephone communications between Squadron Commanders in the front line and the Inverness Battery resulted in enemy machine gun positions, which held up our advance at various times, being destroyed by battery fire thus making front line advance possible. The 1st ALH Regiment being in reserve and the traffic going through to them being small, telephone communications with them was not considered necessary. Flank communication between 1st ALH Bde and NZMR Bde was maintained during the attack between Brigade Headquarters and front line troops. All available wire on telephone pack sets having been used between Battle Headquarters and Regimental Headquarters and the remainder on the Signal equipment being in "A" Echelon, which had not arrived at this stage, it necessary to reel up and re-lay cable as the advance proceeded.

 Motorcyclist Despatch Riders did invaluable work taking messages both forward and back, often under heavy shell and machine gun fire. Their work was particularly good as the ground was interspersed with Wadis and no roads existed.

 Tel el Saba fell at 1530 the retreating enemy being followed by 2nd and 3rd LH Regiments who kept in touch by visual. At 1650 the 1st LH Regiment advanced on Beersheba occupying the line from the Mosque inclusive to Point 970 inclusive. This line was occupied at 1730 blocking all exits from the town. meanwhile Brigade Headquarters had been established at Point 960 and all units of the Brigade concentrated there were placed in telephone communication, the Brigade itself being in communication with Anzac Mounted Division by telegraph.

 On 0730 on 1-11-17 Headquarters 1st ALH Bde were established half a mile west of Point 960 on the Wadi Saba, telephone communication being re- established with all units of the Brigade. At 1700 on 1-11-17 a visual station was established at Point 1020 in touch with one Squadron 2nd ALH Regiment at Kh el Lebiyah and with Headquarters ICC Brigade at Point 1510 Towal Abu Jerwal. These stations were withdrawn on the morning of 2-11-17 when 2nd ALH Regiment withdrew to camp.


Further Reading:

List of all other Battle of Beersheba accounts  on the blog

Full listing of all material about Beersheba on the blog


Citation: 1st Australian Signal Troop, AIF account about the fall of Beersheba

Posted by Project Leader at 9:06 PM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 14 October 2008 9:57 PM EADT
Monday, 13 October 2008
The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, "Put Grant straight at it."
Topic: BatzP - Beersheba

The Battle of Beersheba

Palestine, 31 October 1917

"Put Grant straight at it."


Did Chauvel say to Grant: "Put Grant straight at it." ?

After the Great War, when all the stories were being sorted out and catalogued, one of the more enduring scenes of the Sinai and Palestine campaigns is the order given by General Chauvel to Brigadier General Grant to commence the famous charge at Beersheba.  

In Gullett, HS,  The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, 1914–1918 (10th edition, 1941) Official Histories – First World War, Volume VII, the story is told at p. 393:

"There was a brief but tense discussion, in which Fitzgerald and Grant pleaded for the honour of the galloping attack which was clearly in Chauvel's mind. FitzGerald's yeomanry had their swords and were close behind Chauvel's headquarters; Grant's Australians had only their rifles and bayonets, but they were nearer Beersheba. After a moment's thought, Chauvel gave the lead to the light horsemen. "Put Grant straight at it," was his terse command to Hodgson; and Grant, swinging on to his horse, galloped away to prepare and assemble his regiments."


See: Gullett account about the fall of Beersheba


A couple years later, when the British Official War History of the Sinai and Palestine campaign was written, the story is somewhat changed. It is no longer in the body of the text. In a footnote, a difference of opinion is aired leaving it up to the reader to ascertain if these words were indeed said as reported in Gullett.

Falls, C.; MacMunn, G.; and, Becke, AF, Military operations: Egypt and Palestine, (London 1930), Footnote p. 58:

"Australian Official History," p. 393. The records are lacking in Information here. At 3.30 p.m. General Chauvel sent or message to the Australian Mounted Division ordering it to attack Beersheba with one brigade, but without mention of mounted action. It is General Chauvel 's recollection that he gave no orders to Br.-General Grant, but spoke only to Major-General Hodgson. B.-General Grant, however, states that Major-General Hodgson took him to the corps commander, who directed him to "take the town before dark," without giving him instructions as to how the attack was to be carried out, and that he himself was therefore solely responsible for the mounted charge.
See: British Official War History account about the fall of Beersheba


This particular situation arose as a consequence of Falls receiving two contradictory letters, one from Chauvel and the other from Grant.


The Chauvel Letter:


General Chauvel's letter to Dr Bean

[Click on page for a larger print version.]


The transcription:

Dear Bean,

Your letter of the 31st July re Grant's comments on the Beersheba Chapter of the Official History of the Palestine Campaign. I did not personally give any orders to Grant. He got his orders from Hodgson. Mounted action was certainly contemplated when I discussed the matter with Hodgson before giving him his orders. As a matter of fact there was little time for anything else. I remember distinctly Fitzgerald, who was present at the discussion, presenting the claims of this Brigade because they were armed with the sword whilst Grant's was not. I told Hodgson to put in Grant as his Brigade ought to have been assembled much quicker that Fitzgerald's. Both were in Corps Reserve but were much scattered on account of hostile aircraft attack.

With kind regards,
Yours sincerely
Harry Chauvel


Chauvel is quite unequivocal about his memory when he states in this letter: "I did not personally give any orders to Grant."

In contrast, Grant tells a different story, the one which appeared in Gullett's book. 


The Grant Letter:


General Grant's letter to Dr Bean


The transcription: 

I had been watching the progress of the attack for some hours from a point near the Corps Headquarters when General Hodgson came to me at 4 p.m. and said:

"It is your turn to go in Grant. Come and see the Corps Commander."

We then went to the latter. General Chauvel said:

"Go right in and take the town before dark", and indicated the direction of the attack.

The BGGS (General Howard Vyse) then told me to move on the left of the A & NZ Mounted Division which was near the road from Beersheba to Khasim Zanna.

No instructions were given me how the attack was to be made.

From the movement of the enemy troops, I formed the opinion that the was then fighting a delaying action and would reture under cover of darkness after destroying the wells. I therefore ordered a mounted charge to smash through the defence and prevent this. I was solely responsible for the mounted charge, and it was due to my own initiative.


Grant is also unequivocal about his memory when he states in this letter that Chauvel said to him directly and personally: "Go right in and take the town before dark."

This is the only evidence we have of these two conflicting stories. While no one who was there is still alive to contest the account, and this particular note is here only to put the facts on the table rather than make a case, for the moment, as Falls has done, it is up to the readers to make their own minds up on this matter.


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, "Put Grant straight at it."

Posted by Project Leader at 4:30 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 4 October 2009 11:09 AM EADT

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