"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess
The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre aims to present an accurate history as chroniclers of early Australian military developments from 1899 to 1920.
The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre site holds over 12,000 entries and is growing daily.
About 1500 on the 10th December 1918, I saw a NZ Soldier near the farriers forges. There several of our farriers were there. The New Zealander said to me: "We are going to raid the village at daylight tomorrow - let any of the men know it's on and if they care to join us they can." I then walked away to my own lines. The New Zealand soldier who visited the 6th LH Lines at 1500 on December 10th wore red and white colours on the puggaree of his hat.
Between 1800 and 1830, I saw another NZ Soldier in the lines of "C" Troop, "A" Squadron. He was mounted and speaking to some men in the end bivvy. I overheard him say - "We've altered the time of the raid and it's going to take place in about an hours time." (I do not think he was the samde man who was in the lines at 1500.) I did not hear any reply from any men. I went to the latrine and he was still there when I returned. I then wsent to my bivvy and did not see him again.
The next thing I know of the matter was when the raid started. I heard a number of men in the lines talking about it and apparently watching the raid.
A short time afterwards an order came down to "Stand to".
Surafend, the massacre, Palestine, 10 December 1918, Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal Account Topic: BatzP - Surafend
Surafend, the massacre
Palestine, 10 December 1918
Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal Account
DAPM Anzac Mtd Division Report, 11 December 1918
The following is a transcription of an account about the death of Leslie Lowry and the subsequent investigation of the murder. The report is extracted from Appendix 2, Assistant Provost Marshal, ANZAC Mounted Division War Diary, December 1918.
Appendix II to the War Diary Anzac Mounted Division 11 December 1918
The burning of the Village at Surafend and the Bedouin Camp south of Richon de Zion.
At about 2030 on the 10th December 1918, I received a telephonic message from Major Walker DAQMG to the effect that the Village of Surafend was ablaze. I immediately organised a group of my Police, comprising in all 13 men, together with a portion of the Town Picquet and Duty Troop with their respective Officers, and the whole of us, in company with Captain Stevenson GSO3 of the Division, Lieutenant Fyfe A/D APM and I proceeded to the Village of Surafend. On arrival there I found the Village in flames.
The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Troops were patrolling the outskirts. I then went across to the Bedouin camp south of Richon and found that the place was also in flames. Quite a number of New Zealand and Imperial Troops as well as a few Australians were in and around the Camp. I saw no soldier committing an offence to warrant his arrest.
I entered with my Police and ordered all Troops out, which they did, but the lot assembled at the South end of the Camp. At this spot I addressed the men in a few words and advised them to return to their respective units and they immediately complied with the order.
I noticed that several of the men were armed, some with revolvers, some with rifles, while others had sticks in their possession. After seeing that everything was clear I surveyed the Camp and discovered the whole place was in a total wreck. There were three (3) Bedouins (Males) killed and two (2) Bedouins (Males) wounded. I communicated the result of these to the New Zealand Field Ambulance and two (2) Medical Officers were soon on the scene of action. I pointed out to them the dead and wounded. Then I left the Duty Troop Officer, Lieutenant Tremaine, 3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment and his men together with a couple of my police to guard the Camp and to give whatever assistance that was required of them.
After this I proceeded back to Surafend Village in company with Captain Stevenson and my Police, and on my return to the Village, I saw no visible sign of any soldiers in or about the place.
As far as practicable I searched the Village throughout and it was still in flames. I found here the dead bodies of five (5) Bedouins (Males), and five Bedouin Males wounded. During the interval I sent a message to the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade Headquarters requesting for the attendance of a Medical Officer at Surafend. It was not long before he arrived. I pointed out to him the dead and wounded and he took charge forthwith. I left a couple of my Police to render whatever help they might be called upon for. I also sent a message to the Duty Troop Officer to return with his men to Division Headquarters Camp, just leaving two (2) of my Police to look after the Camp.
As far as my observation went I could not trace any signs of cruelty, or an act of brutality done to women or children at either of the places burned down, but I noticed many of them huddled up together in places.
Lieutenant Fyfe ADAPM and four (4) others of my Police were sent away early this morning to make further enquiries, with the result that on arriving at the Bedouin Camp, found the place was picquetted by the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade. Lieutenant Fyfe made search through the Camp and found the bodies of four (4) male Bedouins. He then proceeded to the Village of Surafend, and found that place was also picquetted by Lieutenant Trelow (3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment) Officer in charge, in company with the latter officer Lieutenant Fyfe immediately communicated with the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade Field Ambulances. Major Montifiore APM PL of C and Captain McKay, Deputy Military Governor of Ramleh then arrived. Lieutenant Fyfe pointed out the wounded to the Military Governor and returned to Divisional Headquarters with Major Montifiore, leaving the Police there to assist awaiting further instructions.
In company with Major Montifiore I visited both the camp and Village. The Muktah there informed me that no children or women were interfered with.
The Picquet were still doing duty as per instructions.
Title: - (3511) O'Brien, Edward Harold (Private), C Squadron, 3rd Light Horse Regiment, AIF
Interviewee: - Edward Harold O'Brien
Interviewer: Douglas Wyatt
Date recorded: - 1988
Recording location: - Devonport, Tasmania
In this dialogue, there are two people speaking, Douglas Wyatt [DW] the interviewer and Edward Harold O'Brien [EHOB] which in the text is presented with indented initalcs.
[DW] Yes. There's some rogues about. Do you ever meet up with Chauvel?
[EHOB] Allenby, yes, he come along. No, I never saw Chauvel. Unless I have forgotten about it. But I never forget Allenby. My word, he had a beautiful horse.
[DW] Did he?
[EHOB] ooh, yes. He just stood up in his stirrups and we went xxx. We were there at attention, close attention too. The poor xxx xxx xxx happened to be?
[DW] Was this all of the Third Light Horse, or more than that?
[EHOB] No. It was only the Third Light Horse, I think. I think they were the only ones who were in this mess up.
[DW] Were they.
[EHOB] Oh yes. And some New Zealanders. Well, I think perhaps the New Zealanders were the main ones, because a New Zealand sergeant it was.
[DW] That's right.
[EHOB] And these bedouins. They were wicked. The bedouins, you see, you didn't know whether they were for you or not. And they'd finish up ...
[DW] They were the local natives, were they?
[EHOB] Yeah, and they had to be treated as enemies, to finish up, you know. Anyone, you know ... You'd shoot them on site.
[DW] Were there any Tasmanians involved in that little incident?
[EHOB] Oh yes. Our squadron was there. I was down there. I don't know what I did with it, I was cranky and that. But they had a good issue of rum and they did their blocks. But I don't know.
[DW] Was the whole squadron involved? The officers as well or not?
[EHOB] Oh no. I think it would be only the sergeants, from the sergeants down. I can't think of any officers at all. But I can't think how it was organised or anything like that, it just happened. And everyone did their block. This sergeant was a very popular man, you know. It was really these New Zealanders came round our lines and tell them about it - they decided they'd go in and clean it up. And they did, I think.
[DW] And you went yourself?
[EHOB] Yeah, I was there, but I don't know if I did anything like that.
[DW] What about George Bramich, was he there?
[EHOB] [Harrigan, Harrigan], yeah, yeah. [Harrigan] and Don would be there too. We were all pretty well ... It must have been entered because it was our crowd that did it.
[DW] Was there much of a repercussion except from the tick off from Allenby or did you get fronted or anything?
[EHOB] No. Not our own personal crowd. They sort of wiped it off. It was one of those things. I think it got back to Australia and then I think Allenby sort of part apologised or something like that. But it was a wrong thing - it was bad, that's all. But there were these things that went on all the time.
[DW] What did you actually do? Did you go in and wreck the village?
[EHOB] Oh, absolutely. Yes. It didn't matter. There was cows and ducks and geese: there were kids. But men: they all went for the men with the bayonet and they got it.
[DW] The women then they moved out, I suppose.
[EHOB] There were some left. And they trekked out: they left their village and away they went. It was a bad thing, it was a real bad thing.
[DW] Were you camped close to this village at the time?
[DW] In tents, or what?
[EHOB] I reckon so. I suppose so. It was about the only thing we used to have.
[DW] What was the name of the village?
[EHOB] Oh, God only knows. I don't know that it was ever named - there were villages everywhere.
[EHOB] You know, of course there were a lot of them. When we were at camp, xxx xxx xxx, and they'd drop down at night time and just sleep on the earth. They would get up in the morning and there would be flies in their ears and noses and eyes and everything like that and xxx xxx xxx xxx.
[DW] Was this the natives?
[EHOB] Yeah, yeah. There were two extremes, you see. There were the high and mighty and the very wealthy and then the rest of them. But they're still uncouth like that and they plough with a cow and a crooked stick sort of business and all this sort of rubbish.
The following is a transcription of a letter written by Ambrose Stephen Mulhall (3180 Private Ambrose Stephen MULHALL) to Senator Sir George Pearce and dated 19 July 1936. The letter itself is almost illegible but the following has been extracted. The use of the "???" indicates a word or phrase that could not be deciphered.
The Right Honourable Senator Sir George Pearce.
I desire to ask if you would be good enough to furnish me with a copy of the report which was made to you at that time as responsible Minister (Minister for Defence) relative to the Bedouin massacres in Palestine in December, 1918.
On the Sunday following General Allenby addressed the remnant of the Division and accused us all and sundry of being a lot of cold-blooded murderers and cowards. Later Allenby went to England and in a speech at Dover said, among other things, the Australian Light Horsemen were no other than a lot of murderers and cowards. This part of his speech was cabled to Australia and published in the Sydney Sun newspaper.
I was one of those encamped in that area at the time and saw Sergeant Lawry the New Zealander buried. I also heard the rifle shots that night. The following morning at 7 a.m. I was at the Bedouin village which was then a mass of ruins: every hut had been fired. I counted the dead and made a general observation of the whole affair. I was astounded at seeing so many with their heads battered. It did not appear to be the work of ??? soldiers being an experience man in crime and its detection here I had been member of the NSW Mounted and from which I had resigned to enlist for War Service.
I decided there and then to go right into the whole matter, the whole thing was so inhuman the way they had been done to death and ??? this is the result of my investigations. In the first place it was the New Zealanders' affair and it was a New Zealand soldier who had been murdered by a Bedouin. This led up to the killing after the funeral of Lowry. On the Monday evening a meeting was held near the Bedouin Village. It was decided to raid the village that night and get Lowry's murderer. They also decided to send a dispatch rider around to the various camps in that area for re-enforcements. It was december and ??? at 6 p.mp. Shortly after the despatch rider had left on his mission he became confused with the light of the numerous camps he corrected his way and returned to the village ???? He had visited the Tommys Artillery Camp and informed them. Artillerymen are not issued with rifles. The Tommys decided to join the New Zealanders in full force and having no rifles they decided and which they did took iron bludgeons to the village. Ten minutes were given the Bedouins to hand over the Bedouin murderers of Segt Lowry. But this the Bedouin ??? refused. All women and children under the age of 16 were removed from the village and placed under guard on the hillside ??? outback. Then the mad frenzy commenced. The New Zealanders used their rifles and the Tommys using their bludgeons bashin and battering the Natives to death. There was only three regiments of Australians encamped in that area at the time: the 1st ALH, 3rd ALH and 6th ALH Regiments. The Australians were not present there that night, they did not know there was any trouble taking place in the village that night. I was engaged for some days in these investigations and I say definitely.
Official enquiry was held during that week. I never had an opportunity, either secretly or otherwise tell Allenby that it was his cold-blooded Pommy and ??? who did the massacre. Allenby hated us Australians and he put his spite on to us.
Sir Henry Gullett in his book says Lowry chased the Bedouin through the sandhills. There no sandhills within three miles of the spot where Lowry was shot. He also says guards were placed around the village that night and all next day which was all ??? Nothing was done until after the ???? the following evening.
Now Mr. Geo says he presided over a court of enquiry and that ample proofs were given that the Australians were there in large numbers. At the same time Mr. Bell strictly avoids mentioning what units they belonged to, but he cannot escape.
I said then that New Zealanders were foolish taking those Pommies ??? in that they ???
Now the last lying statement of Allenby involves 50,000 Australians. Are you prepared to allow your own countrymen to be condemned like this? Years I have been working to clear the stigma from us; the time has not been opportune. I tried ??? when Allenby was in Australia ???
Trusting you will supply me with a copy of that report.
Surafend, the massacre, Palestine, 10 December 1918, Easterbrook Account Topic: BatzP - Surafend
Surafend, the massacre
Palestine, 10 December 1918
The Easterbrook letter.
The following is a transcription of a report written by Major Claude Cadman Easterbrook to 2nd LH Brigade Headquarters submitted during January 1919.
2nd LH Brigade
Reference raid on Khurbet Surafend on night of 10th December 1918.
On December 10th 1918 Major HAD White DSO, 6th LH Regiment was temporarily in Command of Brigade. I was with Major White at Headquarters 6th LH, at 2000 on that date. At about 2010 a whistle blast was heart from the direction of Khurbet Surafend and a few minutes later several small fires were noticed in the village, and a few shots were heard.
Major White instructed me to report the matter to Division Headquarters, and to order units of the Brigade to "stand to" in their lines. This order was given verbally to the 6th LH, and by personally saw that the order was complied with by 2nd AMGS, and smaller units.
I immediately communicated with DHQ by 'phone and reported the matter to Major Walker DAQMG and informed him that the Brigade was standing to and would await orders from DHQ.
An Officer (Lieutenant Allman) and 24 other ranks mounted were sent to patrol the ground between this Brigade and the village, with orders to prevent men moving into the village.
A picture show was being held in the YMCA, in the Brigade Area and the majority of the men of this Brigade were present.
I heard major White give orders to the effect that these men return to their lines, and stand to.
At about 2030 DHQ gave instructions by telephone (afterwards confirmed by wire) that the Brigade would stand by ready to turn out, and stated that two squadrons of another Brigade had been ordered to clear up the situation.
At about 2045 the whistle signal for "Rally" was heard and the noise in the village practically ceased. By this time the whole village was in flames.
About 2200 Lieutenant Allman reported back and stated that no man of this Brigade had attempted to pass through his cordon, either going toward or coming from the village.
After giving the order for "stand to" Major White visited the lines and assured himself that all ranks were ready to move.
About 2300 2nd LH Field Ambulance were asked to supply ambulances and remove injured natives, three of whom died in Field Ambulance during the night.
I know nothing of the burning of the Bedouin Encampment.
Major CC Easterbrook Brigade Major, 2nd LH Brigade.
The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre is a not for profit and non profit group whose sole aim is to write the early history of the Australian Light Horse from 1900
- 1920. It is privately funded and the information is provided by the individuals within the group and while permission for the use of the material has been given for this
site for these items by various donors, the residual and actual copyright for these items, should there be any, resides exclusively with the donors. The information on
this site is freely available for private research use only and if used as such, should be appropriately acknowledged. To assist in this process, each item has a citation
attached at the bottom for referencing purposes.
Please Note: No express or implied permission is given for commercial use of the information contained within this site.
A note to copyright holders
The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre has made every endeavour to contact copyright holders of material digitised for this blog and website and where
appropriate, permission is still being sought for these items. Where replies were not received, or where the copyright owner has not been able to be traced, or where
the permission is still being sought, the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre has decided, in good faith, to proceed with digitisation and publication. Australian Light
Horse Studies Centre would be happy to hear from copyright owners at any time to discuss usage of this item.