Centenary of the Battle of Beersheba
In the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, there is a photograph of Australian Light Horsemen walking along a dry sandy watercourse outside Beersheba.
Among them are the legendary ‘Walers’ – stocky sturdy, and sure of foot.
Despite years of gruelling warfare, reduced rations and limited water, these were the horses which carried the men of the Light Horse to battle, and ultimately to victory.
The Battle of Beersheba took place on 31 October 1917, the final phase of which was the famous mounted charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade.
The attack on the strategically important town of Beersheba had been launched at dawn.
At dusk, the Australian horsemen of the 4th Light Horse Brigade charged, using their bayonets as swords, breaking through the Turkish defences and seizing the town.
The capture of Beersheba enabled British forces to break the Ottoman line near Gaza and advance into Palestine.
The 4th Light Horse Brigade was led by Brigadier General William Grant, a surveyor and pastoralist from the Darling Downs who had served at Gallipoli and in Sinai.
Grant proudly told his men it was “the greatest cavalry ride in the history of warfare”.
Thirty-one light horsemen were killed and 36 were wounded. At least 70 horses died.
Today in Israel, His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC and Mrs Kaye de Jersey will attend commemorative services in honour of the Australians and New Zealanders who fought so bravely at Beersheba and throughout the Sinai-Palestine campaign.
They will lay a wreath, upon which the Governor has written by hand,
“On behalf of the people of Queensland
with respect and gratitude
we remember their sacrifice and service.
Lest we forget”.