Beersheba centenary: The charge that changed the Hunter

During World War I the line from Gaza across to Beersheba was all important. On October 31, 1917, instead of yet another attempt to take Gaza, it was decided to attack Beersheba.

After three nights trekking through the desert, the Light Horse troops joined British divisions in the attack.

With an hour of daylight left, General Harry Chauvel gave the order for the Anzac 4th brigade to line up and charge.

The battle

World War I was fought on two fronts, the western one in France and Belgium, and the eastern one around the Mediterranean Sea against the Turks.

The battle for Gaza was a disaster, described by some as a second Gallipoli, but after it, the English General Allenby became Commander in Chief of the Egypt Expeditionary Force and Australia’s Lieutenant General Chauvel took control of the Desert Mounted Column.

From this, a new plan of attack was hatched. Read on.

Donald Cameron’s connection to Beersheba

It wasn’t long before he died in 1950 that Upper Hunter man Donald Cameron talked to his son about the pivotal World War I Battle of Beersheba, where men and horses from the Hunter changed the course of history.

“My grandfather said to my father, ‘Some time people will remember what we did’,” Lieutenant Colonel Cameron’s grandson Dick Cameron said on Friday.

Regard: Australian horses at Beersheba during World War I. Only one Australian horse returned.

Regard: Australian horses at Beersheba during World War I. Only one Australian horse returned.

On Tuesday, 67 years after Mr Cameron’s death, people across Australia and in Israel will remember the heroic charge of 800 men from the 12th and 4th Light Horse brigades on the then Turkish town of Beersheba in the afternoon of October 31, 1917.

People will gather at the tiny cemetery of Rouchel, near Scone, at the grave of Donald Cameron; in Muswellbrook at the unveiling of a statue to commemorate the crucial role played by the Upper Hunter-bred waler horse at Beersheba; and in Murrurundi on Saturday where one of the most famous of the Hunter walers – the Bloomfield Homestead mare Midnight and her rider, Captain Guy Haydon – will be honoured. Read on.

The pilgrimage

A group of Australians has made the journey to Israel to take part in the centenary commemoration of the Australian Light Horse’s Beersheba charge.

Fairfax Media journalist Sally Cripps, who is the descendant of General Sir Harry Chauvel, is taking part in the pilgrimage. Follow here story:

Wearing with pride: Austin Short at the grave of his grandfather, Howard Taylor, in Haifa, northern Israel. Picture: Sally Cripps.

Wearing with pride: Austin Short at the grave of his grandfather, Howard Taylor, in Haifa, northern Israel. Picture: Sally Cripps.

Muswellbrook to unveil commemorative statue

Israel is a long way from Muswellbrook.

But, on Tuesday, October 31, the two locations will be joined by a defining moment in history – the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba. Read on.

The Battle of Beersheba reenacted

It was the scene of an astonishing moment in the ANZAC story 100 years ago that sits sandwiched between Gallipoli and the Western Front.

And now history enthusiasts and descendants of Australian Mounted Division and ANZAC Mounted Division soldiers prepare for reenactment of the Battle of Beersheba. Read more.

Military hero Lieutenant-Colonel Donald Cameron 

For Geoff Harrison, it’s been a labour of love.

What started as a personal project about his great uncle Donald Cameron has now turned into a couple of books, with the latest entitled Cameron of Beersheba. 

The late Lieutenant-Colonel, of Rouchel in the Upper Hunter, was well-known from World War I, as the commander of the 12th Australian Light Horse Regiment, which together with the 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment, captured the town of Beersheba in Palestine. Read on.

PROUD: Author Geoff Harrison, from Soldiers Point, with a copy of his latest book, Cameron of Beersheba.

PROUD: Author Geoff Harrison, from Soldiers Point, with a copy of his latest book, Cameron of Beersheba.

Battle of Beersheba by Ron Marshall

THE CHARGE: Ron Marshall's work, on display at Morpeth Gallery, commemorates 100 years since the last great horse charge in history. Picture: Ron Marshall

THE CHARGE: Ron Marshall's work, on display at Morpeth Gallery, commemorates 100 years since the last great horse charge in history. Picture: Ron Marshall

The assault on Berrsheba, a legendary battle in the First World War, was immortalised by Ron Marshall in his painting The Charge. Read on.