[Editor: This article, about the visit of Lord Allenby to Melbourne in 1926, was published in the Geelong Advertiser (Geelong, Vic.), 13 January 1926. The article gives some details about the Battle of Beersheba (1917), which took place during the First World War (1914-1918).]
Cavalry and Flying Corps eulogized
Lord Allenby’s tribute
Melbourne, Jan. 12.
Speaking at a representative gathering which tendered him a civic reception at the Town Hall this morning, Lord Allenby declared that the charge of the Australian Light Horse at the capture of Beersheeba was one of the finest cavalry feats in history and that it was largely through the co-operation of the Australian Flying Corps that the Turks were blinded to the movements of the Allied forces, which brought about their complete overthrow.
The reception was given by the Lord Mayor, Sir William Brunton, who had on his right Lord Allenby, Colonel Bourchier, Sir Harry Chauvel, Mr. W. A. Watt, and General Elliott and on his left Senator Crawford, Rear-Admiral Hull Thompson, Group Captain Williams, of the Air Force, and General Sir C. B. B. White. Lady Allenby and Lady Brunton were amongst those present.
On arrival at the Town Hall Lord and Lady Allenby were enthusiastically cheered by a large crowd, and the addresses in the reception hall were broadcast by 3LO. Colonel Bourchier remarked that bushmen in the outback who had served under Lord Allenby in Palestine would greatly appreciate the opportunity to hear the voice of their former chief through the ether.
The Lord Mayor said that amongst the distinguished visitors whom it had been his privilege to welcome to Melbourne was Lord Jellicoe, whose services with the fleet had been equalled by Lord Allenby with the land forces. Having followed a military career from the age of 21, Lord Allenby had served in the Bechuanaland expedition, then in the great South African War, where he engaged in the relief of Kimberley; and in the opening stages of the Great War in 1914, in charge of the Cavalry Division he distinguished himself as leader of the Division which covered the great retirement from Mons. Subsequently he was appointed to the command of the Third Army, which he held for three years, and then went to Egypt and Palestine, where he brought about the overthrow of the Turkish Armies. All Australians who had served under Lord Allenby in that campaign would desire to meet and gladly welcome their old leader to Australia. At the time of the Armistice Lord Allenby had half a million troops under him, including British, Australian, New Zealand, French and Indian troops, with Egyptian labor battalions. The Australian forces numbered about 25,000. Subsequently, as High Commissioner in Egypt, his great personal record, strength of character, fair-mindedness, and strong sense of justice, enabled him successfully to carry through most onerous duties. In these circumstances it was a delight to be able to honor one who had rendered such services to his King and country. (Applause.)
Senator Crawford (Assistant Minister for Defence) representing the Federal Government, regretted the inability of Lord Allenby to visit Queensland, which had supplied so many members of the Australian Light Horse. Australians felt a very special interest in the Palestine campaign, and were gratified by the generous praise given our boys by their guest.
Colonel Bourchier, Minister for Agriculture, representing the Government, said that those who had served under Lord Allenby in Palestine and Syria recognised that he was one of the greatest cavalry leaders Great Britain had produced. There was no doubt that if ever the time came to take up arms in defence of Australia, cavalry would play an important part, because to a large extent Australian conditions were similar to those of South Africa, Palestine, and Syria. There were large tracts of country, and he hoped the Governments of the future would pay great attention to such remarks. The wonderful work done by Lady Allenby in the hospitals of Cairo was affectionately remembered by all Australian fighters.
Rear-Admiral Hall Thompson said he was in the Red Sea and on the coast of Palestine early in the war, and was able to appreciate the conditions under which Lord Allenby labored.
Sir Harry Chauvel, Inspector-General of the Commonwealth Military Forces, expressed the opinion that Great Britain, to say nothing of Australia, had not fully recognised the work of their guest, but possibly this was understandable owing to the closer proximity of the fighting on the Western front, which overshadowed activities elsewhere. Probably this lack of appreciation was due to Lord Allenby’s own modesty. He had never done himself justice. At his (Sir Harry’s) club recently he expressed the opinion that Lord Allenby was the greatest soldier produced since Wellington, whereupon a fellow-clubman who had served under him interjected, “No, since Hannibal”! He had been in two wars, and had never known any General so able to inspire absolute confidence in all those under him from the highest to the lowest. In no other campaign could he find such examples of bold and successful strategy as were exhibited at Megiddo or such wonderful examples of perfect co-operation of all arms. All this was due to the masterful mind of the Commander-in-Chief. He could assure His Lordship that the Australian troops greatly appreciated the kind remarks he had made about them.
The toast to the health of Lord and Lady Allenby was honored with enthusiasm, and on rising to respond Lord Allenby was given an ovation. He said he had never known such hospitality as had been extended him and Lady Allenby in Australia, the acme of which had been reached in Melbourne, the beauty of which made one wonder at the foresight of its founders. It was a city that had the vigor of youth and the dignity of maturity. In addition to the marvel of its beauty and dignity, it had magnificent weather — mellow fresh air and golden sunshine like the champagne, and as intoxicating. He was gratified by what had been said about him, but wished to say that what he had done in war was due entirely to the troops under him. He always took care to have the best of staff and the best of soldiers, and as Sir Harry Chauvel knew, he had never suffered incompetence. He always tried to appreciate and praise efficiency, to give honor where it was due, and was content only with the best of everything in war. That was the only way to get on, and he had had it. Great credit had been given him for keeping up communications in the Eastern theatre of war, but before he went out there, Sir Harry Chauvel and his desert corps had made the Canal absolutely safe. He did not get there until the end of June, 1917, and did not take up his headquarters in the desert until August, during which time Sir Harry was standing on the borders of Palestine and rendering the canal absolutely secure. (Hear, hear.) But he had had to fight before-hand, and that fight was ancient history when he (Lord Allenby) arrived. The Australians had to fight the desert as well as the Turks, and they did it successfully. Sir Harry had maintained an era of good health and spirits — the Australians were always in good spirits — and when he arrived he found his tan-faced horsemen standing in the desert with eyes turned towards Palestine and the Turks paralysed in front of them. The sun blazed all day, and there was a shortage of water and of every comfort. Conditions were quite different from those of the British troops, who were near home. The Australians were 10,000 miles from home and never a word of complaint was heard. By the end of October things were ready for the “kick off,” and the Australian Light Horse, which formed the bulk of his cavalry, made a wide turning movement on the left flank of the Turkish position which entailed the whole of the mounted troops making a very long waterless march out into the desert. To make that possible it was necessary to reconstruct some of the old waterworks out in the south-east. This had to be done unknown to the Turks, and this was ensured by successful manoeuvring by Chauvel and his troops. There were many reconnaisances and cleverly prepared messages which were allowed to get into the hands of the enemy. There was an enormous night march of 40 miles and an attack next morning. The fight lasted all day, and in the evening, the infantry being unable to make headway, he instructed Sir Harry Chauvel that Beersheeba must be taken that night. The Light Horse responded, and galloping over two lines of trenches brimful of Turks, they carried out an attack which was unprecedented in the war, and for which he could find no parallel in history. That was his first taste of Sir Harry’s mettle, but it was only the beginning. He never saw a problem that was difficult, and did everything asked of him. He would not hesitate to point out dangers, but would never recommend that the plans laid be departed from. Up the mountains of Gilead Sir Harry carried his troops in the spring of 1918, and although the forces could not hold on owing to weather and pressure on communications, the reconnaisance caused the Turks to believe that that was to be the field of future operations. Subsequently many of his (the speaker’s) troops were transferred to France, and on the Australians fell the brunt of work in the Jordan Valley 1300 feet below sea level — one of the hottest places on earth, where even the flies died in summer, but other things flourished amazingly. The Australians fought the mosquito and the climate, and when the break through of September, 1918, took place they were as full of vigor as they were early in the campaign. He told Sir Harry he expected to get 39,000 prisoners, and he collected his troops most skilfully. Indeed he had never known troops to move so secretly and cunningly. He concentrated three cavalry divisions on the coast near Jaffa, and on 19th September carried out a wonderful operation, capturing 30,000 prisoners, besides what the infantry secured. In that campaign they had 40,000 prisoners themselves, and in a few days the Turkish armies ceased to exist. The pursuit was carried on and the finishing touches put on the Turkish forces. He (Lord Allenby) regarded that as the greatest cavalry feat in history. It was said that cavalry pursuits were impossible in modern warfare, but about that they should ask Sir Harry, and if he would not speak they might come to him (the speaker). (Laughter.) He (Lord Allenby) conceived the idea, and when he put it to Sir Harry, he said it was possible and did it. The first dash on Beersheeba was originated by Sir Harry and carried out by Colonel Bourchier. Quick and decisive movement by Chauvel was a feature in the battle of Megiddo. The record of Australia in Palestine was remarkable — on mountain and in valley; across great plains, and not only for fighting done but distance covered. The loss of horses was less than in any other operation in war.
Lord Allenby paid a tribute to the work of the Australian airmen, whose efficiency, he said, was largely responsible for blinding the forces of the Turks before the attack of 19th September, 1918. The effect of their co-operation was marvellous. He considered that the cavalry fighting in the Eastern campaign had gone far to make war impossible in the future.
“This is our best holiday, the greatest honor of our lives,” he said in conclusion, “and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
This afternoon Lord Allenby was entertained at luncheon by the Federal Cabinet. There were also present Senator General Sir Charles Cox, Sir Granville Ryrie, M.H.R., and Sir Harry Chauvel, Inspector General of the Commonwealth Military Forces. The Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, in a short and eulogistic speech warmly welcomed the guest to Australia and Lord Allenby responded. These were the only speeches.
Geelong Advertiser (Geelong, Vic.), 13 January 1926, p. 1
Also published in:
Sunraysia Daily (Mildura, Vic.), 13 January 1926, p. 3 (a shorter version of the article, entitled “Lord Allenby: Work of Australian Light Horse: Beersheba recalled”)
3LO = a radio station, based in Melbourne (Victoria)
acme = the highest point or peak; something considered to be the best, or at the highest peak of development
Allenby = Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby (1861-1936), 1st Viscount Allenby, a British general who commanded British and Commonwealth forces during the First World War (1914-1918); he was promoted to the rank of Field Marshall in 1919
See: “Edmund Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby”, Wikipedia
arms = (in a military context) a reference to the various arms of the military (e.g. infantry, cavalry, air force); a branch of an organisation or movement; can also refer to: armaments, firearms, weapons; bearing weapons (e.g. men under arms)
Bechuanaland expedition = a British military expedition carried out in 1884-1885 in Southern Africa, to stop Boer expansionism, assert British sovereignty, and to suppress the newly-declared Boer states of Stellaland and Goshen
See: 1) “Bechuanaland”, The British Empire
2) Edward M. Spiers, “Trekking through Bechuanaland”, Manchester Openhive (Manchester University Press)
3) “Bechuanaland Expedition”, Wikipedia
Cabinet = the chief decision-making body of the executive branch of a parliamentary government, comprising a group of ministers responsible for overseeing government departments, formulating government policy, and making decisions on issues affecting the country
the Canal = (in the context of Egypt) the Suez Canal
C. B. B. White = Cyril Brudenell Bingham White (1876-1940), soldier, who served during the First World War (1914-1918) as a general in the Australian Army
See: 1) Jeffrey Grey “White, Sir Cyril Brudenell (1876–1940)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, ANU
2) “Brudenell White”, Wikipedia
ether = (in the context of radio) over the air (regarding communication via radio waves)
the great South African War = the Boer War (1899-1902)
the Great War = the First World War (1914-1918), also known as World War One
Hannibal = Hannibal (247 BC – circa 182 BC), a Carthaginian general and statesman; he led the armies of Carthage against the Roman Republic during the Second Punic War (218 BC – 201 BC)
Harry Chauvel = Sir Henry George Chauvel (1865-1945), an Australian general during the First World War (1914-1918), and Inspector-in-Chief of the Volunteer Defence Corps during the Second World War (1939-1945)
See: 1) A. J. Hill, “Chauvel, Sir Henry George (Harry) (1865–1945)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, ANU
2) “Harry Chauvel”, Wikipedia
His Lordship = a form of address applied to bishops, judges, lords, and some other noblemen
kick off = the start or launch of an event
Kimberley = the capital city of the Northern Cape province (South Africa); during the Boer War the city was besieged by Boer forces, until it was relieved by British forces commanded by Lord Roberts
“Kimberley, Northern Cape”, Wikipedia
“Siege of Kimberley”, Wikipedia
Megiddo = a locality in northern Israel, the site of the ancient city of Megiddo; the Battle of Megiddo (1918) was a battle fought in the vicinity of Megiddo during the First World War (1914-1918)
See: “Battle of Megiddo (1918)”, Wikipedia
M.H.R. = Member of the House of Representatives (someone elected to the lower house of federal parliament)
Mons = the capital city of the province of Hainaut (Belgium); the Battle of Mons (1914) was a battle fought in the vicinity of Mons during the First World War (1914-1918)
“Battle of Mons”, Wikipedia
outback = remote rural areas; sparsely-inhabited back country; often given as one word and capitalized, “Outback” (variations: out back, outback, out-back, Out Back, Outback, Out-Back)
Wellington = Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), 1st Duke of Wellington, a British soldier and politician; as a field marshal, he led the Allied armies to victory at the battles of Vitoria (1813) and Waterloo (1815); he was Prime Minister of the UK twice (1828-1830, 1834); he was born in Ireland, and died in England
See: “Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington”, Wikipedia
[Editor: Changed “C. C. B. White” to “C. B. B. White”; “Australia, New Zealand” to “Australian, New Zealand”; “Subsequently as” to “Subsequently, as” (added a comma).]