[Editor: This review of Australia in Palestine (1919) was published in The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW), 6 November 1919.]
“Australia in Palestine”
No more attractive Digger book has been published than this, and we don’t expect a better. It is so varied in its interest. There is the historical, a review of the “Fighting for Palestine,” done by H. S. Gullett; the pictorial, a really remarkable collection of prints in color and line and half-tone, including work by G. W. Lambert and David Barker, color-photos by Frank Hurley, drawings by David Barker and half a dozen others, and a hundred or so photographs, for the most part admirably reproduced and of absorbing interest; reproductions of a few of Barker’s etchings; 150 pages of simple, direct sketches of the life the Diggers found in Palestine and the life they lived themselves told by themselves; nature notes by Charles Barrett, one of the editors; verse by “Trooper Bluegum,” “Gerardy” and others; aerial photographs of Damascus, Jerusalem and other cities that are older even than Parramatta. Naturally the historical review is written with more aloofness, with the pen of the onlooker rather than of the participant. So we get there such illuminating bits as this:—
The Australian soldier has an extraordinary capacity for making friends. He has an easy way with peoples of all races and colors. In France he is completely at his ease among the French peasantry; and he saunters through the Arab villages in Palestine as familiarly and as confidently as he used to walk the streets of his townships and cities at home. His old enemy the Turkish ranker is his admired personal friend. But the strong bond which sprang up so quickly between the Light Horseman and the Indians was perhaps the strangest of all his new war friendships.
Nobody who knows them will be surprised to hear that, having licked the Turk in a hot fight, the first thing the Diggers did to their prisoners was to shake hands with them. Nor to learn that, when Ryrie’s Horse took Ziza, “the Turkish commander rode out to meet the Australian brigadier. ‘I will surrender,’ he said, ‘if you will protect us against the Arabs. ‘Certainly,’ said the brigadier, ‘the Arabs are our allies. If you surrender you have nothing to fear.’ But the Turkish leader would not be convinced … and the Australian and Turks spent the night together round the same camp-fires. Next morning the Turks laid down their arms and marched as prisoners to Amman.”
And the Australian horse was nearly the equal in grit of the Australian man. In that little scamper to Ziza, for instance, Ryrie covered 20 miles in under three hours; and just before they had done 400 miles, on short rations and heavily loaded, in 12 days. And for other work there was that memorable charge towards Beersheba. Between the army and the town lay a definite system of strongly-held Turkish trenches. Water was scarce, and time, therefore, precious, so the trenches could not be attacked in the conventional dismounted way. But what was to stop them being taken at the gallop?
Moving off at a trot, and soon quickening the pace to a gallop, the regiments swept in a beeline towards Beersheba. They were soon under heavy shell and machine-gun fire. … Charging wildly down on the Turks, despite heavy rifle-fire, leading troops of Light Horsemen jumped the advanced trenches at a gallop, going clean over the Turkish bayonets. Once within the enemy trench system part of the force dismounted, and, jumping down with their bayonets among the startled enemy, soon cleared the position. Meanwhile, the mad gallop of other squadrons was continued through enemy resistance into the very heart of the town.
In all the five years of war there surely was nothing more typically Australian than this mounted charge of enemy trenches with fixed bayonets. Every convention of warfare was broken. And for that very reason not only was Beersheba gained, but the nerve of the Turk was broken. There was no telling what these extraordinary fellows would do next. A lifetime of study of text-books was no good in a campaign against them.
But it is not all Australian. There is generous appreciation of other forces. Men who could do what was done in Palestine couldn’t be ungenerous.
Angus and Robertson publish the book; Penfold’s printed it; and, characteristically again, the simple dedication is “to fallen comrades.”
The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW), 6 November 1919, The Red Page (column 2) – page 24 (column 1)
The details of the book under review are: H. S. Gullett, Chas. Barrett (editors); David Barker (art editor), Australia in Palestine, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1919
Beersheba = a city in Israel
Digger = an Australian soldier (a slang word which originated during World War One); in later usage, may also refer to a friend or mate
lick = beat, win a fight, vanquish; surpass others in some way (can also mean: to hit, punch, or thrash)
Ryrie’s Horse = the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, of the Australian Imperial Force, which was under the command of brigadier general Granville Ryrie during the First World War
See: 1) A. J. Hill, “Ryrie, Sir Granville de Laune (1865–1937)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography
2) “2nd Light Horse Brigade”, Wikipedia