[Editor: This article, regarding the Battle of Beersheba (1917), which took place during the First World War (1914-1918), was published in Punch (Melbourne, Vic.), 15 November 1917.]
Our Light Horse regiments.
Once again our Australian mounted men have distinguished themselves in Palestine. This time by the capture of the ancient Biblical town of Beersheba. The victory was a great one, as it was the result of quiet organisation and secrecy made by the British Commander. The success, however, could not have been achieved were it not for the characteristic dash and valour of our Light Horse regiments. No branch of the army has done more magnificent work than these men. Their sacrificial charges on Gallipoli will live in immortality. Pope’s Hill, Walker’s Ridge, Quinn’s Post and Hill 60 will always occupy a high place on the pillar of Australian valour in this war.
Subsequent to the evacuation of Gallipoli the Australian Light Horse, with only three weeks’ “respite” in Cairo, were despatched to the Libyan desert to chase and break up the Senussi rebel forces. This accomplished, they were then transferred to Sinai, and their allotted duty was the defence of the Suez Canal. The invasion of Egypt was always a dream of the Kaiser, and, accordingly, he sent 70,000 Turkish, Austrian and German troops to attack the Canal. Through some uncanny knowledge, he made the time of his attack just after the Australian Infantry had been transferred to France.
When it was known that the Turkish Army was advancing the inhabitants of Egypt lived in a deadly fear. There was only one mounted Australian division, a brigade of Yeomanry, and a few British battalions to defend the Canal. These troops had to be distributed over a large area, and it was feared that the enemy might attack where we were weakest. However, he attacked in that part that was allotted to our Light Horse regiments. They met in battle at Romani, twenty miles from the Canal, on 4th August, 1916, and the Turks met with a crushing defeat, losing over 6000 men. They retreated whence they came, and every time they attempted to make a stand our mounted men broke them up. Eventually they retired to Palestine, where our troops, though with depleted numbers and exhausted strength, had to hold them until they could summon strength and health to attack again. The hardships and privations the men put up with can never be described. It was one of those little bits of silent heroism that have made our British Empire what it is to-day.
Although with regiments far from full strength, the Light Horse men pushed on with their characteristic dash, and administered severe defeats to the enemy. On one occasion, when in a tight corner, an Australian General ordered his men to charge on horseback with fixed bayonets. This was something unprecedented, and was too much for the bewildered Turk. He retreated to Gaza.
The subsequent battle of Gaza is a sad page. We cannot call it a reverse, when our casualty lists tell their silent story of Australian heroism. Gaza was not won at the first battle, but it was through no fault of our men. Many stalwart, sunburnt sons of Britain’s youngest daughter paid the supreme sacrifice for Britain’s right on the oldest battlefield in the world.
Punch (Melbourne, Vic.), 15 November 1917, p. 762 (4th page of that issue)
Also published in various other newspapers, including:
The Euroa Gazette (Euroa, Vic.), 20 November 1917, p. 5 (entitled “The capture of Beersheba and Gaza: Our Light Horse regiments”)
The Terang Express and Hampden and Mortlake Advertiser (Terang, Vic.), 20 November 1917, p. 5 (entitled “The capture of Beersheba and Gaza: Our Light Horse regiments”)
Coleraine Albion, and Western Advertiser (Coleraine, Vic.), 22 November 1917, p. 5 (entitled “The capture of Beersheba and Gaza: Our Light Horse regiments”)
An extra paragraph was added to later copies of this article:
Last week’s cables tell us that our forces have captured the adjoining town of Beersheba, and followed it up by taking Gaza itself. Our Light Horse men galloped cheering into the town, after a brilliant victory. Following this, General Allenby’s men captured the advanced trenches of Gaza. GAZA IS NOW OURS, and the Turks are in full retreat. These Light Horse men are badly in need of help, and their glorious deeds of the past must act as an inspiration and incentive to the eligible man left in Australia. MEN! if you respect the sacred word of mateship, you will go to your mate’s help in Palestine. He needs you, your country needs you, and your honor must compel you to enlist.
See: “The capture of Beersheba and Gaza: Our Light Horse regiments”, The Euroa Gazette (Euroa, Vic.), 20 November 1917, p. 5
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
Hill 60 = a hill on Gallipoli Peninsula, which was the location of the Battle of Hill 60 in 1915, during Gallipoli Campaign, in the First World War (1914-1918)
“Battle of Hill 60 (Gallipoli)”, Wikipedia
Kaiser = Wilhelm II (William II) (1859-1941), the Kaiser (Emperor) of the German Empire (1888-1918); he was the leader of Germany (although essentially in title only) during World War One (1914-1918); he abdicated in November 1918
“Wilhelm II, German Emperor”, Wikipedia
Pope’s Hill = a ridge on Gallipoli Peninsula, held by Allied forces during Gallipoli Campaign, in the First World War (1914-1918); it was named after Colonel Harold Pope
See: “Pope’s Hill”, Australian War Memorial, Canberra
Quinn’s Post = a position on Gallipoli Peninsula, held by Allied forces during Gallipoli Campaign, in the First World War (1914-1918); it was named after Major Hugh Quinn
See: 1) “Quinn’s Post”, Australian War Memorial, Canberra
2) “Quinn’s Post Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery”, Wikipedia
respite = a short period of rest (especially a rest from an activity, situation, or task which is tiring, trying, or unpleasant)
Senussi = (also spelt: Sanusiyah, Sanūsiyyah, Senussiya) an Islamic brotherhood and missionary order, primarily operating in northern Africa
See: “Sanūsiyyah: Muslim Sufi sect”, Encyclopaedia Britannica
Senussi rebel forces = during the First World War (1914-1918), the Senussi order declared jihad and fought against British forces in Egypt from November 1915 to February 1917
See: “Senussi campaign”, Wikipedia
Walker’s Ridge = a ridge on Gallipoli Peninsula, held by Allied forces during Gallipoli Campaign, in the First World War (1914-1918); it was named after Harold Walker (1862-1934), a British general
See: 1) “Walker’s Ridge”, The Spirits of Gallipoli
2) “Harold Walker (British Army officer)”, Wikipedia
Yeomanry = cavalry units of the British armed forces; after the First World War (1914-1918), Yeomanry units were turned into armoured vehicle units, were repurposed to fulfill other functions, or were disbanded
See: “Yeomanry”, Wikipedia
[Editor: Changed “Through sone” to “Through some”; “depeted numbers” to “depleted numbers”; “Walter’s Ridge” to “Walker’s Ridge” (changed in line with other copies of this article); “one mounted Australian division (a brigade of Yeomanry) and” to “one mounted Australian division, a brigade of Yeomanry, and” (changed in line with other copies of this article; the incorrect use of brackets implied that the mounted Australian division was a brigade of Yeomanry, whereas they were two different units).]