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Australians' Amazing Charge
(BY P. GOLDENSTED.)
October 31, 1917, will go down in war history , as one of the most famous dates. It was on
this day that the flank of the Ottoman forces that stood astride the approaches to Jerusalem was turned by one of the most amazing, the most audacious, and at the same time the most unorthodox mounted charges in the whole story of war. It was on this day that the Australian Light Horse set the seal upon their reputation as being the finest mounted troops
the world had ever seen.
Never before had horsemen done what the Fourth Australian Light Horse Brigade did on that memorable day-something that caused a German staff officer, who was captured in the affray, to refer to the Australians as "madmen,
It was this extraordinary last minute ride that finally broke the Turkish resistance at Beersheba, and cleared the way for Allenby's great cavalry drive up the plains of Philistia
and through the mountain fastnesses of Judea to the gates of the Holy City itself.
Allenby's plan was to attack the Beersheba flank with the XXth Corps of Infantry, to- gether with the Desert Mounted Corps, then commanded by Sir Harry Chauvel, and the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade, with the ulti- mate idea of rolling up the Turkish line to the
The operations were to be divided into three main parts. First, the attack and capture of the entrenched positions from Beersheba to the sea-primarily an infantry operation; the pursuit of the enemy over the plains of Philistia culminating in the capture of Junction Sta- tion-a cavalry venture-and the consequent isolation of any enemy force endeavouring to cover Jerusalem; and, lastly, the advance through the Judean Hills and the capture of
the Holy City.
The village of Beersheba itself offered no facilities for a prolonged defence. It lay in a shallow saucer at the foot of the Judean Hills, which rise abruptly from its outskirts and stretch away through towards Hebron and Bethlehem. Aided by the light of the moon, Chauvel and his horsemen marched through- out the night, and at daybreak scanned the Turkish positions before the town through their glasses. So far everything had gone
according to plan. The smoke of the cooking fires rose steadily from the Turkish lines. The garrison had fortunately been ignorant of the approach. By 9 o'clock the infantry had estab- lished contact, and the fight had begun.
The Anzac Mounted Division moved round to its allotted position behind the town, and threatened the Turkish communications lead- ing back along the road to Hebron. The Aus-
tralian Mounted Division halted, and waited to either support the Anzacs or to operate west-
wards towards Beersheba itself. All day long the fight raged, with varying fortunes to both sides. Came late afternoon when it seemed that it would resolve itself into a sort of stale- mate. It was late. There seemed no immediate chance of the Turkish resistance being over-
come, and Chauvel's weary horses needed water. Furthermore, the whole success of the Infantry plan depended upon the capture of
the positions that spread In full view before
A MOMENTOUS DECISION.
From afar could be heard the dull hammer- ing of the guns before Gaza. "All the time
General Hodgson, commanding the Australian Division, General Grant of the Fourth Austra- lian Light Horse Brigade, and General Fitz-
gerald of the Fifth Mounted Yeomanry Bri- gade, were at Chauvel's Headquarters," writes
the Official Historian of the campaign in Palestine, now Sir Harry Gullett. "There was a brief but tense discussion, in which Fitz- Gerald and Grant pleaded for the honour of the galloping attack which was clearly in Chauvel's mind. FitzGerald's yeomanry had their swords and were close behind Chauvel's Headquarters: Grant's Australians had only
their rifles and bayonets, but they were nearer Beersheba. After a moment's thought, Chau- vel gave the lead to the light-horsemen. 'Put
Grant straight at it,' was his terse command to Hodgson; and Grant, swinging on to his > horse, galloped away to prepare and assemble '
The Fourth (Victorian) Regiment under Lieutenant-Colonel Bourchier, and the Twelfth (New South Wales) Regiment under Lieutenant-Colonel Don Cameron, a cattle man fiom the Scone district, formed up be- hind the crest that overlooked the Turkish positions before Beersheba.
Each regiment formed upon a squadron frontage in three lines from 300 to 500 yards
apart, and every man was restless, excited, ) and resolute for victory. At 4.30 the two ' regiments moved off at a trot. Surprise and %' speed were their one chance, so no time was , lost In breaking into a gallop. For what
seemed to be a space of minutes the Turkish > fire ceased, as if the garrison was wondering what the approaching horsemen had in mind. Then swiftly realising that they were out for business, the whole line burst Into a flame of fire. But the Australians were not to be de- nied, much less were their glorious chargers in the mood to hesitate. As if entering Into the spirit of the great game, wltrf ears pricked and manes flashing back, they headed in a wild scamper into the setting sun. As they reached the Turkish front line trenches,
the leading troopers dug in their spurs and ' their mounts cleared the obstacle in their stride. The defending Turks were so dazed
by the suddenness of the attack that they of- ,- . ferred little resistance. Isolated garrisons put up a fight, but were quickly overpowered, and there were instances where single horse- men bluffed whole sections of men Into sub- mission. Fugitive troops were overrun, and
forced into surrender before their officers had , time to organise and order them to resist. One lone soldier, Trooper O'Leary, of the 4th Bri- gade Machine Gun Squadron, galloped to the town and was discovered an hour later seated upon the limber of a captured gun, with half a dozen Turkish soldiers holding his horse in turn. Another who, in the general excite- ment of the fight, galloped to the town ahead of his comrades, encountered a party of Turks under a German officer. He shot the
officer dead before he could give an order, *. and the Turks held up their hands as he calmly collected their weapons.
Before nightfall the town was in Australian I hands, and the mounted patrols were in touch i with the retreating Turks In the hills beyond.
It is worth noting that the rifles of the captured Turks showed that their sights had not been altered from 800 metres-such was the demoralising effect of the attack.