On the centenary of the charge at Beersheba, I thought it was appropriate to reblog this post from 2 years ago.
31 October 2017 is the centenary of the charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba. An event that seems to have been pushed aside in historical memory and yet it could be one of the most important military victories in WWI.
The defeat of the Ottoman troops in Beersheba set in motion events that led to the freeing of Palestine from centuries of Ottoman (Islamic) control and paved the path for events a little over three decades later: the re-establishment of Israel in the land promised by God.
See this post from 2015
Australian Light Horse Statue – Beersheba
I saw this interesting article that brings together my recent interests in Australia’s Anzac story of WWI, and more recent events related to Islamic extremism.
Turkish Islamist push may be to blame for removal of Atatürk inscription at Anzac Cove
“The Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has removed from a revered Anzac Cove memorial the familiar words attributed to Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, likening Australia’s dead “Johnnies” to Ottoman “Mehmets” and welcoming them to rest in his country’s soil.
The renovation of the 1985 monument has heightened suspicions in Australia and Turkey that the refurbished memorial could reflect a growing Islamist interpretation by the Erdoğan administration of Australia’s part in the 1915 British-commanded Anzac invasion of – and later retreat from – Gallipoli.”
“Historians in Australia and Turkey believe the ‘refurbishment’ could be part of the Erdoğan administration’s moves to cast Gallipoli as part of a clash between jihadi defenders (the Ottoman empire did declare a jihad) and invading crusaders on the shores of Islam.
Peter Stanley, an author of more than 30 books, many about the first world war, and a professor of history at the University of New South Wales Canberra, said the erasure of the purported Atatürk words reflected a “new theocratic interpretation” of the conflict in Turkey.
‘It’s not always apparent to Australian visitors to Gallipoli, who tend to focus on the Anzac story, but another, Turkish, battle for Gallipoli has been going on for the past decade at least, between the formerly universally accepted Atatürk interpretation and the increasingly strong Islamist view,’ he said.
“Because the Erdoğan government is in power, Islamists are now in the ascendant – as the new Gaba Tepe interpretative centre [at Gallipoli] shows. It depicts Turkey’s 86,000 Gallipoli dead as “martyrs”, dying in a fight against Christian invaders.”
The former inscription:
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
Today is Anzac Day, commemorating the date of the landing of Anzac forces at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915.
While it is customary to remember the sacrifices made by a generation of young men in wartime, celebrating bravery and heroism, there is an aspect that is always ignored.
When we say ‘lest we forget’, we choose not to remember some very uncomfortable things.
What Does Glorifying The ANZAC Myth Say About Our Attitudes To Violent Men Today? by Nick Irving
Today is the centenary of the battle of Fromelles, the first major involvement of Australian forces on the Western Front, described by the Australian War memorial as “the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire history”, with 5,500 Australian casualties including approximately 2000 dead.
Hundreds of Australians went missing and their remains weren’t discovered until recent years when the bodies of 250 men were rediscovered in a mass grave near the battle site.
This blog entry was scheduled for posting at 2.00am on 20th July Sydney time which is approximately 6pm 19th July in Fromelles, France.
Today I finished Goodbye Cobber, God Bless You, a book by John Hamilton, about the battle of the Nek and how the 8th and 10th Light Horse brigades were mostly wiped out through the foolishness of senior commanding officers.
In recent years in Australia, there was national mourning whenever an Australian serviceman lost his life in Afghanistan, and their funerals would be attended by the Prime minister and other political and community leaders. There would probably have been community outrage had war fatalities risen to significant numbers. During 13 years in Afghanistan there were 41 Australian military deaths. At the Nek there were at least 234 deaths and around 140 wounded out of the approximately 600 troops involved, all in matter of an hour or so.
Maybe these figures are no greater than other WWI battles, apart from the manner in which they were sustained, with the troops being ordered into a situation that had been proven hopeless within minutes of it starting. But what happened there (and elsewhere in WWI) showed an attitude to human life that would be foreign to modern Australia.
Apart from the military orders that caused the slaughter of so many, that attitude is also reflected in the way it was reported in the press when the story got out at home.
Here is an example quoted in Goodbye Cobber, God Bless You, starting with a description of the second wave of 150 men sent charging towards the Turkish lines:
Before they had gone half way upon their course not more than twenty were on their feet but they still charged. It was heroic! It was wonderful! In a few seconds, the twenty had dwindled to a dozen, to ten, to seven, to three. Would these last survivors persist? Two dropped. One struggled to his feet again, only to sag at the knees and go down a second time. The last remaining hero looked around. His face was red, his eyes were staring, but he smiled grimly. Still he ran to tackle the enemy single-handed but the end of the race was near, He stopped as if some invisible obstacle had blocked the way. For an instant he stood still. He then toppled backwards, holding his rifle, with the bayonet fixed, high above his head. The charge had finished. (from the Argus,8th October)
I don’t think I need to much further comment, apart from asking what kind of political or cultural conditioning could have led to such an outlook, and how easily could we return to that kind of mindset?
Sadly I think it would be all too easy when patriotism and duty to God become confused.
Four successive waves of Australian Light Horsemen were ordered to leave the safety of their trenches to attack the Turkish lines only 20-30 metres away. They weren’t allowed to load their weapons but were ordered to charge with bayonets only. They were wiped out by Turkish fire almost as soon as they started.
Even though the outcome was clear after the failure of the first wave, their commanding officer refused to back down and sent three more waves, 150 men in each wave, to certain death.
The battlefield has been described as being the size of two tennis courts and was a narrow strip of land between two steep drops. Official war historian Charles Bean likened the charge as trying to attack an upturned frying pan by way of the handle.
Lieutenant Colonel Noel Brazier tried to put a stop to the inevitable slaughter after the first wave, but his attempt was rejected by Major General Antill who ordered the attack’s continuation. Brazier had been responsible for the recruitment of many of the men who were being sent to their deaths, having encouraged many friends and colleagues to enlist in the 10th Light Horse.
Despite the horrific slaughter, a few survived and were able to crawl back to the safety of their own trenches. Later in the war some of the surviving Light Horsemen were posted to Palestine where they were at last able to serve on horseback, something impossible at Gallipoli. In Palestine they were part of some significant victories and eventually entered Jerusalem along with General Allenby, when the city was surrendered by the Turkish forces.
Today is the centenary of the battle of Lone Pine.
An Australian attack was launched against Turkish trenches to distract attention from other operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula. When the trenches were reached it was found they had a “roof” of logs that needed to be removed to engage the Turkish defenders.
A brutal hand to hand battle started and lasted for four days, leading to 2000 Australian and up to 7,000 Turkish casualties.
7 Victoria Crosses were awarded to participants.
The site of Lone Pine is now a significant memorial and burial site for the war dead. A commemoration service is to be held there today at 5pm local time.
For more information about the battle see here: http://www.gallipoli.gov.au/bravery-awards-at-gallipoli/lone-pine.php
Also see here for more about commemoration events: