Newspaper article Daily News (Warwick, Australia)

Speed the Essence of Attack

Newspaper article Daily News (Warwick, Australia)

Speed the Essence of Attack

Article excerpt

THE last great cavalry charge in mounted warfare was in Palestine in 1917, when the Australian Light Horse charged into the town of Beersheba.

The charge, to secure the wells and water in the township, was crucial to the success of a much larger battle, known as the Third Battle of Gaza.

Although the famous mounted charge into Beersheba late on the first day of the battle, October 31, is best known to Australians, it was only part of a larger battle which involved many more Australian light horsemen.

Gaza was the key to the defence of southern Palestine and had to be secured before Britain and her allies could move north.

Two unsuccessful attempts had already been made to take the town earlier in 1917.

Alerted by these attacks, the Turks had heavily fortified Gaza and built a defensive line ending at Beersheba to the east.

The allied forces outnumbered the Turks but they were hampered by a shortage of water and it was vital Beersheba be taken on the first day of the battle to guarantee water supplies for the whole force.

On the night of October 30-31, about 40,000 allied troops moved towards Beersheba, including units of the Desert Mounted Corps, about 15,000 men, under Lieutenant General Sir Harry Chauvel, in a night march of nearly 30 miles (48km).

On the morning of October 31, the British 60th Division attacked Turkish positions around Beersheba.

The infantry made steady progress but by late afternoon had still not secured the wells in the strongly defended town, which were vital for the welfare of the Mounted Corps' horses, many of which had been without water for several days.

Chauvel decided to send in the 4th and 12th Light Horse Brigades under Brigadier General William Grant, with the words: aPut Grant straight at it.a

Grant made the unorthodox decision to order his light horsemen to charge cavalry-style, when they would normally ride close to an objective then dismount to fight.

The Australian Light Horse Regiments drew up behind a ridge from the crest of which Beersheba was in full view.

The course lay down a long, slight slope which was bare of cover. …

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