THE significance of the Australian light horse cavalry charge in what is now Israel brought Year 10 Carmel School students from Dianella to the centenary service for the 1917 Battle of Beersheba in Kings Park this morning.
“Without the Australian light horse soldiers taking Beersheba the Turkish Ottoman Empire would have still held that area, and Jewish people use that battle as the point at which the process of creating the modern Israeli state started,” student Samuel Majzner (15) said.
Samuel and other students visited the Park of the Australian Soldier in Beersheba during a recent trip to Israel.
About 5pm on October 31, 1917, about 800 Australian soldiers of the 4th and 12th Light Horse regiments were ordered not to conduct their usual tactic of dismounting and fighting on foot.
They and their horses instead charged dug-in Turkish lines at full gallop, the Australians wielding bayonets from their riles as the Turks fired high, across about 6km of desert plain to capture the vital town in the Sinai-Palestine Campaign.
Just three days later, British politicians were writing policies which would become the Balfour Declaration of 1920 that set in motion the eventual creation of Israel in 1948.
For the Australians, the charge became legendary after the defeat of Gallipoli and the carnage of the Western Front in France, and prompted at least two films depicting the charge.
Each horse carried about 120kg in addition to its rider, including ammunition, bedroll and food, in daily dust, heat, flies, bullets and often waterless conditions.
“When you go into the history, what we went through was nothing compared to what those blokes did,” Vietnam War veteran and Kalamunda-Pinjarra 10th Lighthorse Memorial Troop member Barry O’Neil said.
However, the legacy of the Battle of Beersheba still continues for some of the soldiers’ families and relatives 100 years later.
Dianella residents Joy (90) and John Palmer (95) attended the Kings Park service to remember Mrs Palmer’s father Carlton Cowper who left for Gallipoli aged 26, was in the 4th Field Ambulance at Beersheba, but for whom the affects of war may have been too much later in life.
“It was very sad, but Mum was just six months when her dad left the family, so in the end the war continued to be devastating,” Mrs Palmer’s daughter Robyn Allpike said.