In Their Steps: The Australian Light Horse and the ANZAC Trail

April 21, 2017 by Sophie Deutsch
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An exhibition marking the Battle of Beersheba, one of the most famous horse mounted battles of all time, has been launched at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

JNF president Peter Smaller [centre] tours the exhibition
Photo: Giselle Haber

The Jewish National Fund of Australia, the custodians of the ANZAC Trail, bring the story of the battle to life with the display of original diaries, maps and photographs belonging to Trooper Ernest Paul of the 12th Australian Light Horse Regiment. On October 31st 1917, the Australian Light Horse Brigade overran Turkish defensive positions in Beersheba and liberated the city from the Turkish occupation.

Showcasing the ANZAC trail in southern Israel, the exhibition traces the footsteps of the Australian Light Horse leading up to the Beersheba battle that marked a turning point in World War I history.

Ken Corke and Peter M Allen National Co-ordinator Centenary of Anzac Jewish Program ECAJ Centenary of Anzac Planning Committee
Photo: Giselle Haber

Guest speaker, Ken Corke, Director of the Office of Australian War Graves, reflected on the ongoing fascination that Australians have for the battle: “Since 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs has staged a number of commemorations for centenary events of First World War battles in which Australians played a major role. With the exception of the dawn service conducted at Gallipoli in 2015, none of the others, including the commemorations conducted at Pozieres in Fromelles in 2016 had attracted the same level of interest in attendance that we are currently seeing at commemorations for the centenary of this battle to be held at Beersheba War Cemetery in October 31st this year. This site only has the capacity for 2500 attendees and already, pre-registrations for attendance are indicating that this capacity easily filled.”

Ken Corke continued: “We often see exhibitions of battles and campaigns that only contain informative maps and interesting objects. From a technical perspective, this may be fascinating. However, in the words of Peter FitzSimmons, we need to make the bones dance… we need to bring the story alive. This exhibition is an excellent example of how the story of this important battle can be brought to life by viewing it through the eyes of the individuals who were there – individuals who have seen and experienced the battle in a way that we never could understand without the context around it. I have no doubt that it will serve to further increase the fascination that Australians have for this iconic battle.”

There is the possibility of the exhibition travelling to other museums, but nothing is yet confirmed.

 

Comments

3 Responses to “In Their Steps: The Australian Light Horse and the ANZAC Trail”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    In the 2 year campaign in Palestine and Syria from 1916-1918 the mounted infantry units (not cavalry) grew to form The Desert Mounted Corps consisting of an Australian Mounted Division, Camel Corps (a few regiments), ANZAC Mounted Division (Australian and New Zealand), Yeomanry Division (British) and other excellent Indian and North African (French Colonial) mounted units.

    The Corps suffered “only” about 1500 KIA in 2 years. Compare this to the slaughter in the Dardanelles with about 10,000 ANZAC’s KIA in 9 months and the Western Front were about 45,000 Australian’s were KIA in 2 years, including in one 24 hour period 3000 Australians.

    The Desert Mounted Corps was commanded by Lt Gen Sir Harry Chauvel, an Australian from NSW, and after Beersheba went onto capture Jerusalem and Damascus and everything in between inland. British foot infantry divisions moved along the coast. We need to hear more about Chauvel other that the risky but very successful mounted charge to capture Beersheba.

    There was no conscription as all the soldiers in the 1st AIF (Australian Imperial Force) were volunteers like those in the 2nd AIF 25 years later.

  2. Lee Goffin says:

    The New Zealand involvement in this heroic exploit will not be overlooked or omitted – will it?

    There is just one memorable line in the Australian movie made referencing ANZACs and that is “There go the New Zealanders.”

    • David Jonathan Deasey says:

      As we are about to commemorate Beersheba and the Desert Mounted Corps it is probably time to get our picture of the Corps a bit more accurate than most Australians know. It actually went through three iterations under Chauvel’s command. Not many Corps commanders had to rebuild their force this often
      1. Desert Mounted Column from April 1917(2 Divisions)
      ANZAC Mounted Division
      Imperial Mounted Division
      2. Desert Mounted Corps from July 1917 (3 plus Divisions)
      ANZAC Mounted Division
      Australian Mounted Division
      Yeomanry Division
      Corps troops
      7th Mounted Brigade (Yeomanry) Imperial Camel Corps Brigade (3 Battalions)
      3. from March 1918 4 Plus Divisions
      ANZAC Mounted Division
      Australian Mounted Division inc French Regt
      4th Indian Cavalry Division
      5th Indian Cavalry Division
      Wheeled recon Regiment(inc 1st Aust Light Car Patrol)
      20th Indian Special Service Infantry Brigade
      4 Independent Infantry Battalions including 2 Jewish Settler Battalions

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