Connections to Indigenous Diggers of WWI

February 23, 2017 by Roz Tarszisz
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The Australian Jewish community has connections to Indigenous communities that go back to pivotal events in WWI.

On 31 October 1917 regiments of the mounted infantry of the Australian Forces undertook the Light Horse Charge on Turkish gun emplacements and trenches around the town of Beersheba. The audacious attack by the greatly outnumbered Light Horse troops had a significant impact on the outcome of World War I in the Middle East and has earned it an immortal place in Australian history.

The Black Watch from the 11th Light Horse Regiment because they were made up primarily of Aboriginal troopers.

What is less known is that there were a significant number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men among the ‘Light Horse’, with some participating in the actual charge.

In order to honour and acknowledge those men, The Rona Tranby Trust (RTT) has launched an Oral History project that will identify and record the stories of these heroes as recalled by their descendants, culminating in a group of descendants attending the Centenary Service in Beersheba on 31 October 2017.

“It is my hope that a number of descendants will come forward to share their stories and memories” said Pastor Ray Minniecon whose grandfather was a member of the Australian Light Horse.

The date of the Beersheba Charge generally coincided with the Declaration by the British Government that led to the establishment of the modern State of Israel.

Together with First Nations Light Horse Brigade Pty Ltd, RTT seeks to find and verify descendants and make recommendations on appropriate recipients of an Award (assistance with travel and recording of oral history) and their inclusion at the service in Beersheba.

The Pratt Foundation, NSW Jewish War Memorial and Department of Veteran Affairs are supporting the endeavour and RTT welcomes further financial support from the Jewish community.

“The commemoration of the Centenary of the Light Horse Charge in Beersheba is a wonderful opportunity for furthering the movement for reconciliation and recognition of the important role that the first Australians played in this vital military victory in the Middle East. It led to the liberation of Jerusalem” said Roland Gridiger, RTT Trustee.

RTT seeks donations for implementation of this project to help descendants attend the service in Beersheba in October 2017.

Contact Roland Gridiger for more information 9231 4888.



3 Responses to “Connections to Indigenous Diggers of WWI”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    During WW2 an Australian Division also liberated this region, including Lebanon, from the Vichy French traitors, including some French Foreign Legion units.

    • Adrian Jackson says:

      Follow up – it was the Australian 7th Division in this short campaign and the Australian, British, Indian and Free French forces were later designated a Corps.

  2. Adrian Jackson says:

    The mounted infantry charge (armed with rifles and bayonets not sabres or lances use by cavalry) at Beersheba as a great success but risky as if the brigade had been unsuccessful they would not have had access to the water wells and many horses and 1st AIF (Australian Imperial Force) soldiers would have become casualties.

    Even more interesting was that this brigade was part of the Desert Mounted Corps commanded by Australian Lt Gen Sir Harry Chauvel. By 1918 the corps consisted of the Australian Division, ANZAC Division, Yeomanry Division (British) plus other colonial troops from French North Africa and British India.

    In 3 years of fighting from Gaza to Damascus they suffered under 2,000 Australian KIA’s and captured more ground than the Australians impressive tally on the Western Front in Europe.

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