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On This Day: The Cavalry Charge at Beersheba

Today marks the 100th Anniversary of the historic Cavalry Charge at Beersheba, Israel – a moment that showed the world the kind of incredible courage and audacity that Australian troops were capable of.

It was a moment of inspiration. When Australian Brigadier General William Grant called upon the Australian Light Horsemen to draw their bayonets and launch a cavalry charge at the Turkish defenders of Beersheba, it would result in an overwhelming Allied victory – and one of the most iconic moments in Australian military history.

Strategically crucial, Beersheba was a key part of the Turkish Gaza defensive line. The Allies desperately required the water held by Beersheba’s wells, and attacked the town on October 31 1917. The British commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, General Sir Edmund Allenby, insisted that the town was to be captured on the first day of the operation.

With Beersheba defended by more than 1,000 troops, however, a swift Allied victory proved elusive. With time running out, Australian Lieutenant General Sir Harry Chauvel took Grant’s advice to use the Light Horsemen in a cavalry style charge. Grant personally delivered the order to his men, before initially leading the assault.

Armed only with bayonets, with rifles slung over their backs, the Light Horsemen braved intense gunfire and charged across nearly 6,000 metres of open ground. Leaping over enemy trenches upon their steeds, many of the Australians dismounted and overwhelmed the Turkish forces, with others riding into the town. Largely due to the speed of attack, the Australians suffered few casualties, with 31 Light Horsemen killed and 36 wounded.

Ranking in notoriety with the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava in 1854, this audacious action by Australia’s Light Horsemen is known as one of history’s last great cavalry charges.

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