Monday, March 18, 2024

The beginning of modern Israel: The Battle of Beersheba

The Australian Light Horse played an important role in the defeat of Ottoman forces in the province of Palestine during the First World War (Bou, 2007). For several years the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) was stuck in a stalemate across the Siani, unable to push past the Turkish defences at Gaza. The newly appointed General Allenby then planned a feit in front of the main trenches and a rapid mounted attack on the eastern-most position of the Turkish defences at Beersheba in October 1917. Initially, the dismounted 4th Light Horse Bridge struggled to make headway against the entrenched Turkish troops around the town. Lieutenant-Colonel Murray Bourchier then made the decision for the Light Horse to mount up and charge the defences on the southeast of the town of Beersheba. (A slower dismounted attack may not have been successful and may have resulted in heavy casualties for the lightly armed attackers.) The Light Horse swept through the defences and into the town securing it for General Allenby's campaign. Ironically, poor EEF logistics plus Austrian-Hungarian artillery and German machine-gunners allowed the rest of the Turkish forces to conduct an orderly withdrawal (Bou, 2007).


Jean Bou, 'Cavalry, Firepower, and Swords: The Australian Light Horse and the Tactical Lessons of Cavalry Operations in Palestine, 1916-1918',  The Journal of Military History, Vol. 71, No. 1 (Jan., 2007), pp. 99-125