31/10/1917 Beersheba: the great charge of the Australian cavalry #1917Live

After he took over in the Levant, Britain’s Allenby was ordered to secure Jerusalem by the end of the year. This is no easy task. Previous British efforts to invade Palestine have been blocked by tenacious Turkish resistance at Gaza. Turkish defences there are strong and although the British outnumber the enemy Allenby suspects that another frontal assault will fail. He opts for an indirect approach, targeting Beersheba, which is further inland and less strongly defended by the Turks. Allenby hopes to take Beersheba and then turn the Turkish line.

To deceive the Turks, the British have spent the last few days subjecting Gaza to an intense bombardment. In the meantime they have moved men up to face Beersheba in secret. Now they blast the Turkish defenders with a devastating bombardment, after which the infantry move forward. But although battered, the Turks fail to collapse, containing the British advance.

If Beersheba does not fall by sunset then Allenby will have to abandon the battle. He needs the town’s wells and without them his men will not have enough water to fight on. The infantry are blocked but fortunately for him he has sent an Australian cavalry force on a flanking march to attack the Turks from the north east. With only an hour to go before sunset they launch a desperate cavalry charge, the largest of the war thus far. The Australians rip through the Turkish lines and push on into the town. As night falls the Turks begin to withdraw, leaving Beersheba and its wells in British hands.

image sources:

The charge (possibly) (Australian Reserve Forces Day Council: The Charge at Beersheba 31 October 1917)

Gaza-Beersheba dispositions (Wikipedia: Battle of Beersheba)

Map of marches and attacks (Wikipedia: Battle of Beersheba)

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