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Remembered Today:

Beersheba War Cemetery

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This cemetery contains 1,241 Commonwealth burials of the Great War, 67 of them unidentified. It was opened immediately after the capture of the town and remained in use until mid-1918, by which time it still contained only 139 burials. The cemetery was greatly enlarged after the armistice when burials from many scattered, smaller plots were concentrated here.

Early days with wooden crosses, and in each Australian grave the a branch of a gum-tree was planted


And today


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Beersheba (also Beersheva, or Be'er Sheva) has the distinction of being the final resting place of three VCs

The first of these three headstones is that of Major A M Lafone VC:

See http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/i...ic=84768&hl

Since 2007 the green bushes in the border behind this stone have been removed. Let us hope that they can be restored soon


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Maj. Alexander Malius Lafone, late Yeo.

For most conspicuous bravery, leadership

and self-sacrifice when holding a position for

over seven hours against vastly superior

enemy forces. All this time the enemy were

shelling his position heavily, making it very

difficult to see. In one attack, when the

enemy cavalry charged his flank, he drove

them back with heavy losses. In another

charge they left fifteen casualties within

twenty yards of his trench, one man, who

reached the trench, being bayonetted by

Maj. Lafone himself.

When all his men, with the exception of

three, had been hit and the trench which be

was holding was so full of wounded that it

was difficult to move and fire, he ordered

those who' could walk to move to a

trench slightly in the rear, and from his

own position maintained a most heroic

resistance. When finally surrounded and

charged by the enemy, he stepped into the

open and continued the fight until he was

mortally wounded and fell unconscious.

His cheerfulness and courage were a splendid

inspiration to his men, and by his

leadership and devotion he was enabled to

maintain his position, which he had been

ordered to hold at all costs

See page IV, post #98, for further details of this action

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The second is that of Captain John Fox Russell V.C., M.C., RAMC, who managed to cram so much into so short a life; age 24!


Edited by michaeldr
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Capt. John Fox Russell, M.C., late

R.A.M.C., attd. R.W. Fus.

For most conspicuous bravery displayed in

action until he was killed. Capt. Russell

repeatedly went out to attend the wounded

under murderous fire from snipers and

machine guns, and, in many cases where no

other means were at hand, carried them in

himself, although almost exhausted.

He showed the highest possible degree of valour.

[further information received from LST_164]

The most detailed account of John Fox Russell's life at present is W. Alister Williams' volume of Welsh VC biographies - Heart of a Dragon. The VCs of Wales and the Welsh Regiments 1914-82 (Bridge Books, Wrexham 2008).

John's brother, Henry Thornbury Fox Russell RAF unfortunately died in a flying accident at Hooton, Cheshire one week after the Armistice. He is buried at Holyhead. A couple of other brothers served during the war and survived. His father's signature is seen quite often on Service Papers, as carrying out the medicals for recruits in that part of Anglesey. John Fox Russell's medals are with the RAMC Museum

Edited by michaeldr
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The third recipient of the Victoria Cross buried at Beersheva was Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Cecil Maygar V.C., D.S.O., V.D.

London Gazette of 11th February 1902; "At Geelhoutboom, on the 23rd November 1901, Lieutenant Maygar galloped out and ordered the men of a detached post, which was being outflanked, to retire. The horse of one of them being shot under him, when the enemy were within 200 yards, Lieutenant Maygar dismounted and lifted him on to his own horse, which bolted into boggy ground, causing both of them to dismount. On extricating the horse and finding that it could not carry both, Lieutenant Maygar again put the man on its back and told him to gallop for cover at once, he himself proceeding on foot. All this took place under a very heavy fire."


Colonel Maygar's DSO was awarded in June 1917 for distinguished service in the field during the attacks at Maghdaba and Rafa. Col. Maygar's medals can see seen here http://cas.awm.gov.au/heraldry/REL/05846.003 where the text also gives more details of his biography


The photograph below shows the colonel with fellow officers (Brig Gen L. C. Wilson and others) and was taken just a day before his mortal wounding in a German aerial bombing attack


Edited by michaeldr
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His original wooden cross


and his headstone today


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Another Light Horseman who died the same day was Trooper James Lowry Bodkin. His headstone may have no VC, but his NoK ensured that it bore a very Australian inscription


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The Australian's have made many thousands of their photographs available on-line, and most are noted as 'copyright expired –public domain'. It is a great resource, generously provided.

The photograph below shows the original grave marker of Major William Ernest Markwell DSO., MiD.


[also to be seen above-left-rear is the grave of Trooper Robert Raymond Dawson, and behind Major Markwell's grave is that of Private Norman Allen Challis]

Below is Major Markwell's headstone today


from the London Gazette 3rd March 1917, his DSO:

Maj. William Ernest Markwell, Aust. Light Horse Regt.

For conspicuous gallantry in action. He gallantly led the final assault against both the enemy trenches and a redoubt, thereby completing the defeat of the enemy. He set a magnificent example to his men

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Corporal John Fielding came from Rawtenstall, Manchester, but he died serving with the 12th Australian Light Horse. Note the inscription at the foot of the headstone.


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Leonard Harry Baker of Finsbury Square, London, served and died as Private L. Harry


and W. Gunstone Lang of Neath, served and died as Lance Serjeant W. Gunstone


while on the other hand, J. Osborn took the completely different name of Harry Green


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As far as I can tell, there is only one headstone in Beersheva which commemorates

'A Victim of the Great War – Known unto God'

Like so many in this cemetery, this person (man, woman or child) died on 6th November 1917


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This headstone may also be the only one of its kind in this cemetery, in any event, it is the only such that I recall. Common enough on Gallipoli, here on the Palestine front I think it is most unusual to see 'Believed to be buried in this cemetery'


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The family of Trooper Leslie Stuart Burniston of Victoria, paid a high price in the Great War and they recorded it here at the foot of his headstone. Twin brother, Private Howard McCullock Burniston lies at rest in Crucifix Corner Cemetery, Villers-Bretonneux


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Did you notice how very white the cross looked on the New Zealander's headstone in the rear-left of the above photograph?

Here it is again in close-up: Serjeant Owen Frederick Sanders, ICC (New Zealand)


The strong–white effect is produced by leaving the area of the inside of the cross unpolished and/or giving it a textured surface. A similar effect is achieved here in the badge of the Royal West Kent Regiment by a sort of linear-hatching of the background.


Just to remind ourselves, this is how the RWK's badge has appeared previously


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The headstone of each soldier is unique, but often his family wished to make it even more so by adding their own, private message, in a few words at the foot of the grave marker.

Some of the nicest which I have ever seen are here in Beersheva: what could be more touching than

"Ever remembered by his wife Lily and bairns Walter, Rose and wee Bunty"


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Or this


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I found this inscription particularly memorable


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And what an aspiration this represents

"When I wake up after thy likeness I shall be satisfied"


Albert William Jones, originally from Marshfield in Monmouthshire had previously served with the 10th Bn in France and was gassed in a German gas attack on the 30th April 1916. After some time in the UK he was posted to the 1st 6th, TF unit in the EEF in May 1917 but retained his Regular Army number.

[see Hywyn's post No.26]

Edited by michaeldr
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However there are some inscriptions which raise the odd question.

Do you think that this one is complete? Is there not something missing from the end here?

As presently carved, it does not appear to make sense:

"Our dearly beloved only child. In Jesu's keeping he is safe and we"


... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

Surely the Pake family did not intend for the first words to be included here;

"Inserted by etc…etc." Could not the stone mason, or his superiors, have exercised some discretion in this case?


... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

The family of Serjeant T. A. Macintosh were surely not expecting to have the first line of their inscription carved as

"We Ex Pect …."


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and the family of Private William Herbert Bish no doubt wanted to suggest that he had died for some noble ideal;

however their apostrophe has become a distracting, misplaced coma


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Inscriptions can take many forms, and for some families it was enough to allude to the service of their loved one


... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

Another example is Private J. B. Glennan, who must have been very young during the war in South Africa


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'Known unto God' – three Suffolk lads all killed on the same day; 31st October 1917


... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

and a couple of chaps from Wales who died on 6th November 1917;

Known unto God, and probably to each other, but not to us.


Can you spot the difference between these last two headstones

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Thanks for those shots Michael. What a change has been wrought over the years and all credit to the CWGC for their efforts.


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Turning right out of the gate of the Beersheva War Cemetery and walking down the street, one soon reaches the town's old centre. For many, many years the tall plinth in Allenby Square was empty (apart from the great man's name and the dates 1917-1918) but that has recently been rectified with a bust of the Field Marshal now gazing down on the passersby.


The plinth is so high however that it is difficult to see whether or not the sculptor has done Lord Allenby his full justice;

I have my doubts.


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Viscount Allenby looks across the road towards the Museum of the Negev


though he would have known it better as the old Ottoman Headquarters


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Next to the museum is the mosque


and though today it is somewhat obscured by trees on one side and a high fence on another,

in 1917 it was photographed many times, either in its own right or as a backdrop.



Immediately above are seen (l to r) Brig. Gen. R. G. H. Howard-Vyse, Gen. Sir H. G. Chauvel and Capt. W. G. Lyons

Edit: Some further, pre-November 1917, photographs of this area of Beersheva can be seen in posts No. 100 (page IV) and No. 101 (page V)

Edited by michaeldr
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Thanks David,

Yes it is beautifully kept - hard work indeed a desert climate

There was very little litter except what may have blown in with that morning's wind and I saw no signs of any graffiti

The whole place is a credit to the CWGC and their staff



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Michael a great post well done ,thankyou

Cheers MC

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Thanks for sharing these excellent and very interesting photos, old and new, Michael. The forum is very fortunate to have you as our 'man on the spot'.

Incidentally, the headstone with the mistake "error,s" also has the mis-spelling "calld". Perhaps carved by a local stonemason who did not speak English?

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Steven Broomfield
Do you think that this one is complete? Is there not something missing from the end here?

As presently carved, it does not appear to make sense:

"Our dearly beloved only child. In Jesu's keeping he is safe and we"

I wonder if it's a bit poetic? "In Jesu's keeping he is safe and so are we" makes more sense, but is a bit prosaic. (And wordy at whatever it was a letter).

However, splendid phots - thanks for sharing, and I'm sure I'm not at all jealous.

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