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Remembered Today:

Be'er-Sheva's 99th Anniversary


michaeldr
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Yesterday, 31st October 2016, was the 99th anniversary of the fall of Be'er-Sheva to the EEF and to the ALH in particular. The Australian embassy (working with the municipality, the New Zealand embassy and the Turkish chargé d'affaires) organised three ceremonies to mark this event. These took place respectively at the CWGC Cemetery, the Turkish War Memorial and the Park of the Australian Soldier.

Alas, like many others yesterday morning, yours truly was held up on highway 6 by an accident involving two HGVs, and despite having given myself a 100% margin of extra time for such unexpected eventualities, it was not enough and I still missed the service at the CWGC Cemetery.

I did however pop back later to photograph the wreaths and floral tributes.

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Edited by michaeldr
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The second ceremony was at the nearby Turkish Memorial to their fallen

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Following a short address by the representative of Turkey, wreaths were laid by diplomatic, military and civilian guests.

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The tribute from The Society for the Heritage of WWI in Israel was laid by Mr Ezra Pimental

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While the CWGC Cemetery and the Turkish Memorial are a short five minute walk apart, the Park of the Australian Soldier is a five or ten minute drive across town. The reward however, is the magnificent statue of a Light Horseman and his steed clearing the sandbags of a Turkish trench.

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At this point the Australian embassy also generously offered refreshments and snacks to their guests.

After the short break, there were further brief addresses and three more wreaths were laid at the LH statue.

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This was principally Australia's day, but their neighbours and fellow members of ANZAC were also well represented by members of NZ units serving locally in this region.

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A visitor to Be'er-Sheva having taken in the CWGC Cemetery and the Turkish Memorial, may find it worthwhile to call at the old Turkish Railway Station which is right next to the latter. Refreshments and a meal can be had at a restaurant which now occupies the old station's ground floor. That building's upper story currently hosts an exhibition by Mr Goel Drory on the history of Be'er-Sheva. Many of the photographs there will be familiar from the Matson Collection at the USA's Library of Congress (available on-line) however it is quite useful to view them in context.

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The Station Manager's House which is at the other end of the compound (and seen on the right here) housed the city's British governor in the 1940s, and today it has 'an interactive mini-museum of the Israel Railways.'

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Fascinating photos, particularly those of the old station. Thanks for posting.

 

Steve

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32 minutes ago, SteveMarsdin said:

Fascinating photos, particularly those of the old station.

Steve,

the Turks and their German allies extended the railway to Be'er-Sheva specifically to meet the challenge of transporting men and materiel to the Sinai front. It was opened in March 1915.

Following the successes of the EEF, the British line from Egypt to Rafah was extended to Beersheva in May 1918 giving a rail link right up to Jaffa and Jerusalem.

The leaflet which I picked up yesterday describes the 1918 British line from Beersheva to Rafah as follows:-

In order to allow the Turkish train carriages to run on this line (4' 8½”), the British added a third track to the existing rail lines (to match the Turkish standard of 3' 5⅓”), and in this way, a unique and fascinating occurrence in the history of the world's railroads came into being: a three-track railroad line on which two types of trains, manufactured differently and with two different car widths, all traveled.”

The steam locomotive exhibited at the station is the same type as one which ran here until 1958 and which became famous locally as the subject of a popular song (here described as a classic) written by Haim Hefer

 

regards

Michael

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13 minutes ago, michaeldr said:

In order to allow the Turkish train carriages to run on this line (4' 8½”), the British added a third track to the existing rail lines (to match the Turkish standard of 3' 5⅓”), and in this way, a unique and fascinating occurrence in the history of the world's railroads came into being: a three-track railroad line on which two types of trains, manufactured differently and with two different car widths, all traveled.

Thanks for the extra detail. Although it's not my main area of interest, one of our local regiments (East Riding Yeomanry) took part in 3rd Gaza and it's good to learn more about the conflict in Palestine.

 

Steve

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Michael,

 

thanks for posting this excellent thread.

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Hi,

 

Couple of quick points.

Brig Gen Grant (CO 4th Light Horse Brigade) actually practice the brigade in that manoeuvre prior to the battle on the off chance that it might be needed.  Each successive wave of the attack knew instinctively what their job was. This is why he was confident of cuccess and why very few orders were issued to the three regiments involved, the 4th, the 12th and the 10th.

 

It is often forgotten that the hidden success story is the successful attacks upon Tel el Saba by the Auckland Mounted Rifles and the 3rd ALH, and the successful attack on Tel el Sakaty by the 7th ALH which contributed to the success of the eventual charge because they eliminated cross-firing machine guns from these two flanking hills. Chauvel could not be certain of their capture until almost 5pm on the day and with failing light and desperately thirst horses, he was confronted with charge or withdraw.

 

I can't think of too many orders as succinct as Lt Gen Chauvel's "Put Grant straight at them'.  

Finally. The statue of the 4th ALH trooper had an emu feather on his slouch hat and they had been given permission prior to the war NOT to wear an emu feather because of its affiliation with the Queensland Mounted Infantry participation in strike breaking during the 1890's shearer's strike. Although widely accepted by 1917, it did not become common uniform until the 

'General Military Order No 90 of 1923 which states:

“Approval is given for the wearing of emu plumes and hat puggarees by members of Light Horse units, provided supplies can be arranged regularly without expense to the public.”
(Desert Column http://alh-research.tripod.com/Light_Horse/index.blog/1813456/all-light-horsemen-wore-emu-plumes/)

I work at a Jewish College in Sydney and we are commemorating the 100th with a special assembly. Sadly, a logical request for an officer from 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers to attend the special assembly, thus reconnecting the regiment with the Jewish people, was turned down without explanation.  It will go ahead anyway but I am very disappointed on behalf of the college and the north shore Sydney Jewish community.

 

Hope this is interesting

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Mates,

 

You maybe interested in some thing I wrote on this action, while the 4th LH Bde (4th ALHR (495 men) and 12th ALHR (499 men) had around 1000 men in the charge (all known names of the chargers are shown in a list I did for the Australian LH Assoc webb site), they faced less the 300 Turkish soldiers already to retire as the rear guard of the 27th Turkish Div.

 

Turkish record say that the 2nd Regt had no machine guns (they were attached to Regts of the 27th Div facing the 20th British Corps) that doesn't mean there were no MGs with the 2nd Regt. At that time most fourth companies of each Turkish Bn converted to a MG Company per Bn, and at that time had about two Mgs per company.

 

At the start of Oct 1917 British Intell reports state - the 2nd Regt had around 740 men and by Dec 1917 the Regt was down to around 450 men, so it lost around 290 men between Oct to Dec 1917, either at Beersheba and or in the fighting during Nov and Dec.
The Turks record this;

Source: Maj. Gen. Hüseyin Hüsnü Emir (Erkilet) gives the following information about artillary in his book "Yıldırım" p.112
Gen. Erkilets gives the following information at page 112. I wrote in blavk letters:

" the situation in the night of Oct. 30th 1917

1- 2 batterys of 2nd battalion of the 43th Artillery Regt with 8 guns was positioned on the west front between Sebi-Tellü'ş-Şeria railway and Sebi Valley.

2 battalions of 81st Regt. at front, 2nd inf.Co at reserve on the back of right wing, A Inf. Co. was ordered to protect Ebu Rakik Station and Bridge and cover the region between Ebu Rakik and Birü's-Sebi.

2- 2 batteries of the 1st battalion of the 13rd Art Regt was positioned with 2 batteries on its left side building a common defence position with 8 guns at southwest front between Sebi River and Damascus and Pelune Hills.

67th Inf. Regt. with its 2 battalions, 4th battalion of the 79th Regt., 1st battalion of the 81st Regt. 3 battalions were positioned at the front and a battalion was at the back as reserve

3-A battery of 2nd battalion of 39th Art. Regt. was positioned on the north of Izmir Hill. on south front along from Şam(Damascus) Hill to the road to Sebi-Hafir to the beginning of Valley Vadiü'ş-Şuayb with 4 guns

2 battalions of 48th Regt was positioned at both sides of the road., A battalion was at reserve on the left back.

4-A field battery of 2nd Battalion of 39th Art. Regt. positioned as general reserve with 4 guns.

3rd Cav. Div. A mounted battery (4 guns) was at the antiairflak redoubt at the west of Birü's-sebi.,

2nd Inf. Regt with its 3 battalions without MGs
 

Kress writes

 

"Kressenstein, Friedrich Freiherr Kress von, Mit den Tèurken zum Suezkanal, 1938, pp. 276 - 279

The two Turkish battalions (2nd Regt) employed between Ras Ghannam and Tell el Saba were ordered to withdraw to positions behind Wadi it Saba [279] in the direction of Beersheba, when they were attacked of English cavalry. The English riders broke through the thin Turkish lines and carried their attack onto Beersheba. With no warning Ismed Bey and his staff were taken unawares. General Chetwode had given the 4th Cavalry Brigade the order to seize the place - an order, which the resourceful brigade commander, General W Grant, solved by a charge."

 

So what I found was;

 

The two Bn's 2nd Regt may refer to the shown 460 men in Turkish records, this may account for that number while the whole Regt had 740 men, with the remaining Bn (280 men) helped in fighting the British 20th Corps (Falls reports that one Bn 2nd Regt was sent to help the 67th Regt). so did the two Bns or 460 men lose 290 men from that number in the charge?

Possibly not, as all the 2nd Regt holding the line would have been lost, and is doughtfull if any got away from that charge. So was one Bn holding the rear guard while its other Bn was withdrawing at the time of the charge. Did the remaining rear guard Bn/2nd Turkish Regt lose all its 230 men (half the 460 men shown in Turkish records) in that charge, while the remaining 60 men (from 290 men shown in records) were lost either with another Bn or during the fighting in Nov during the withdrawal up Palestine?

 

This doesn't distract from the men who made that charge, but the Turkish side should be mentioned. The 200 + men who held the rear guard while the Turkish Corps withdrawal was going on, did what they could under very heavy preasure.

 

Most common was the 2nd Turkish Infantry Regt who faced the charge by the 4th LH Bde at Beersheba

This Regt was raised from Turks not arabs in Syria in 1914 with the 3rd and 72nd Regts. its was given to the 24th Div who now had 2nd Regt, 3rd Regt and 72nd Regt.

By early 1915 the Div was broken up with the 3rd Regt sent to Iraq and later joined the 45th Div, while the 72nd Regt went to join Kemal's 19th Div at Gallipoli. the 2nd Regt remain in Syria as a Garrison unit until the battles at Gaza where it joined the 27th Div at Beersheba in Oct 1917.

The 27th Div shows this at Beersheba - 27th Div (3091 men) 81st Regt (900 men 18 MG's), 48th Regt (16th Div) 900 men, 67th Regt (43rd Div) 1400 men, att 2nd Regt (24th Div) its unknown if the total strength of the 2nd Regt is shown in the 24th Div (3596 men).

Some reports give the 2nd Regt as 740 men (British Intell reports) or 460 men (Turkish records) in three Bns (possibly around 200 + men per Bn), and with possibly 12 MG's (Turkish records say the MGs were not with this Regt?) under Maj Sirri Bey. The MG brake up for this Regt was 6 MGs in the 2nd MG Company and two mgs per Infantry Bn (3xBn's = 6 Mgs) total 12 Mgs in the 2nd Regt.

 

Cheers


S.B
 


 

Edited by stevebecker
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Couple of sources re Beersheba. My uncle was a battery driver on that memorable day

Extract from Notts Battery RHA War Diary 31 October 1917

ANZAC Division and A.M.Div attacked BEERSHEBA.  Battery came into action against enemy machine guns at 1330; after a short bombardment enemy retired enabling our dismounted troops to seize the position, some houses about 2 miles E. of the town.  Battery then received orders to support the 4th A.L.H. Bde. Who had been ordered to take the town of BEERSHEBA.  Battery engaged and destroyed enemy machine guns on the left flank that were enfilading the advance of the 4th A.L.H. Bde. Battery marched into BEERSHEBA about 1930 and bivouacked there.  Battery bombed by enemy plane; one horse hit.

 

Recollections of Sgt CLAUDE BURWELL HALES (383 / 612016) Printed in the Nottingham Evening Post 3 December 1965 when Mr Hales resided in West Bridgford The article was entitled “Action in the Desert”  Left England on 9 April 1915  Ismailia on Suez Canal Guard until 18 November 1915  Palestine January 1917  Attached to the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade at Beersheba   “In action all day – then came the greatest thrill of the war...two minutes after sunset a line of Australians, two miles long, came charging past our mounted battery, each man carrying a … bayonet.  Some stuffing hats into belts and adjusting equipment, faces grim, set and excited. Two hundred yards behind came a smaller line and farther behind still another line. Three lines of grim men; the light of close action in their eyes and we went into our stride behind the first line, horses straining, drivers lying low, gunners urging them on.  Guns bumping and bouncing, men surprised and excited, the unforgettable thrill of RHA galloping into action in our blood. Suddenly came the order “Halt. Action Front”.  We knew our drill.  Gunners threw themselves off their still galloping horses and picking themselves off the ground dashed to the guns, whilst the drivers laying back their horses, had not yet halted the guns. Captain Lambert, who had previously gone forward, gave the position and range of the enemy trenches and the guns were in action as the second and third line of charging horsemen gloriously galloped past our position. We fired over 50 rounds before we had to cease fire for fear shelling our own troops. The thrill of that surprise charge will never be forgotten by any participant”  Mr Hales goes on to state that the men had not slept for the previous 60 hours and subsequently came under attack from Taube Aircraft.

 

Hope this is of interest

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Mate,

 

One the surprising accounts was by the soldier who claims to have taken the photo of the charge from the front, because he was doing range finding for the 4 LH MGS.

 

What a soldier from the 4 LH MGS was doing there is still not explained, as the 4 LH NGS was not deployed to engage any targets before the charge, so why he was there seams strange, to take that photo?

 

There are of cause many more questions here.

 

But the account of the Notts Bty is more realistic and more likely then a range finder of the MGS being there and stating the details he does.


S.B

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Steve,

 

This is the basis of the great controversy around the 'photograph' which has bounced around for decades.  His account was supposed to put the issue to bed but subsequently, eye-witness accounts and official documents seem to indicate that it was a subsequent re-enactment (why would you?). Wartime, the Australian War Memorial magazine published an extended article that explained the story from the point of view of the trooper from the 4th ALH Regiment.  That sparked the discussion that has flowed on ever since.

 

Arguments against focus on the lie of the land - angles and slope are wrong - and vegetation - season vegetation that would not have been there in late October - and the spacing between the troopers in the three lines - too close - and the spacing between the lines - 10th ALH Regt arrived late and were some distance behind the two lines of attack made up of the 12th ALH (left) and 4th ALH (right) in two lines of advance. Sorry, I am an ex-infantryman and I don't know the correct terminology for horsed soldiers.  

 

All of the books, and I have read most of them, comment upon the accuracy of the field artillery in very rapidly silencing the machine crossfire and how this was a crucial aspect of the successful charge and the subsequent low casualty rate.

 

We would all like to hope that such an important event was saved on film but maybe it wasn't. Either way, it makes a wonderful framed print and at least it now seems that I may get 12/16 Hunter River Lancers support because my local member has taken up the cause.  The framed print will feature in the library.  See comment above.

 

George

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4 hours ago, aussiesoldier said:

All of the books, and I have read most of them, comment upon the accuracy of the field artillery in very rapidly silencing the machine crossfire and how this was a crucial aspect of the successful charge and the subsequent low casualty rate.

 

 

John D. Grainger in his The Battle for Palestine 1917 goes along with that

"They were extremely well supported by excellent artillery work: when Turkish machine-guns opened up on the charging horsemen, the Notts Battery put them out of action with its second shot............"

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George,

 

Yes I helped with many of those accounts and the down playing of that photo.

Yes a good shot but no proof its of the charge and taken by that that soldier.

 

Notts Gunners account is great I have not seen it before and fills a great gap in the story, while we knew the Battery engaged targets, not much is said about the effects.

 

I am have been trying to find what Batteries the 9 (nine) guns captured by the 4 LH Bde that afternoon came from.

 

While the movie shows at lest one Turkish battery firing on the charge, I am to confirm what battery that was,

 

Turkish record show these with the 27th Turkish Div

 

shown Oct 1917 - 2Bn/43rd FAR (8xguns) 1Bn/13th FAR (8xguns) 2Bn/39th FAR (8xguns ) -

 

possibly Nov 1917? 1Bn/12th FAR (2xBatys) (8xguns) 1Bn/42nd FAR (2xBatys) (8xguns)

 

So what happened to the batteries shown, but even British and Turkish reports get it wrong;

 

43rd FAR *Field Artillery Regt (43rd Division (Hejaz) raised Syria 1915 Thrace 1915 Beirut (coastal defence 1916/18 Katma (coastal defence) 1918

1Bn to 4Bn/43rd FAR (reports show both 75mm and 77mm guns)

1Bn/43rd FAR (8x 77mm guns) 2Bn/43rd FAR (8x 75mm) 3Bn/43rd FAR (8x 75mm guns) 4Bn/43rd FAR (8x 77mm guns)

 

shown Allied reports Feb 1918- 3Bn/43rd FAR (8x 75mm guns)  with 23rd Div

shown Allied reports 1918  2Bn/43rd FAR (2x 75mm) unit not shown

shown July 1918 Allied reports 2Bn/43rd FAR (7x 75mm guns) with 24th Div

shown July 1918 Allied reports 1Bn/43rd FAR (8x 77mm guns) 2Bn/43rd FAR (8x 77mm guns) with 43rd Div

 

Just to see where I am going here.

 

Maj. Gen. Hüseyin Hüsnü Emir Erkilet "Yıldırım" (The Lightning) p.363

"A Report given by 8th Army to War Ministry.

 

1-Following Artillary units were given to the order of Infantry Divisions at Sinai Front:
a) to 3rd Inf. Div.: 1st batt. of 5th Field Art. Regt and 1st batt. of 6th Art. Regt.

to 54th Inf. Div: 2nd batt. of 5oth Art. regt and 2nd batt. of 13th Art. Regt.

to 53th Inf. Div.: 2nd batt. of 1st Art. regt. and 2nd batt. of 2nd Art. Regt.

to 7th Inf. Div.: 1st batt. of 14th and 1st batt. of 13rd.

to16th Inf. Div.: 1sr Batt of 16th and 2nd batt. of 6th

to 19th Inf. Div.: 1st batt of 10th and 2nd batt of 25th

to 20th Inf. Div. :1st & 2nd batts of 20th

B) The following Battalions had 7,5 cm guns:
1st batt of 47th, 1&2 batts of 14th, 1st batt or 43th, 2nd Batt of 8th.

The following Batt.s had 7,7 cm guns:
1st batt. of 21st,

The following batt. had 7,5 cm guns:
2nd strong mountain gun Battalion of 27th.

c) Light Howitzer Units:
2nd Howitzer Battalion of 41st, 2nd batt. of 23th, 2nd batt of 44th

 

d) Humbara/ Mortar battaries were 103, 104, 105, 106, 113, 115, 116 th.
 

2- The guns that we lost:


a) 2nd Batt. of 5oth Field Artillary Regt. compliately. (54th Div)
A gun from 2nd batt. of 13th (54th Div)
2 guns of 2nd B. of 1st, (53rd Div)
1 gun of 1st B. of 16th  (16th Div)
6 guns of 2nd B. of 6th  (16th Div)
4 guns of 1st B of 47th
5 guns of 2nd B. of 14th
(incomplete list)

 

Another list

 

Number of Artillary guns lost between Nov.31 1917- Dec. 13th 1917.

44 serial field gun
10 light field Obüs
9 heavy obüs
4 10 cm gun
3 12 cm gun
3 Flaks
17 mortars

lost in Jerusalem fights:
3 field gun
3 12 cm gun

Also: 109 MGs

 

But of cause the area we are looking at was with the 7th Army where there was not so good record keeping.

 

So the information is out there the only problem is finding it

 

Cheers


S.B

Edited by stevebecker
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  • 1 year later...

Thanks for sharing that information and all of the artillery units at hand. I think my gr uncle Sgt. William Rawdon Carter may have been there as he was with the Auckland MR.

More for my research.

Brian

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