[Dame Patsy Reddy, Malcolm Turnbull and Benjamin Netanyahu lay wreaths during Tuesday’s memorial ceremony. Photo: AAP Image/Dan Peled]
BEERSHEBA (AFP) — Israeli, Australian and New Zealand leaders gathered in Beersheba, southern Israel on Tuesday to mark the 100th anniversary of a key cavalry charge that helped clear the way to Jerusalem during World War I.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was joined by his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull and New Zealand Governor-General Patsy Reddy in Beersheba, where the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) defeated Ottoman troops to gain control of a strategic crossroads.
Beersheba is a town that few New Zealanders will be familiar with.It sits on the edge of the Negev desert in southern Israel, about 75 kilometres south west of Jerusalem.
On Tuesday, a small group of New Zealanders joined 3000 Australians to watch a re-enactment of an historic charge by the Australian Light Horse brigade exactly 100 years ago at Beersheba.
The attack on Turkish troops was a turning point in World War I, and is a revered part of Australia’s military history. From this point on in the desert war the Turkish forces and their German allies were in retreat.
The famous charge by the 4th Australian Light Horse is regarded as the last great cavalry charge in history.What is less well known is that it wouldn’t have taken place had it not been for the skill and bravery of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles.
After two failed attempts to break the Turkish defensive line between Gaza on the coast and Beersheba 43 kilometres inland, the newly appointed commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, which was spearheaded by Australian and New Zealand mounted troops, devised a plan to take the town of Beersheba.
General Allenby’s aim was to outflank the Turko-German forces and attack the trenches protecting Gaza, from behind.
At first, the Turks in outlying positions were caught by surprise. But a large hill which overlooked the plain in front of Beersheba needed to be taken before mounted troops could approach the town itself.
The machine guns dug in on the hill known as Tel el Saba would have mown down horsemen in minutes.
The job of capturing Tel el Saba was given to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. It was defended by 300 Turks who were now well prepared.
The attack started at 9.10am but progress was slow and casualties mounted. It took nearly six hours of fighting before the Auckland Mounted Rifles managed to capture the first enemy position. Two or three machine guns were taken, along with 60 prisoners.
The machine guns were turned around and used to good effect on the Turks.
The “Aucklands” (as they were known) were joined by the Wellington Mounted Rifles and with bayonets fixed they charged up the hill on foot.
Fleeing Turks were shot as they ran. 25 Turks were killed and another 132 taken prisoner.
Eight New Zealanders (mainly Aucklands) died and 26 were wounded.
Israeli military historian Avi Navon told Newsroom “all the advantages lay with the Turkish troops. They were fresh, had the high ground and plenty of firepower. The only advantage the New Zealanders had was bravery.”
“The cavalry charge and the Australians are much talked about but really the New Zealanders deserve a lot of credit,” said Navon.
To read this story in full, go to :https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2017/10/29/56759/nzs-role-in-historys-last-great-cavalry-charge