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Beersheba 90 Years Celebration


A significant historical event was celebrated on Wednesday, 31st October, 2007 with the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the 90th Anniversary of the Charge at Beersheba. The unveiling took place at the Australian Light Horse Memorial in Shakespeare Place, Sydney, and was performed by Her Excellency the Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir, AC, CVO. The ceremony was held at the actual hour of the original charge at 1630 hours with the moment celebrated by the sound of the cavalry charge being played by the bugler from the 1/15th Royal NSW Lancers.

Pat Donovan, John Haynes and Ron CableColonel Roger Noble with the RSM and CO 1/15 RNSWL The Light Horse MonumentWreathlaying

There was an excellent crowd in attendance for the ceremony with all the ranks being represented including at least one general and a couple of brigadiers. Lots of black berets were evident! Of particular note was the presence of several past members of the 12/16th Hunter River Lancers, the current descendants of the 12th Light Horse Regiment who, with the 4th Light Horse Regiment, actually took part in the famous cavalry charge. There were many other guests and VIPs in attendance including the High Commissioner to New Zealand and the Turkish Consul.

The Prayer to the Fallen including the brave Turkish soldiers who laid down their lives defending what was once an outpost of the grand Ottoman empire, was read out by Reverend the Honourable Fred Nile ED, MLC - the ED is not a mistake as he was a commissioned reserve officer in the infantry. Anybody who has an Australian Defence Medal (ADM) should also thank Fred as he was one of the convenors of the New Medal Group who lobbied the Federal Government very successfully for the striking of the medal. Judging by the number of ADMs that were worn on the day, there has been quite a few issued!

The ceremony was followed by an official reception hosted by Tanya Gadiel MLA (state member for Parramatta), on behalf of the NSW Government and held on Level 41, Governor Macquarie Tower. The venue and the view were five star quality! This was also very well attended and enjoyed by all those present. The celebration went on well past the advertised closing time.

LTCOL Moore and COL NobleThe Beersheba Sculpture, the Sculptor and admirers
Hon Col 12/16 HRL with Paul MaileThe Beersheba Sculpture, the Sculptor and admirers

Special thanks go to the organisers of the day, the NSW Branch of the RAAC Association and its president, COL John Haynes OAM, and committee members.

Brian Walters, Photos: Peter Buttersworth and John Howells.

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The 3/9 South Australian Mounted Rifles paraded their Guidons and were joined on parade by light horse re-enactors and the 3/9 association to celebrate the South Australian connection.

3/9 SAMR on paradeThe Guidons on parade SAMR Association members on paradeLight Horse re-enactors on parade

David Mercer

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The 12/16 Hunter River Lancers hold the traditions of the 12th Light Horse AIF in sacred trust.  The 12th was one of the two regiments of the 4th Light Horse Brigade that charges at Beersheba on 31 October 1917.  A grand parade was held in Armidale, the Regiment parading its new Bushmaster vehicles was joined by ASLAVs from the 2nd/14th Light Horse (Queensland Mounted Infantry) and vintage Ferret Scout Cars from the New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum.  Regrettably due to the equine influenza outbreak, there were no light horse re-enactors.

The ParadeBushmasters ASLAVs from 2/14 QMIThe Association on parade NSWL Museum Ferret Scout Cars
Ross Baker and Barry FollingtonRoss Baker and Wayne Higgins

Ross Baker

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Members of the Light Horse Association sent a body of members to Israel in October 2007.  They rode local riding club horses, and the route from Gaza to Beersheba, that originally ridden by the Desert Mounted Corps on its approach march 90 years ago.  They then actually cantered the last few metres into the town following the route of the charge, then marched through the town.  Incongruously they carried flags, there had been no colours on the battlefield since the Crimea; nonetheless a great honour was done to our ancestors, at great personal expense to every re-enactor.

The Kings Banner granted to the 1st Light Horse for WW1 serviceThe point about flags is an interesting one.  There had been a suggestion that a unit carry "colours" in an attack.  It was a suggestion made before the attack by the 10th Light Horse at the Nek on the Gallipoli Peninsula in August 1915 by a British officer who thought colonial troops would need some bolstering in order to run to their deaths.  There were no colours available, there were King's Banners granted in 1904 to the units that had served in the Boer War, however, these were back in Australia with those units.  In 1914, a decision had been made in Australia to form a special expeditionary force to fight in World War 1, the ranks of existing units were filled with those fulfilling their Universal Service Obligations (conscripts) and were bound by the Defence Act of 1903.  The new force the Australian Imperial Force  consisted of volunteers only.  These volunteers for the most part came from the existing units; Headquarters A and B Squadrons of the 1st Light Horse AIF were formed from the New South Wales Lancers, the regiment being rounded-out by riders from other existing New South Wales light horse unit members.  In 1918, the honours and traditions of the AIF were passed back to the Army in general.  With this came the granting of a second lot of King's Banners.  For the light horse these banners were short-lived; granted in 1924, they were replaced in 1926 by guidons.  The granting of guidons to the light horse regiments, was actually a direct consequence of the successful charge at Beersheba.  In 1918, the fact that the charge was for the most part successful because of the light wiring of the trenches, and that the Turkish guns had been held forward in temporary positions awaiting the dismount of light horse was forgotten.  The Light Horse were issued with swords, weapons they carried and trained to use without reason until the last of the regiments were motorised in 1942.  As "Cavalry" units, the Light Horse were entitled to Guidons.

This means that if  there had been flags or colours carried at Beersheba, they would have been King's Banners, at that time Union Flags with gold edging, not the Australian national flag as it was then or is now.  The example of a King's Banner illustrated above is that granted to the 1st Light Horse (New South Wales Lancers) in 1924 in recognition of service during World War 1, and preserved in the New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum..

Getting ready to moveThe approach march The approach marchGetting Ready to Charge

Ilan Meiri

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An alternative Australian Flag designThe fact that the flags carried by the re-enactors at Beersheba and flown at other ceremonies are still dominated by the flag of the United Kingdom is a great dishonour to our ancestors.  It was inadequate British strategic planning by Churchill and others that created the ill-feted Gallipoli adventure.  The losses of the 10th and 1st Light Horse on that fateful day in August 1915 were the direct result of the incompetence of the British commanders Stopford and Hamilton.  The same can be said of the horrendous losses in France 1916 - 1918.  Success only came when Australian and Canadian senior commanders were given direction of the battlefield.  Our Canadian cousins have honoured their veterans and created a flag for their nation that is not  merely a British ensign.  It is about time we did the same.  We have already held a design competition and produced a number of commendable designs that would indicate to the world that we are a sovereign and independent nation, not beholden to others.  At left is one of the designs, it embodies all our traditions and would make those who rest beneath the soil of so many foreign fields feel proud that we are prepared to stand up for ourselves, and for them.

Please note that the above submission is the conviction of the Author and not reflective of the position of the Reserve Forces Day Council.

John Howells

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Reserve Forces Day Council Inc
Patron in Chief His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia
National Chairman the Honourable Tim Fischer AC
National Executive Officer and NSW Chairman Lieutenant Colonel John Moore OAM RFD ED Retd

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