Sat, Nov 04, 2017 - Page 14 News List

The Battle of Beersheba

Australian riders in World War I uniforms prepare in the Negev Desert near Urim, Israel, on Oct. 28 for a reenactment horse ride along the ANZAC trail towards Beersheba.

Photo: EPA

Beersheba is located in the Negev desert in what is now southern Israel. An ancient town, it is mentioned in the Bible. The site may have been chosen due to the availability of water there. The very name is thought to mean “Well of the Oath,” from an agreement between Abraham and Abimelech settling an argument over ownership of a well.

Fast forward to 1917 and World War I, before the modern state of Israel was established in the area, and the town of Beersheba was part of the strategic Gaza-Beersheba line in what was then Ottoman Palestine.

British forces, together with Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) troops, had been fighting the Turks and the Germans in the Negev desert. They knew they had to break through this line, but had already failed twice to take Gaza earlier that year. Beersheba was not as heavily fortified as Gaza.

The Battle of Beersheba was fought on Oct. 31 that year. The British and ANZAC forces knew they would have to take the town by nightfall, otherwise their men and horses would perish from thirst. The battle had been raging for the most part of the day when the decision was made, as the light was starting to fade, for the mounted charge of the ANZAC forces’ 4th Light Horse Brigade directly at the Turkish position. They captured the town, allowing the British forces to break the line on Nov. 7 and advance into Palestine.

It was one of the last great cavalry charges. After this, more advanced weaponry rendered horses obsolete in the military.

(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)







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