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There is a lack of consciousness these days in the hearts of ordinary people.

A lack of Patriotism and Soul.

A lack of Pride.

Given that we still celebrate ANZAC Day, Bullecourt and other Western Front disasters. We seem to forget so much.

Our National tribute of " Lest We Forget " seems to have somehow turned into " We Have Forgotten. "

Until John Monash was elevated to supreme command of the Australian forces in Europe, it is surprising that all these defeats I would put down to are given prominence yet the exploits of the Light Horse brigades which were studded with constant victory are forgotten. 

A number of factors could explain this, not the least being that the Supreme Command in WW1 was in the hands of British officers and the British War Office.

To them, all victories of dominion forces were “British” victories. All defeats of dominion forces were dominion losses, never British despite the fact that without the support of the dominions Britain would have been defeated, probably as early as 1916 and even after Monash took over when the Aussies never lost another battle, the British still kept getting flogged by the Germans relentlessly.

 

 

The Battle of Beersheba was a minor part of the war when compared with the size and scope of the battles on the Western Front. However, WW1 had two enemies that were fought separately. Germany was one, Turkey was the other. Australia knocked Turkey out of the war at Beersheba and was instrumental in the dismemberment of the entire Ottoman Empire.

 

The Australians on the Western Front had with them an official war correspondent from the beginning of the Gallipoli campaign. CWE Bean was the official appointee and stayed with the troops until well after the Armistice reporting in great detail the exploits of the Anzacs. The Light Horsemen had no such correspondent until after the war’s end. Henry Gullett was appointed as official historian but by then the war was over and his writings were made up of reports from participants rather than Bean’s firsthand experience.

Charles Bean

 Another significant factor was that the majority of publishing houses and news reporting services were British owned. Naturally, there was an overdeveloped British bias. In one of the earlier battles during Murray’s rein as commander, two Victoria Cross recommendations were made for Australian light horsemen. Both were rejected by the War Office and the majority of decorations for this battle were awarded to staff officers at Murray’s HQ in Cairo, 227 miles from the battlefront.

It is fair to say that the extent of Monash’s victories in 1918 were so overwhelmingly decisive as to overshadow the exploits of the Desert Column yet the uniforms of the staff at the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance, a monument conceived and organised by Monash himself, are the uniforms of the Light Horse. The riding breeches and leggings and the distinctive plume of emu feathers tucked in on the left hand side of the slouch hat where the side turns up.

 

If one traverses the M7 freeway in Sydney that skirts the western suburbs from Liverpool to the start of the Newcastle Expressway one comes across two memorials of lances pointed upwards. These are dedicated to the 12th Light Horse Regiment that was raised largely in NSW and fought ferociously at the Battle of Beersheba attacking adjacent targets.

The 4th Light Horse was,itself, raised at Broadmeadows Camp on the outskirts of Melbourne and drew its members from country Victoria. The brigades were all raised largely on geographic lines by state.

The unsung hero of it all of course was the mighty Waler. Known as the New South Waler, a breed of horse developed in NSW without any particular bloodline but trained in the working of horses and livestock in the outback of Australia but especially in NSW. 

 

a promotional video from a company from 7 years ago. I include it because it is a super compilation

 It was the preferred cavalry horse of the British and Indian armies long before 1914. The sad part is that all but one of the horses that served with the Light Horse brigades did not return to Australia. Quarantine regulations forbade it. A majority were sold to the Indian Army. The next largest group which were too old or otherwise unfit for service were sold to Arab horse traders much to the disgust of the troopers who were aware of the cruelty inflicted on animals by the Arabs.

Those who did not make either grade were taken out and shot by death squads of veterinarians. More than a few troopers could not stand the trauma of having their best mate being treated that way and elected to do the job themselves. About 2,000 troopers adopted this course and more than a few of them shot the horse and then turned the gun on themselves such was the bond between man and beast.

 

 

The Waler lives on today in the form of the Australian Stock Horse, a breed preferred by polo players from all countries.

The love affair between the Light Horse and General Allenby came to an abrupt end in 1918 with a little known incident referred to as the Surafend massacre. On the night of December 9th, 1918, after the war had officially ended, a Bedouin Arab from a nearby village sneaked into the tent of a NZ trooper to steal whatever he could lay his hands on.

Troopers of the NZ Machine Gun Squadron, NZ Mounted Rifles Brigade, Palestine, 1918.

The Bedouin were a group despised by all. They were traitors, informants and, above all, thieves. While trying to steal the trooper’s kitbag the trooper woke up and a fight ensued which ended with the trooper being stabbed to death by the Arab.

 

This enraged the NZ contingent and they decided to attack the Arab village and get the culprit. To add to the numbers they enlisted support from a Light Horse unit that was camped nearby. The troops decided to take the law into their own hands because higher command treated the Arabs with kid gloves hoping to secure their allegiance in the new arrangements for the emerging state of Israel.

The combined NZ and Australian group attacked the village and burnt it to the ground. Between 20 and 40 Arab men were killed although accurate numbers are not known. One estimate put it at 137. The Aussie and NZ units closed ranks and the subsequent inquiry yielded nothing but one Kiwi blamed the Australians. From that Allenby took the attitude that because the Australians would not give up the names of those who took part in the raid the entire Light Horse Division was guilty and he washed his hands of any association with the Light Horse accusing them of being cowards and murderers.

 

The Light Horse Association is a designated body distinct from the RSL which caters to members, the descendants of troops from the Light Horse brigades. Theirs is a legacy which is unique to the world, unique to Australia and one of which we can be immensely proud.

The Light Horse Association is a non-profit body whose objects are to preserve the history and tradition of the Australian Light Horse regiments. It is a very active organisation and the association WEB site is a mine of information and illustrations.

The emergence of the state of Israel has been one of constant struggle between the Jewish people, their belligerent neighbours and the desert itself. The nexus between Israel and Australia continues but I must say that the feelings of gratitude and kinship flowing from Israel to Australia is greater than that which flows in the opposite direction.

 

After WW1 Britain took over Israel as a protectorate until the UN gave the country recognition in its own right culminating in the war of independence in \1948. With the emergence of the State of Israel, Beersheba grew into a large city and its name was changed to Be’er Sheva. People do not willingly go there. It is still on the edge of the desert and still has its oppressive atmosphere but its significance on the creation of the State of Israel is not forgotten. At Be’er Sheva there is a park originally called the Park of the Australian Soldier. It is now called Australian Soldier Park. It was created and fully funded by the Australian Jewish industrialist, Richard Pratt, the founder of Visy Board. 

Each year on 31st October, memorial services are held there to commemorate the famous charge and honour the Australian Light Horsemen. These services are always attended by the Prime Minister and other senior Israeli and Australian government officials.Dick Pratt was persecuted in his later life by various authorities in Australia for no other reason than that he was inordinately successful in business and that he was a Jew. He died in 2009.

 

His work is carried on through the Pratt Foundation of which the well-known media personality, Sam Lipski is its chief executive and is financially supported by the Visy Board organisation. Many, many Australian Jews still see Beersheba as an enduring emotional and historical link between our two countries.

The same could not be said of the Australian Gentile population attitude towards the Jews. We remain supportive of Israel at an official level but there is, unfortunately, an undercurrent of anti Semitism in Australia. I am not aware of any gentile organisation here that matches that of the Israelis.

The recent actions of our new Foreign Minister and the tacit support of the Prime Minister to abandon Jerusalem as the recognised capital does not bode well for future relationships. Neither of these politicians are Australians and have no knowledge or interest in our history. The Foreign Minister refuses to produce evidence that she is an Australian and the Prime Minister just lies about his. On the basis that neither will take steps to counter the controversy with evidence one is justified in adopting the Allenby attitude that silence will find them guilty.

 In a speech at the opening of Park of The Australian Soldier, President Shimon Peres said “The Australians among us are left wanting national leaders who have the capacity to similarly stir our emotions.” Never a truer word could be said and is equally applicable now as it was then.

 

Major General Michael Jeffery, Australian Governor General: "Today we gather together to commemorate a pivotal moment in the Sinai/Palestine campaign of World War I, when the Australian Light Horse of Lieutenant General Harry Chauvel desert mountain core decisively, bravely,and importantly captured Beersheba on the 31 October 1917. In so doing, the way was open to outflank the key Turkish-Gaza Beersheba defensive line, leading to the fall of Gaza a week later and Jerusalem on the 9 December."

 

I suppose we should accept that anti-Semitic attitudes exist in all countries around the world. Australia is not unique in this regard but at the same time, we should sit back and take note of the substantial contribution to our way of life made by Jewish people. The medical and legal professions abound with them at all levels of eminence. Major philanthropic families apart from the Pratt Foundation figure largely in our everyday lives. Start with the Myer Emporium and the Myer Music bowl gifted by Sydney Myer whose nomination for membership of The Australian Club was blackballed because he was a Jew. The Smorgan name abounds on major medical facilities at our major hospitals and educational institutions.

The Jewish people have demonstrated for centuries their industriousness and today the evidence is obvious by their ingenuity and dedication to transforming a Palestinian desert into a Garden of Eden. Their achievements in irrigation practices and water conservation have been eagerly adopted throughout the world but nowhere like what we have adopted in Australia.

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It is the Israelis who do most to keep the legend of the Light Horse alive. It is about time we gave it the prominence that it deserves. 31st October should be on a par with 25th April.

Whatever the merits, or otherwise, of efforts to preserve our nexus, one thing cannot be changed and that is it was the Australians who relieved Jerusalem from the Islamics in 1918 and no others.

Further Reading

https://patriotrealm.com/index.php/1246-sir-john-monash-the-early-years

https://patriotrealm.com/index.php/1254-john-monash-episode-2-the-making-of-the-man

https://patriotrealm.com/index.php/1258-john-monash-episode-3-in-the-wars

https://patriotrealm.com/index.php/1342-john-monash-episode-4-defeat-into-victory

https://patriotrealm.com/index.php/1357-john-monash-episode-5-the-battles

https://patriotrealm.com/index.php/1369-john-monash-episode-6-the-aftermath

https://patriotrealm.com/index.php/2436-beersheba-the-charge-of-the-light-horse-lest-we-forget

https://patriotrealm.com/index.php/2426-the-state-of-israel-owes-a-lot-to-those-mad-australians

https://patriotrealm.com/index.php/lest-we-forget/2435-the-anzac-on-the-wall

https://patriotrealm.com/index.php/2407-jerusalem-a-city-in-the-middle-east-or-city-in-the-holy-land

 

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