Recently I attended the Outback Spectacular on the Gold Coast. It’s a dinner and a show that celebrates the Aussie Outback. The shows has different themes and in the past, they have had A Man from Snowy River Theme and a Phar Lap them. The theme at the moment is celebrating the Outback Pioneers and The Aussie Light Horsemen. Now I am pretty patriotic and love the nation of Australia, but the Outback Spectacular pushed all my patriotism buttons and I left the show with an incredible sense of pride in The Light Horsemen, the Pioneers of our Nation, and the Outback Horsemen who still today are a tough breed.
If you don’t know the story of the 800 Light Horsemen, as an Aussie you should know it. It’s one of the great stories of our heritage. I post the story below, taken from Col Stringer’s book The 800 Light Horsemen.
Beersheba, meaning “well of the oath”, so named by Abraham in the book of Genesis. The well had provided water not only to Abraham, but to Moses and David. Any army approaching its life-giving wells has to march for days through the waterless Sinai desert. All the Turks had to do was hold off an attack for one day and the merciless desert sun would do the rest. Despite constant assaults by the combined forces of the British and Australian armies, the place could not be taken. Then came the fateful day of October 31 1917. The generals were desperate, 50,000 British infantry with tank support had been driven back into the desert. With the sun about to set and with no water for many miles, disaster stared them squarely in the face. The Australian Light Horse Commander Chauvel’s orders were to storm Beersheba, it had to be won before nightfall at all costs. The situation was becoming grave as they were in urgent need of 400,000 gallons of water for men and horses.
Chauvel concocted a crazy plan. Why not let his 800 horsemen charge the Turkish artillery? A cavalry charge across 6000 yards of open terrain straight into the face of the massed Turkish guns. It sounded like a recipe for disaster. No wonder the German Officer commanding the Turkish defenses described the Aussie Light Horsemen as “madmen!” For a start the Light Horse were not cavalry, they were mounted infantry. They had no swords or lancers but were equipped with rifles and bayonets designed for infantry warfare. But left with virtually no alternative the desperate General gave the order for the last great cavalry charge in history! The 800 young men mounted their magnificent Walers (horses) and lined up to face the Turkish guns, their young faces bronzed and tanned from the desert sun, their emu plumes swaying in the breeze from their famous slouch hats, rifles swung across their backs and bayonets in hand. History was about to be written. These 800 young men were about to open the doorway to the liberation of Jerusalem!
The Light Horsemen charged magnificently across the dusty plains, so fast that the Turkish artillery could not keep pace with them and the “mad” horsemen were able to slip under their guns. As they leapt the trenches laced with machine gun bullets, a magnificent cheer went up from the British ranks, even some of the Turks stood and applauded, such was the magnificence of the feat. Although hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned they charged on. Beersheba – the gateway to Jerusalem, fell that day, not to the British, German or US Armies – but to the Australian Light Horsemen! End Quote
Ultimately this act of bravery paved the way for the birth of the modern-day nation of Israel.
What is amazing is that of the 800 men who charged on Beersheba, only 36 were killed, which is absolutely miraculous.
Australia is an amazing country. I love it. There is so much to love. Whether it’s the natural beauty, the outback, the wildlife, the people, the culture or some of our weird practices, it’s just a great place to live. And stories like the Light Horsemen are not only part of our history but have forged and formed the Aussie Spirit.
Aussie Aussie Aussie….
You might also be interested in reading these Aussie Centric Blogs of mine
- Christian Origin of the Union Jack on the Australian Flag
- Great Quotes from Bill Bryson’s Down Under
- Slightly Unusual things I love about Australia and being Australian.
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If you check through the records of the deceased from that charge and the secondary charge that came in from the flank to assist in cleaning up the enemy you will find that a McMartin was seriously injured in that secondary charge and he died of his wounds the following day. He was my grandfather’s uncle.
Have a blessed day!
Sean McMartin Sent from my iPhone
Wow Sean. Just wow. I honor Light Horsemen McMartin. Thank you sir for your sacrifice and for helping birth modern day Israel.