90th Anniversary of the Charge of Beersheba
Visiting Turkey (Gallipoli) as part of the trip
The tour in the lead up to the commemoration of the Charge of Beersheba was designed to give us insights into the Light Horse activities of the First World War in Turkey as well as Palestine. We first visited Gallipoli where the Light Horse brigades played an important part and where the 8th Light Horse was nearly wiped out at the Nek. We visited all the cemeteries and battle sights of the Peninsula including some of the Turkish gun placements and remains of the battle against the British Navy in early 1915.
We even played another cricket match at Shell Green, the place where they played cricket as a diversion to the Turks prior to the evacuation of Gallipoli in December 1915. The entire crew, including the Turkish guides and bus drivers were part of the cricket match.
While in the region we went to the Ancient site of Troy and Taurus. We also went to the bay below Taurus were Saul, later referred to as the apostle Paul, commenced his Christian missionary journeys to Greece, Rome and other areas of the Mediterranean.
Modern Turkey is very impressive to visitors both because of the ancient history of the region and because of where it stands in relation to world commerce and infrastructure. The population is principally secular Muslim with a scattering of all other religious denominations. The Ottoman regime ruled Turkey for 700 years. This came to an end with the uprisings of the young Turks led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the commander of the Turkish forces at Gallipoli. In 1923 he established the republic of Turkey that exists to this day.
Re-living the game of cricket that was played on Shell Green, Gallipoli. Shells were said to be passing overhead all the time that the original game was in progress.
The soils in Turkey are superb being brown limestone enriched loams that are capable of growing every cereal and vegetable crop. While there we saw many orchards and vast olive groves. Turkey is the food bowl of the region and could supply all foodstuffs to the whole of Europe if required. There are goat, sheep and cattle herds in the hillier areas tendered by shepherds as in ancient times. One of the treats to me was the magnificent yoghurts and cheeses from all three types of animals as well as the superb array of olive, dates, fruits, salads and vegetables, coffees and teas that were freely available where ever you went.
Our Turkish guides in Sirgar and John were Muslim, extremely professional, great characters, very knowledgeable and specially selected by the operations manager of Fez Tours, Dean Hunter, an Australian living in Istanbul. They were great to have with us on the tour through Turkey.
Visiting some of the places the Light Horse travelled in Israel
We flew from Turkey to Tel Aviv in Israel to continue the tour to visit the route taken by the Light Horse to push the Ottoman Turks and Germans out of the Palestinian region.
The reason for the British presence in the region related to the Turkish regime becoming allied to Germany in 1914. It was the strategic plan and aim of the German and Turkish Governments to take control of the Suez Canal which was the vital route for supplies going to England from Australia and the Pacific area.
On entry by England into the war against Germany in 1914, Australia automatically became involved enlisting a military force to help the mother country. Soon after outbreak of war, Colonel Harry Chauvel was given command of the First Light Horse Brigade.
The Australian forces were designated for the European conflict in France. Chauvel was sent to England to arrange for the training of the Australian force. However, he discovered that the area he had been given to train on was so inhospitable for the Australians, used to the heat and the dry of Australia, that he recommended they be disembarked at Alexandria for training in Egypt. So it became inevitable that the Australian forces were on hand and available for use in the Dardanelle’s operation at Gallipoli, as well as in the Sinai campaign to protect the Suez Canal and the operations in the deserts of Palestine.
The Israeli part of the tour was led by Shoresh Study Tours, an organisation based in Jerusalem. The head of the company was Kelvin Crombie an Australian living in Jerusalem who had made a detailed study of the Light Horse involvement in Israel as well as the history of Israel from 1798 to 1948.
Kelvin was an author of several books relevant to the Australian involvement and the land of Israel. He and two of the other guides, Zelman Lederman and Aaron Eime, were Australians living in Israel. The fourth guide was Tony Mubarak a Christian Arab.
When we arrived at Tel Aviv Ilan Peleg came to collect all our gear. He took one look at me and a few other ancient looking overweight people and started to worry. He was concerned about our ability to ride and was concerned about his business insurance. Although he had been assured that everyone was a good horseman he demanded that we all go to his centre to ride to prove ourselves - he was amazed that such a rough looking group could actually ride as well as we did. He did not realize some of these fellows were off station properties in outback Queensland and ridden horses for much of their lives. He had a policy that 80 kg is the limit for riders on his horses.
It seems that there are no overweight people in Israel. Their food is superb with none of the fatty things that we have with no obvious junk food outlets and very little alcohol consumed. All young people undertake military training from the age of 18 - three years for the boys and two years for the girls. As a result, everyone looks trim and fit. When Ilan saw some of these Australians with their beer guts that took them to well over the 80 kg limit he had to be persuaded to let some of them ride.