90th Anniversary of the Charge of Beersheba
By Ken Curnow O.A.M.
How I became involved with the venture
In May 2006 Matthew Lynch, a member of the Wirlinga Pony Club that I had been connected with for many years as the Senior Instructor, heard about the proposed tour and reenactment of the charge of Beersheba on Ian McNamara’s Sunday Morning program on the ABC known as ‘Sunday with Macca’
The tour was being organized by The Australian Light Horse Association of Queensland under the auspices of Barry Rogers of Emu Gully near Toowoomba; The Australian Light Horse Association is a major activity in the horse world of Queensland and Northern NSW.
Matthew contacted me and several other members of the club suggesting we should be involved. Matthew has an interest as a war historian, and had an ancestor who was in the Light Horse during 1914 – 18 periods. The pony club movement is based on Light Horse drills and protocol where the Light Horse mounted drill work is part of Pony Club activities.
I had indicated to Mathew during our Pony Club activities that my father was a member of Chauvel’s Anzac Mounted Division in Palestine. I indicated I had an association with Tom and Elyne Mitchell of Towong Hill, Elyne being the daughter of Sir Harry Chauvel. We registered our interest with Barry Rogers.
Eventually, some 70 people mainly connected to Light Horse units from Queensland, Northern NSW, WA and Victoria, and nearly all with some association with ancestors who were part of the desert campaign formed the party. 50 rode in the five-day approach and enactment.
From our Albury area only Matthew Lynch, I and my daughter Kathleen, joined the group. There were a number of father-daughter and father-son combinations in the party that travelled to Turkey and Israel.
Section fours through the desert sands enroute
Other people and places involved in the 90th anniversary ride
There were only five of the group who were direct descendants of members of the original mounted corps. I was one of the five and the oldest one who took part in the ride. A couple of the others rode for half a day just to be part of the ride.
The organization of the tour was an incredible operation and one that would be difficult to repeat. Barry Rogers had spent twelve months, much of it in Turkey and Israel planning the tour. The Israeli Ministry of Tourism became very involved with the tour naming it the ‘Peace Ride’ and assisted greatly with the organization. The Australian Ambassador to Israel, David Larson, Ezra Pimantel from the “Society for the Heritage of WW1 in Israel, the Mayor of Beersheba, Yaakov Terner and Ilan Peleg the provider of the horses, all went to enormous efforts to ensure the venture took place.
We do not realise the regard the Israelis hold for the Australians. If it was not for the ANZAC mounted divisions of the First World War, and the 6th and 9th divisions of the Second World War, the circumstances that led to the creation of the modern state of Israel may have been quite different.
Every 31st of October, Beersheba Day, there is a commemorative ceremony held at the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Beersheba. In 2007 it was enhanced by our presence with a mounted parade through the main centre of Beersheba and attendance at the ceremony. It culminated with the re-enactment of the Charge at 4.30 pm, the exact time of the original charge in 1917.
The horses we used for the ride were provided by Ilan Peleg, an Israeli who has an enormous equestrian complex, restaurant and entertainment centre at Havayat outside Tel Aviv. Horses are a rare commodity in Israel so he has established this operation to cater for equestrian activities for much of Israel, as well as for European and international events and tourists.
We had to bring all our own tack authentic to that used by the mounted divisions of World War I. Matt, Kath and I had military saddles but we had to get much of the other equipment made. We were limited to 30kg by weight which included our saddle and saddle blanket, bridle and lead rope, sleeping blanket, ground sheet, horseshoe holder, bayonet holder, mess tin, water canteen, grooming kit and toggle rope all packed into one bag for transport, which all took a much organizing.