Frank Massie, his map of the Charge at Beersheba and the Bednall Papers

 

by Michael Kelly with Karleen Reilly

"F.R. Massie prepared the map three days immediately after the charge on October 31, while we were waiting in Beersheba for reinforcements of men and horses ...  Massie died in Damascus, in September 1919, nearly a year later, but when he was dying he sent for me and gave me his folded sketch map. He died less than an hour after, but I took it that he wanted the map published."  Capt Aubrey C. L. Abbott, 12th Light Horse Regiment

Frank Raymond Massie was born in 1885 in Lilydale, Victoria to Frank and Mary Massie, the second of eight children born to the couple.

 

In 1907 he married Jean Rebecca Johnstone, and a son, Frank Henry Massie, was born the following year. When the First World War began, Massie was a station manager on a property known as “Ytham”, at Illabo, New South Wales.

 

He enlisted for service with the Light Horse Reserve at Holsworthy Camp in November 1914. When the 12th Light Horse Regiment was formed in March 1915, Massie was transferred to the unit and promoted from trooper to squadron quartermaster sergeant.

 

After several months of training, he embarked with his regiment from Sydney on the 13th of June aboard the transport ship Suevic. The 12th Light Horse remained in Egypt, training and patrolling in the Suez Canal Zone, until August.

 

After the Australians on Gallipoli suffered heavy casualties during the August offensive, the 4th Light Horse Brigade, including the 12th Light Horse Regiment, were sent to Gallipoli as reinforcements.

 

Unbeknownst to the men, the 4th Light Horse Brigade was to be broken up and distributed to the other light horse brigades. As a result, Massie and his squadron were transferred to the 7th Light Horse Regiment. He and his comrades were involved in defensive duties for the remainder of the campaign.

 

After the end of the Gallipoli campaign, the Australians returned to Egypt and the 12th Light Horse Regiment was brought back together at Heliopolis in February. Though the Sinai–Palestine campaign began in April, the regiment was mainly involved in flank protection and security duties.

 

On the 1st of January 1917 Massie was commissioned with the rank of second lieutenant and was sent to a school of instruction at Zeitoun. He was promoted to lieutenant in early April and returned to his regiment later in the month to take up duties as the adjutant before attending an instructional course and a topographical course.

 

While he was away from the field, on the 8th of March, his brother, Lieutenant Hugh Massie, died in France as a prisoner of the Germans.

 

After Massie returned to his regiment, the Egyptian Expeditionary Force once again went on the offensive and, in an attempt to outflank Gaza, an attack was launched on Beersheba on the 31st of October. Late in the day, with the situation deteriorating, the 4th Light Horse Regiment and 12th Light Horse Regiment, including Massie, attacked Beersheba at the gallop and captured the town.