The 100th Anniversary of the Charge of Beersheba

 

by Kathleen Curnow

Introduction

 

This Anthology entry complements an article written by my father (Kenneth Rupert Murray Curnow) that documented our 2007 trip to Turkey and Israel to both remember and better understand the experiences and sacrifice of those who fought in the Great War there, as well as recount our experiences of how it is today.

Together, we were curious to visit places where his father, my grandfather, Rupert Colman Curnow, had been as part of the Australian 8th Light Horse Regiment. The many places we went to in Israel were mostly previously only known to my father and I from the Bible – places such as Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. Before that trip, I was fascinated to hear that my grandfather had ridden his horse into Jerusalem via the Damascus gate, and later into Damascus, and ultimately went as far North as Homs. Since 2007, the latter two places have featured greatly in the news due to the war in Syria.

 

Our articles reflect some of our experiences of the camaraderie associated with meeting people whose ancestors were caught up in the same historical events. For me, the trips gave me a strong connection to the roots of the ANZAC legend, showed me that the larrikinism often referred to remains an inherent part of our culture, and gave me a wonderful opportunity to connect more strongly with my father and our family history.

 

This time (in 2017) I did not participate in the lead up “tour” of Egypt, Jordan and Israel before the Beersheba Charge reenactment. However, I did continue a holiday in Jordan with my partner to visit Es Salt and the Jordan Valley where my grandfather spent a large part of his time over the summer of 1918. Based on the stories of others there, it is likely that my grandfather’s long term breathing difficulties were triggered or severely exacerbated by inhaling the white dust that blew up every morning in that area, while the daily temperatures reached over 50 C. He came back with several health problems and died at the age of 52, before I was born.

 

My article is less of a “diary” than my father’s, and more of a collection of experiences and learnings that left an impression on me.

Background Information about the 8th Light Horse Regiment

 

Being a research scientist, the first thing I did before the 2007 trip was to search the internet with my grandfather’s name. Amazingly I discovered that the Australian War Memorial (AWM) site, www.awm.gov.au, held a photo of his reinforcement troop, and the National Archives of Australia (NAA) site (https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au) held scans of his military records. From these it was evident that my great-grandfather had specified that my grandfather not leave Australia for the war until he was 19 years old, and that my grandfather boarded a ship to sail to the Middle East 3 days after his 19th birthday….and 2 days after the Charge of Beersheba! At the time I searched for a map or clear documentation showing where the 8th Regiment went in Palestine, but ended up mostly relying on the snippets of stories from my father, and a bit more from my grandfather’s health records on the NAA site.

 

 

Sourced by Ruth Lawrence from a book at the Monash University School of Education, Gippsland Campus by A. Box (ed) 1993: “The best fellows anyone could wish to meet….”: George Auchterlonie and the 8th Light Horse Regiment, AIF Second Edition.

While on the 2017 ride I introduced myself to a woman wearing the 8th Light Horse Regiment colours - Ruth Lawrence. It turned out that Ruth had done a huge research into her great uncle’s experience to document his life, principally because she wanted to better archive photos he had taken during his wartime service from 1914-1919. Her Biography of Vernon John Dorman included this map of the movements of the 8th Light Horse Regiment from 1916-1918: