Midnight the Warhorse: Part 9 - Midnight Ride
by Peter Haydon
With General Allenby appointed as the new commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force he was keen to overcome the Gazza failures. With the resistance encountered at Gaza they decided to perform an outflanking exercise on the Turks so they could capture Beersheba and in doing so enable their push north to continue against the stronger Turkish lines at Gaza. They set a plan to let the Turks know they were planning another major offensive on Gaza, while assembling their strength to attack Beersheba. By taking Beersheba, it would open the way to Gaza and beyond to Bethlehem, Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and right up to Damascus. However, they had to capture Abraham’s Wells at Beersheba before they could be destroyed by the enemy or they would face the unthinkable prospect of no water for their horses.
In Guy’s collection on one of the maps of the Beersheba area he has written in red an updated description of all the wells in the region showing their quantity and quality of water. This would have been in invaluable source of information as they ride for Beersheba.
The ride to Beersheba
They rode out from their Fara Camp on the evening of 28 October 1917 riding across the desert for 5 hours to the south east for 12 miles Essani, under bright moonlight. They fed and watered the horses and continued riding across the desert south east on the evening of 29 October for 11 miles taking 4 hours to Khalasa. They rode out at 6 pm on 30 October across the desert south east to Asluj, under a full moon, and then turned north east to arrive at Iswaiwin outside Beersheba, a distance of 40 miles taking over 17.5 hours.
They had ridden all night in the moonlight heading for Beersheba. It was a full moon and so light you could read a printed page. Somehow the mood was different as they grasped the significance of what lay ahead. They halted and spread out along a wadi about four miles from the town and waited. They could see the white buildings of Beersheba and the tower of the mosque. The trees they later discovered were Australian gum trees. The B squadron officers Guy, Roy Lindeman and Aubrey Abbott had a scratch meal while their squadron commander Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh went off to headquarters to find out what was happening. When he returned, he called out “get your men mounted”.