The Lighthorse - Poem by Ted Middleton
We'd long since left Khalasa on the Gaza's desert tracks
We'd taken Tel es Saba and all places at our backs
We'd conquered sand and searing heat on Walers Aussie bred
Till there across the Wadi Sabah - Beersheba lay ahead
It's fabled mosque and water wells we'd read from days of old
The railway line off to the left where other wadi's rolled
But in between, entrenched and set, the Turkish army waits
A force for us to overcome, a place we'd lose some mates
We lined up just below the ridge, our forces had been cleft
The 4th Lighthorse was on the right - the 12th was on the left
The Turks we hoped would not see us, until it was too late
For if our plan was flawed and failed, death would be our fate
We moved off slowly at at a trot, for cannon we'd deployed
The smell of water seemed to make our thirsty horses bouyed
Their eagerness was plain to see, our spurs drew tossing mane
They leaped into their full flight charge at all speed they could gain
We cleared the ridge in clouded dust, three thousand hooves athunder
Waving bayonets, yelling loud, we'd smash our foe asunder
Johnny Turk showed his surprise, his cannon could not find us
Our horses came upon him fast, his shells burst way behind us
The 4th took on the Turkish trench in fighting hand to hand
The 12th proceeded on to town, securing it as planned
With all our mob and Reedbeds too, the job got quickly done
Within an hour the town was ours, Beersheba had been won.
Ted Middleton (2007)
Canon deployment infers spread for minimum damage
Gaza = Area in Palestine
Johnny Turk = Turkish troops
Khalasa = Town on the Gaza
Reedbeds = Sth. Australian 3rd and 9th Mounted Rifles
Tel es Saba = town to the east of Beersbeba
Wadi = Creek chanels
Wadi Saba = East west wadi fronting Beersheba
Waler = Australian bred horse
Water wells were reportedly dug by Abraham (Biblic)
Poet's Notes about The Poem
The world has read about Englands valiant 600 charging into the valley of death during the Crimean War. The hair on the back of my neck would stand up each time I read that story. For sheer guts this could not be equalled surely. But I later found it could be equalled, and was by our own form of feared and highly regarded cavalry - 'The Australian Light Horse'.
One of the most inspiring incidents of the 'Great War' was the Australian Light Horse attack on Beersheba during World War 1 which was said to be the last great cavalry charge in history, opened the way for the defeat and breakup of the Ottoman Empire and ultimately shortened the course of the First World War.
I was so moved by this when I read about it I found myself in tears thinking of the people involved and the sheer guts of their actions.
The hair again stood up on the back of my neck.
But no menacing swords were on mass display there. The men waved bayonets to demonstrate their defiance rather than flashing swords to unnerve their enemy. Attacking and routing a superior entrenched force cost the Australian Light Horse 31 of their mates and they took a reported 1000 plus prisoners.
Here were 800 odd young men with everything to live for charging down
and into the mouth of waiting canon without any doubts of their ability or final state if they failed. Young men with a single purpose to protect their loved ones and country….…. and they regarded the risks as an adventure not to be missed! These were real men by example..... and they were ours as well. More on this action can be found here...
From Palestine to the fields at Flanders and back to Anzac Cove, on the seas and in the air, what more could possibly be asked than that which is given by those who serve to protect us in all the theatres of action they are sent to.
There are no winners in war, loss is for all to suffer …………
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