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Wayne Lomman
10-31-2017, 8:06 AM
Today marks the centenary of the last great cavalry charge in history. It's 1917 and 700 well entrenched enemy soldiers stand between 800 Australian Light horsemen and the nearest water at Beersheba in Palestine. These horsemen charged nearly 6 kilometres (that's twice the distance of the running of the Melbourne Cup) across desolate terrain with fixed bayonets and successfully took the enemy position. Sadly 32 horsemen lost their lives. This charge was the turning point of World War 1 in the middle east and North Africa.
These men were all stockman, jackaroos and station hands who volunteered themselves and their own horses for love of their country. Their horses were Walers, and to this day Walers are known as the hardiest of all war horses. Only one single Waler ever returned to Australia from overseas but the breed survived in the wild in its own right and also forms the basis for the Australian Stock Horse. Just had to share. Cheers

Jim Colombo
10-31-2017, 10:52 AM
love this type of story.

Thanks
Jim

Rick Potter
10-31-2017, 11:06 AM
Thanks, I had heard of this, but I must admit I knew nothing about it, and assumed it was about Waterloo, or some other older battle.

I learned something today.

Mike Henderson
10-31-2017, 11:11 AM
Thanks, I had heard of this, but I must admit I knew nothing about it, and assumed it was about Waterloo, or some other older battle.

I learned something today.

You're probably thinking of the Charge of the Light Brigade (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge_of_the_Light_Brigade) that occurred on October 25, 1854 during the Crimean War and was made famous by a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The Australian cavalry charge referred to above occurred during the Battle of Beersheba (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Beersheba_(1917))on October 31, 1917.

There was a film, The Lighthorsemen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lighthorsemen_(film)), that was about that famous charge. I remember seeing it years ago.

Mike

[One addition to the original post: The history of the charge says that horsemen charged with their bayonets in their hands. They had their rifles strapped to their backs. So think about that: Charging machine guns with nothing but a knife in your hand.]

Rick Potter
10-31-2017, 11:50 AM
Yup, you are right Mike.

The one I vaguely remembered was from the poem by Tennyson. Just googled it.

Oct. 25, 1854 Crimean War........The light brigade was mistakenly ordered to attack a well entrenched Russian artillery position. They did so, successfully, but had to withdraw almost immediately, suffering many casualty's.

I suspect we all know the famous line from the poem...."not ours to reason why, ours to do or die", (probably not very exact). The poem was written six weeks after the battle.

PS: I learned more than one thing today.
1. There is more than one light brigade.
2. At least two fought in heroic battles.
3. One was in the Crimean war, and a famous poem was written about it.
4. The last one ever, was in WWI in Palestine, fought by the Australian equivalent of our Rough Riders.

Thanks, Wayne. This is an interesting discussion.

Rod Sheridan
10-31-2017, 1:21 PM
Yes, the charge of The Light Brigade at the battle of Balaclava remains one of the epic examples of complete failure of military command and communication.

The poem immortalized the men who were sent off on the wrong objective, many knowing it would be a useless suicide mission.

There were many letters sent home after the battle, as the military hadn't learned how to control communication that wasn't officially sanctioned, and many of those letters were printed verbatim in local English newspapers, resulting in a great trove of research material for future generations.

Regards, Rod.

Frederick Skelly
10-31-2017, 6:19 PM
I too enjoy hearing these stories from our Australian friends. The brave deeds of Aussie troops (often in other peoples' wars) never seem to get the full recognition they deserve outside their own Nation. I seem to only hear about them here. Even the books I've read on WW-I and II don't seem to say much -certainly not enough. So keep these posts coming Wayne.

Every single time I think of WW-I it makes me mad. That war just didn't have to happen - it was sheer arrogance on the part of the so-called "great powers". Check out this photo from an exhibit at the Tower of London. Realize the each ceramic red poppy you see represents a lost soldier. What unforgivable lunacy.
370676

Mike Trent
10-31-2017, 10:00 PM
Wayne,

This BBC article just came across my Twitter feed. Fascinating.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-41826602

Yonak Hawkins
11-01-2017, 12:03 AM
Every single time I think of WW-I it makes me mad. That war just didn't have to happen - it was sheer arrogance on the part of the so-called "great powers".

You're so right, Frederick. Over 16 million people died and 20 million more were wounded in a war that was a result of nothing but the arrogance of the leaders. ..But, y'know, that's kind of what most wars were about. I just read a book about a couple of wars between Holland and England in the 17th century and neither side had much of anything to gain. The monarchs got pissy about the way the other behaved so they sent men to get killed and emptied their treasuries over it. Countries would declare war for any little reason. Maybe, as crazy s it seems, with our weapons of mass destruction these days, hopefully, countries may be more reluctant to go to war because of the extreme devastation that could result.

Frederick Skelly
11-01-2017, 6:28 AM
You've got a good point Yonak.
It's easy to be brave when it's someone else's life, huh? Makes me think of some 1960s songs.

Take care,
Fred

Wayne Lomman
11-01-2017, 6:43 AM
Just as well I'm not employed as a historian... At least I got the gist of the story in there somewhere. I must add that this was an ANZAC force. Apologies to New Zealand for that omission.

Mike the BBC link is good. There is another account of the commemoration out the Australian ABC network abc.net.au/news.

To this day, a common horse competition event in Australia is 'tent pegging' where riders in period military gear gallop down a course and attempt to stab wooden pegs out of the ground with a sword. This former training exercise survives because of the high regard in our culture for the memory of the light horsemen.

By the way, who were the rough riders?Cheers

Frederick Skelly
11-01-2017, 7:44 AM
Here's the blurb on the rough riders in wikipedia: link (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rough_Riders)
To me, they always seemed like that the same kind of guys that were in your Light Horse Brigade. Mostly regular guys, not professional soldiers for the most part. (Maybe that was your point.)

Fred

Malcolm McLeod
11-01-2017, 10:32 AM
I too enjoy hearing these stories from our Australian friends. The brave deeds of Aussie troops (often in other peoples' wars) never seem to get the full recognition they deserve outside their own Nation. I seem to only hear about them here. Even the books I've read on WW-I and II don't seem to say much -certainly not enough. So keep these posts coming Wayne.

Every single time I think of WW-I it makes me mad. That war just didn't have to happen - it was sheer arrogance on the part of the so-called "great powers". Check out this photo from an exhibit at the Tower of London. Realize the each ceramic red poppy you see represents a lost soldier. What unforgivable lunacy.
370676

Lunacy :: well said!

My (Canadian) grandfather spent 4-yrs in French mud - - for King and Country - - neither of which were 'his'. The historical period holds great interest for me due to his involvement. If the Battle of the Somme doesn't curdle your grits, study Gallipoli (::lunacy!).

WWI is most notable for a couple of things IMHO - 1) The English will bravely fight to the last Canadian ... or Aussie (or insert your colonial of choice). 2) The military leadership's arrogance and disregard for the lives of their own men is staggering. 3) Tactics had not caught up to technology - so infantry charged headlong into massed machine gun fire.

As we near Nov 11:

by John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

William Adams
11-01-2017, 11:11 AM
Yeah, it's very sobering to read about the European observers of the American Civil War, and their inability to learn from that experience.

Also interesting to read up on the various other "Last cavalry charges":

- Uhlans (Polish cavalry) one of the most effective elements of resistance to the Germans in the terrible thirty days before Polandís surrender in 1939
- January 1941 in Eritrea, Italian-Somalian horse column led by Amedeo Guillet against British forces
- 16 January 1942, 26th Cavalry Regiment, village of Morong in the Philipines
- March 1942, British, Burma
- August 23, 1942, Italian cavalrymen, attempting to close a gap that had opened up between the Italian and German armies along the Don River
- April 14, 1945, Po River valley campaign, 10th Mountain Division (U.S.)
- 19 to 24 October 2001, Afghanistan, attack on Mazar-e Sharif

Nicholas Lawrence
11-01-2017, 9:21 PM
The ideas that the lessons of WW I could have been learned by studying the Civil War, or that the machine gun was the primary reason for the casualties on the western front are widespread, but like so many things “everybody knows” not really the whole story.

The machingun was one of the two areas of innovation that made the western front so bloody. The other was the improvements in communications and surveying that allowed the massing of artillery by way of indirect fire. Neither was present to any significant extent in the Civil War, or in the Franco-Prussian war.

In prior wars for the most part artillery had to have a direct line of fire (basically line of sight) to effectively engage a target. The Russo-Japanese war saw the widespread use of machine guns, barbed wire, and to a more limited extent indirect fire. WWI however saw the first use of indirect fire on a truly massive scale. The machine guns might be overcome, but any local breakthrough would quickly be smothered by artillery fire converging from dozens of cannon firing from concealed positions every miles behind the front.

The developments in artillery were in many ways more significant. Something like 60% of the casualties on the western front were from artillery.

Frederick Skelly
11-01-2017, 9:48 PM
The developments in artillery were in many ways more significant. Something like 60% of the casualties on the western front were from artillery.

For years, I could not understand why the Douaumont Ossuary was created. Link (https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/douaumont-ossuary). It seemed so medieval, even perverse to me. It is literally a building full of "the jumbled bones of 130,000 WWI soldiers. The windows of the ossuary peer in on pile after pile of bones, which you can walk amongst."

And then I learned about the artillery barrages that Nick describes above. Their bodies were blasted into pieces. Then another barrage later would blast the pieces into fragments. Many times, there were not enough identifiable remains to bury. This was the best they could do - gather up the random fragments and entomb them - 14 years afterward.

As I've mentioned here before, France lost an entire generation. For years afterward, elderly women would give up their seat on a bus or train to a male who was of that generation. There were so few left they did it as a sign of their appreciation and respect.

Fred

[Sorry for the soapbox. All war is terrible. This one just gets to me every time.]

Wayne Lomman
11-02-2017, 4:10 AM
This year there seems to be an endless series of ceremonies remembering the losses in all conflict but especially WW1. There are Australian war cemeteries in so many countries.

This morning on the radio they were discussing new archaeological sites found along the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea. My uncle was a veteran of that Australian campaign that successfully defended our northern approaches. He would never speak in detail about it. All he would day was that both sides were following orders. He never held a grudge and actively participated in fostering Japanese-Australian relationships for many years of his life. Cheers to all.

William Adams
11-02-2017, 9:21 AM
There's actually a very touching mention of one aspect of that sacrifice in the Lost Arts Press book, Grandpa's Workshop

https://lostartpress.com/products/grandpas-workshop

Frederick Skelly
11-02-2017, 7:49 PM
There's actually a very touching mention of one aspect of that sacrifice in the Lost Arts Press book, Grandpa's Workshop

https://lostartpress.com/products/grandpas-workshop

Looks like a great story, but $29 for 48 pages is a tad to much.

William Adams
11-02-2017, 8:32 PM
48 over-size full colour pages of excellent quality acid-free paper w/ sewn signatures and a nice hardcover, printed and bound in the U.S. --- it's a book which you can share w/ your children, and look forward to reading to your grand-children, or even great-grand-children. Bought a copy as a present for a cousin's children, and will be buying a second in my next order to set aside w/ my childrens' old books (they're 17 and 22) for when there are grand-children (hopefully no time soon).

But what can I say, I have a hard time passing up anything which starts off by presenting the Ship of Theseus paradox.

Highly recommended.