Daley, Paul: Beersheba

Paul Daley

Beersheba: A Journey through Australia’s Forgotten War, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2009; later editions

Combines a history of the cavalry charge at Beersheba and the massacre at Surafend (by Australians and New Zealanders of around 137 local Arabs) with a story of the author’s pilgrimage to the battle sites. Contains graphic descriptions of the reality of war and makes extensive use of a recollection by an Australian soldier who was there. The effect on this man are clear.

He then talks in detail about how he and his mates stole coins from the dead. They also used the Turkish dead for target practice. “They were in the barbed wire, you know, and everything. And then, afterwards, in the daylight, bodies lying everywhere like that. We used to pot-shot them and you would see them up like that and they’d bounce. Oh dear, it was a bit of sport – but the wind changed. Crikey, the stink! I’ll never forget it. Oh. it was a horrible stink that, no doubt about it.”

Updated 31 October 2016: Anzac Centenary Minister Tehan has marked the 99th anniversary of the Beersheba Charge with a media release anticipating a bigger event on the 100th anniversary. (See DVA’s advance information for tour operators.) Paul Daley writes in Guardian Australia of the likelihood of the centenary being turned into a passionate affirmation of Australia-Israel relations, similar to the Australia-Turkey bond built around the alleged Ataturk words (‘Those heroes that shed their blood …’.)

24 September 2013 updated

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