More than 90 years after a First World War battle that helped pave the way for Israel’s creation, a memorial to the Australian soldiers who routed the Turks at Beersheva has been unveiled.
Almost 1,000 dignitaries, including many descendants of the Australian Light Horse Brigade who fought there, witnessed the unveiling by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Australian Governor-General Michael Jeffery of a 1.5-tonne bronze sculpture of a mounted soldier leaping over the Turkish trenches to capture the city.
The sculpture is the centrepiece of the Park of the Australian Soldier in the southern Israeli city, funded by the Melbourne-based philanthropic foundation of Richard and Jeanne Pratt.
On October 31, 1917, in what was dubbed “the last great cavalry charge in history”, 800 Australian cavalrymen were ordered to ride into the firing line of 4,000 entrenched Turks. By nightfall they had achieved victory.
Lorna Bourchier, 82, whose uncle was a commander of the charge, said: “I feel very proud that somebody who was part of our family helped turn a page in the history of Israel.”