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Busting Beersheba: Australians in the Campaign to defeat the Ottoman Empire

January 1, 1970 @ 10:00 am

Lieutenant General Sir Philip Chetwode wrote to Lieutenant General Sir Harry Chauvel in October 1918: “You have made history with a vengeance and your performance will be talked about and quoted long after many more bloody battles in France will have been almost forgotten”.


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General Chetwode was right about the importance of the Allied victory in the Middle East and the extraordinary contribution of General Chauvel and the Australian mounted troops to that victory. But he may not have been right about the importance this campaign would be accorded in historical writing and popular imagination. So much has been written and so much is popularly known about the Gallipoli campaign and the battles on the Western Front that they take centre stage in the Australian memorialisation of war. As we approach the centenary of the final and conclusive battles of the Middle East campaign it is timely to review the importance of this heroic episode in Australian military history.

MHHV will host a one day seminar on Saturday 18th November 2017 on the subject of Australia’s campaign in the Middle East with the aim of exploring the events and the personalities involved and evaluating its significance in Australian military history. The seminar will address the campaign’s place in the Allied strategy, follow the overall narrative of the campaign and look at the course, the outcomes and the significance of the major battles, Gaza, Beersheba, Megiddo and others.

We will hear about the key personalities who moulded the outcomes, including General Chauvel and some of his senior commanders, but we will also dwell on the experiences of the soldiers, troopers, gunners and infantrymen. We will hear about their hardships and their resilience, their courage and their humour. We will acknowledge the central place of the horses, the ‘Walers’ in the campaign and hear about their origins, care and fate.

The Australian Light Horse formations and units are, of course, at the centre of our considerations but there were other arms in the battle. Most of the infantry and artillery units in General Allenby’s force were British but there were Australians in the Royal and Australian Flying Corps units, in Armoured Car units and the Camel Corps. The logistics of this campaign were exceptionally difficult and the solutions bold and innovative; we will explore these too.

We will look at the strategy and fighting skills of the Ottoman Empire’s army and try to gain some insight into the commanders and soldiers on the other side of the battles.

Finally, the seminar will consider the ways in which Australia has remembered and memorialised the Light horse and their Middle East campaign.

The speakers will include academic historians, journalists turned historian and family members of key personalities. We will aim to bring not only a rigorous analysis to the campaign but also to evoke an understanding of the experiences of all the participants and an appreciation of the importance of this campaign to Australia’s memory of war.

Download the full program by clicking here.


Presenter Biographies:

Dr David W. Cameron received his PhD in biological anthropology in 1995 at the Australian National University and is a former Australian Research Council QEII Fellow at the Department of Anatomy & Histology, University of Sydney. He has conducted fieldwork in Australia, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He is the author of several books on Australian military history and primate evolutionary biology and has published over 60 papers in internationally peer-reviewed journals. He lives in Canberra.

Dr Andrew Kilsby (ADFA/UNSW 2014) is an independent historian and published author. He has presented at military history conferences, arranged exhibitions and written articles and military biographies. Andrew is a graduate of RMC Duntroon with regimental training in a cavalry regiment. Forebears served throughout the desert campaign in the 3rd LHR and the 9th LHR. He was a founder of MHHV Inc. and is currently president of History Monash Inc.

Brent Taylor qualified and worked as a civil engineer with a keen interest in transport and logistics –the forgotten force behind war. Brent is a twice published author and is currently working on a book about General Sir Thomas Blamey.

Dr Honor Auchinleck grew up on the family property near Corryong, graduated from the Australian National University in 1976, the Open University in England in 2001 and completed her Doctorate in 2014 at La Trobe University.
Except for operational tours in Northern Ireland, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Sierra Leone, Honor accompanied her husband Mark, a British Army officer, on all his postings in Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, England and Turkey. Her memoir, Elyne Mitchell: A Daughter Remembers was published in 2012, as was On the Trail of the Silver Brumby, an anthology of Elyne’s non-fiction writing about the High Country. She and Mark now farm part of the original family property in the Upper Murray.
Honor is a member of the General Sir Harry Chauvel Foundation and Patron of the Elyne Mitchell Writing Award.

Colonel Marcus Fielding was born and raised in Melbourne. He joined the Australian Army in 1983, graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon in December 1986, and was commissioned into the Royal Australian Engineers. He has held a variety of command, staff and instructional appointments and has served on operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Haiti, East Timor and Iraq. He is a graduate of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, the Australian Army Command and Staff College and the Defence and Strategic Studies Course. Colonel Fielding recently transferred from full-time to part-time service with the Australian Army and is currently the President of MHHV, President of Camberwell RSL & Vice-President of Australian Army Rugby.

Dr. Richard Chauvel, who is General Sir Harry Chauvel’s grandson, is an honorary fellow at the Asia Institute, The University of Melbourne. Prior to joining the Asia Institute, he had taught at the Universities of Indonesia and Sydney as well as Victoria University. His research has focused on political and social change in eastern Indonesia, particularly in Maluku and Papua, together with Australia-Indonesia relations. His publications include a study of the revolt of the Republic of the South Moluccas, Nationalist, Soldiers and Separatists: The Ambonese Islands from Colonialism to Revolt, 1880-1950, two volumes of essays on Papua, The Land of Papua and the Indonesia State, together with two policy papers for the East-West Center Washington: The Papua Conflict: Jakarta’s Perceptions and Policies (with Ikrar Nusa Bhakti) and Constructing Papuan Nationalism: History, Ethnicity and Adaption. He was a member of the Australia Awards Joint Selection Committee for Indonesia, 2007-2013, 2016. At the University of Indonesia, he taught Australian History and Politics as part of an Australian Studies Program. He is a graduate of the University of Sydney and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

Alan Smith was born and educated in New South Wales and has tertiary qualifications in Industrial Chemistry, Commerce and Economics. He has served as a gunner in the CMF from 1951 and was commissioned in 1954. He has had regimental service with RA and RCA units in the UK and Canada and rounded out his service in logistics staff appointments. He was awarded the Efficiency Decoration in 1966 and retired in 1968.
Alan has had a 36-year executive career in BHP Ltd in HR positions in Corporate, Steel and Wire Divisions retiring in 1992.
His third ‘career’ is in writing Artillery history as Assistant Editor and now Editor of Cannonball, The Journal of the Royal Australian Artillery Historical Company,


January 1, 1970
10:00 am

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