Israeli history photo of the week: The Battle of Beersheba

By LENNY BEN-DAVID
October 27, 2011 21:29

JPost special feature: A Library of Congress collection of photographs that document Israel before the creation of the state.

1 minute read.



Battle of Beersheba 311. (photo credit:American Colony-Jerusalem-Photo Dept.)

The Library of Congress has recently digitalized a collection of over 10,000 photographs, taken by the "American Colony" in Jerusalem, a group of Christian utopians who lived in Jerusalem between 1881 and the 1940s. The photographers returned to the US, and bequeathed their massive collection to the Library of Congress in 1978. The collection includes Winston Churchill's visit to Jerusalem, Jewish expulsions from the Old City during Arab riots, and the building of Tel Aviv.

The third British attack against the Turkish defense lines in Gaza would be unleashed in the Fall of 1917, the German and Turkish military leadership strongly believed.  Already in March and April 1917 the British had smashed up against the Turkish army in Gaza, the western edge of a 40-mile front, with heavy losses.  And the British forces, now under the command of General Edmund Allenby, gave their enemy ample signs that Gaza was again the target.

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An attack on Beersheba was impossible, the Turks believed. The British forces consisted largely of light-horse soldiers, mobile on their horses to move to the front where they would normally dismount and fight as infantrymen. Horses require massive amounts of water, grain and forage, and there was none within two days of the Beersheba oasis.  No cavalry could go so long without water.

But Allenby secretly moved some 40,000 troops and their horses to confront the Turkish army at the eastern edge of the front, in Beersheba.  Small amounts of water were pre-positioned along the route, but after a 48-hour march, the horses would have to be watered at the wells inside Be'er Sheva, Allenby planned. That required capturing the garrison village in less than a day and before the Turks could destroy the wells.

The battle began in the morning of October 31 with artillery barrages and infantry attacks against Turkish artillery, machine guns, and extentive trench defenses.  Only in the afternoon did New Zealand troops capture a strategic hill, Tel Saba, that had provided the Turks a clear field of fire against troops crossing the plain on the approach to Beersheba.

More photos can be viewed at www.israeldailypicture.com

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