Ex-Australian PM, John Howard, honors soldiers of Battle of Beersheba

Victory at the Battle of Beersheba enabled the Allied forces to move forward and capture Jerusalem from the Ottomans just six weeks later.

90th anniversary of the WW1 Battle of Beersheba: Re-enactment of the Australian Light horse charge (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/EMAN)
90th anniversary of the WW1 Battle of Beersheba: Re-enactment of the Australian Light horse charge
The sound greeting the hundreds of participants who came to the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Thursday to commemorate the 102nd anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba was the indigenous Australian musical instrument the didgeridoo played by Chris Williams, a descendant of the Waka Waka tribe that lives in the island continent’s northern state of Queensland. The didgeridoo realistically emulates the sounds of nature.
Among the arrivals were former Australian legislators, Australian and New Zealand representatives of seven Zionist youth groups, as well as diplomatic representatives and military attaches from the embassies of the United Kingdom, United States, France, Canada, India, Germany and Turkey who participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the catafalque that was led by Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan and New Zealand Ambassador Wendy Hinton.
Also among the wreath layers was a representative of Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, who attended despite the fact that the Foreign Ministry is on strike, and that for some weeks now its representatives have not attended diplomatic events hosted by the ambassadors of other countries.
Declaring that the Battle of Beersheba – which was decisively won 102 years ago by Australian and New Zealand Forces – changed the course of history in the region and the world, former Australian prime minister John Howard honored the memories of all brave soldiers, friend and foe, who fell in battle in 1917.
“We are here not in triumph but in tribute,” he said in the course of his address at the cemetery where 1,241 British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers are buried. Of these, 173 have been identified as Australians.
The year 1917 was a miserable and traumatic one for Australia, with so much slaughter on the battlefields, said Howard,
“In October 1917, more Australians died on the battlefield than in any other war before or since.”
Howard attributed the ultimate success of the campaign to “very basic Australian bravery and daring.”
He also associates such bravery and daring with the Israel Defense Forces, which were represented at the event. Howard commended the IDF for “its heroism and determination.”
New Zealand Ambassador Wendy Hinton, who specially came from Ankara in Turkey where she is based, said that every time she attends a commemorative event of this kind, she thinks not only of the collective campaign, but also of the individuals who left careers, ambitions and loved ones to join in the war effort, and whose lives were destroyed.
With reference to the Battle of Beersheba, she attributed the victory to the “superb teamanship between Australian and New Zealand soldiers, and said the two countries remain allies as they were in 1917.
Beersheba Mayor Ruvic Danilovich, a native son of the capital of the Negev, said that every time he passes the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery his heart misses a beat as he thinks of how different the world would look without the victory of the ANZACs in the Battle of Beersheba. The battle, he said, has become a symbol of heroism and freedom. It was not only a victory on the battlefield, but a victory for democracy, he added.
Following the ceremony, the Beersheba Municipality hosted another memorial service at the nearby Turkish monument, and the Australian Embassy and the Pratt Foundation hosted a specifically Australian memorial event at the Park of the Australian Soldier that was initiated and created by the Pratt Foundation
Former deputy prime minister of Australia Wayne Swan, who is the son of a war veteran and whose grandfather fought in the First World War, in referring to the charge by the Australian Light Horse Brigade, said that some say the charge was reckless, but what is said by all is that it was effective. “Some say that it was a turning point in the war.” Swan was reluctant to get into that debate but proudly acknowledged that “it was a feat of great bravery and great daring.”