Battle of Beersheba 100th anniversary
31 October 2017 Tim McCurdy (Ovens Valley)
Today is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba.
The charge of the 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment at Beersheba occurred late in the afternoon of 31 October 1917 and is remembered as the last great cavalry charge.
With time running out for the Australians to capture Beersheba and its wells before dark, Lieutenant General Harry Chauvel ordered the 4th Light Horse Brigade to make a mounted attack, moving directly towards the town.
The 4th and 12th light horse regiments' casualties were 31 killed and 36 wounded; they captured over 700 men. The capture of Beersheba meant that the Gaza-Beersheba line was turned. Gaza fell a week later, and on 9 December 1917 the British troops entered Jerusalem.
Leading the charge was Murray Bourchier of Strathmerton, northern Victoria, who was a grazier turned soldier. He led his men, many of them from his own district, at full gallop over two miles into Turkish entrenchments and on for a further two miles into Beersheba to capture vital wells before the Turks could destroy them.
Murray became the first officer into Damascus. The 4th and 12th light horse regiments were known from then on as 'Bourchier's Force'. For this exploit he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and earned the nickname 'Bourchier of Beersheba'. He was promoted to brigadier and was knighted posthumously.
Last Saturday I held an event in Strathmerton at which many locals joined me for a tree planting, including Lorna Bourchier, who at 91 years old was very eager to pick up the shovel and fill the dirt in around the spotted gum that I hope will live for the next 100 years.
Murray went on to be the member for Goulburn Valley for the Country Party, which is now The Nationals. He became Minister of Agriculture and Deputy Premier.
Our community in northern Victoria is richer for the lifetime of achievements of Sir Murray Bourchier. We thank him for his commitment.