CENTENARY: Mudgeeraba Light Horse prepares to celebrate the centenary of the Beersheba charge.
CENTENARY: Mudgeeraba Light Horse prepares to celebrate the centenary of the Beersheba charge. Glenn Hampson

Devils on Horseback stoke Anzac pride at centenary

A LITTLE under a century ago a group of young Australian light horsemen were preparing for what would be one of the last great cavalry charges in history.

On October 31, 1917, the group charged and captured the Turkish-controlled town of Beersheba, now in the heart of modern Israel.

Having crossed the sands of the Sinai Desert without water and under fire from the entrenched Turks, their 5km trot quickened to a gallop and they overran the trenches and took the Palestinian town of Beersheba and its water wells.

The fall of Beersheba thus opened the way for a general outflanking of the Gaza-Beersheba Line. After severe fighting, Turkish forces abandoned Gaza on November 6 and began their withdrawal into Palestine.

"The Turks saw the Australians as devils on horseback,” said Cudgen resident Adrienne Freckelton.

Cudgen resident Adrienne Freckelton will mark the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba on Tuesday, October 31, remembering her Great Uncle Barney who fought in the battle.
Cudgen resident Adrienne Freckelton will mark the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba on Tuesday, October 31, remembering her Great Uncle Barney who fought in the battle. Nikki Todd

On Tuesday, Mrs Freckelton will raise a glass to her dear old great uncle, Corporal James Maxwell Bates - known to all in the family as simply Uncle Barney.

A horseman from the Victorian countryside, Uncle Barney, aged 23, enlisted for the First World War in February 1915 with his mate Hugh Longworth.

Together, they were appointed to the 12th Light Horse Regiment and were sent off to war.

Uncle Barney served at Gallipoli, where he fell sick with dysentery and jaundice.

Evacuated to Malta to recoup, upon his recovery he was sent to join the campaign in the Middle East, participating in the Charge of Beersheba.

"Tuesday means to me the fact we are able to acknowledge, remember and give not glory, but thanks for the benefit that we have derived and the world has derived, from the men who were there,” said Mrs Freckelton, 81.

"My granddaughter reminds me that the difference between my father's hat (who also served at Gallipoli) and Uncle Barney's hat is that the kangaroo and the emu never take a backward step. That is a great motto for a young person and also as a reminder of what these young, wild colonial horsemen were about: they didn't take a backward step.”

Corp James Maxwell Bates or Uncle Barney.
Corp James Maxwell Bates or Uncle Barney. Contributed

Hailing from a proud military familywith ties to wars dating back to the Boer War, Mrs Freckelton remembered Uncle Barney as a real gentleman.

"He was a beautiful, gentle country man,” she said.

"I knew him well as a youngster growing up and he was lovely. He was a horseman. The family had farms and they also had hotels. There is a tale - it may be an urban myth - of Barney occasionally riding into the hotels on his horse. I don't know how great grandmother and great grandfather would feel about that but he was a much- loved son.

"He didn't seem to be affected (by the war)... - he may have been - but I think they just got on with it. We have a lot to learn from these young men.”

By pure coincidence, Mrs Freckelton learned her neighbour at Cudgen, Malcolm Cameron, also had a great uncle who fought at Beersheba: Major Don Cameron, who led the 12th Light Horse Regiment.

"We say that is an amazing coincidence!” she said.

A studio portrait of Uncle Barney (standing) with friend Hugh Longworth taken in the Middle East.
A studio portrait of Uncle Barney (standing) with friend Hugh Longworth taken in the Middle East. Contributed

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, the Mudgeeraba Light Horse Museum is throwing open its doors for a free family fun day tomorrow (Sunday, Oct 29).

"Toss a horse shoe, watch the Albert Battery Firing Party, take a guided tour through the Gold Coast's oldest Farm House or watch the Lighthorses and their riders in action” said the Museum's president, Peter MacLaughlin.

"There's an activity to suit all ages with a jumping castle, military crawl, horse drawn carriage rides and interactive military displays” Mr MacLaughlin said.

"There's plenty to see with flag raising, tent pegging, military vehicles, war dogs, light horses, camels and much more”.

The day runs from 10am-4pm at the Museum adjacent to the Mudgeeraba Showgrounds.Free parking is available. at the showgrounds via the Mudgeeraba Road entry.



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