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beersheba book

There were stories of great gallantry from the Beersheba Charge on October 31 1917. Here are a few of them.

battle of beershebaJack Cox (Warrant Officer Sergeant Arthur John ‘Jack’ Cox) from Bendigo saw a group of Turks with a machine gun that they were setting up to fire at close range from the side of the advancing Light Horsemen. Cox saw the carnage this gun could cause, veered his horse around at 90 degrees from the advancing line and headed straight for the gunners yelling at them and bluffed them into surrendering. As a lone rider he opened himself up to be easy prey for Turkish snipers but he only saw the danger to others if he had not acted immediately. This one man single-handedly took 40 prisoners and saved many more lives from a barrage of machine gun fire. He was recommended for a Victoria Cross but given a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Trooper Sloan ‘Scotty’ Bolton from Geelong, acting alone, chased down a gun pulled by six horses and their riders, led by a German officer who was trying to escape. Bolton lost his rifle, picked up a revolver but found it was empty. Undeterred, he knocked the officer out of the saddle with the butt of the revolver and forced the group to return with the gun. He also received a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

battle of beersheba 1There were also some sad tales. Midnight and his rider, Lieutenant Guy Haydon, were two of the casualties that day. Midnight was born at midnight on October 31, 1905 on the Bloomfield stud property in the Hunter Valley, NSW. Guy was 16 when she was born and she became Guy’s special horse. They enlisted together with to his brother, Barney, and his horse, Polo. Guy was in the 12th Light Horse regiment that day. A bullet went through Midnight’s stomach as she jumped the trench, continued through the saddle and lodged in Guy’s back, millimetres from his spine. The bullet was removed a few days’ later and Guy recovered but Midnight did not. This magnificent black thoroughbred had sacrificed her life but saved Guy’s. His family still have the bullet that was removed.

battle of beersheba 2Albert ‘Tibbie’ Cotter was a renowned fast bowler from Sydney who played in the Ashes series from 1903 to 1912, when he quit as one of the Big 6, who objected to the new board management which took all power away from the players. Cotter was instrumental in changing the game of cricket as he was the first to use the bouncer as an intimidation tactic, and bowl with a full quota of slips. He was also a hard-hitting tail-end batsman. He joined the 12th Light Horse, but not being a great horseman, he served in Gallipoli and the Sinai as a stretcher-bearer. This took courage as they were unarmed and bore only a white armband with a red cross to identify them. They had to run into the battlefield and drag the injured to safety. He is thought to have been killed by a shot from a Turkish soldier who had surrendered, but who turned his hidden gun on his captor – a tactic used on several occasions. His brother was also killed the same month on the Western Front. Cotter is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Beersheba.

battle of beersheba 3Lt Col Leslie Maygar from Kilmore, Victoria, had won a Victoria Cross in South Africa. He had commanded the 8th Light Horse from 1915 and survived Gallipoli. On October 31 his luck ran out when he was badly injured in the arm by fire from a German plane. His horse was also hit and bolted carrying him away from the camp. By the time he was found, he had lost a lot of blood. He died the next day from a haemorrhage following the amputation of his arm. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Order after the 2nd battle of Gaza when his regiment was very exposed to fire but he continued to inspire and encourage his troops, endangering himself to support his men.

Pictures:

  1. Sketch of the charge of Beersheba - photographed by Jill Curry at an exhibition in Beersheba in 2012
  2. Midnight https://theflyingshetlands.wordpress.com/2016/04/09/midnight-the-story-of-a-light-horse-tells-a-story-of-war-horses-in-a-part-of-world-war-i/
  3. Tibbie Cotter – Stretcher bearer with the 12th Light Horse Regiment. Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P04366.001 Photo by Linton Slide.
  4. Lt Col Leslie Maygar https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Maygar