Cameleer’s 100-year legacy

A memorial ceremony in Kings Park on Tuesday, October 31 will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the legendary Battle of Beersheba.

The battle is defined by the famous cavalry-style charge of 800 Australian light horsemen on the town of Beersheba, in what is now Israel, who galloped through heavy artillery and machine gun fire from the Turkish opposition to hurdle the trenches and take over the town from behind the enemy lines.

Arthur Wilfred Gull in the Imperial Camel Corps.

On the morning of the anniversary, Nerina Coopes will relive the memories and stories her father, Arthur Wilfred Gull, shared with her from the battle.

As a cameleer in the Imperial Camel Corps, Mr Gull patrolled the desert on camelback as opposed to a horse.

The war in the Middle East hinged not only on battling for territory, but for water, and following the Battle of Beersheba a large supply of water was critical for the survival of the Australian troops.

“The water wells that were left in Beersheba were not sufficient to water that huge army,” said Mrs Coopes, of Booragoon. “The camel corps then played an important role in taking Tel El Khuweilfe. That’s where the main wells were.”

“The camel corps fought a very heavy battle there and suffered heavy losses. That’s where the camel corps really came into its own.”

Bob Kucera. Photo: Matthew Comito.

The Returned & Services League of WA in conjunction with the Friends of Israel WA will conduct the commemorative ceremony on Tuesday morning.

Immediate past president of FOIWA Bob Kucera will lay a wreath at the Jewish Memorial in Kings Park.

“Firstly, I feel honoured,” he said. “I don’t think Australians in general realise the significance of this battle.

“At the end of the day it was a battle that changed the course of history.

“To commemorate what was essentially a victory for the Australians is very significant.”

Although the legend of the 4th and 12th regiments of Australian light horsemen will be at the forefront of the commemorative service in King’s Park, the occasion will pay respect to all of the thousands of men who served in the Middle East at the time of the battle.

For Mrs Coopes, the centenary event brings back a range of emotions, as her father was lucky enough to return from the war alive with a Military Cross for his actions in a later battle, along with a lifetime of stories.

“I feel quite stirred by the fact that I hold these stories directly from someone who was there,” she said. “To relive the stories that he told me, and to reflect on the bravery and toughness of those men.”

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten are travelling to Beersheeba to attend anniversary memorial services, including a reenactment of the famous light-horse charge.

Mr Kucera believes October 31 is a time for all the soldiers to be remembered for their role in the battle, whether it be great or small.

“It’s a recognition of the commitment of all the soldiers that took part on both sides,” he said. “It’s a commemoration of those that died, those that were wounded and those that gave so much for their nations.”

The Australian War Memorial records state Australia suffered 67 casualties in the Battle of Beersheba.

The commemoration begins at 9:30am at the 10th Light Horse Memorial in Kings Park on Tuesday, October 31.

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