The 31st of October 2018, marks 101 years since the victory of the Battle of Beersheba. We remember the Imperial Camel Corps and the 4th Light Horse Brigade and the important role they played in history. This decisive battle in Palestine marked a turning point and embedded in history the legend of the Australian Light Horseman. Not so commonly known is the role that the Imperial Camel Corps played in this important victory that marked the beginning of the end of the war in the Middle East.
The Imperial Camel Corps had been formed in 1916 and became part of the Desert Mounted Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Henry Chauvel who had previously lived on the property near Harrisville where Summer Land Camels now exists. Chauvel was the first Australian officer to command a corps and he was also well-respected by the men.
The ICC was an integral part of the British and allied forces in the areas of Sinai and Palestine. Camels were valued for their ability to travel further and carry more.
As Australians were sent to Egypt and the British increased forces in the area, there was a lack of water to run horses as far as they needed them.
Suddenly Australian soldiers who had enlisted to ride horses found themselves in the Imperial Camel Corps. The camels weren’t just used for transport and to carry food, water and fodder. Photos have been unearthed that show that the Imperial Camel Corps took fighting positions in the Battle of Beersheba.
While the camels were effective in battle, it would seem that one main problem was if the soldier fell off. Unable to remount, from that point on were treated as infantry.
The soldiers of both the Imperial Camel Corps and the Australian Light Horse Brigade were later praised by Brigadier-General Chaytor for the mounted rifle and light horse method of attack. Cavalry not only located and surrounded an opponent’s position, but also dismounted to fight with rifle and bayonet, something unheard of prior to the battles fought by the Australian Light Horsemen and Imperial Camel Corps.
The Battle of Beersheba has gone down in history as one of the last great cavalry charges and while the Imperial Camel Corps may have lacked some of the glamour associated with the Light Horse Brigade, their contribution was significant. And to the men who enlisted thinking that they would be fighting on horseback but found themselves upon a very different creature, we honour their resilience and determination.