Analysis • Commentary • Advocacy

Centenary of the Battle of Beersheba

A series of events are planned this week in New Zealand, Australia and Israel for the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba.

New Zealand machine gunners in action.

The Sinai-Palestine campaign was a joint New Zealand-Australia operation and a significant contribution to the defeat of the Ottoman forces.

Exactly who would represent New Zealand at the official commemoration has been up in the air for some time.  It was initially expected that PM Bill English, along with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would be in attendance. However, with the delayed outcome of the election, rather than Prime Minister Ardern, the Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and her husband Sir David Gascoigne will attend.

The events include a joint Anzac service at Beersheba War Cemetery and the opening of an Anzac Museum.

The New Zealand National commemoration will be held at Tel Beersheba, the mound, known historically as Tel el Saba. This was New Zealand’s objective in the Battle of Beersheba. After six hours of hard fighting, the well-defended tel was captured by the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade. Eight New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade men were killed in the attack and 26 wounded, almost all from the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment. The elevated Tel site is uninhabited and well-preserved being a National Park with UNESCO World Heritage status due to its biblical wells and ruins.

Over the course of the week there will be a number of events, including:

An exhibition by New Zealand artist Rebecca Holden on display at the Rishon LeZion Museum.

A wreath laying at Ramleh War Cemetery  in honour of those who served in the Battle of Ayun Kara. This ceremony will also feature a special tribute to the soldiers of the Rarotongan Company buried in this cemetery.

A wreath laying at Jerusalem War Cemetery, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, in honour of the 34 soldiers buried in the cemetery and the 87 listed on the Memorial with no known grave.

A national commemoration will be held at Wellington’s Pukeahu National War Memorial Park 31 October at 11am. 

Auckland Grammar School will hold a commemorative tree planting event in memory of those past students who gave their lives at Beersheba.

Video: The capture of Tel El Saba, produced by the NZ Defence Force.

Image:  https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/new-zealand-machine-gunners, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 22-Mar-2017.