The Light Horsemen’s own story, battle by battle
By Jonathan King
Published by Scribe
RRP $39.99 in paperback
Palestine Diaries is the third instalment of Jonathan King’s World War I trilogy following on from his previously published Gallipoli Diaries and the Western Front Diaries.
The story of the Light Horsemen begins ironically at Gallipoli in 1915 where the men were engaged fighting the Turks but without the use of their horses. Their time would come after the withdrawal from Gallipoli.
Much has been written about the legendary charge at Beersheba in late 1917 which resulted in the capture of the town of Gaza but very little about the battles that preceded this historic event.
In fact the Allies had previously attacked Gaza in March 1917 but because of the complete breakdown in communications between the British and Anzac commanders, the attack faltered and then ultimately failed. The Allies tried again in April 1917 but were once again repelled, this time in large part because of dubious tactics employed by LTGEN Sir Charles Dobell.
A change in leadership by Britain resulted in General Sir Edmund Allenby taking over as commander-in-chief of the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force. Allenby was a more astute commander and his tactics for the Allies’ third attempt to capture Gaza proved successful. The Australian Light Horse led by LTGEN Harry Chauvel played a crucial part in this victory.
The greatest strength of this book lies with the direct quotations from the men involved, which lends a sense of immediacy to the narrative. Among the diaries quoted one belonged to the famous Australian author Ion L Idriess.
And let’s not forget a major character in the whole drama – T E Lawrence (of Lawrence of Arabia) fame. He promised the Arabs that a defeat of the Turks would lead to the creation of an Arab state. This promise was never fulfilled and there are many historians who point to this failure as a root cause of a lot of the problems we see in the Middle East to this day.
Any reader familiar with Jonathan King’s work will know that he a has a strong pro-Australian bias which sometimes seems overdone. Nevertheless I am sure readers will welcome this third instalment of his work on Australia’s involvement in World War I. This is clearly a labour of love from a man who is determined to honour the Anzacs.