by Paul Daley
Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Publishing, 2009. Pp. xii, 339.
Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $28.00 paper. ISBN: 0522855997
Although at times rather nationalistic, in Beersheba, Australian journalist Daley examines the of Australian troops in the Middle East during the Great War, focused on the mounted infantry charge at Beersheba in 1917, an event commemorated with reasonable accuracy in the 1987 film The Lighthorsemen. Daley opens with an interesting look at the origins and background of the men involved, followed by an good outline history of the campaign until the eve of the Beersheba operation (October 1917), albeit with some unnecessary digs at Britons. Nevertheless, then, showing a good eye for ground, he gets into incrasingly detailed accounts of varous skirmishes and battles that culminated in the final assault on Beersheba. There are a great many excellent word portraits of various soldiers, some famous and some not, and an interesting meditation on how the war, and this particular part of it is remembered, much as part of the "ANZAC Myth."
Al though some students of military history will note that this is yet another volume that offers a rather lop-sided view of the role of mounted troops in the Middle Eastern Campaign, and may take issue with several of his rather purplish claims (e.g., "the largest force of men and beasts mounted since Alexander the Great."), this is a good book about a largely overlooked theater of the war.