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100th Anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba

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October 31, 2017

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba. The victory at Beersheba led to the liberation of Jerusalem, the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, and ultimately saw the issuance of the Balfour Declaration and the consequent establishment of the modern State of Israel.

I pay tribute to the inspired leadership of General Sir Harry Chauvel’s command of the Desert Mounted Column, and his decision to charge Beersheba against the odds.

A plaque at St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne honours Sir Harry Chauvel, ‘whose inspiring leadership carried his forces to final victory in spite of unprecedented hardships and whose Christian regard for his men continued undiminished during the years of peace’.

Three former Australian Prime Ministers paid tribute to Sir Harry Chauvel in a condolence motion on his death in 1945. Treasurer (and former Prime Minister) Fadden described Sir Harry Chauvel as ‘one of the greatest soldiers that Australia has ever produced.’ Sir Robert Menzies commented ‘in the military sphere Sir Harry Chauvel was one of the most remarkable cavalry leaders of all history.’ He further remarked that Australia ‘is, indeed, fortunate to have produced out of the turmoil of war, on two or three occasions, such amazing servants of the people.’ Then Prime Minister Ben Chifley commented with prescience, ‘If his greatness has not been fully appreciated by our generation, posterity certainly will acclaim him one of our Empire's great men.’

I also honour members of the Desert Mounted Column, including Major Eric Hyman DSO of the 12th Light Horse Regiment and Lieutenant Colonel Murray Bourchier DSO of the 4th Light Horse Regiment, who were at the vanguard leading the charge. Murray Bourchier later became the Deputy Premier of Victoria.

Australian artists Jennifer and Ron Marshall brilliantly depict Major Hyman, an Australian of Jewish heritage, leading the 12th Australian Light Horse regiment in their painting ‘CHAAAARRGE!’

I acknowledge the Sir Harry Chauvel Foundation, and the contributions of his descendants, including Dr Richard Chauvel, and Dr Honor Auchinleck.

I commemorate those who so bravely made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of freedom.

Media Contact: Murray Thompson (03) 9598 2688