BATTLE OF BEERSHEBA ANNIVERSARY
Mr PETER DRAPER
(Tamworth) [6.11 p.m.]: Next week, on 31 October, we will celebrate the ninetieth anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, where the Australian Light Horse won a hard-fought victory over the Turkish forces in what many have labelled the last great, successful cavalry charge in military history. This commemoration is special for Tamworth and the north-west of New South Wales because many of the troops involved came from our region as members of the 12th Light Horse, who were the forefathers of the current 12/16th Hunter River Lancers, which is still based in Tamworth. They will commemorate this event at their headquarters known as Beersheba Barracks.
A special commemorative moment of reflection is being held in Tamworth at the Light Horse Memorial in Bicentennial Park. Generally known as the Waler Memorial, this sculpture was unveiled on 29 October 2005 in recognition of the important contribution the stock horses and the men who rode them made to Australia's military commitments in the Boer War and the Great War. The Waler memorial was designed and sculptured by Tanya Bartlett, who currently resides in Newcastle but who is originally a Gunnedah girl. The project cost $150,000, with Joblink Plus in Tamworth donating $35,000. Public subscriptions totalled $90,000 and the remainder was contributed through government grants, including $10,000 from the New South Wales Government, for which the Tamworth community is very grateful. I must pay tribute to local resident David Evans, who was the driving force in bringing this project to fruition. Although unveiled only in 2005, the Waler Memorial was recently voted the number one man-made attraction in inland New South Wales in an ABC Radio poll. That is amazing when one considers that it was up against icons like the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
Tamworth's Major Eric Hyman led the 12th Light Horse on the left flank of the overall charge by the 4th
Brigade at Beersheba, which was a major operation in the third battle of Gaza, and part of the Sinai and Palestine campaign of World War I. They charged more than four miles at the Turkish trenches and, despite withering rifle and machinegun fire, they overcame the odds and took the trenches. However, more importantly, they captured the wells at Beersheba, whose vital water supplies were needed for the Light Horse Brigade to keep the campaign moving. In capturing Beersheba, the 4th Light Horse Brigade took 38 officers and 700 other ranks prisoner, as well as four field guns. This came at a cost of 31 men killed and 36 wounded. The rest, as they say, is history.
This epic charge has been depicted a number of times, including in the Charles Chauvel 1941 epic, Forty Thousand Horsemen
, again in the 1987 film, The Light Horsemen
, and in a 1993 episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
. Today, many dedicated armed forces reservists from the Tamworth and Northern Tablelands electorate form the 12/16th Hunter River Lancers, the direct descendents of the 12th Light Horse. Lieutenant Colonel Michael Hanna, commanding officer of the 12/16th Hunter River Lancers, and his command are very proud of these historical links. It is only fitting that to commemorate the ninetieth anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba the 12/16th Hunter River Lancers will exercise their right of freedom of entry to Armidale. They will conduct a mounted parade to formally announce their transition from the M113 armoured personnel carrier to the newly acquired Bushmaster infantry mobility vehicle on Saturday 3 November. General Peter Leahy, the Chief of Army, will review this event. In 2007 the descendents of the 12th are still a cavalry unit, and their skills can still be called upon to provide manpower for Australia's overseas military commitments. It is ironic that 90 years down the track they could well find themselves serving very close to the part of the world in which their forefathers served.
In commemorating this wonderful history that is so closely related to the Tamworth region, I am very proud to say that along with the Waler Memorial, we have a large number of fitting memorials to those who have served our nation across the years. In Tamworth city alone we have the Anzac Memorial Gates, the Sandakan Memorial, the Boer War Memorial, both Vietnam and national service memorials, the Man of War Gates Naval Memorial, the Second World War Memorial, the West Tamworth Memorial Clock Tower, a Korean war memorial, the Gipps Street Avenue of Honour and Memorial to the 1914-18 War, a remembrance garden at Tamara hospital, the Nazareth House War Memorial, the Forest Road War Cemetery, the Ex Services Last Post Memorial at Lincoln Grove Lawn Cemetery, the Grave of the Unknown Soldier, the 2/30th infantry battalion 8th Division Memorial, the Air force Memorial and the Tamworth War Memorial Town Hall.
Most other towns and villages have memorials of one form or another. The vast number of memorials means that prior to Anzac Day a pilgrimage is organised to pay respect at each of them. I salute the efforts of the Returned and Services League sub branch president Bob Chapman and secretary Ron Follington and their dedicated members who do so much to ensure we never forget, and for their ongoing efforts to involve the youth of the district in many events. I also thank Joan Rankin and the members of the War Widows Guild, who organise the yearly Field of Remembrance celebrations. I am very proud to represent a community that remembers and respects the actions of so many men and women who have served our nation. Many of these heroes paid the ultimate sacrifice, but their legacy continues to inspire the dedicated and skilled members of our armed forces through the 12/16th Hunter River Lancers—Lest We Forget.
Private members' statements noted.