History of War

NEK CHARGE AT THE ‘NOTHING BUT BLOODY MURDER’

Source:   George Lambert’s painting ‘The charge of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade at the Nek, 7 August 1915’ depicts the carnage in the short gap between the Australian and Ottoman trenches as the Australians charge  

“WITHOUT HESITATION, THESE BRAVE SOLDIERS FOLLOWED THEIR ORDERS KNOWING THAT THEY WOULD CHARGE INTO ALMOST CERTAIN DEATH”

The Battle of Beersheba on 31 October 1917, with its dramatic mounted charge of two Australian light horse regiments, has become a tool for national self-congratulation and myth-making in its centenary year. Australians should be rightfully proud of this momentous charge, but also cautious of media claims that their countrymen’s role at Beersheba turned the tide of the Palestine campaign and that it was the last great cavalry charge in history. Both of these are somewhat outlandish claims but are nothing new – we heard similar for the anniversary of the Australian attack at Fromelles in 2016, airbrushing the British contribution completely, and earlier in 2015 during the Gallipoli centenary commemorations.

For historians, factual interpretation of any battle is key to its understanding. It is important to educate through historical analysis, not perpetuate myth through the popular media. However, there is one place where myth is greater than events, and that is Gallipoli. Few other places invoke the utter despair, futility and courage of war like this battlefield, and one event in particular is the tragic charge of the Australian Light Horse at The Nek on 7 August 1915. Looking into the collapsing Anzac trenches that still remain today, it is difficult to comprehend what it must have been like for the hundreds of frightened young men who lined up in waves.

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