4th Light Horse Brigade, AIF, Australian Light Horse, Australian Slouch hat, Beersheba, Beersheba Charge, Bush Poetry, German Officers, Negev Desert, Ottoman Empire, poem, poetry, The Battle of Beersheba, The Charge at Beersheba, Turkish soldiers, Turks, World War One
Faint rays falling on the horses and the host,
And the Officers of Germany are dreaming of the coast.
Desert day is dawning, the defenders are dug in.
Slouch-hatted soldier scrapes the salt-beef from the tin.
Turk stokes the withered wood, spreads palms towards the fire,
And wonders why there are no mines, and where is the barbed wire?
On drags the dreary day and late grows the hour —
Before the sun begins to set, a cry from the tower:
“There are cavalry towards the east, so danger’s close at hand!”
But the Officers of Germany, the Turks don’t understand.
The Officers of Germany are tired of sweat and sand.
The Officers of Germany are in a foreign land.
An Officer of Germany screams at the Turks: “You see!
They are but mounted infantry — they are not cavalry!”
Eight hundred horsemen, mounted tall, that is the spotter’s count.
Eight hundred infantry, that’s all — and they will all dismount.
The Officers of Germany have fallen for the ruse;
The Officers in Germany will read the dreadful news.
Scream the German officers: “Men, now hold your fire!”
The Turks can see the plain, the rising dust, and no barbed wire.
Come on the lines of horsemen, and too late the Turkish sons
See that the riders won’t dismount — they’re underneath the guns.
Eight hundred riders make the charge and all of them stay mounted,
Except those who from their mounts fall, and thirty one are counted.
Slung on their backs their rifles, and with bayonets held on high,
They reach the Turkish trenches as the Turks shoot at the sky.
And suddenly the fighting is all over — as before,
This blasted land, the blood-soaked sand that knows the ways of war,
This poor Beersheba, once again, gives up her precious wells,
Remembering the pounding hooves, gun shots and bursting shells.
And many Turks that night they find a cold and dusty bed,
And slouch hats top the rifles of the riders who are dead.
The lucky Turks are led away into captivity,
As are those splendid men, the Officers of Germany.
— D.N. O’Brien