Wednesday 31 October 1917 We Lost 963
General Allenby’s forces entrenched on the Gaza-Beersheba line, behind the road and the towns, the XXth Corps (10th, 53rd, 60th and 74th Divisions) of the west, and the Desert Mounted Corps on the East. This evening, the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade charges over the Turkish trenches and into the town of Beersheba. The 4th Australian Light Horse led by General W. Grant charges and takes Beersheba and its valuable water wells, a charge that reminds many of the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854. The Light Horse force of 800 loses only 31 killed and 36 wounded most casualties from hand-to-hand combat in the trenches, not from the cavalry charge.
The 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade, in three lines about 400 yards apart, crest the ridge four miles south of the town. The men ride with bayonets drawn. Commencing at a trot, the lines spread out until there is a space of about five yards between each trooper. The Turkish guns immediately open fire, and some casualties are taken. Suddenly it is noticed that the Australians are under the range of the Turkish artillery. The Turks have their guns set at long range and the Light Horsemen are charging faster than the ranges can be reset. When they reach the trenches they do not stop. They jump over, reign up and dismount. The Light Horse is not considered cavalry they are actually mounted infantry and while they may ride into battle, they dismount to fight. They then go to work with both bayonet and rifle.
The Turks are totally dismayed at what has happened. Morale is broken and many flee. Several Australian squadrons find that they are able to go straight through the defenses and on into the town itself.
- Lieutenant Alaric Pinder Boor (Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry attached Royal Flying Corps) dies of wounds at Beersheba at age 25. He is a Rhodes Scholar.
- Trooper Albert Cotter (Australian Light Horse) who is killed at age 33. He is an Australian cricketer who played in 21 Tests between 1904 and 1912 along with 113 first class matches. While regarded as the fastest of his era in Australia (his pace saw him nicknamed “Terror’ Cotter” by English fans) he did not always have the control to back it up. He took eight or more wickets in a match four times from his 21 Tests and his strike rate of 52 ranks up with the best. Cotter joined the AIF in April 1915. The enlistment of a former sporting champion was seen as powerful publicity for the AIF recruiting campaign. Despite having no great riding ability, he was accepted into the Australian Light Horse and he took a late part in the Gallipoli campaign. Cotter is at Beersheba as a stretcher-bearer. At the end of the charge, as troops dismount to engage the enemy, a Turk shot Cotter dead at close range while serving as a stretcher bearer.
Beginning at 05:50 the Bedfordshire Regiment is involved in an attack near Westrozebeke, northwest of Ypres but the movement goes bad due to the depth of the mud as deep as up to men’s knees. To make matters worse the Germans are anticipating the attack and once it commences they bring heavy shelling to bear on the advancing British troops. Those who are not caught in the barrage cannot move and are shot by German snipers while stuck in the mud.
Today’s losses include:
- Two Rhodes Scholars
- An Australian cricketer
- A man whose father will die on service in 1919
- A man whose father was killed in January 1916 as a battalion commander
- The grandson of a Baronet
- Multiple families that will lose two and three sons in the Great War
- Two Military Chaplain
- The on only lost of a family that supplied seven sons to service
- A man whose twin was killed earlier this year
- A holder of the Indian Royal Humane Society Medal for life saving
- The son of a member of the clergy
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
- Acting Major Stewart Athur Rodney-Ricketts MC (Royal Field Artillery) becomes the second Rhodes Scholar killed today when he is lost at age 23.
- Captain Percy James Belcher (Alberta Regiment) is killed at age 27. His father will die on service in February 1919.
- Lieutenant Dering John Jasper Radcliffe (Grenadier Guards) is killed in action at age 22. He had been wounded in the head in 1915 at Neuve Chapelle and lost an eye yet returned to fight at the front when medically released. His father was killed commanding the 10th Essex Regiment in January 1916.
- Lieutenant Philip Gregory Hickman (South Staffordshire Regiment) is killed at age 20. He is the grandson of ‘Sir’ Alfred Hickman 1st
- Lieutenant William Lefevre Oxley Parker (Royal Field Artillery attached Royal Flying Corps) is killed at age 22. He is the grandson of ‘Sir’ William Farrer.
- Lieutenant Walter de Courcey Dodd (Munster Fusiliers attached Royal Flying Corps) dies of wounds received this day as a prisoner of war at age 21. He has two brothers that also lose their lives in the Great War, the first in November 1916 the second one year to the day from this day.
- Lieutenant James Douglas Godfrey (HMS Attentive) dies on service at age 39. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for “coolness under fire” while serving on HMS Arethusa in 1914.
- Chaplain the Reverend Cecil Langdon (attached Border Regiment) is killed in action at age 35.
- Chaplain Wilfroid John Harding MC (attached Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) is killed at age 31.
- Corporal Ernest Douglas Jenkins (Royal Army Medical Corps) is killed at age 20. He is the youngest of seven brothers who served.
- Corporal C H Underhill (Worcestershire Regiment) is killed in action at age 28. His brother was killed in August 1916.
- Private James Tolworthy (East Lancashire Regiment) is killed at age 22. His brother will be killed in March 1918.
- Gunner Arthur John Bodley (Royal Garrison Artillery) is killed at age 26. His brother was killed in February.
- Private Ernest John Flynn (Gloucestershire Regiment) dies of wounds at age 22. His twin brother was killed in June of this year.
- Private Albert Rhodes (Canadian Machine Gun Corps) is killed at age 36. He is the first of three brothers who are killed in the Great War.
- Gunner Frank Summerville Liles (Royal Garrison Artillery) is killed at age 37. His brother will be killed in May 1918.
- Private Thomas Ellery (Welsh Fusiliers) is killed at age 20 in Mesopotamia. He was awarded the Indian Royal Humane Society Medal for life saving on the Tigris River.
- Private Maurice Patrick Walther (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 27. His brother will be killed in June next year.
- Gunner Lawrence Tremaine Wilkinson (Canadian Field Artillery) is killed at age 24. He is the son of the Reverend William James Wilkinson.