As the exploits of Australian Light Horse Regiments in the Battle of Beersheba are being remembered in this centenary year, it is worthwhile to ponder the contribution of one of their number who has strong Hilltops region connections.
Albert David Reid was born in Murrumburrah and lived on a property outside Young at Crowther. He is attributed with leading one of three squadrons involved in the charge and was promoted from captain to major, and later awarded the Military Cross.
A banner which celebrates his remarkable contribution is located at Hilltops Council (Young) offices.
“Albert David Reid – The Battle of Beersheba 31 Oct 1917
Born 25 July 1886 Murrumburrah NSW Joined Military Forces 1908 and trained on weekends in Goulburn. In 1911 he drew a homestead block at Crowther and moved there.
In 1914 he joined the 1st Light horse Regiment B Squadron and served at Gallippoli wounded his foot and was sent to London for 6 weeks then home to Australia. He went into recruiting but at the first opportunity he got back into active service. To prove he was fit he hopped across the floor and back on the same leg. He went as a captain into the 4th light horse.
One important part Reid played was in the Siege of Beersheba,( “well of the oath”, so named by Abraham in the book of Genesis.) Any army approaching its life-giving wells has to march for days through the waterless Sinai desert. All the Turks had to do was hold off an attack for one day and the merciless desert sun would do the rest. Despite constant assaults the place could not be taken. Then came the fateful day of October 31 1917.
Reid said that late in the afternoon of the 31st Brigadier Grant took the commanding officers of the 4th, 11th, and 12th Light Horse Regiments to General Chauvel’s headquarters, where they were told it was imperative that Beersheba should fall before dark. Grant said he had three regiments of Light Horse available and could take it if he was given a free hand. Chauvel asked how, Grant replied that his brigade should act as cavalry and not as mounted infantry. Chauvel agreed, no doubt realizing that the time was now 1600 and the sun would set in less than an hour… Reid goes on… Squadron leaders were told that Beersheba was there in the distance, about 4 1/2 miles away. Also, that the 4th Brigade was to take it as cavalry. He added they would come under artillery, machine gun and rifle fire, but no matter what happened they were to get into the town. If the attack failed and the Turks had time to destroy the wells thousands of men and horses would be forced to retreat or die of thirst. The Light Horse 4th, 11th, 12th had already ridden 50 kms that day and had been without water for 48 hours. Three squadron were to go; A, B and C. B was led by Captain Reid. As A got to the trenches they fought hand to hand with the Turks. B flew over the top and took the city. The main object was to secure the wells and water. Reid was promoted to Major after the charge and later awarded the Military Cross, “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. This officer led a squadron at the gallop under heavy rifle and machine-gun fire over the first and second line trenches in order to reinforce the leading squadron, thus enabling the regiment to push forward and capture all the remaining lines of the enemy entrenchments.
Albert went on to have a long career in State parliament from 1927-30 & 1932-41 and as a Senator from 1950-62.”
It is understood that Albert Reid’s local descendants who include his grandson David and his wife Beth, great grandsons Ben and Matt and granddaughter Anna did not attend the centenary celebrations in Israel.
However one local man not only attended, but played a role in the proceedings.
Wal Bradford has taken part in the re-enactment. In confirming her father’s trip of a lifetime, his daughter, Holly Bradford says:
“My great grandfather (Corporal William Bradford ) was in the 1st Australian Light horse and the original call up muster and enrolments to the First Australian Horse took place at Harden-Murrumburrah on August 30 1897. He didn’t actually make it to Beersheba though!”
However his grandson Wal did one hundred years later.