TThe ANZAC Trail in the Negev
The ANZAC Trail marks the route taken by the Australian and New Zealand Light Horse in WW1 as they rode into battle against the Turks on the Palestine front, from Gaza to Beersheba. This glorious outflanking maneuver had a profound impact on the course of the battle and the course of the war. By capturing Beersheba, the way to the north was opened, including the way for Allenby further on to seize Jaffa, Jerusalem, Jericho, Samaria, Meggido, Tiberias ending at Damascus, forcing the Turks into an armistice one year later. It was also synonymous with the British Balfour Declaration supporting a homeland for the Jews.
Beyond this, the route symbolizes the spirit of the ANZAC, as Barry Rodgers, the leader of the Australian LH riders in 2007, put it in 4 words: Mateship, Perseverance, Courage, and Sacrifice.
These days, the same spirit characterizes also the Israeli military and the civilians at this particular area, in their prolonged endurance in the face of continuing threatens.
Inspired by the Australian LH riders, who re-enacted the historical march in 2007, the Israeli Society for the Heritage of WW1 initiated the preservation of the ANZAC Trail. The JNF took over the planning of the project, currently at work.
Its goals are to commemorate the historical event and the fallen, to evoke the awareness to it among the Israeli public, and to enhance tourism from Australia and New Zealand.
The Trail starts at the Anzac Memorial (currently military zone), continues via Nahal Assaf, Shellal (Park Eshkol), Asluj (Park Golda), Chauvel Hill (Hashem-Zana near Nevatim) and ends at the WW1 memorial sites in Beersheba (Beer-Sheva).
The track will be marked with plaques, lookout points, memorials and other sites of interest. It will be added to by guide book and maps, currently in preparation.
The Society, which is the heart and soul of the project, already tours for groups along the trail, and hopes to host on it the next group of Australian LH riders, planned to come in 2012, to commemorate the 95thAnniversary of the Battle of Beersheba.
The Trail was inaugurated on 2nd May 2011 with presence of the Australian ambassador in Israel, Her exellency Andrea Faulkner, the JNF Australian donors, the Israeli Society for the Heritage of WW I and JNF Israel representatives.
The ANZAC Memorial
On April 25th 1967, ANZAC Day, 50th anniversary to the fighting at the Gaza-Beersheba front in World War I, the corner stone was lain for the memorial to the ANZAC fallen at that front. The memorial was designed in the form of the letter A (also resembling a horse), with a small balcony at the top, watching Gaza and the battlefields around.
Nahal (Wadi) Assaf is a small watercourse running into Wadi Ghazze (Nahal Habesor) from the south-east, not far from Tel Jemmi. It crosses an area in which the British army was deployed during World War I, while attempting to break through the Turkish defense lines between Gaza and Beersheba. It is also an Environmental Education Center dealing with work to prevent erosion in this river basin, as well as forestation, as part of JNF's development program .
Shellal (Eshkol National Park)
A public park covering 875 acres, Eshkol National Park has wide lawns and shaded picnic areas. Ein Habesor spring (Ein Shellal) rises in the park's center, and is the largest spring in Wadi Ghazze (Nahal Hebesor basin. The spring waters are fed by seasonal runoff water in the valley, which replenishes the near-surface groundwater,
The northern area of the park is dominated by a conical hill, Hirbet Shell, which has a fine view of the surrounding countryside. In the World War I, while fortifying a position, Australian and New Zealand troops discovered the mosaic floor of a Byzantine church alongside a waterhole here. The mosaic was removed by the troops and shipped to Australia, where it is now on display in the Australian War Museum in Canberra. The concrete buildings next to the spring housed water pumps installed by the British Army to water their cavalry horses and to fill steam locomotives using the nearby railway line.
Bir Asluj (Park Golda)
The village of Bir Asluj was the administrative center of the Bedouin Azazmeh tribe under Turkish Ottoman rule, and later under the British Mandate. A desert police station and a British army base were also posted here.
In the World War I, it was here that the Desert Mounted Corps gathered on the night of October 30th 1917, under the command of General Harry Chauvel, to make final preparations for the crushing assault on Beersheba the following day. It was here that the horses drank their fill at the well, and the riders replenished their water flasks, prior to that fateful day with its long outflanking ride and decisive battle.
Chauvel Hill – Hashem Zana (Nevatim)
General Sir Harry Chauvel (1865-1945) was the first Australian officer to be awarded the British army rank of General in the Australian Imperial Army. In the Battle of Beersheba, he commanded the Mounted Desert Corps, as it outflanked Beersheba from the south-west in Allenby's ruse to capture the town. It was on this hill, on the morning of October 31st 1917, after riding through the night from Bir Asluj, that Chauvel stood looking down across the vale of Beersheba. Throughout the entire day, the British units (20th Corps) bombarded the town from the hills to its west and the ANZAC Division fought for Tell Beersheba to the north. At 16:00, after a whole day's wait, Chauvel summoned his commanding officers. After a brief consultation, Chauvel chose the commander of the 4th Brigade, General William Grant, to lead the mounted attack on the town, giving the order "Put Grant straight in!" while signaling towards Beersheba. A few minutes later, from the foot of this hill, the 4th Brigade set off at a gallop, riding towards the Turkish defense trenches outside Beersheba. After swift fighting in the trenches, the Light Horse swept on to capture the town.
.View from Hashem Zana (Chauvel Hill) on the plain where the charge on Beersheba (on background) took place
Tell Es Sabe (Tell Be'er Sheva)
In the First World War, the Turks set up a strong outpost here, governing the eastern approach to Beersheba. A fierce, day-long battle was fought over the outpost on October 31st 1917, since the position held the key to access to the town from the east. In the morning of the 31st, the ANZAC Light Horse dismounted at the foot of the Tell and made gradual headway under heavy machine-gun fire, the New Zealanders on the less precipitous eastern slope, and the Australians on the steep southern slope, with British artillery cover. The Tell was only taken in the late afternoon, with a Turkish surrender. Its capture enabled the 4th Australian Brigade to set off from Hashem Zana (Chauvel Hill) on the epic mounted charge to capture Beersheba.
Anzac Trail sites in Beer-Sheva (Beersheba)
The Allenby Memorial
Field Marshal Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby, First Viscount of Megiddo, was commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, the British force charged with conquering Palestine from the Turks. Allenby started his military career as a British cavalry commander during the Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902). In the First World War, he commanded the British Third Army on the Western Front in Europe, and in June 1917 he was appointed commander of the British forces on the Palestine Front. It was under his command that Beersheba, Gaza and Jerusalem were captured, and he later went on to conquer the north of the country as far as Damascus and Aleppo in Syria, where the Turks surrendered.
In the year 1923, the British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel unveiled a monument in Allenby's honor in Beersheba, with a sculpted bust of Allenby by sculptor Abraham Melnikov, set on a 15-meter high Turkish column. During the 1936-38 Arab Revolt, the monument was destroyed by rioting nationalists and the British Mandate government replaced it with a simple stone monument, without the figure of Allenby, and the inscription: "Allenby 1917-1918" in English and in Arabic (without Hebrew, as a gesture to the town's Arab residents). In 2005, the modern monument was unveiled with its restored bust of Allenby.
The British Military cemetery
This is the final resting place for soldiers of the British Empire who fought and fell in the Beersheba region. At the end of the First World War, the remains of soldiers were brought for burial from temporary war cemeteries at Hureira (Tel Haror), Imara (Urim), Abu Jerwal (Goral Hills), Tell Farah(Tell Sheruchen), Wadi Mashash (Nahal Secher) and Yibne (Yavne). The ground was donated by the Municipality of Beersheba, and is cared for by the British Commonwealth War Graves Commission, The cemetery is designed in standard 'English garden' style, with a Stone of Remembrance, a Cross of Sacrifice, individual gravestones, plants suited to local climatic conditions, and many other details paying tribute and honor to the fallen.
The British Cemetery in Beersheba was inaugurated in 1923 by British Mandate High Commissioner Sir Herbert Samuel. It is the final resting place of 1,032 soldiers from Britain, 174 from Australia, 31 from New Zealand, 2 from the West Indies, and 66 unidentified dead. Among those buried here are three awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military award in the British Army, among them Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Cecil Maygar, commander of the 8th Regiment .
Park of the Australian Soldier
The park, donated by the Australian Richard Pratt, is located in a residential area in the town, and it is designed in combination of community's needs, with water elements and with commemoration section. It is planned accessibly for disabled and for population with special needs, and it also houses an commemoration section, including information plaques on the battle on Beersheba, and an impressive sculpture, designed by the Australian sculptor Peter Corlet, of a Light Horse man on horse galloping above a trench, swings his arm with a bayonet in his hand.
To PDF file of Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Lighthorse Association