Friday, 3 February 2017

Book Review - The wells of Beersheba by Frank Dalby Davison

The wells of Beersheba : an epic of the Australian Light Horse 1914-1918
by Frank Dalby Davison, illustrated by Will Mahony

Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1947

The charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade at the Battle of Beersheba is widely thought of in Australia as the last succesful cavalry charge to ever have taken place (which can be disputed on a number of levels - the Light Horse were not cavalry, and several charges are recorded in World War 2). The charge was certainly a great feat of arms, and was crucial to the success of the campaign to take Damascus.

The wells of Beersheba was a commissioned work, and self consciously written as a paen to the troops. Styled as a prose-poem, the book is broken into a few sections, describing the origins of the horses the troops rode, the harshness and boredom of travel in the desert, and the shock and terror of the battle itself.

The book is fiction, but based on real events, and the description of the charge is, as far as can be known, quite accurate. There are no main "characters" in the work (the only people named are Chauvel and Allenby); instead Davison creates a character from the Unit itself, where the mass of men becomes one in their united pain and triumph.

This short book has become something of a minor classic in the Australian milieu of military writing, and was the inspiration for the film 40,000 horsemen, which is a minor classic of Australian cinema.

Well worth reading on a sunny afternoon.

Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

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