The ANZAC Connection
Many people have heard of the famous WW1 battle for Beersheba that featured a well- documented charge by the fast moving Australian Light Horse Brigade on 31 October 1917. This delivered a surprise knock-out blow to the Turkish defenders.
Source - Australian War Memorial. Painting by George Lambert, London 1920. Oil on canvas.
“Late on 31 October 1917 the 4th Light Horse Brigade was ordered to gallop towards Beersheba and seize the town. Two regiments, the 4th and the 12th, made the charge. This bold and successful move was one of the last major cavalry charges in history. Lambert's work depicts the impact of men and horses on the Turkish troops and trenches. A tangled mass of horses and soldiers is shown against a backdrop of barren and undulating landscape. The buildings of the town are just visible on the horizon at left.”
This battle gained notoriety as it changed the course of the battle for control of Palestine in 1917 when the allied forces successfully captured Beersheba (now Be’er-Sheva).
Speed was essential as the Australian horses had ridden through the desert for three days without water. The photograph shows horses from the Desert Mounted Corps drinking water from canvas troughs at Beersheba.
Lt. General Sir Harry Chauvel with the Desert Mounted Corps Headquarters Staff on the steps of Beit Slutzkin, 1917
Following control of Beersheba the Desert Mounted Corps under Australian General Sir Harry Chauvel continued to take Gaza a week later, then the coastal plain up to Jaffa. As the allied forces moved North from Gaza , Anzacs were the first to enter the Jewish town of Deiran (now Rehovot) and freed the town from the Turks on 14 November 1917.
Two days later Australia’s General Sir Harry Chauvel set up his headquarters in the home of Lazar and Rose Slutzkin, who had evacuated to Alexandria Egypt at the beginning of the war along with 12,000 other Palestinian Jews of British nationality who were regarded as enemies by the Ottoman Turks.
Located on a hilltop, Beit Slutzkin had plentiful supply of fresh water for troops and their horses. It was also surrounded by orchards rich in oranges, almonds and olives.
From its elevation of 72 metres above Sea Level, the flat roof of Beit Slutzkin provided a commanding view in all directions, North to Jaffa, Lod and Ramle, East to the Judean Mountains, South to Yebna, Katrah and Akkir and West beyond the orchards to the sea.
British commander General Allenby located his Headquarters on a nearby hilltop which is today located next to Kibbutz Netzer-Sereni.
In Alexandria, the Slutzkins rented a two storey house in the “sporting club” district and hung an enormous Australian flag from their verandah. They met and established friendly ties and connections with the ANZACs who were about to embark for Gallipoli. Rose held “open house” for many Australian servicemen who used to call in for a meal or to freshen up.
During their time in Alexandria the Slutzkin family provided hospitality and support ranging from hospital visits to injured soldiers returning from the Gallipoli campaign to Shabbat meals for Jewish troops. They are thought to have hosted ANZAC officers including General Chauvel and provided their insight to Palestine.
Page from Phyllis Slutzkin's autograph book, signed by W. Sebag_Montefiore, an army censor based in Alexandria