He charged at Beersheba with the light horse

Name: Horace Flitcroft
Date: 1917-1918
Unit: 10th Light Horse
Location: Middle East

The air was filled with the sound of thundering hoofs and the shouts of exhilaration from hundreds of young Australian Light Horse troops as they raced across the desert towards the Turkish lines at Beersheba.

The enemy turned their machine guns on the advancing lines of horsemen, trying in vain to stop the tide as it swept towards them. Within minutes the Turks were overwhelmed as the Australians jumped their horses over the first line of trenches and then leaped off to engage in fierce hand-to-hand fighting.

Among the troops was a young West Australian lad, riding his favourite horse, a chestnut mare bred and raised at Northam. Armed with just his rifle and the courage of adrenalin, he was caught up in the excitement of the last, and one of the most successful, cavalry charge ever made.

"Only the men in the centre had bayonets," Horace Flitcroft recalled. "We were carrying rifles on the flanks."

Trooper Horace Flitcroft was still 17 when he arrived in the Middle East just three months earlier but was now a veteran of several battles riding with the 10th Light Horse.

He survived the Beersheba charge without injury and went on to fight in many more major encounters, especially in Palestine.

Horace Flitcroft had migrated to Australia with his family from Cumberland in England just three years earlier. He left school to take up an apprenticeship as a fitter with the Western Australian Government Railways at Midland.

He lived away from home and kept himself busy with his work and apprenticeship studies at the Midland Technical School but still found time to join the Army Cadets, taking part in drills and parades during the week and at weekends.

While still only 17, he enlisted on 1 April 1917 and soon found himself a member of the Light Horse having easily passed the horse riding tests held at Claremont. Only six of the 36 hopefuls passed.

He was soon on his way to the Middle East, quickly gaining experience from fighting in several major battles before the charge at Beersheba.

Australian General, Harry Chauvel, had orders to storm Beersheba before nightfall. The precious wells were the goal of the troops. with an urgent need for their water supplies.

With just a few hours of daylight left, Chauvel gave the go-ahead to Brigadier William Grant who had assembled his two leading regiments, the 4th and the 12th, with the 11th to follow behind.

And so began the famous charge. First at a trot, then into a canter as they got closer and finally to a gallop as the Turkish lines came into view. Fierce fighting took place but the Australians prevailed and Beersheba was taken. The Australians lost 31 killed and 35 wounded.

With service at places such as Moascar, Ismailia, Marakeb, Belah, Port Said and Cairo behind him, Trooper Flitcroft returned to Australia in July 1919 on board the MV Morvada.

He took up a soldier's settlement of several thousand acres at Gabbin in Western Australia, clearing the land to enable him to farm wheat and sheep. He built himself a humpy from rough timber and hessian and lived there for nearly five years before he was able to build a decent mud brick dwelling.

In 1928, Horace Flitcroft married Marjorie and they lived on the farm for about 30 years.

Their main entertainment was dancing, a far cry from his days as a Light Horseman. Horace was the regular Master of Ceremonies at the local Saturday night dances.

Throughout his war service Trooper Flitcroft took many photographs and continued to do so to the end of his days.

He died when he was 98.

The material for this article was supplied by Dorothy Farrell of Western Australia

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), He charged at Beersheba with the light horse, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 18 May 2024, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories/australians-wartime/he-charged-beersheba-light-horse
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