On Tuesday 31 October, The First World War Centenary Programme (WW100) will be hosting a National Commemoration to mark the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba.
The Battle of Beersheba (Be’er Sheva in modern Israel), fought on 31 October 1917, was a turning point in the struggle between the British and Ottoman Empires in the Middle East during the First World War. New Zealand Mounted Rifles played a key role in securing this victory.
“The centenary of the Battle of Beersheba provides an opportunity to reflect on the often overshadowed experience of New Zealanders in the Sinai-Palestine Campaign,” WW100 Director, Sarah Davies says.
The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, consisting of 1800 infantrymen and their horses, were involved in the Campaign which lasted from 1916 to 1918. New Zealand suffered 1470 casualties in this theatre of the war, including 543 who lost their lives.
“Although by First World War standards the human cost during the Sinai-Palestine Campaign was not as high as that of the Western Front battles, the collapse of the Ottoman power in the Middle East would have a profound effect,” Sarah says.
The National Commemoration will take place inside the Hall of Memories at the National War Memorial in Wellington. There will be a live stream of the ceremony from 11am, available to members of the public to view on the WW100 website and Facebook page.
Overseas, a combined service for Australia and New Zealand will be held at Beersheba War Cemetery, Be'er Sheva, Israel on 31 October at 9am. This will be followed by the New Zealand National Commemoration at Tel Beer Sheva at 2pm.
To encourage more awareness of the First World War Battles in the Middle East, a new section exploring the Sinai-Palestine Campaign has launched on the Ngā Tapuwae New Zealand First World War Trails website – ngatapuwae.govt.nz/middle-east.
Two new Ngā Tapuwae New Zealand First World War Trails interpretive signs will also be unveiled in Israel during October and November. A sign profiling the Battle of Beersheba will be unveiled on Tel Be'er Sheba; while a sign about the Battle of Ayun Kara will be unveiled in Ness Ziona.
“These two signs join seven others around New Zealand and Europe, which explore New Zealand’s First World War story and help visitors to First World War sites gain a greater understanding of our contribution,” says Sarah.
The signs include a historic overview of the Battle of Beersheba and Ayun Kara, and incorporate maps showing the movement of the New Zealand forces during the battles and historic images of New Zealand troops in the Middle East.
For more information about the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba and the Sinai-Palestine Campaign, visit ww100.govt.nz/beersheba-centenary