The Battle of Beersheba

On Oct. 31, 1917, the Australians took the Palestinian city of Beersheba, a vital source of water in the desert.  The engagement was part of the Third Battle of Gaza, and is remembered primarily for the charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade.

The 4th and 12th Regiments attacked the Turkish trenches at full gallop, jumped over the defenders and dismounted to attack from the rear with their bayonets.

An official history reads:

Away went the ground scouts in a bee-line for the mosque shining white in the setting sun; away after them went the eager squadrons. For a minute perhaps the three galloping lines could be seen by those who watched them; then they were swallowed up in their own dust and the gathering twilight….

From then to the end of the war the Turks never forgot Beersheba; their cavalry, always shy of the light horsemen, from that hour practically faded out of the war, so afraid were they of a blow from these reckless men who had ridden their big horses over strongly armed entrenchments; and the enemy infantry, when galloped. as after Beersheba they frequently were, invariably shot wildly and surrendered early in the conflict. The charge had dealt a heavy wound to the enemy morale, from the High Command down to the men in the ranks.

You can find many accounts of the battle and other information at
And here is more:

Ooh, spooky!

World War I seems to lend itself well to ghost stories — my theory is that ghosts seemed more likely when so many men were blown to bits or simply never seen again. Spiritualism became more popular after the war, as it did in the U.S. after the Civil War, because families’ intense grief drove them to hope that they could reach their loved ones on the other side.

Here are links to ghost stories that might make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Don’t say you weren’t warned…


Looks haunted to me! (This is the church at Bethune, France, in 1918. I smudged the photo.)


War poems for Halloween

Fiona blogging at Ghosts of 1914 has a fascinating post about a poet whose work was inspired by Halloween and the Great War. Here’s the link:


Battlefields in WW2: The Menin Gate Revisited 1944

A little time travel gives a new look at a WWI landmark.

Great War Photos

As the Germans were pushed back across Northern France in September 1944, they withdrew across the Belgian border but made little attempt to defend most of Belgium. Ypres was liberated by Polish Troops, part of 21st Army Group, on 6th September 1944 and that evening the Last Post was played at the Menin Gate; the great memorial to the missing which had remained silent to the sound of bugles since May 1940. From that evening when a new generation in khaki gathered round the buglers, the Last Post has been played every evening ever since; it recently celebrated the 29,000th playing.

British units from 21st Army Group used Ypres as a base as Operation Market Garden took them into Holland, and this image shows men from a Royal Artillery unit gathering in front of the damaged Menin Gate in September 1944. The Gate had come under…

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Share your family history

Canada’s History magazine is calling for scanned letters, photos and memorabilia from relatives of those who served during the war, including the many women who helped win the war on the homefront as well as overseas. Do you have family connections to share?

Here’s the link:

McMaster University Libraries has a fascinating post about a series of leaflets written to encourage British and Canadian women to take an active role in fighting the war.


Dressing up for Halloween

Ghosts of 1914 has a fun post about dressing up as a WWI nurse for Halloween, with a link to the National Library of Scotland’s photos of women who actually served on the Front, rather than behind the lines.
Fiona also has a link to her past posts about period costumes.

And for the real thing:

A war dog revisited

CORRECTION: This is what I wrote:

This photo was taken by Australian Frank Hurley, more widely known among Americans for his pictures of the doomed polar exploration ship the Endurance, which was ground to splinters in Antarctica in 1915. These soldiers are loading 15-lb. howitzer shells.


Steve Suddaby, immediate past-president of the WW1HA, wrote in reply:

Susan, that’s a nice picture, but those are not 15-lb shells — I think they’re 15 INCH shells. The British 15-in. howitzer shells weighted 1,400 lbs.

I’ll bet it’s a 15-lb dog, though!

Men loading shells of some sort, with a dog of some sort.

Wipers Times

George Simmers, who blogs as Great War Fiction, makes a guest appearance on the blog Vulpes Libris, with a post about the trench newspaper the Wipers Times.

Here’s a link to my review of “The Riddle of Wipers,” an analysis and history of the newspaper:


Shell shock a century later

This is Mental Illness Awareness Week in the United States, so it seems an appropriate time to consider shell shock. Trenches, biplanes and shell shock are probably the things most Americans associate with World War I.

The BBC offers a fine description of shell shock historically understood to be the result of psychological trauma,

And here’s a contemporary description of what it’s like to live with the after-effects of combat, which we know as PTSD, from a website for American veterans.

PTSD doesn’t just affect troops, of course. It can be seen in anyone who suffers or even witnesses traumatic events. Some people who saw the Twin Towers fall on 9/11 developed PTSD, even if they only watched the events on TV.

What causes some people to suffer from shell shock or PTSD — how could any soldier walk off the battlefields of the Western Front and NOT be out of his senses?  No one knows.

Perhaps there’s a clue in a report published in the Nov. 2007 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry by researchers who compared shell shock with the increasingly common mild traumatic brain injury affecting troops who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where explosions were an everyday occurrence.

The researchers write:

“The high casualties of the Somme battle brought the issue of shell shock to the fore when, as traumatic brain injury has done today, it caught the popular imagination and the attention of the media. … (However) in states of uncertainty, it may be that contemporary service personnel prefer to be labeled as suffering from mild traumatic brain injury than any psychological disorder, just as shell shock in its initial quasi-neurological formulation was very popular.”

Whether shell shock — or whatever name we give it — is caused by psychological or physiological trauma, successful resolution is complicated and, so far, elusive.


Here’s an awesome post from Jonathan Vernon, blogging as That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele. His grandfather was a machine gunner in World War I, and this post is based on his recollections of this particular battle in Third Ypres — what we know as Passchendaele.