Dorrigo hosts centenary commemoration

Dorrigo is sponsoring a unique centenary commemoration of a major World War 1 battle that involved local men and horses.

The charge at Beersheba on October 31, 1917 has been called the ‘last successful cavalry charge in British military history’.

One Dorrigo man, Private Walter Bede Greenhalgh, died during the charge and is buried in the British and Commonwealth Forces Cemetery at Beersheba.

Another Dorrigo-born member of the 12th Light Horse Regiment, Trooper Ernest Pauls, was 24 years old when he galloped across that plain.

Pauls kept an evocative diary from January 1915 to March 1919 detailing the terrible sicknesses and hardships of World War I, and after surviving both Gallipoli and Egypt he returned to Australia, married and fathered five children, farmed for a while near Dorrigo, moved to work in a sawmill, and lived on into old age before dying in 1969.

The Battle of Beersheba, in what was then Palestine, was a death or glory action which helped turn the tide of a British Commonwealth campaign to defeat the crumbling Ottoman Empire.

Members of the Australian Light Horse that mounted the charge were under the leadership of its founder General Charles Chauvel, a grazier on the Upper Clarence near Tabulam.

Thirty Dorrigo men enlisted for the Light Horse regiments in World War I, and the horses that accompanied them were known as Walers, which reflected their breeding origins as hardy stock horses from New South Wales. 

The commemorations in Dorrigo will be held over four days, October 15 – 18, and will involve more than 20 separate events including a solemn commemoration of the Battle of Beersheba at the Dorrigo Monument at 5pm on Tuesday October 17.  

The Beersheba celebrations are a labour of love headed by Dorrigo Heritage Hotel owner Peter Feros.

All interested people are invited to any of the four day events. A special invitation is extended to relatives of men who served at Beersheba or who were active members of the Australian Light Horse in World War One.

Peter Feros has amassed a remarkable variety of events to mark the Beersheba centenary; each is open to the public:

  • A screening of the Australian film The Light Horsemen and a recent documentary on Walers, the Australian-bred horses ridden by all Australian cavalry  
  • Presentations and lectures on the Battle of Beersheba, the Australian Light Horse and its links with Dorrigo
  • Several dinners and visits to the Plateau’s major scenic areas
  • A pilgrimage to Mark Donaldson VC Park, Dorrigo
  • A formal commemoration of the charge at the Dorrigo Monument at 5pm on October 17

Further information, go to http://www.heritagehoteldorrigo.com.au/