Beersheba connection

QUORN'S CONNECTION: Quorn is home to a Turkish field gun used on the field of battle at Beersheba.
QUORN'S CONNECTION: Quorn is home to a Turkish field gun used on the field of battle at Beersheba.

Likely unknown to many who pass through the Far North town of Quorn, the tranquil grounds of the War Memorial bear an important connection for the Flinders Ranges with one of the most iconic events in Australian military history.

With its barrel now silenced and aimed at the front bar of the Austral Hotel across the road, 100 years ago this captured Turkish field gun was on the field of battle at Beersheba, in the Middle East.

It was here on October 31, 1917 that the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade conducted what is widely regarded as the final great cavalry charge in the history of warfare.

During a time of horrific Australian loss on the World War I battlefields of Europe, the news of this brazen military action in the Sinai Palestine Campaign gave some relief to a nation wearied by the battering of almost an entire generation.

The charge carried with it a burden of significant strategic importance.

Had the Light Horse not broken through that afternoon, the British Empire forces would have been pushed into a disastrous desert withdrawal due to exhausted water reserves.

Instead, their decisive success enabled an ensuing advance into Palestine after an extended stalemate.

Five years after the battle, the gun was presented to Quorn as part of a dispersal of captured weapons from the Australian War Museum.

Mt Morgan in Queensland holds the only other known remaining gun of this type in Australia, creating an unlikely bond of historical custodianship with Quorn.

It was however, only through the determination of Quorn’s representatives that the gun even came to be in the town.

Originally offered a machine gun, the local trustees on behalf of Quorn contested to have the allotted war trophy upgraded, with negotiations eventually settling on the Turkish field gun.

Flinders Ranges Council mayor Peter Slattery expressed his gratitude to the town’s forebears.

“The trustees did want a significant memorial to be placed in the town and fought for an item of more substance,” mayor Slattery said.

“We recognise their efforts in ensuring the placement of the gun in our town.”

Taking the area’s linkage even deeper, in 1987 the story of the Light Horse at Beersheba was retold through the making of The Lighthorsemen, a feature movie filmed at the nearby town of Hawker.

A replica Australian Army field gun used in the film remains in Hawker’s War Memorial.

As the centenary is remembered this week, Quorn’s guardianship and association with the Battle of Beersheba continues to endure.