This cemetery contains 1,241 Commonwealth burials of the Great War, 67 of them unidentified.
The cemetery entrance is located on Ha’Atzmaut Streets, near the Turkish Train Station. The streets surrounding the cemetery are Ostropvski, Harzfeld and Ha'Atzmaut Streets, in the centre of Beersheba city.
As visitors walk westward along Ha’atzmaut Street, they will notice the few remaining water wells, with wooden paddlewheels drawing up buckets of water. Further along is an aptly named traffic circle, the Circle of the Commanders. Then comes another construction site, where the Turkish hospitals once stood.
Three blocks further up the street is the Beersheba War Cemetery (British War Cemetery), with row upon row of graves, meticulously maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Many of the graves are dated 6 November 1917, the date of the battle of Tel-El Khuwelfeh, an intense two day engagement, six days after the Battle of Beersheba. The grave of a Jewish soldier, infantry Captain S.J.H. Van Den Bergh, age 27, of the Middlesex Yeomanry Division, is one among 1,241 graves.
The town of Beersheba (or Bir El Saba) is situated approximately 27 miles South-East of Gaza and 46 miles South-West of Jerusalem. It is connected by road and railway with both these cities and with Jaffa.
It was opened immediately after the capture of the town and remained in use until mid-1918, by which time it still contained only 139 burials.
The cemetery was greatly enlarged after the armistice when burials from many scattered, smaller plots were concentrated here.
Beersheba hardly resembles the sun-scorched, dusty frontier town of 1917, when it was the scene of that history-defining battle. In the middle of the northern Negev desert, high-rise apartment buildings adorn the skyline; restaurants, office buildings, and gas stations are ubiquitous; and with a population of about 200,000—nearly one hundred times that of 1917—Beersheba is one of Israel’s largest cities.
Beersheba played an important role in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in World War I.
On 31 October 1917, three months after taking Rafah, General Allenby's troops breached the line of Turkish defence between Gaza and Beersheba. 800 soldiers of the Australian 4th and 12th Regiments of the 4th Light Horse Brigade under Brigadier General William Grant, with only horses and bayonets, charged the Turkish trenches, overran them and captured the wells of Beersheba in what has become known as the "last successful cavalry charge in British military history." On the edge of Beersheba's Old City is this cemetery containing the graves of Australian and British soldiers. The town also contains a memorial park dedicated to them (en.wikipedia.org).
During the period of the British Mandate for Palestine, Beersheba was a major administrative centre. The British constructed a railway between Rafah and Beersheba in October 1917; it opened to the public in May 1918, serving the Negev and settlements south of Mount Hebron. In 1928, with the rise of Arab militancy there was wide-scale rioting by the Arab population leaving 133 Jews dead and 339 wounded. Many of the Jewish residents of Beersheba fled. After an Arab attack on a Jewish bus in 1936, which escalated into the 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, most the remaining Jewish population left their homes in Beersheba, hoping to return.
Beersheba was defended by lines of trenches, supported by isolated redoubts on earthworks and hills, which covered all approaches to the town. The Ottoman garrison was eventually encircled by the two infantry and two mounted divisions, as they (and their supporting artillery) launched their attacks. The 60th (London) Division's preliminary attack and capture of the redoubt on Hill 1070, led to the bombardment of the main Ottoman trench line. Then a joint attack by the 60th (London) and 74th (Yeomanry) Divisions captured all their objectives. Meanwhile, to the north-east of Beersheba the Anzac Mounted Division cut the road from Beersheba to Hebron (which continued to Jerusalem). Continuous fighting against the main redoubt and defences on Tel el Saba (dominating the eastern approaches to the town), resulted eventually in its capture in the afternoon. During this fighting the 3rd Light Horse Brigade had been sent to reinforce the Anzac Mounted Division, while the 5th Mounted Brigade (armed with swords) remained in corps reserve. With all brigades of both mounted divisions already committed to the battle, the only brigade available - the 4th Light Horse Brigade -, was ordered to capture Beersheba. These sword-less mounted infantrymen galloped over the plain, riding towards the town and a redoubt supported by entrenchments, on a mound of Tel es Saba south-east of Beersheba. While the 4th Light Horse Regiment on the right, jumped trenches before turning to make a dismounted attack on the Ottoman infantry (in the trenches, gun pits and redoubts on rising ground), most of the 12th Light Horse Regiment on the left rode on across the face of the main redoubt, to find a gap in the Ottoman defences. These squadrons rode on across the railway line and into Beersheba, to complete the first step of an offensive which would see the EEF capture of Jerusalem, six weeks later.
Sourced and submitted by Julianne T Ryan. 23 September 2014. Lest we forget.