The Battle of Be’er Sheva in 1917 – The Victory of the UK


During World War I, the United Kingdom has tried to take Israel from the hands of the Ottoman Empire many times. The British army has failed time and time again in conquering Gaza, Be’er Sheva was a crucial step in invading the area and keep the British assents in the Middle and Far East safe from the Central Powers. Here’s is a short summary of the battle of Be’er Sheva.

The Ottoman Empire controlled the region known today as Israel from 1517; 400 years before World War I. The Empire assisted by the German army tried to reach the  Suez Canal, but the British Empire fought back and eventually, destroying the Ottoman Empire, along with the German army. Be’er Sheva was crucial to that purpose.

The Turkish were assisted by the German army, where the British Army consisted of various units, some of them from Australia and New Zealand. The Desert Mounted Corps, let by the Australian General Harry Chauvel, were the biggest advantage for the British troops, as their cavalry was superior to the Ottoman trenches. The took the biggest part of the attack, despite the fact they had to get off their horses and fight just like a normal Infantry unit, with the advantage of speed.

The Battle of Be'er Sheva in 1917 - The Victory of the UK 1
Ottoman Empire Army, 1915. Library of Congress Collection, Pikiwiki Website

The Key to the Battle of Be’er Sheva – Preparation

Transferring supplies through the Sinai Desert to the forces in the Negev was very tricky. There were no railroads or proper roads available; they had to transfer them with camels, horses, and vehicles that could drive through the sand. Fortunately for them, the Palestine Expedition Fund has managed to find wells and solving the water problem.

Another tricky part was surprising the Ottoman forces. The British made a lot of effort trying to cover up the number of soldiers coming to this operation. The purpose was to make the Germans and the Ottomans think that Be’er Sheva was attacked to distract them and their main purpose was taking Gaza. The Battle of Be’er Sheva

After fighting random Turkish forces on the way from the area of Gaza towards the Capital of the Negev. The British combined artillery and infantry attack on Gaza, while other forces headed to Be’er Sheva. The British forces, led by general Shuval made the night journey to Be’er Sheva. The British forces found the Western defense line protected by barb wire, which they had to manually cut, as artillery was raining down on them, as they responded with some artillery of their own.

The Battle of Be'er Sheva in 1917 - The Victory of the UK 2
Dr. Avishay Taicher, Pikiwiki website

The Battle of Be’er Sheva

The British troops, led by General Chauvel charged the Western defence line. 136 British troops were killed and 1,010 were injured, as they battled face to face with the Turkish troops till the last man standing. The ANZAC troops charged Tel Be’er Sheva, and were held back by Turkish artillery, heavy fire and even airstrikes. The Auckland Cavalry was assisted by the 9th and 10th Australian cavalry, eventually taking Tel Be’er Sheva.

The attack on the two lines was successful but not as efficient as planned, nevertheless, they couldn’t afford not to take a change and got into the city. Allenby ordered the troops to take the city by sundown, which was two hours away. Time was the key, and the Australian and New Zealand Cavalry had to take down the rest of the Ottoman troops.

Fortunately for them, they charged bad Ottoman stations with no barbed wire, the fired to the wrong target. The 12 Regiment rode fearlessly towards the stations, that was occupied by Turkish troops. They asked for backup from the German Army, that never came which led to a huge success of the Desert Mounted Corps. Moreover, they took the bate and thought that Be’er Sheva was a distraction, which was far from the truth.

The Battle of Be'er Sheva in 1917 - The Victory of the UK 3
Dr. Avishay Taicher, Pikiwiki Website.


The courage of the Australian and New Zealand troops was amazing, and their courage let to a big upset in the First World War. That win came after a lot of disappointments from the British Army, which let a further momentum in destroying the Ottoman Empire. If you ever come to Be’er Sheva, you could visit the ANZAC museum and watch the remains of the battle yourselves.