Third battle of Gaza, 31 October-7 November 1917
In the aftermath of their two unsuccessful attempts to capture Gaza in the spring of 1917, the British War Cabinet decided to reinforce the army in Egypt, replace its commander and renew the invasion of Palestine. The new commander, General Sir Edmund Allenby, arrived in Egypt on 27 June. The main problem he faced was the strength of the Turkish positions around Gaza. The first attempt to capture Gaza had exploited large gaps in the Turkish defences. The second had been a direct frontal assault on much improved defences and had been a costly failure.
On his arrival in Egypt, Allenby found that his new staff had been already been working on a plan to break the deadlock, by attacking Beersheba, ten miles beyond the end of the Turkish lines. This would require a great deal of work to be carried out to create the necessary infrastructure, but if it could be carried out in secret promised to outflank the Turks and force them to abandon their position at Gaza. After examining the situation, Allenby approved this plan.
The Germans too were taking an increased interest in Turkey. At the end of April 1917 a high level German delegation, led by General von Falkenhayn, was dispatched to Turkey, arriving in May. After a period of negotiations it was decided to create a new Seventh Army at Aleppo, and use it to push the British out of Baghdad (captured by them in March). This operation would be known as “Yilderim”, or “Lightning”. The new army formed slowly. By the end of the summer of 1917 it contained three divisions but four headquarters. Relations between the Germans and the Turks were poor and Falkenhayn did not adapt his plans to suit local conditions.
This was well demonstrated in September, when concern about the vulnerability of the Palestine front forced the cancellation of the Baghdad campaign. Falkenhayn proposed a rapid transfer of the army from Aleppo to Beersheba, to launch an attack around the British right. A good idea in theory, in practice the limited Turkish rail network meant that very few of Falkenhayn’s troops reached the front before the British attacked. Falkenhayn himself did not leave Aloppo until 4 November, by which time his new base at Beersheba had already been lost. The only result of this plan was that the armies on the Gaza front were in the middle of a reorganisation when the British struck.
The British put in place an elaborate deception operation. Patrols approached Beersheba every couple of weeks, in the hope that the Turks would take the real attack for another patrol. Much effort went into convincing the Turks that the British were planning to land an army on the coast behind their lines. A staff officers notebook was “found” by the Turks, complete with notes on a failure to establish water supplies at Beersheba. As the troops of the striking force moved to Beersheba, their camps were left intact at Gaza, well lit at night, while they remained hidden during the day. Even the construction of the railway extension and water supply pipes to the Beersheba front were delayed until the last moment. On the day before the attack a Turkish report suggested that there were not more than two divisions close to Beersheba.
The plan required a massive material effort. The cross-Sinai railway was doubled, and extra branch lines constructed. A 500,000 gallon reservoir was built, to protect the water supply. New Bristol Fighters were supplied to the RFC in the desert, winning back control of the air, and preventing the Germans from flying low level reconnaissance.
The British force was split into three. The striking wing consisted of the Desert Mounted Corp, containing the Anzac and Australian Mounted Divisons and the 7th Mounted Brigade and XX Corps, with four infantry divisions and the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade. This force contained 47,500 infantry, 11,000 cavalry and 242 guns.
On the left of the British line was XXI corps, containing three infantry divisions and two brigades, a total of 35,000 infantry, 1,000 cavalry and 218 guns. The Yeomanry Mounted Division (5,000 cavalry) guarded the gap between the two main forces.
The Turks had nine infantry divisions and one cavalry division spread along from the coast to Gaza, a total of between 35,000 and 45,000 infantry, 1,500 cavalry and 500 artillery guns. Kress von Kressenstein reported his own Eighth Army, at Gaza, to be around 25,000 strong, so the lower overall figures is probably correct, as the British found under 5,000 men at Beersheba.
A key element of the British plan was a genuine attack at Gaza. The artillery bombardment of Gaza started on 27 October, four days before the attack at Beersheba. That attack was made on 31 October (battle of Beersheba). While two of the infantry divisions attacked the strong south-west defences of the town, the cavalry attacked from the east, seizing the town after a dramatic cavalry charge by the Australian Light Horse.
The plan now required an attack at Gaza, while the forces at Beersheba prepared for their next attack. It was hoped that the follow-up attack could happen on either 3 or 4 November. According the attack at Gaza was launched on the night of 1/2 November. A two stage attack succeeded in pushing back the Turkish lines west of Gaza, but at the cost of 2,700 casualties (350 dead, 340 missing and 2,000 wounded). The Turks were forced to move a reserve division into the defences around Gaza.
Despite this success, the Turks did launch a counterattack, ten miles to the north of Beersheba, at Tel el Khuweilfeh, a dominating hill that also commanded a water supply. Fighting continued here from 2 November until the Turks were forced to pull back by the general retreat further west. This fighting, and a water shortage at Beersheba, delayed the second phase of the attack until 6 November. It also restricted the routes available for the cavalry when they came to make their attempts to cut off the Turkish retreat.
The Turkish left consisted of a series of fortified positions protecting Sheria, running from Hareira, to Rushdi and then to Kauwukah at the east of the line. The British attack began at 5 a.m. on 6 November. By 4.30pm the eastern two positions had been captured. Hareira and Sheria itself fell early on 7 November.
With their left broken, on 7 November the Turks pulled out of Gaza. That day XXI corps on the British left occupied the town. The cavalry envelopment failed to develop as hoped, despite a determined pursuit that lasted until 9 November. Even so, 10,000 Turkish prisoners were taken during the chase, probably somewhere around 25-33% of their total force. The British advance continued into December, and on 9 December captured Jerusalem.
Books on the First World War |Subject Index: First World War
The historic battle that solved the future of the battle tank. – Cambrai
The tank was first introduced on the battlefield on September 15, 1916, during World War I, on the Western Front, during the Battle of the River Som. Tanks were first used in the Fars-Corse battle, one of the offensive operations in the Battle of the Somme River. Subsequently, tanks were used in the Second Battle of Gaza, as well as in the Western Front battles of the Battle of Aras, the Third Battle of Epiphany, or the Battle of Passchendaele. But in all these cases they were not as successful as hoped.
When any new invention or a new weapon is introduced on the battlefield, it is natural for traditional military leaders to have a negative opinion about it. The tank suffered the same fate. Therefore, there was even suspicion as to whether the tanks would be used again.
Under these circumstances, it was decided to use the tank for one more battle with the assistance of several high-ranking officers. That was for the Battle of Cambrai.
November 20, 1917, was a memorable day in the history of tanks. It was on that day that the weapon proved to be an essential requirement of the Armed Forces. It is said that if the events of that day had taken place differently, the tank would have been a forgotten weapon.
Sir Douglas Hague
Sir Douglas Hague, Commanding Officer of the British Forces on the Western Front, was the first to be honored for his continued use of the tank on the battlefield. The Hague had serious mistakes and shortcomings. But his confidence in the tank was significant. He used tanks for the Battle of Forsyth-Corselle, the first time he had received such a large quantity of them. Similarly, their use, which had not been tried before on a battlefront, did not bring the expected results. The Germans were initially surprised by them but realized that they could attack with their artillery. Many tanks, on the other hand, became inoperable due to mechanical problems.
Despite all this, The Hague was impressed with the tank. In 1917 he announced that he needed 1,000 tanks.
Tanks were used in the Battle of Aras, but again they were used at a distance from each other. Because of this, they became easy targets. During the Battle of Passchendaele the tanks also fell into the mud.
The battlefield on the Western Front was generally not in good condition. There were ditches, artillery shells, and so on. Also, in some areas, the front became muddy. At that time the speed of the tanks was 1 KM per hour. While the top speed was. About 6KM per hour. These tanks were not very successful on the bad ground.
One British military commander made a simple argument in this regard. “Tanks are unsuitable for bad terrain. Battlefield terrain is bad. Therefore, tanks are unsuitable for the battlefield.”
The Passion Dale Battle, which began on July 31, 1917, ended in early November. As it was not as successful as expected, Hague focused on launching a new mission on the Western Front before winter approached.
At this point, the views of several British officers were directed to the tanks. They argued that the tanks had so far failed because they had not been used properly. They devised a plan for a new mission.
The three who played the most important role in the planning of the Cumber were the first Commanding Officer of the Tank Force, Brigadier General (later Lieutenant General) Hugh Ellis, and his Chief of Staff, Colonel (later Major General) J.A. . Fuller and Henry Hugh Tudor, commander of the 9th (Scottish) Division’s artillery unit. In June, Fuller came up with the idea of using a large number of tanks to attack good territory. These three officers developed that idea.
It was decided to use the Cumber area for this purpose as its terrain is dry and the area is relatively uncontested. The challenge they faced was the strength of the German defenses in the area The city of Cumber was an important transportation headquarters and a hub for supplies to the German defense ring. It was one of the areas protected by the famous Siegfried Ring, or Hindenburg Ring, built by Germany. It was three inches long, and in front of them was a barbed wire fence about fifty meters wide. The trenches were too wide for tanks to cross. With all of this in mind, the plan was well crafted.
The British Third Army faced the Cambrai area. Its commanding officer was General Julian Bing. He was credited with the success of the Battle of Vimy Ridge (Vimy highand) in April 1917, and was appointed Commander of the Third Army in June. Bing agreed to the Troops’ cumber plan. He referred it to The Hague, which was approved by Hague on October 13, 1917.
476 Mark IV tanks were used for the Battle of Cambrai. Of these, 378 were battle tanks and the rest were used for supply and barbed wire.
Mark was able to move forward by crushing the barbed wire to the tank’s rhombic track. Thirty-two tanks were set up to remove the barbed wire. The hooks were fastened to the back of them, and they pulled out the barbed wire. Soldiers and horses were able to break through the area.
The British found another way to cross the trenches. The top of the tanks held a cylindrical hammer made of large, sturdy wooden poles. This bundle of wooden poles was chained together and weighed 1.75 tons. When approaching a deep ditch in a war situation, the hammer made of a wooden pole was able to drop into it. When the ditch was filled with wooden poles the tank was able to cross above it.
Attack was successful
The Cambrai land-attack took place between the two canals, the St. Quentin Canal and the Canal du Nord (North Canal). M. About 10 to the front. The Canal du Nord was an unfinished canal at the time and had no water.
By 19 November the tank army and supporting infantry were ready. The cavalry was also prepared behind it. Troops commander Ellis told his troops that he was personally directing the attack.
The next day, at exactly 6.20 am, British artillery fired into the front of the Cambrai. But the attack did not last long. It was a short and powerful attack on identified targets.
At the same time the tanks moved towards the German trenches. The Germans did not receive any warning of tanks until they came close to their trenches because of the morning mist and the sound of artillery fire. At the time, they were shocked, and their morale was severely affected. By noon the Tank Squad was able to cross all three German ditches.
But here are a few things that happened to Britain at a disadvantage. One is the delay in capturing the village of Flesquire and the uplands. As a result, the conquest of the Bologna highlands and the scrubland was delayed. Meanwhile, they also failed to capture the bridges over the St. Quentin Canal.
Meanwhile, the cavalry did not reach the battlefront in time. They were 8 km behind the front. . They did not believe that in a few hours the tanks would break through the enemy front. As a result, their arrival was delayed and the British lost the advantage. By the end of the first day, German auxiliaries had arrived.
Britain did not have enough additional troops to continue the war. This was due to the fact that Britain had to send additional troops to defend the front after the crushing defeat of the Italian army in October.
Thus the British offensive stopped before reaching the city of Cambrai. They began a tactical retreat but were quickly pushed back by a German counterattack on 30 November. When the German attack came to a halt on December 7 with a cold storm, they had retaken almost all of the areas occupied by the British.
Thus the battle of Cambrai ended without a victory for either side, and the only winner in this battle was the tank. According to Hague, this battle undoubtedly proved its importance as an assault weapon.
Second Battle of Gaza begins
As the major Allied offensive masterminded by Robert Nivelle was failing miserably on the Western Front, British forces in Palestine make their second attempt to capture the city of Gaza from the Ottoman army on April 17, 1917.
In the wake of the failed British assault on Gaza of March 26, 1917, Sir Archibald Murray, commander of British forces in the region, misrepresented the battle as a clear Allied victory, claiming Turkish losses to be triple what they actually were in truth, at 2,400 they were significantly lower than the British total of 4,000. This led London’s War Office to believe their troops were on the verge of a significant breakthrough in Palestine and to order Murray to renew the attack immediately.
Though the previous assault had caught the Turks by surprise, the second one did not: the German general in charge of the troops at Gaza, Friedrich Kress von Kressenstein, was by now well aware of British intentions. By the time the British launched their second round of attacks on April 17, the Turks had accordingly strengthened their defenses and extended their forces along the road from Gaza to the nearby town of Beersheba.
Still, as in the First Battle of Gaza, British soldiers outnumbered Turkish troops by a ratio of two to one. Moreover, the British employed eight heavy Mark-1 tanks and 4,000 gas shells (used for the first time on the Palestine front) to ensure victory. The tanks proved unsuitable for the hot, dry desert conditions, however, and three of them were captured by Turkish forces, which again put up a blisteringly effective defense despite their inferior numbers. After three days and heavy losses—the British casualty figure, of 6,444 men, was three times that of the Turks—Murray’s subordinate commander, Sir Charles Dobell, was forced to call off the British attacks, ending the Second Battle of Gaza with the city still firmly in Turkish control.
Third Battle of Gaza
7 NOV 1917: World War I and the Third battle of Gaza. After the outflanking advance at Beersheba, British empire forces, including the Australian Light Horse, rapidly advanced northwards toward Jerusalem. The coastal city of Gaza was the heart of the main Turkish defensive position in southern Palestine.
Three major battles were launched in 1917 by British and dominion forces to capture Gaza – only the third succeeded in this object.
The first battle of Gaza took place on 26 March 1917. Two British infantry divisions were to attack it from the south while the mounted troops of the Desert Column would attack from the flanks and north.
When the attack was launched the infantry made slow progress but the mounted troops succeeded in capturing high ground to the north of the city and advancing into it.
Concerned by the lack of progress made by the infantry, and fearing the water supplies vital for the mounted troops would not be captured that night, Lieutenant General Dobell, the British officer commanding the operation, ordered a withdrawal at dusk.
The next morning, after realising his mistake, Dobell attempted to resume the battle with the infantry, but with the troops exhausted and the Turks having received reinforcements, the attack floundered.
The second battle of Gaza took place three weeks later, beginning on 17 April 1917. In the interim the Turks had extended and improved their defences. Dobell launched another frontal assault on the Turkish defences, which was supported by six tanks and gas shells. The tanks and the gas were both dismal failures and the attacking forces could make little headway against well-sited Turkish redoubts.
After three days of fighting the attack was called off, having not gained any significant ground.
The third battle of Gaza was begun as a feint to divert enemy forces to Gaza.
The garrison was bombarded for six days, and three divisions deployed, to fool the Turks into believing that another frontal attack was imminent.
Six months after his predecessor’s second failure, Lieutenant-General Sir Edmund Allenby drew up an ambitious plan to take Gaza and break through the Ottoman line into southern Palestine. Allenby, a career cavalryman, sought to make the most of his advantage in mounted troops. Mindful of the lack of water and the strength of the Ottoman positions (now defended by the Ottoman Seventh and Eighth armies), he proposed to attack in three phases over a number of days.
The main thrust would be directed against Beersheba, which would be captured by the Desert Mounted Corps and 20 Corps. The most important goal of this operation was to capture the wells intact. With the horses watered, the second phase would see 21 Corps attack the outer defences of Gaza to pin down the garrison there. Meanwhile, 20 Corps would move against the Hareira–Sheria area while the Desert Mounted Corps captured the wells at Tel el Negile.
Once these objectives were taken the last phase could begin. The Desert Mounted Corps would move westwards to take Huj and reach the coast behind Gaza, cutting off the 46,000 Ottoman troops pinned down along the Gaza–Beersheba axis by 20 and 21 Corps’ attacks. Allenby didn’t want to just break through the Ottoman line – he wanted to destroy the two armies defending it.
Charge of the Light Horse at Beersheba
At 4.30 p.m. on 31 October 1917, 500 riders and horses of the 4th and 12th Australian Light Horse Regiments thundered headlong towards the enemy with bayonets in hand (they were not equipped with swords). This impressive action stunned the 800 or so Ottoman defenders, who managed to inflict only 67 casualties on the Australian horsemen before being literally overrun and surrendering. As well as providing an epic spectacle, the charge ensured that the wells were secured before nightfall. With Beersheba captured, the first phase of the Third Battle of Gaza had been successfully completed.
Unlike Murray, Allenby had been given the extra troops, firepower, supplies and time he needed. In another contrast to the two earlier battles, British Army Intelligence mounted an elaborate deception operation to convince the Ottoman commanders that the attack on Beersheba was a diversion from the main assault on Gaza.
These preparations paid off when the first phase of the attack began on the morning of 31 October 1917. After an overnight march, three infantry divisions of 20 Corps attacked the main Ottoman defences on the western and south-western outskirts of Beersheba. These attacks kept the bulk of the Ottoman garrison on this side of the town for the rest of the day. Meanwhile, the Anzac and Australian mounted divisions rode in a wide arc through the Judean foothills east and north-east of Beersheba in order to attack the town from the rear. To do so they first had to capture two redoubts, Tel el Sakaty and Tel el Saba.
Tel el Sakaty was taken around 1 p.m. after a four-hour fight. Tel el Saba, which had been allocated to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, proved an even tougher nut to crack. It finally fell around 3 p.m. after the Anzac Mounted Division’s reserves and artillery were committed to support the New Zealanders. Australian Ion Idriess witnessed the New Zealanders capture the tel:
We saw that grim work would soon be doing on Tel el Saba as the 3rd Brigade came galloping up to reinforce the En Zeds. We watched excitedly as we saw the New Zealanders, like little men, advancing in short rushes. Then farther along, the 1st Light Horse Brigade began advancing in bent-backed rushes. Machine-gun, rifle, and artillery fire increased in fury. Then we caught the gleam of bayonets – we strained our eyes as one line of men were almost at a trench, they were into it – faintly we heard shouts as line after line surged on. Quickly the firing from Tel el Saba itself died down. Then we saw it was taken! We just laughed – we were jolly glad. Time rolled on. The outer defences were ours but Beersheba still held out. 
This unexpected delay caused General Chauvel, who was anxious to secure the wells in Beersheba before nightfall, to take the dramatic step of ordering the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade to attack on horseback straight through the Ottoman trenches and into the town. For the watching New Zealanders, the ensuing charge was a great spectacle: ‘a great sight suddenly sprung up on our left, lines and lines of horsemen moving. The Turks were on the run and the Aust. Div. was after them. We could see the horses jumping the trenches, dust everywhere.’ 
This epic charge broke the back of the Ottoman defence. The Anzac mounted troops were soon swarming through the streets of Beersheba, which was secured within an hour.
When the second phase of the battle got under way, the focus of British efforts switched to Gaza’s outer defences. A general artillery and naval bombardment had begun on 27 October. After this prolonged softening-up period, the infantry of the 54th (East Anglia) and 52nd (Lowland) Divisions carried out a series of coordinated assaults on 1–2 November against the narrow coastal strip of giant sand dunes on the right flank of Gaza’s defences. These attacks penetrated so deeply into the Ottoman line that it seemed that 21 Corps was about to outflank the Gaza defences single-handed.
But Allenby’s plan now began to unravel through a combination of bad luck and strong Ottoman rearguard actions. The wells at Beersheba were insufficient to meet the demands of the whole Allied force, whose needs had been increased by the ill-timed arrival of a khamsin (a hot, dry wind from the desert).
Logistical problems caused by the lack of water delayed the start of the third phase until 6 November. In the interim the commander of the Ottoman Seventh Army, Fevzi Pasha, regrouped his forces – now augmented by survivors of the Beersheba garrison – and mounted local counter-attacks. Assaults on the Hareira and Sheria redoubts by the infantry of 20 Corps succeeded only after bitter fighting in which both sides suffered heavy casualties.
Action at Ayun Kara
Following the capture of Gaza, the EEF pursued the retreating Ottoman Army north into Palestine. On 14 November, the NZMR Brigade encountered an Ottoman force entrenched on a ridge south of the village of Ayun Kara. Heavily outnumbered, the New Zealanders nevertheless managed to take the position, but at the cost of at least 40 men killed and around 140 wounded – some of the highest casualties suffered in the Middle East campaign. Read more.
In the meantime the commander of the Ottoman Eighth Army, Kress von Kressenstein, had finally recognised the danger of his forces being cut off in Gaza. Knowing that he had no more reserves to commit to the battle and doubting the Seventh Army’s ability to hold Hareira–Sheria for long, the German commander ordered his troops to begin evacuating Gaza on the evening of 5 November. By the time the British broke through at Hareira–Sheria late on the morning of the 7th, the evacuation was complete and the retreating Ottoman forces were marching north, leaving rearguards behind at key positions along the road and in the nearby hills.
Allenby had won a great victory. Gaza had fallen, the Ottoman defensive line had been broken and the Seventh and Eighth armies had been defeated in battle. But it was not the total victory he had aimed for – he had not trapped and destroyed the two Ottoman armies. Instead they were escaping to the north, battered but still capable of regrouping to fight another day.
 Ion Idriess, The desert column, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1932, p. 251, quoted in Glyn Harper, Johnny Enzed: the New Zealand soldier in the First World War 1914–1918, Exisle, Auckland, 2015, p. 499.
 James McCarroll diary entry dated 31 October 1917, quoted in Terry Kinloch, Devils on horses: in the words of the Anzacs in the Middle East 1916–19, Exisle, Auckland, 2007, p. 205.
1917 Third Battle of Gaza
Friday October 31, 2014 the 302nd day and 43rd week of 2014, there are 63 days and 9 weeks left in the year. Highlights of today in world history…
1917 Third Battle of Gaza
Early on the morning of October 31, 1917, Allied forces under General Edmund Allenby launched an attack on Turkish positions at Beersheba, in Palestine, beginning the Third Battle of Gaza.
After two earlier attacks at Gaza failed amid heavy Allied casualties, the British brought in Allenby from the Western Front in June 1917 to replace Sir Archibald Murray as commander of Allied forces in Egypt. Reinforcements were also called in, including Italian and French troops, to support a renewed offensive against the Gaza-Beersheba line, which stood formidably between the Allies and the all-important city of Jerusalem. By the fall of 1917, the Turkish forces along the line were presided over by the recently arrived Erich von Falkenhayn, the former chief of staff of the German army.
After moving his headquarters from a Cairo hotel to the front line in a symbolic move aimed at boosting Allied morale, Allenby prepared to launch the attack, concentrating first on amassing enough men, artillery and tanks to make victory as certain as possible. By mid-October, seven infantry divisions had been assembled, plus a cavalry unit with both horses and camels, for a combined total of some 88,000 men. Facing Allenby?s troops along a 40-kilometer-long front were the Turkish 7th and 8th Armies, numbering just 35,000 men.
For nearly a week before the attack, three artillery divisions with over 200 guns bombarded the Turks in order to trick the latter into believing that a full frontal attack?similar to the first two Allied offensives at Gaza?would follow. The bombardment was the heaviest artillery attack of the war outside Europe, featuring as many heavy guns per yard of front as during the Battle of the Somme, with aerial support from above that ensured the artillery fire hit its marks. Instead of a frontal attack, however, Allenby?s men launched a surprise attack in the dawn hours of October 31, sending some 40,000 troops against the damaged Turkish lines. Beersheba and its crucially important water supply (previous Allied attacks on Gaza had failed partially due to lack of sufficient water in the hot desert climate) were captured that same day, as Falkenhayn was forced to pull his Turkish troops back into the hills north of Jerusalem. On the heels of their victory at Gaza, Allenby?s forces would enter that holy city on December 9, meeting with little resistance
1926 Houdini is dead
Harry Houdini, the most celebrated magician and escape artist of the 20th century, died of peritonitis in a Detroit hospital. Twelve days before, Houdini had been talking to a group of students after a lecture in Montreal when he commented on the strength of his stomach muscles and their ability to withstand hard blows. Suddenly, one of the students punched Houdini twice in the stomach. The magician hadn’t had time to prepare, and the blows ruptured his appendix. He fell ill on the train to Detroit, and, after performing one last time, was hospitalized. Doctors operated on him, but to no avail. The burst appendix poisoned his system, and on October 31 he died.
Houdini was born Erik Weisz in Budapest in 1874, the son of a rabbi. At a young age, he immigrated with his family to Appleton, Wisconsin, and soon demonstrated a natural acrobatic ability and an extraordinary skill at picking locks. When he was nine, he joined a traveling circus and toured the country as a contortionist and trapeze performer. He soon was specializing in escape acts and gained fame for his reported ability to escape from any manacle. He went on his first international tour in 1900 and performed all over Europe to great acclaim. In executing his escapes, he relied on strength, dexterity, and concentration?not trickery?and was a great showman.
In 1908, Houdini began performing more dangerous and dramatic escapes. In a favorite act, he was bound and then locked in an ironbound chest that was dropped into a water tank or thrown off a boat. In another, he was heavily bound and then suspended upside down in a glass-walled water tank. Other acts featured Houdini being hung from a skyscraper in a straitjacket, or bound and buried?without a coffin?under six feet of dirt.
In his later years, Houdini campaigned against mediums, mind readers, fakirs, and others who claimed supernatural talents but depended on tricks. At the same time, he was deeply interested in spiritualism and made a pact with his wife and friends that the first to die was to try and communicate with the world of reality from the spirit world. Several of these friends died, but Houdini never received a sign from them. Then, on Halloween1926, Houdini himself passed on at the age of 52. His wife waited for a communiqu? from the spirit world but it never came she declared the experiment a failure shortly before her death in 1943.
1957 Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. opens in Hollywood
On October 31, 1957, the Japanese car company Toyota established its U.S. headquarters in an old Rambler dealership in Hollywood, California. Toyota executives hoped to saturate the American second-car market with their small and relatively inexpensive Toyopet Crown sedans. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. sold its first Toyopet at the beginning of 1958 by the end of the year, it had sold 286 more, along with one behemoth Land Cruiser. Toyota cars were slow to catch on in the United States?it took until the mid-1960sfor the company to gain a respectable chunk of the American market?but when they did, they did so with a bang. In 1972, thanks in large part to its success in the United States, Toyota sold its 1 millionth car, and three years later Toyota became the best-selling import brand in the United States.
In the mid-1950s, there were very few small cars on the road in America. People had plenty of disposable income for the first time in decades gas was cheap and American car companies were churning out enormous, elaborately be-finned models like the Ford Thunderbird and the Plymouth Fury. But those cars were not that easy to drive or park (especially, some people believed, for women, many of whom were learning to drive for the first time) and buying more than one tended to be too expensive for an ordinary middle-class family. As a result, foreign small-car manufacturers saw an opportunity. Volkswagen, for instance, exported more than 100,000 of its small, efficient Beetles to the United States in 1956 and the next year Toyota brought the Toyopet to Hollywood.
Though the car had been an overnight sensation in Japan, particularly among taxi drivers, it was a flop in the United States: It could barely meet California’s standards for roadworthiness, it guzzled extraordinary amounts of gas and oil and when it traveled on the freeway, it tended to shake violently, overheat and stall without much warning. Meanwhile, most Americans were simply too big to fit comfortably in its tiny cabin.
In 1961, Toyota dealers stopped selling the car in the United States. Four years later, the company introduced the Corona, a sedan designed especially for American drivers that was even more affordable than the Toyopet but featured luxuries like air-conditioning, automatic transmissions, carpeting, sun visors, arm rests, tinted windows and glove compartments. The Corona was a huge hit and it set the stage for another Toyota home run: the Corolla, introduced in 1968. The Corolla went on to become the best-selling passenger car in history.
1961 Stalin’s body removed from Lenin’s tomb
Five years after Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalinism and the “personality cult” of Soviet rulers at the 20th Party Congress, Joseph Stalin’s embalmed body was removed from Lenin’s tomb in Moscow’s Red Square.
When Vladimir Lenin died in 1924, the leader of Russia’s Bolshevik revolution was embalmed and placed in a special mausoleum before the Kremlin wall. Featuring glass casing, the tomb made the father of Soviet Russia visible for all posterity.
Lenin was succeeded as Soviet leader by Joseph Stalin, who ruled over the USSR with an iron fist for three decades, executing or working to death millions of Soviets who stood in the way of his ruthless political and economic plans. However, Stalin also led his country to a hard-won victory over German invaders during World War II, and when died in 1953 he joined Lenin in his tomb. Within a few years of Stalin’s death, however, Soviet authorities uniformly condemned the brutal leader. In October 1961, his body was removed from public display in Red Square and shunted off to a nearby tomb.
1984 The prime minister of India is assassinated
Indira Gandhi, the prime minister of India, was assassinated in New Delhi by two of her own bodyguards. Beant Singh and Satwant Singh, both Sikhs, emptied their guns into Gandhi as she walked to her office from an adjoining bungalow. Although the two assailants immediately surrendered, they were both shot in a subsequent scuffle, and Beant died. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, attempted to forge a unified nation out of the many religious, ethnic, and cultural factions that existed under British rule until 1949. His daughter, Indira Gandhi (no relation to Mohandas Gandhi), rose to power in 1966, fighting many of the same problems as her father had. Her own political career was a roller coaster, from the highs following India’s victory over Pakistan in 1971 to the lows of being thrown out of office in 1977 after declaring a state of emergency in 1975, during which time she suspended civil liberties and jailed her political opponents. Although many criticized her for being authoritarian, the majority of the population supported her because of her extensive social programs.
In 1980, Gandhi became prime minister again, enjoying fairly widespread popularity. However, in June 1984, she ordered an army raid on a Sikh temple in Punjab to flush out armed Sikh extremists, setting off a series of death threats. Due to the fear of assassination, Beant Singh, her longtime bodyguard, was to be transferred because he was a Sikh. However, Gandhi personally rescinded the transfer order because she trusted him after his many years of service. Obviously, this was a fatal mistake for both of them.
Satwant Singh, who survived to stand trial, was convicted in 1986 and executed in 1989.
Following Gandhi’s assassination, riots broke out in New Delhi. More than 1,000 innocent Sikhs were killed in indiscriminate attacks over the course of two days. Gandhi’s son, Rajiv, succeeded her as prime minister.
1983 River Phoenix dies
On this day in 1993, the 23-year-old actor River Phoenix, who appeared in such films as Stand by Me and My Own Private Idaho, dies of a drug overdose outside a Hollywood nightclub. At the time of his death, Phoenix was considered one of the most promising actors of his generation and had received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance in 1988?s Running on Empty.
Phoenix, who was born River Jude Bottom on August 23, 1970, had an unconventional childhood. His parents were members of a religious cult and worked as missionaries in South America. Phoenix began acting professionally as a teenager and made his big-screen debut, along with Ethan Hawke, in 1985?s Explorers. Phoenix gained fame in 1986?s Stand by Me. Based on a Stephen King novel, the film was directed by Rob Reiner and co-starred Jerry O?Connell, Corey Feldman and Wil Wheaton. Phoenix went on to appear in such movies as The Mosquito Coast (1986), which co-starred Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon (1988), in which he played the title role and Little Nikita (1988), with Sidney Poitier. Also in 1988, Phoenix appeared in Running on Empty, about a family on the run from the FBI for an anti-war bombing the parents had participated in years earlier. The movie was directed by Sidney Lumet and co-starred Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti. Phoenix, who played the couple?s teenage son, lost the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award to Kevin Kline for A Fish Called Wanda.
Phoenix played the young Indy in 1989?s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and later starred in the acclaimed independent films My Own Private Idaho (1990), which was directed by Gus Van Sant and co-starred Keanu Reeves, and Dogfight (1991), with Lili Taylor. Phoenix also appeared in the 1992 thriller Sneakers with Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier. In the early hours of October 31, 1993, Phoenix collapsed from a drug overdose outside the Viper Room, a night club partially owned at the time by the actor Johnny Depp and located on the Sunset Strip.
Phoenix?s younger brother Joaquin is also an Academy Award-nominated actor his movie credits include Gladiator (2000), Walk the Line (2005) and We Own the Night (2007).
2000 President Clinton stumps for his wife
On this day in 2000, lame-duck President Bill Clinton campaigned in New Yorkon behalf of his wife, Hillary, who was running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. This was the first time a first lady actively campaigned for a Senate seat.
Bill gave the speech at a dinner, sponsored by a group of Irish-Americans, which both he and Hillary attended at the Fitzpatrick Hotel in New York City. His speech included references to his success in brokering peace talks between feuding sides in Northern Ireland, but the real focus of his address was to urge the group to support Hillary’s upcoming Senate bid. The couple had just purchased a home in New York and planned to make the state their official residence when his presidential term ended in January 2001. Clinton admitted that he was “highly prejudiced” about the upcoming Senate race and gave Hillary high praise, saying that he had known many politicians over the years, but “of all the people I’ve known, she has the best combination of brains, compassion, determination and ability to get people together and get things done. She will be a fabulous senator.” He went on to extol his wife’s involvement in social issues, particularly her contribution to the Irish peace process. As a member of a women’s group called Vital Voices, Hillary had visited Northern Ireland in 1995 to help find a solution to the sectarian violence there. Bill recounted how she had told him, “If we can just get all these [Irish] women together, they’d figure out a way to get over this problem.” Clinton joked to the Irish-American crowd that Hillary was one of those “troublesome women going around upsetting apple cars everywhere [who] don’t like it when troglodyte males keep wars going on.”
In November 2000, despite allegations of carpet-bagging, Hillary Clinton?who had never resided in New York prior to her Senate bid?became the first woman ever elected to the Senate from New York.
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Green, George Bernard. Died 30th Nov 1917
George Bernard Green was born on the 24th April and baptised on 12th June 1898 at St Barnabas Church in Oxford. His father Frederick was an iron moulder and lived at 11 St Barnabas Street. He and George’s mother Louisa Greenfield (nee Palmer) had married in Stockbridge RD (Hampshire). Louisa was from nearby Bowerchalke, in Wiltshire and Frederick from Oxford.
The family moved several times, with children born in Oxford, Stoke on Trent and the two youngest, Margaret Ann and John Palmer, five and two in the 1911 census, in New Bilton. George Bernard, aged 12, was still at school at this point and the family was living at 4 Gladstone Street. Frederick was still working as an iron moulder.
George’s older brother, Frederick John, signed up at the start of the war and was wounded in the Battle of the Somme and died in September 1916.
George Bernard would have enlisted later – he was only 16 in 1914 and he received only the British and Victory Medals. He joined the Montgomery and Welsh Yeomanry, part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. In January 1917, reorganisation caused am amalgamation of regiments and on 4th March 1917 it became 25th (Montgomery and Welsh Horse Yeomanry) Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers and joined the 231st Brigade of the 74th (Yeomanry) Division which took part in the Second Battle of Gaza (17-19 April 1917). Tis was an unsuccessful attempt to capture the town of Gaza. After a summer of stalemate they took part in the Third Battle of Gaza (27 Oct – 7 Nov) which resulted in the Turks abandoning the town and a rapid British advance to capture Jerusalem (8-9 December).
It must have been during this advance that Private George Bernard Green (no 60104) was killed. His body was not identified and he is remembered on the Jerusalem Memorial, which stands in Jerusalem War Cemetery, 4.5 kilometres north of the walled city and is situated on the neck of land at the north end of the Mount of Olives, to the west of Mount Scopus.
The Long, Long Trail
The history of 75th Division
This formation was created during the war. On 16 March 1917 the War Office gave permission to the GOC Egyptian Expeditionary Force, Sir Edmund Allenby, to form a new Division from the units of the Territorial Force which were now arriving from India.On 21 May further instructions were given that the three infantry brigades should incorporate Indian battalions this was augmented on 11 June by instructions that each brigade should have three Indian battalions and one British. It was, strictly, a Division of the Territorial Force but “indianised” to a great extent. Division HQ came into existence at El Arish on 25 June 1917. The complete Division was a long time in formation, the artillery not being full to establishment until October 1917.
A Lewis gun emplacement in a trench held by the 3/3rd Ghurkha Rifles, 75th Division in Palestine. Imperial War Museum image Q12397B.
The Division took the field in time for the Third Battle of Gaza and remained in action in Palestine, taking part in the following engagements:
The Third Battle of Gaza (27 October – 7 November 1917, including the Capture of Gaza on 6-7 November)
The Capture of Junction Station (13 – 14 November 1917)
The Battle of Nabi Samweil (20 – 24 November 1917)
The Battle of Tell’Asur (11 – 12 March 1918)
The action of Berukin (9 – 11 April 1918)
The Battle of Sharon (19 September 1918, part of the Battles of Megiddo)
The 75th Division was withdrawn for rest after Sharon and went into reserve at Tyre. On 22 October it became to move to Haifa and was there on 31 October (when Turkey signed an Armistice). A gradual move back to Egypt took place, the units going via Lydda and Kantara. By March 1919 Divisional HQ was at Alexandria and brigades at Heliopolis and Ismailia. The division remained in existence, gradually demobilising, until 1 April 1920.
The order of battle of the 75th Division
|232nd Brigade||formed at Moascar on 14 April 1917|
|1/5th Bn, the Devonshire Regiment||left 4 May 1918|
|2/5th Bn, the Hampshire Regiment||disbanded by 13 August 1918|
|1/4th Bn, the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry||left for 233rd Bde 4 June 1917|
|2nd Bn, the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment||under orders to join Bde 20 April 1917 but this appears to have been countermanded on 24 April 1917, with 233rd Bde 4 June 1917|
|2/3rd Bn, the Ghurka Rifles||joined from 233rd Bde 22 July 1917|
|2/4th Bn, the Somerset Light Infantry||joined at Deir el Belah 16 October 1917, left 2 May 1918|
|1/4th Bn, the Wiltshire Regiment||joined from 223rd Bde 3 May 1918|
|72nd Bn, Punjabis||joined near Wadi Ballut on 28 April 1918|
|2/4th Bn, the Dorsetshire Regiment||borrowed from 233rd Bde 1-2 May 1918|
|3rd Bn, the Kashmir Rifles||joined near Rantis 3 August 1918|
|229th Machine Gun Company||joined at Deir el Belah 18 June 1917, moved to 75th Bn MGC 3 May 1918|
|232nd Trench Mortar Battery||formed 26 July 1917|
|233rd Brigade||formed 25 May 1917, joined Division 18 August 1917|
|1/5th Bn, the Somerset Light Infantry|
|2/4th Bn, the Hampshire Regiment||left 2 May 1918|
|2nd Bn, the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment||joined 4 June 1917, left for 234th Bde 25 June 1917|
|1/4th Bn, the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry||joined from 232nd Bde 4 June 1917, left for 234th Bde 25 June 1917|
|2/3rd Bn, the Ghurka Rifles||joined 29 June 1917, left for 232nd Bde 16 July 1917|
|3/3rd Bn, the Ghurka Rifles||joined at Rafa 30 June 1917|
|29th Bn, Punjabis||joined 28 April 1918|
|2/4th Bn, the Dorsetshire Regiment||joined from 234th Bde 2 May 1918, lent to 232nd Bde 1-2 May 1918, disbanded 10 August 1918|
|2/154th Bn, Infantry||joined near Rantis 25 July 1918|
|230th Machine Gun Company||joined at Rafa 15 July 1917, moved to 75th Bn MGC 3 May 1918|
|233rd Trench Mortar Battery||joined near Gaza 1 September 1917|
|234th Brigade||formed 25 June 1917|
|2nd Bn, the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment||joined from 233rd Bde 25 June 1917, left 9 August 1917|
|1/4th Bn, the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry||joined from 233rd Bde 25 June 1917|
|13rd Bn, Outram’s Rifles||joined at El Arish 1 July 1917|
|58th Bn, Rifles||joined 16 September 1917|
|2/4th Bn, the Dorsetshire Regiment||joined at Deir el Belah 19 September 1917, left for 233rd Bde 25 April 1918|
|2/4th Bn, the Devonshire Regiment||joined at Ramle 13 December 1917, disbanded at Wadi Ballut 23 May 1918|
|1/152nd Bn, Infantry||joined near Rantis 26 July 1918|
|231st Machine Gun Company||joined at El Arish 13 August 1917, moved to 75th Bn MGC 3 May 1918|
|234th Trench Mortar Battery||formed near Qubeibe 7 December 1917|
|2/32nd Bn, Sikhs||joined as Divisional Pioneer Bn 20 July1918|
|75th Battalion MGC||formed 3 May 1918|
|Divisional Mounted Troops||the 75th Division had no mounted troops|
|XXXVII Brigade, RFA||history of the brigade|
|CLXXII Brigade, RFA||history of the brigade|
|I South African Brigade, RFA||joined at Deir el Belah 12 September 1917|
|VIII Mountain Brigade, RGA||joined 25 March 1918, left 15 September 1918|
|75th Divisional Ammunition Column RFA||joined at Sheikh Nabdan on 19 October 1917 after a march of just under 159 miles in ten days, having first formed at El Ferdan on 29 August 1917|
|X.75, Y. 75 and Z.75 Medium Mortar Batteries, RFA||joined at Deir el Belah 3 October 1917, disbanded 22 February 1918|
|496th (1/2nd Kent) Field Company||joined at El Arish 4 July 1917|
|495th (1/1st Kent) Field Company||joined at Sheikh Abbas 26 August 1917, left 26 May 1918|
|10/2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Sappers & Miners||joined near Ramle 7 December 1917|
|16/2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Sappers & Miners||joined at Wadi Ballut 23 May 1918|
|75th Divisional Signals Company||joined at El Arish 29 July 1917|
|Royal Army Medical Corps|
|145th Field Ambulance||joined at Deir el Belah 14 August 1917, disbanded 19 May 1918|
|146th Field Ambulance||joined at Rafa 14 August 1917, disbanded 19 May 1918|
|147th Field Ambulance||joined at El Arish 14 August 1917, disbanded 19 May 1918|
|123rd Combined Field Ambulance||joined as 123rd Indian Field Ambulance 14 May 1918, renamed by 21 May|
|127th Combined Field Ambulance||joined 14 May 1918|
|163rd Combined Field Ambulance||joined 14 May 1918|
|107th Sanitary Section||joined at El Arish 14 July 1917|
|Other Divisional Troops|
|75th Divisional Train ASC||925, 926, 927 and 928 Companies ASC, joined at El Arish 4 July 1917. Formerly X Divisional Train|
|60th Mobile Veterinary Section AVC||joined at El Arish 3 July 1917|
There is no memorial or published history of 75th Division.
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The "Haversack Ruse": A Decisive British Military Victory of World War I
Meinertzhagen’s haversack ruse helped break the stalemate at Gaza and even attracted the appreciation of Lawrence of Arabia for its brilliance.
The captured haversack made its way up through Turkish intelligence and command channels. At the same time the British sent dummy wireless messages indicating the objective of the upcoming offensive was not Beersheba, these messages being decipherable with the aid of the captured cipher code notes. The Desert Mounted Corps also sent a message to General Allenby reporting the incident and complaining about “the staff officer’s” stupidity and negligence.
Germans Convinced Attack Would Be Directly At Gaza
Simultaneously, and further reinforcing the authenticity of the “missing” haversack, a notice was sent out from the Desert Mounted Corps informing subordinate units of the “lost” haversack with a request for its return. A patrol was sent out to find and recover the haversack, during which the officer in charge threw away some sandwiches wrapped in a copy of the bogus operations order! The captured intelligence ultimately reached the German commander of the Turkish forces, General Kress von Kressenstein.
This simple ploy, coupled with all of the other British deceptions, convinced General von Kressenstein that the main British assault against Gaza would be conducted frontally from the south. Even though he probably realized the possibility that the documents may have been fake, General von Kressenstein felt obliged to act as if they were genuine. Indeed, it was difficult for him to conceive of an attack being made in any direction other than directly at Gaza.
When the Third Battle of Gaza began on October 31, the Turks were indeed deployed in anticipation of the main attack striking from the south. After a week’s hard fighting with heavy losses, the Turks abandoned the Gaza-Beersheba line that they had held with determination for the previous nine months. They were in full retreat to the north. Indeed, only five weeks after the capture of Gaza, General Allenby formally entered the captured city of Jerusalem. He had completed his mission of providing the British Prime Minister with his desired Christmas gift.
Lawrence of Arabia Gives Nod To Ruse
The intricately planned, audaciously executed, yet relatively simple “haversack ruse” helped break the stalemate at Gaza and led to the capture of Jerusalem. From October 31 to December 11, the day of the British entry into Jerusalem, some 12,000 Turkish prisoners and 1,000 artillery pieces were captured. During the same period, Turkish casualties numbered about 25,000 as compared to 18,000 for the British.
In his massive semi-historical account of his role in the Arab Revolt, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence “of Arabia” confirmed that Meinertzhagen was solely responsible for the conception and successful execution of the “haversack ruse.” Lawrence added that Meinertzhagen “took as blithe a pleasure in deceiving his enemy (or friend) by some unscrupulous jest.”
Indeed, Meinertzhagen was a master of battlefield deception, with the “haversack ruse” only one of his many successful ploys. On one occasion, Meinertzhagen repeated a stratagem he had conducted successfully in East Africa earlier in the war. He identified the primary enemy spy operating in the Beersheba area, and sent him a letter of thanks for the valuable information he had purportedly “given” the British, along with a sizable monetary reward in Turkish currency for his superb services rendered. As anticipated, the Turks intercepted the letter, and believing their best spy to be a double agent, or at least an informant for the British, executed him.
Opium-Laced Tobacco Dropped From the Skies
In addition, during the preparations for the Third Battle of Gaza, Meinertzhagen learned from captured Turkish soldiers that there was an acute shortage of tobacco in their units. Meinertzhagen then arranged for the British airplanes that dropped propaganda leaflets over the enemy trenches every night to also drop packages of cigarettes as an enticement to surrender. This seeming act of benevolence was leading up to a coup de grâce in which, immediately before the Third Battle of Gaza, the cigarettes dropped on the tobacco-hungry Turks would contain Meinertzhagen’s own special blend of tobacco and opium.
Allenby deprecated this act as being too close to poisoning the enemy, but Meinertzhagen did it anyway, believing any action to save friendly lives was justified. After the battle, Meinertzhagen sampled one of his own opium-laden cigarettes, and observed that “they were indeed strong. The effect was sublime, complete abandonment, all energy gone, lovely dreams and complete inability to act or think.” Although the definite effect of this ploy cannot be ascertained, it has been recorded that after being captured on November 6, many of the Turks appeared lethargic, “befuddled,” and “barely coherent.” All of Meinertzhagen’s imaginative acts of deception and subterfuge contributed to the overall success of the Palestine campaign.
Haversack Ruse Considered One Of the Greatest Wartime Deceptions
Throughout history, military commanders and forces have used various ploys and ruses to deceive and defeat an enemy force. The ingenious “haversack ruse” before the Third Battle of Gaza in 1917 is an outstanding example of a highly successful scheme that had a decisive impact on the outcome of the battle.
The Turkish forces had now been dislodged from their defensive line and were retreating northwards. Allenby's goal from the outset had been the annihilation of the Turkish army in southern Palestine. To achieve this, the brigades of the Desert Mounted Corps were required to strike north-west from Beersheba, through the villages of Jemmameh and Huj to the coast, cutting of the retreat of the Turks. The Anzac Mounted Division advanced on the right against Jemmameh and the Australian Mounted Division and 60th Division advanced towards Huj. For the plan to work, Huj had to be reached on November 7.
Having captured Tel el Sheria, the 60th Division continued their advance northwards but encountered a strong Turkish rearguard. The Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade was called on to support and on this occasion the 11th and 12th Light Horse Regiments made a mounted charge however, they were unable to emulate the success of Beersheba and were forced to dismount and seek cover some 500 yards short of the Turks. It was not until the evening of November 7 that the position was captured by the reserve brigade of the 60th Division.
The advance on Huj resumed the following morning and another strong rearguard of artillery and machine guns was encountered. This time a small contingent from the British 5th Mounted Brigade made a true cavalry charge with sabres. These 200 men from 1/1st Warwickshire Yeomanry and 1/1st Worcestershire Yeomanry suffered heavy casualties but managed to reach the guns and cut down the gunners. In doing so they destroyed the last of the Turkish strength south of Huj and the village was captured later that day.
The Anzac Mounted Division, advancing to the east against Jemmameh, had less success and did not manage to capture their objective until November 9 when it was reached by the 3rd Light Horse Regiment. A strong counter-attack by between 3,000 and 5,000 Turkish infantry was then held off by 500 light horsemen of the 5th and 7th Light Horse Regiments.