Sunday, February 6, 2011

'The Australian Light Horse'

'The Australian Light Horse', Roland Perry, ISBN 978-0-7336-2748-3

I've just finished reading this 512 page work. The book, published in 2009, is one of the best accounts I've read of the Palestine campaigns of the Light Horse, and makes an excellent companion to Terry Kinloch's 'Devils on Horses', his account of the NZ Mounted in the Middle East, or perhaps I should state that the other way around, as the NZ Mounted constituted one brigade in the ANZAC Mounted Division which was of course composed mostly of ALH.

Perry's account is in fact three stories: an account of the Australian Light Horse, Lawrence and the Arab revolt, and Chauvel as a military leader. Perry mantains that Chauvel might in fact be rated as one of the best  'cavalry' commanders of all time, and certainly commanded one of the largest cavalry forces ever seen, with the Desert Mounted Corps peaking at over 33000 men.

Amongst his fascinating conclusions is his extended comment of the impact of the Australians' extraordinary victory at Beersheba, which Perry claims laid the foundation for  post war middle east developments by creating the base for the the remainder of the extraordinary victories in that theatre.

Perry also offers some fascinating insights into the tensions between Chauvel and Lawrence during the liberation of Damascus, and is not afraid to 'call a spade a spade' with his comments on Lawrence's duplicity with the Arab cause,  and his sparing use of the truth in some sections of his famous 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom'.

Perry even affords several pages for the unfortunate affair at Sarafend in which a NZ sergeant was murdered by Arab thieves, resulting in some serious summary judgement by the New Zealanders supported by a number of members of the Australian Light Horse. He is not afraid to lay a part of the blame for this at the feet of Allenby for his dismissive treatment of Chauvel's requests for support in investigating the case.

This is an excellent and extremely readable account of the Australian Light Horse. I thoroughly recommend it.

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