The ANZAC Trail
The ANZAC Trail is the route of the “Great Outflanking”, 100 km traversed by the ANZAC soldiers from south of Gaza to the east of Be’er Sheva.
After several successes in Sinai and the advance of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force of the British Army under the command of Archibald Murray, the British reached the gates of Gaza to continue their successful momentum and oust the Ottoman Empire from the Land of Israel. After much preparation and a victory in Sinai on 23/3/1917, they began the attack on Gaza which was supposed pave the way to the occupation of the whole country. In this battle, the British army, with the help of the ANZAC forces that reached the outskirts of Gaza City, succeeded in advancing as planned, however, nevertheless an order was given to withdraw by the top command, which was not aware of the forces’ advancement. Roughly a month afterwards, the British rounded up their forces, reinforced from the sea front this time, for a second assault. For the first time in the Land of Israel, tanks were used in the campaign to conquer Gaza.
The Turks too were well prepared for the attack as they repulsed the British army and the ANZAC soldiers too suffered a costly defeat. The two failures led to a sharp drop in moral among the British and their Australian allies, and they proceeded to burrow in their positions facing the Turkish barricades defending Gaza.
The realization of the need for a fundamental change required a change of command in the British Army, the reorganization of the military force, and the need for creative thinking. How can they break through the well-fortified Turkish defense line, with the Turks bolstered by their two successful pushbacks of the British attempts to conquer Gaza on the Gaza-Be’er Sheva line? Consequently, General Allenby, with the help of his officers, conceived the idea of breaking the line of defense from the Be’er Sheva side. For the surprise to be complete, the conquest would be accomplished by cavalrymen storming from the east of the city.
After many logistical preparations and sophisticated diversion and deception tactics, which convinced the Turks that a third attempt at conquering Gaza was approaching, the forces set out on the “Great Outflanking”. A route of about 100 km, via which the cavalry brigades outflanked Beersheba from the south in order to assume assault positions east of the city.
In order for the cavalry to attack without hindrance, a New Zealand cavalry regiment was dispatched to capture Tel Sheva, a well-fortified Turkish target to the east of the route of assault. Because of the great difficulty in conquering this target, only on the eve after the conquest of Tel Sheva had been completed was the decision made to order the cavalry to storm the Turkish positions and conquer Be’er Sheva as soon as possible, before the Turks could sabotage the city’s water sources.
You are welcome to visit the ANZAC Memorial Center, to hear stories, see pictures and learn about the storming of the cavalrymen that crowned the Great Outflanking with victory.