Sunday, September 24, 2017

NERAM's Centenary of Beersheba exhibition

This Friday, 29 September 2017, three new exhibitions open at the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM)..

The first is the opening of a Centenary of Beersheba exhibition. This post focuses on the first.

A century ago young men from the New England region found themselves on the other side of the world fighting against the Ottoman Turkish army from Egypt to Lebanon.

The new exhibition, Horse Power: Light Horse in Palestine – to Beersheba and beyond, provides an opportunity  o look at the day to day life of these soldiers through their own words. The exhibition will be opened by Max Tavener, President of the Armidale RSL Sub Branch at NERAM at 6pm on Friday 29 September 2017.

“After the Great War commenced in August 1914 there was a rush of enthusiastic volunteers who joined up from communities around our region,” said Robert Heather, Art Museum Director. “Young men from towns like Armidale, Tamworth, Tenterfield, Walcha and Glen Innes were fighting a determined enemy in the rugged, biblical landscape of Jericho, Jerusalem, Megiddo and of course Beersheba. We can only imagine the impact that these experiences had on them at the time and for the rest of their lives.”

“One hundred years later these are locations straight out of today’s headlines as well,” he said. “In 1918 Australian troops were the first to enter the ancient Syrian city of Damascus and were welcomed by the inhabitants of Aleppo as liberators.”

The New England Regional Art Museum has been working with Guest Curator Bill Oates, University Archivist at the University of New England who has been researching and curating the exhibition which will launch the program for the commemorations of the Centenary of the Battle for Beersheba in the New England region, where many of the soldiers in the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade came from.

“Most Australians would have heard about the Battle of Beersheba in October 1917 and the historic charge of the Australian Light Horse one evening to capture the water so desperately needed by the horses and men,” said Bill Oates, exhibition curator. “Fewer people know about the long preparation leading to that moment and the additional year of successful campaigning that followed that day.”

“Many New Englanders served in this campaign and their recollections and collections provide us with detail of the logistics and effort required to reshape the region as the Ottoman Empire was defeated.”

Horse Power draws upon historical collections including the UNE Archive, the 12/16 Hunter River Lancers History Room and loans from the Australian War Memorial, including a painted portrait of Australia leader General Sir Henry Chauvel and a sketchbook by war artist George Lambert, whose painting The Charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba, 1917, became an iconic image of World War One.

The exhibition will include never before exhibited photographs, diaries and memorabilia from local private and family collections which will help tell the story of the deployment to Palestine, the campaign and the historic Battle of Beersheba from a number of perspectives.

The exhibition has been developed as a partnership project between the New England Regional Art Museum and the University of New England and will be on display from 29 September 2017 until Sunday 11 February 2018.


NERAM's Robert Heather has kindly provided the fuller program for the Centenary of Battle of Beersheba public events starting in Armidale this weekend.

Official Centenary of Battle of Beersheba public events in the New England region include:
  • 6.00pm Friday 29 September 2017
Exhibition opening Horse Power: Light Horse in Palestine – to Beersheba and beyond , To be opened by Max Tavener, President, Armidale RSL Sub Branch. New England Regional Art Museum, Kentucky Street, Armidale

  • 10.30am Saturday 7 October 2017
Exhibition tour with curator Bill Oates in Horse Power: Light Horse in Palestine – to Beersheba and beyond, New England Regional Art Museum, Kentucky Street, Armidale

  • 7.00pm Tuesday 31 October 2017
Commemoration Ceremony, A Squadron 12/16 Hunter River Lancers (open to public)
Gaza Training Depot, Allingham Street, Armidale

  • 12.00pm Saturday 4 November 2017
12/16 Hunter River Lancers Church Service
St Peter’s Cathedral, 122 Rusden Street, Armidale

  • 2.00pm Saturday 4 November 2017
Free Public Lecture by UNE Archivist Bill Oates “The road to Beersheba and Damascus”
University of New England and Regional Archives, CB Newling Campus, Kentucky Street, Armidale

Image Provided:
Artist unknown,  Member of the 2nd Remount Unit AIF, training a new horse for Light Horse Units,
Postcard HRL Light Horse Museum Collection

Media enquiries:
Robert Heather, Art Museum Director, New England Regional Art Museum
Tel: 02 6772 5255      Email:

Centenary of Beersheba program enquiries:
WO1 Doug Lennox OAM (RTD), History Room Manager, 12/16 Hunter River Lancers
Mob: 0413 492 572   Email:


Anonymous said...

No 1 son was a reserve member of the 12/16 Lancers for 10 years. Haven't really checked out the current stuff, but of course, the Beersheba charge was NOT a cavalry charge, as is often misreported; the troops were mounted infantry. Possibly a nice distinction after all this time, and certainly the mounts were completely disposable. Is there anywhere a compilation of the names and /or service numbers of the walers? There is certainly anecdotal evidence of the returning troopers shooting their horses, rather than seeing them become mistreated beasts of burden

Jim Belshaw said...

Interesting comment, anon. You are right, of course, about the cavalry aspect, although we can distinguish between heavy and light cavalry. Another story i should write about. I have no idea if there is a compilation of names and numbers of the walers. I suspect not. There were so many of them. On the shooting, there is at least one poem!