When the Last Post Ceremony began at the Australian War Memorial on Tuesday, 86-year-old Philip Bull was thinking of his uncle, Sergeant Colin Brodie Bull, who was killed during the Australian Light Horse charge at Beersheba on 31 October 1917, and whose story was then told as part of commemorations marking its 100th anniversary.
“Colin was my father’s brother,” said Philip, who laid a wreath in memory of his uncle. “My father [Clifford] never spoke much about the war. He was shot on the Somme in the head and fractured his skull - how he survived in those days I don’t know - but Colin was shot through the heart at Beersheba and he didn’t come home.”
Colin Bull enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in May 1915, and was determined to join the Light Horse.
“Colin put his occupation down as a drover so that he was sure to get into the Light Horse, but he wasn’t. He worked, as far as we know, as a clerk [in Sydney],” Philip said.
“There’s a letter that Colin wrote back to my grandmother saying he’d passed all the riding tests to be accepted into the Light Horse … That was just the sort of era they were in. They were both highly respected and chivalrous.”
Colin was serving with the 12th Light Horse Regiment when the attack on Beersheba took place, the final phase of which was the famous mounted charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade.
Held by 1,000 Turkish riflemen, nine machine-guns, and two aircraft, Ottoman forces were also relying on the forbidding open terrain and the absence of water to defend Beersheba. When the Australians of the 4th Light Horse Brigade arrived, with their horses carrying heavy packs of about 120 kilograms, the only water available was that in the wells of Beersheba.
Brigadier General William Grant gave the order to the 12th Light Horse Regiment: “Men you’re fighting for water. There’s no water between this side of Beersheba and Esani. Use your bayonets as swords. I wish you the best of luck.”
Because of the shock value and sheer speed of the charge, they galloped right through the Turkish defences and took the town.
Colin was shot while galloping across no man’s land during the battle.