Military History Tours Beersheba Centenary Tour 31 October 2017
Commemoration days are sadly always fraught with administrative delays, security checks, queues etc. As a tour operator, all that can be done is to have patrons arrive early for each function so that the commemoration can be witnessed in full, this happened.
We were up very early, the start time to leave was 0330. We were the first busses to arrive at the designated assembly point, a Beersheba sports stadium ensuring the whole tour group had in-stand seating, the overhead protection providing comfort on a hot day.
The service at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery was very moving. Highlights were the speeches given by the Prime Ministers of Israel and Australia. The one given by Mr Turnbull was one of the best I have seen him give. Many of our tour group wished to lay wreaths in memory of their ancestors, all did so.
When the ceremony and opening of a new museum on the site (invited guests only, we did get to see it on large screens) was concluded, there was but a short walk to the parade location. There we were impressed with the Israeli Defence Force Band leading a large group (around 100) of Australian Light Horse re-enactors on locally sourced horses from the Australian Light Horse Association down the streets of this ancient city.
Lunch was had a short bus ride away at the Beersheba six day war memorial at Tel el Kwelfie overlooking the town, a unique and moving structure.
Then to the Australian Light Horse Association re-enactment of the charge. This function was open to locals as well as those Australians and New Zealanders who had registered (other functions on the day were so restricted) meaning there were many more in attendance. The queueing for magnetometer testing was a little galling. Nonetheless the re-enactors from the antipodies put on a great show.
Then for those up to it, on to the Park of the Australian Soldier where we witnessed a moving evening ceremony then partook of a great Barbeque, excellent food and drink, provided by the Pratt foundation.
We did not return to our hotel ‘till 2100, a long but a day that will give us memories to last forever.