Surafend massacreby Chris RuleNews Weekly
, December 12, 2009
Bill James in his review (News Weekly
, October 31) of Paul Daley's book Beersheba: A Journey Through Australia's Forgotten War
mentions the Surafend incident of December 1918 "when some Light Horsemen, along with New Zealand and British soldiers, were involved in the murder of Arab civilians and the destruction of their village".
Jill, Duchess of Hamilton, in her book First to Damascus: the Great Ride and Lawrence of Arabia
(Kangaroo Press, 2002), also refers to the Surafend incident. On page 195 she says: "Here the Australian and New Zealand soldiers soon grew weary of being ambushed by the Arabs and seeing their comrades killed while the authorities ‘did nothing'. After a New Zealand sergeant was disturbed one night and jumped to his feet only to be shot dead by an Egyptian, the New Zealanders decided to deal with the village themselves. A party, armed with sticks and chains, segregated old men, women and children and proceeded to exact revenge on the able-bodied men. There are dozens of versions of what happened that night. One fact is certain though. The next morning revealed a tragic picture. Men had been hurled into a well over which a large grindstone had been placed.
"For some unexplained reason Allenby blamed the Australian Light Horse, even though it is usually said that the New Zealanders had been the wrongdoers. He ordered a mass parade. Addressing the men in fiery terms, he called the Australians, among other things, murderers. Only a few men took part in the punitive raid, yet Allenby punished all the Light Horse. Allenby ordered that all leave be stopped, and that those on leave be recalled, and informed Chauvel that recommendations for honours and awards would be withdrawn. Rex Hall stated in his memoirs The Desert Hath Pearls
that other soldiers from other regiments who were involved were not blamed."
One would imagine that Roland Perry in his new book The Australian Light Horse
would also have something to say about the Surafend incident.Chris Rule,