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ANZAC DAY Movie: The Lighthorsemen (1987) – Classic Aussie Movie

25/04/2022

From Wikipedia

The Lighthorsemen is a 1987 Australian feature film about the men of a World War I light horse unit involved in Sinai and Palestine Campaign‘s 1917 Battle of Beersheeba. The film is based on a true story and most of the characters in the film were based on real people. (Elyne Mitchell wrote the novelization based on the screenplay.)

It follows in the wake of other Australian New Wave war films such as Breaker Morant (1980), Gallipoli (1981), and the 5-part TV series Anzacs (1985). Recurring themes of these films include the Australian identity, such as mateship and larrikinism, the loss of innocence in war, and also the continued coming of age of the Australian nation and its soldiers (the ANZAC spirit).

The film was directed by Simon Wincer, and several pieces of footage from the climactic scenes were re-used in the episode “Palestine, October 1917” of the television series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. This episode, which aired in 1993, likewise focuses on the Battle of Beersheeba, and was also directed by Wincer.

The film follows four Australian cavalrymen (Frank, Scotty, Chiller, and Tas) in Palestine in 1917, part of the 4th Light Horse Brigade of the British and Commonwealth forces. When Frank is wounded and dies of his wounds, he is replaced by Dave. Dave finds himself unable to fire his weapon in combat and is transferred to the Medical Corps, where he will not need to carry a weapon, but where he will still be exposed to the fighting.

The British plan the capture of Beersheba. During an attack by Turkish cavalry, Major Richard Meinertzhagen deliberately leaves behind documents indicating that the attack on Beersheba will only be a diversion. The Australians leave for Beersheba, with limited water and supplies. They bombard the town and the 4,000 Turkish-German defenders prepare for an assault. However, the German military advisor, Reichert, believes it is a diversionary attack and advises the Turkish commander he does not need reinforcements. With time running out and water in short supply, the British command suspect any attack upon Beersheba will probably fail. However, the Australian commanders ask the British to send in the Australian Light Horse—the British consent to what they think is a suicide mission.

On 31 October, the 4th and 12th Light Horse Regiments are ordered to attack the Turks. Dave and the rest of the medical detachment prepare for casualties and are ordered in behind the Light Horse. The Turks report the Australian mounted soldiers lining up to charge, however the officer in charge orders the Turks not to open fire until they dismount. The Australians begin advancing on the Turkish positions, gradually speeding up to a charge. The Turks realise too late that the soldiers are not dismounting and open fire. Artillery fire is sporadic and of limited effect and the attack so fast the Turkish infantry forget to adjust the sights on their rifles as the Light Horse get closer, eventually firing straight over the Australians’ heads.

During the charge, Tas is killed by an artillery shell. The remaining Australians make it “under the guns” (advancing faster than the artillery can correct its aim for the reduced range) and reach the Turkish trenches. The Australians subsequently capture the first line of Turkish defences. Scotty and a few others take control of the guns. Chiller is wounded in the trench fight. Dave is struck by a grenade and is seriously wounded while protecting Chiller. Scotty continues to fight on into the town. When most of the remaining Turkish soldiers surrender, Reichert tries to destroy the wells, but is captured by Scotty. Overall, the attack was a success and the Australians miraculously suffered only 31 dead and 36 wounded. This effectively opened the ‘door’ and allowed for the subsequent capture of Jerusalem and the rest of the country. General Allenby, in deference to the Holy City, walked into the city, coming as a liberator not a conqueror.

Cast

Jon Blake as Scotty

Peter Phelps as Dave

Tony Bonner as Bourchier

Bill Kerr as Chauvel

John Walton as Tas

Gary Sweet as Frank

Tim McKenzie as Chiller

Shane Briant as Reichert

Serge Lazareff as Rankin

Sigrid Thornton as Anne

Anthony Andrews as Meinertzhagen

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