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The Light Horse in Literature & Film

The Light Horse in Literature & Film/Redrawing the Boundaries of the Middle East

The Light Horse remained popular in Australian culture long after the First World War ended.

They were immortalised in literature in Ion Idriess’s The Desert Column (1932) and Frank Dalby Davidson’s ‘The Wells of Beersheba’ (1933).  The film Forty Thousand Horseman was made in 1940 by Charles Chauvel, the nephew of General Harry Chauvel.  The film culminates in the famous charge of the Light Horse at Beersheba.  Starring famous Australian actors like Chips Rafferty, the film was used as propaganda to encourage Australians to enlist and support the war effort in the Second World War.

The Light Horse were once again the subject of film in The Lighthorsemen (1987).  The film depicts the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and the charge of the Light Horse, but it was more historically accurate than the Forty Thousand Horsemen.  It was an example of so-called Australian New Wave cinema, which began with Breaker Morant (1980), Gallipoli (1981) and the mini-series ANZACS (1985).  These films became part of a conscious attempt by Australian filmmakers to depict Australian identity and characteristics through film and especially in war.

Did you know……

The Light Horse played an important role in the historic breakup of the Turkish Empire and the redrawing of the Middle East we know today.

The Middle East was partitioned by the victorious Allied powers following the collapse of the Turkish Empire at the end of the war.  The French were given a mandate over Syria and the Lebanon.  Britain was given the mandate for Mesopotamia, which became Iraq, and Palestine.  The Arab states of Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar remained British protectorates.  The remaining areas became Yemen and, later, Saudi Arabia.

Most of the boundaries were decided during the war, most notably in the Sykes-Picot Agreement, secretly made between Britain and France in 1916.  The Balfour Declaration made in 1917 by Britain stated that Palestine should become the homeland of the Jewish people, eventually leading to the establishment of Israel and the Palestinian Territories after the Second World War.

Modern Turkey emerged from the ruins of the empire through the Turkish War of Independence led by the war hero, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who led the Turkish forces against the Allied army at Gallipoli.