Brigadier General William Grant CMG, DSO and Bar, MBE

William Grant  was  born in Stawell,  educated at BGS and Ormond College at the University of Melbourne, graduating with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering in 1893. William worked  in railway construction in NSW, but after his father’s death in 1894  he became a pastoralist, in the Darling Downs,  Queensland. William was  commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Queensland Mounted Infantry in 1901.  He advanced rapidly and  became Commander of the 14th Light Horse in 1910,  and  was  promoted from Major to Lieutenant Colonel in 1911.  He was  still in command when  WWI broke  out. William joined the AIF in 1915,  taking command of the new 11th Light Horse Regiment and several other mounted regiments during the remainder of the war. His most  famous battle  of all was  the epic charge at Beersheba – history’s last great  mounted charge. With the allied troops  facing certain death from lack of food and  water,  the need to take  Beersheba and  gain access to the water  wells was  imperative. With time running  out, the British command suspected any attack upon  Beersheba would probably fail. However, the Australian commanders asked the British to send in the Australian Light Horse, led by Brigadier  General William Grant.  The British consented to what they thought was  a suicide mission. William Grant  hastily devised a plan and more  than  500 men,  the fourth and  12th Light Horse Regiments prepared to attack. Speed and  surprise were their only chance. On 31 October 1917  the Australians began advancing with bayonets raised on the 4,000  Turkish soldiers, gradually speeding up to a charge. The Turks,  dazed by the sheer audacity and thunder of the charge, realised too late that the soldiers were not dismounting and opened fire. Artillery fire was  of limited effect and  the attack so fast that the Turkish infantry forget to adjust the sights on their rifles as the Light Horse got closer, eventually firing straight over the Australians’ heads. The Australians captured the first Turkish defences and  saved the wells. Overall,  the attack was  a success and  the Australians miraculously suffered only 31 dead and 36 wounded. For his part, William was  personally decorated with a bar to his DSO. The 1987 Australian feature film, The Lighthorsemen, pays tribute to this most  daring  campaign which used tactics from an earlier military age, a tactic which is still revered in Australia  today.

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