The Wells of Old Beersheba

In saga and in story their tale has been told,
As long down the years of madness the battle tides have rolled;
Their drops of crystal water – more precious than gold
The Wells of old Beersheba were battle scarred of old.

On an Autumn evening that seems so long ago
The war-worn Walers reached them with stately step and slow,
And the guns roared welcome, peal upon thunder peal,
The Wells of old Beersheba were held by Moslem steel.

On barren cactus ridges the British army lay,
All sore in need of water at the burning close of day;
And so the desert riders must charge at evening gloom –
The Wells of old Beersheba – to victory or doom.

A league across the desert, slowly Walers came,
And Turkish shrapnel answered with a burst of flame
That flashed amid the smoke clouds, deep in the murky haze,
The Wells of old Beersheba with trench-lines all ablaze.

They lined the ridge at sunset and, in the waning light
The far-flung line of squadrons came on in headlong flight,
The desert land behind them – in front the fearful fight,
The Wells of old Beersheba must fall before the night.

The Turkish rifles raked them and horse and man went down,
But still they held the gallop towards the blazing town;
They heard the hot lead whining, the big guns thunder-roll –
The Wells of old Beersheba their destiny and goal.

With cold steel bayonets gleaming, in sodden seas of blood
They raced towards the stronghold, all in a crimson flood,
Such maddening surge of horses, such tumult and such roar
The Wells of old Beersheba had never seen before.

They stormed across the trenches and, so the stories say,
They drove the Moslem gunners as wild winds scatter spray.
No force or fire could turn them on that long maddening run,
The Wells of old Beersheba had fallen with the sun.

Fast through the gap behind them column on column poured,
Loud in the darkening dust – wrack the guns of England roared;
Won in a race of ruin through the lurid waves of flame
The Wells of old Beersheba had brought them deathless fame!

Remember them, my brothers, lend them a helping hand –
They led that charge of splendour that won the Promised Land –
And those who came not homeward, their memory is grand –
The Wells of old Beersheba will guard their graves of sand.

‘Trooper Gerardy’