Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 4 2017 Contents 42 Defence Issue 4 2017
A descendant of a soldier who fought at Beersheba was afforded
the opportunity of a lifetime to mark the centenary of the battle
“WE ARE PROUD OF CHARLES
AND HIS BROTHERS, WHO
ENLISTED TO SERVE ...
ESPECIALLY WHEN HE
WOULD HAVE HAD TO LIE
ABOUT HIS HERITAGE.”
DESCENDANT OF LIGHT HORSEMAN
HE great-niece of a World War I
Indigenous digger who took part in the
famous light horse charge at Beersheba
was fortunate enough to attend the 100th
anniversary of the famous battle, in Israel
Peta Flynn, a deputy project manager with
Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, says
the high point of her journey was laying a wreath on
behalf of her family at the Beersheba War Cemetery
for her great uncle, Corporal Charles Fitzroy Stafford.
Charles was born in Mudgee and grew up in
“We are proud of Charles and his brothers, who
enlisted to serve their country, especially when he
enlisted at a time when he would have had to lie
about his heritage,” Peta says.
“Indigenous soldiers fought for our country, were
treated as equals in the AIF, but returned to discrim-
While touring around Israel for a week before the
ceremony, Peta experienced the harshness of the ter-
rain and thought how much worse it would have been
100 years earlier.
“I couldn’t imagine the terror the light horsemen
would have felt waiting for the order to charge,
knowing it was unlikely they would make it out
alive,” she says.
Peta undertook the pilgrimage to Israel through
the Rona Tranby Trust Australian Light Horse
Centenary Project, which the Department of Veterans’
Affairs has endorsed.
The project will record the stories of Indigenous
light horsemen who served in the Middle East during
World War I, as told by their descendants.
“My sister, Michelle Flynn, has been researching
By Sergeant Dave Morley
the family history ever since our grandfather, Charles’
brother, gave her a box of family records and papers
before he passed away,” Peta says.
“The funding provided through this award will
allow our family to continue researching the story of
our great-uncle and other members of the family to
ensure their service is recorded and recognised.
“I believe the service and sacrifice of Indigenous
Australians in World War I needs to be acknowledged
Peta travelled with 11 other descendants who
received grants to record their ancestors’ histories and
attend the centenary commemorative events.
“The descendants were split into two groups.
Unfortunately we were not able to meet up to have
our own ceremony, but the descendants in my group
returned to the Anzac Museum in Beersheba to
take time to go through the exhibition and visit the
graves,” she says.
“The museum was amazing. I found out the light
horsemen had to take Beersheba or they would have
no water and would have had to live on rations for
three days,” she says.
“The light horsemen charged cavalry-style when
they normally would have ridden close to the fight,
then dismounted to fight.
“Thirty-one Australian light horsemen died at
Beersheba and another 36 were wounded and Charles
was really lucky not to be one of them.
“One of our group had an uncle buried in the
Peta plans to stay in touch with the other
descendants she met during the trip. Three of them
stayed with her when they travelled to Canberra in
December to research more of their relatives’ histo-
ry at the National Archives and the Australian War
“The Rona Tranby Trust was set up to gather
Indigenous stories, so we will be presenting our
history project in 2018. My sister is using part of the
grant to further research our history and once com-
pleted, we will document and provide results to the
Rona Tranby Trust,” Peta says.
“Other descendants are doing small films and
recording of family members. As we didn’t know
Charles, we are trying to find his direct descendants
to see if they have any stories we can add to our his-
Peta attended two ceremonies on her pilgrimage
the Commemorative Anzac Ceremony at Tzemach
Railway Station and the opening ceremony of the
She also attended the re-enactment of the charge
of the light horse after the official ceremony to mark
the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba.
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