In March 1916, the ANZAC Mounted Division was formed in Egypt from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Light Horse Brigades and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade. It was commanded by Major General Harry Chauvel. In August, the Division helped defeat the Turkish Advance to Romani and, by March 1917, had forced the enemy back to the line Gaza-Beersheba.
Photograph above: The lines of "C" Squadron, 10th Australian Light Horse Regiment, in the olive groves at Ludd, just prior to the Ludd-Damascus advance. All ready for the Brigadier's inspection. September 1918. AWM J02468.
Participation in the initial battles of Gaza then followed. In August 1917, the Desert Mounted Corps was formed, consisting of the ANZAC Mounted Division (3rd and 4th Light Horse and 5th Yeomanry Brigades) and the Yeomanry Division. The strategic town of Beersheba was captured on 31 October 1917 by the Light Horse in what is popularly, but erroneously, believed to be one of the last great cavalry charges in history, with the Lighthorsemen armed only with rifles and bayonets.
The Corps also played a prominent part in the capture of Jerusalem in December 1917. Many of the British troops, including the Yeomanry Division, were withdrawn and redeployed to France to shore up Allied resistance to the German Spring Offensive in March 1918. Despite the loss of many experienced troops, the Corps defeated a determined attack by the German Asia Corps at Abu Tellul in April 1918. In September, the Corps played a significant role in the advance to Heifa and Semakh, entering Damascus on 1 October. Turkey signed an armistice at the end of that month, by which time Corps units had reached Aleppo.
The total battle casualties for the Australian Imperial Force in this campaign were 416 officers and 4435 other ranks, with 96 officers and 1278 enlisted men dying from wounds and disease.