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In my unpublished book, Beersheba: the untold story of how three myths, two units, and one charge captured our imagination, I go into a lot more depth about the myths that continue to perpetuated about the Australia Light Horse charge at Beersheba, but the media coverage about today’s centenary of the charge is getting my goat, so I wanted to summarise my thoughts in this blog post.
First, I’m not surprised Paul Daley has penned an article claiming that the Battle of Beersheba is only getting it’s moment in the sun because of the ‘politics of remembrance’. Although I dispute his premise that Beersheba was ever forgotten — as reviews of his book pointed out, how can an event that’s produced two movies claim to be ‘forgotten’ — I agree with his general point that there are many perspectives on history. And his article does provide a good general overview of the many operational moving parts leading up to the 3rd Battle of Gaza, which the Battle of Beersheba was actually the preliminary operation for.
A glimpse of the myths I explore in my manuscript are:
Myth One: Taking Beersheba was a fluke
In the mythologising of the charge, the ‘vibe’ is that Australians were innate, natural soldiers. Yet, most of those who charged had been at Gallipoli, and some were Boer War veterans. And for those who hadn’t been there or weren’t veterans of earlier conflicts, such as the Reinforcements, there was initial and ongoing training ‘in-country’ for them and their horses, which meant they weren’t expected to simply ‘know’ how to ‘soldier’. And that’s before we go into the debate about whether they were light cavalry, mounted rifles, or mounted infantry.
Myth Two: Taking Beersheba was about the water
You’ve probably heard in the media coverage that the charge was because the horses needed water, that they ‘sniffed it in their nostrils’. Even Daley doesn’t buy this; in his article he summarises the months of preparation that went into ensuring there was water available for the Battle of Beersheba. In fact, due to the lack of water in Beersheba (which they’d anticipated to a degree), operations to attack Gaza were set back a week, as the most of the forces had to retrace their steps many kilometres so as re-water before the bulk of the force could advance from Beersheba to Gaza.
Myth Three: Taking Beersheba helped win the war
This is the biggest myth that continues to be perpetuated, even in the current media coverage. Daley also points out that Beersheba was part of the third attempt to take the city of Gaza. Put simply, from my perspective, if the charge — as part of an entire day of military operations to capture the town of Beersheba — helped win the war … why did it take another year for the Armistice of Mudros to be signed?
* This image of an Ian Coate artwork is doing the rounds again on social media … I only share it here to illustrate how the last line also perpetuates a myth (albeit carefully worded to try and refute claims that it continues the myth) … that ‘never would history see such a full-scale charge again’ … when Wikipedia has a reasonable list of notable charges throughout history, and does include the Australia Light Horse charge at Beersheba (though it doesn’t include when the US Special Forces took horses into Afghanistan in 2001).
Obviously this is barely a sample of the detail explored in my manuscript, which I’ll be self-publishing in coming months. But if you’re interested in why my book’s not out for today’s commemoration activities, please refer to my other blog posts:
I really have been bad with this blog. Please know though that I’ve promised myself that once the Beersheba book is out, I will find a regular blogging rhythm.
I’ve used a few things to try and motivate myself into focusing on finishing the adult non-fiction, Australian military history book I’ve begun about the Australia Light Horse charge at Beersheba in World War One, but it seems I’m still struggling.
I promised myself that I won’t work on my first novel until the Beersheba book is published.
I won’t embark on my freelance business idea of delivering workshops, coaching and mentoring.
I won’t do a masters course till the book’s published.
I won’t get my quill tattoo until it’s published.
But it seems the recent, and hopefully the final, motivational trick is that I now need to find a new publisher; and the centenary of World War One is upon us.
So, I thought it was time I tried to bring you along for the journey, hence the post’s title of a ‘journey map’:
- October 2007 — As part of a group project for the RMIT University Graduate Diploma in Editing and Publishing I was completing, I presented our group’s idea about a book devoted to the charge of Beersheba. The day after, an independent publisher that one of my classmates worked for approached me to turn the idea into reality.
- October 2008 — After a year of discussing the proposal, the contract was signed. I resigned from my job in book publishing and spent three months researching full-time for the Beersheba book in Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Armidale and Tamworth.
- January to December 2009 — As my then husband worked full-time as an Army officer, I had the freedom to take time off work to prepare the first draft while in Darwin. I originally thought it would take me three to six months, but it ended up taking the whole year, even though I was working on it full-time. I did have another research trip to Canberra but spent a lot more time using the inter-library loan service of the NT Library.
- February 2010 — My publisher gave feedback that the first draft needed quite a bit of re-working and I agreed.
- April 2010 — My husband and I separated. This threw my world into a tailspin and the last thing I could focus on was anything creative.
- December 2010/January 2011 — Over New Year’s I tried to work on the book, but couldn’t find the voice needed for the second draft.
- July 2011 — I attended the ‘Million Dollar Expert’ program run by Thought Leaders and was reinvigorated with ideas. Using some of the techniques from the course, I restructured the book and decided to ‘own’ that it wouldn’t be strictly an ‘official history’, but not like the books produced by journalists either.
- September 2011 — I attended military history workshops conducted by Dr Peter Stanley and Dr Maria Hill at a major writers’ festival. This helped reinforce, for me, my new approach to the Beersheba book.
- July 2011 to July 2012 — Around the same time I was engaged to freelance publish War in the Valleys : 7th Battalion Battle Group (MRTF–1), Afghanistan, October 2008 to June 2009. This turned out to be quite an involved process, as outlined in my blog post ’10 Steps in Publishing a Book’.
- December 2012/January 2013 — With the freelance project finished, I revisited my Beersheba book to put together a few pages in the new style of writing I’d come up with 18-months earlier.
- February to November 2013 — I worked on snippets every few months but didn’t make much headway as I was waiting for direction from my publisher. By the end of the year though, we’d amiably parted ways.
- December 2013/January 2014 — With the hunt on for a new publisher, I’ve rewritten my proposal and worked out that the unsolicited manuscript process means I need at least the first 50 pages rewritten in the new style.
So, with the centenary of World War One upon us, I’m endeavouring to get the draft sorted so that the timeliness of a publication release isn’t lost. I’ve now also gone public with the process. So, I must get on so that once the book’s published, I’ll be able to do the things I promised myself I wouldn’t do until the book was published. 😉
Why haven’t I been working on my Beersheba manuscript for the past several months?
Well, I took on a freelance project, my second one under Ryter Publishing.
The project has been to publish a high-quality, photographic coffee table book for a Defence client, titled — War in the Valleys : 7th Battalion Battle Group (MRTF–1), Afghanistan, October 2008 to June 2009.
I have prioritised this freelance project over my Beersheba book, thankfully with the blessing of my publisher Andrew Kelly of Red Dog Books (!).
I thought some of you might interested in how a book develops, so I wanted to share what it’s taken to get this book to print.
My main role has been as the project manager, which was being the conduit between the designer, printer and client. I was also the editor.
- Physical specs — A4 (landscape); hardback (paper laminated case); 140 pages; four-colour
- Word length — 44 articles, ranging in length from 120 to 4,500 words; and ranging in style, from informal, light-hearted tone to formal Defence writing — Total manuscript length: 45,000 words; that’s about the same length as my Beersheba book.
- Photos — Some 1,260 photos were whittled down to 106 photos, and the page number for each photo was stipulated. The client put in a huge effort to get this done; over the Christmas break no less!
Step One — Set-up the project
- My tasks — Evaluate project and source suppliers. Receive brief, files and source a designer and printer
- Designer — Extracted the manuscript from the initial design that was prepared
Step Two — Manuscript Development (Structural Edit)
- My tasks — Conduct initial structural edit; Establish style guide; Propose/develop the glossary and acronyms list, organisational chart and new book order
- Designer — Prepared next text design
- Client — For the 7RAR birthday parade, the client was able to take the new text design and book dummies to show the lads that the project was indeed happening!
Step Three —1st page proofs
- My tasks — During Step 2, I Identified that two articles were alike in subject and the client decided that these two articles should be ‘merged’. That was fun ’cause one article was serious in tone, the other light-hearted
- Designer — Prepared 1st page proofs for the manuscript, except the newly merged article and photos
Step Four — Pick photos!
- My tasks — Proofread 1st page proofs. Edited and merged the two articles
- Client — As mentioned in the stats, the client spent the Christmas doing this, which displayed exceptional dedication to project!
Step Five — 2nd page proofs
- My tasks — Proofread 2nd page
- Designer — Insert the selected photos to produce 2nd page proofs
- Client — Chase-up a team photo that was stubbornly not in the main group of photos and was too small for a book print
Step Six — 3rd page proofs
- My tasks — proofread 3rd page proofs — this was my last chance to ensure consistency and pick-up spelling errors. So of course, the corrections was three-times as extensive as what I did for 2nd page proofs. *Groan*
- Designer — Take-in 3rd page proof corrections to produce the final set of proofs
- Client — Let’s include the nominal roll. Superlative idea!
Step Seven — Print-ready files
- My tasks — Give the final set of proofs the once-over
- Designer — Prepare the absolute final, print ready files
… then SEND TO PRINT
- Me — Look over the printer proofs (a.k.a. ozalids) to make sure that nothing’s abruptly dropped off during the printer’s processing of the files
Step Nine — Advances
- Me, Designer, Client — Receive advance of the book from printer. Approve bulk stock delivery. HOORAY!
Step Ten — Bulk Stock Delivery
- The lads receive a high-quality coffee table book that could be sold in the shop if they so chose.