The German commander at Beersheba (Eric Reiman) is temporarily befuddled by an artillery barrage that’s designed to throw up dust. Out of this murk come hundreds of Australian Light Horsemen, in a great charge across open ground, followed by heavy hand-to-hand fighting. Red Gallagher (Grant Taylor), the only one of the three mates left alive, takes his place in the charge.
The charge at Beersheba is often described as the last great cavalry charge of modern warfare, although there are controversies about whether it was necessary, or even a cavalry charge, in the technical sense of those words. Whatever it was, it had become a legendary attack by the time that Chauvel recreated it, and the sequence was worthy of the charge’s reputation.
Most of the charge on flat ground was not shot at Kurnell, but later, on the Western Plains near Orange. The editing of the sequence, by William Shepherd, shows a sophistication that was not often present in Australian films of the 1930s. According to some Australian film historians, this was the sequence that helped put Australian filmmaking on the map. Graham Shirley and Brian Adams, in their book Australian Cinema – The First 80 Years, wrote that ‘this sequence went a long way towards making Forty Thousand Horsemen the first Australian film of genuine international stature’. The charge at Beersheba was recreated again in Simon Wincer’s film, The Lighthorsemen, from 1987.