Apologies considered for Kiwi atrocity during WWI

New Zealanders in Israel are preparing to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba - one of the lesser known, but extremely significant battles of World War I.

The bravery of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles helped change the direction of the war, but there is a stain on our military history there too - a massacre of civilians.

The Battle of Beersheba happened in 1917 while the Surafend massacre happened in 1918, dozens of kilometres away.

With bayonets and pickaxes, it's estimated 137 were slaughtered, before the village of Surafend was burned to the ground.

"[They] surrounded the village, removed all of the women and children and old men, and basically killed those who were still in the village," NZ Defence Force's John McLeoud told Newshub.

Days earlier, New Zealand and Australian troops were already fed up. Members of a nearby Bedouin camp had been stealing and killing, and digging up ANZAC graves.

It all went largely unpunished by the British, so after the murder of 21-year-old Kiwi trooper Leslie Lowry, the soldiers took vengeance into their own hands.

The troops charged into a village with bayonets, burning down houses and murdering indiscriminately, by some accounts, in the context of the time these events unfolded.

No one was held responsible, though some reparation was paid, and now, during the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba, the Defence Force considered an apology to the village as part of the commemorations.

"In terms of more modern context, the grievances that might be held by the community are probably outweighed by a whole series of other grievances," Mr McLeoud said.

It can be hard to imagine, in fact preferable not to imagine, what happened here - that our soldiers were capable of a massacre.

But there's no glory in war, and it's just as important to remember and learn about the atrocities, as it is the heroics.

General Allenby, the Commander in Chief, reportedly called the men "murderers and cowards".

No military campaign is defined by any one thing. It's the sum of all its parts - even the parts history would rather forget.