In September 1918, the 3rd and 5th Australian Light Horse Brigades were closing in on Damascus, and on the evening of 30 September they subjected the enemy to merciless fire at Barada Gorge. It was the principal exit from Damascus, leading into Lebanon and Beirut. The Australians fired until the road was littered with the bodies of men and animals and the wreckage of transport wagons. Lambert depicted the winding gorge and the road and railway route north-west towards the eastern Lebanon mountains. He showed Light Horse soldiers gathering on the ridge high above the gorge, while below, hundreds of fleeing Turkish troops and transports attempt to escape from Damascus.
Lambert began this work in England and completed it in Sydney, basing it on three views of the landscape he had made on the spot when he visited the site in June 1919. He used the view looking away from Damascus for this composition; trebling the size of the scene, but otherwise maintaining the composition. He added fourteen Light Horsemen on top of the cliff, preparing their rifles and aiming fire, as well as a mass of scurrying figures in the valley below. The inscribed date of 1918 refers to the date of the event, not the date of execution, as Lambert did not visit the area until 1919.
In 1926, when Lambert saw Septimus Power’s painting of Light Horsemen riding into Damascus, he wrote to the official war historian, C.E.W. Bean, criticising Power’s work and offering in its place this composition. The Australian War Memorial purchased it in 1927 for £100, the last battle picture by Lambert that they acquired.
The Sydney Morning Herald ’s critic wrote on 26 November 1930: ‘How immense in its scale is “The Barada Gorge,” ... a landscape truly imposing in its perspective and depth, seen from a great height with the figures of soldiers so justly proportioned on the left hillside and the far road below’.