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Friday, April 3, 2015

43.1.b Anzac Centenary - Australians join the War - Stationed at Egypt

The Centennial Anniversary of the Beginning of World War 1

After almost a century of fighting wars during Queen Victoria's reign, and the stunning loss in the Zulu Wars, followed shortly after by another conflict with the Boer War in South Africa, once again Britain became embroiled in another War.

This one involved countries all over the World.

Such horrific events, such horrific loss of life, so many young brave men and women, set out for an adventure.   Adventure it was not.

Never would they have imagine the horrors they would face, the conditions they were expected to fight in, the cold, the wet, the sickness, and the time frame.

How did WWI start?
The simplest answer is that the immediate cause was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the archduke of Austria-Hungary. His death at the hands of Gavrilo Princip – a Serbian nationalist with ties to the secretive military group known as the Black Hand – propelled the major European military powers towards war.

The events that led up to the assassination are significantly more complicated, but most scholars agree that the gradual emergence of a group of alliances between major powers was partly to blame for the descent into war.

By 1914, those alliances resulted in the six major powers of Europe coalescing into two broad groups: Britain, France and Russia formed the Triple Entente, while Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy comprised the Triple Alliance.

As these countries came to each other's aid after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, their declarations of war produced a domino effect.

CNN lists these key developments:
  • June 28, 1914 - Gavrilo Princip assassinates Franz Ferdinand.
  • July 28, 1914 - Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.
  • August 2, 1914 - Ottoman Empire (Turkey) and Germany sign a secret treaty of alliance.
  • August 3, 1914 - Germany declares war on France.
  • August 4, 1914 - Germany invades Belgium, leading Britain to declare war on Germany.
  • August 10, 1914 - Austria-Hungary invades Russia. 
As the war progressed, further acts of aggression drew other countries, into the conflict. Many others, including Australia, Canada, India and most African colonies, fought as members of the Commonwealth.



Served: 331,781   Died: 60,284   Wounded: 152,284  Men awarded the Victoria Cross: 66

When Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, most Australians greeted the news with great enthusiasm. 

Volunteers rushed to enlist for an exciting war which was expected to be over by Christmas. 

The joined up in all the towns and cities, looking for a great adventure!

For Australia, as for many nations, the First World War remains the most costly conflict 
in terms of deaths and casualties.

Men joined in droves and then proudly marched before leaving for the camps and ships.   

The Youngest to Join, not quite 14 years of age 

When Leonard Walter Jackson of Neutral Bay joined the AIF on the 6th of August 1915, he must have been one of the youngest Australians ever to enlist in our military services. Using the assumed name Richard Walter Mayhew, and claiming to be an 18 year old orphan, young Leonard, who was born on 27th August 1901, was actually 13 years 11 months and 10 days old on the day he "signed up".

Len's older brother, Harry Melville Jackson, had enlisted in the AIF in January 1915 and another brother, Dudley Jackson, also joined up in August 1915. When their father Joseph, a veteran of the Sudan campaign of 1885, realised what his 13 year old son had done, he took the unusual step of enlisting himself, to follow his young tear-away to Egypt and keep a watchful eye on him. Joseph, not surprisingly, also had to lie about his age - he claimed to be 44 years and 11 months old, when he was actually 52!

When the eldest of the Jackson boys, Harry, died whilst a prisoner of the Germans in August 1916, from wounds received at Pozieres, Joseph admitted to the military authorities that he was overage for active service, and that his son Leonard was serving without his parents' permission and was underage. (By this time, father and son had been serving side by side in the 55th Infantry Battalion since early 1916).

To quote a letter written by Dudley Jackson MM in 1964, "[When my father] heard of my elder brother's death...he decided in fairness to my mother to go back to Australia." Both Joseph and Leonard were discharged, and returned to Australia aboard HMAT Ulysses in March 1917.

On 4th March 1918, 'Richard Walter Mayhew' again enlisted in the AIF, this time claiming his age was 21 years 3 months. A photograph of 'Richard' is held by the State Library of NSW.                                                    (Now on Trove)


The First Offensive

 From a population of fewer than five million, 416,809 men enlisted, of which over 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner. Australia’s early involvement in the War included the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force taking possession of German New Guinea and the neighbouring islands of the Bismarck Archipelago in October 1914.

2,000 soldiers and naval reservists set sail from Sydney Harbour in mid-August 1914 for what was then German New Guinea.
Its objective was to seize and destroy German wireless stations that were posing a serious threat to merchant shipping in the Pacific.
The stations were transmitting signals to the German East Asian Cruiser Squadron, a link Australia wanted broken before troopships started leaving for Europe and the Middle East.
Spirits were high among those on board HMAS Berrima as it sailed north.
"There was a great sense of war enthusiasm," Australian War Memorial senior historian Aaron Pegram said.
"There's a sense Australian troops are fighting for the British Empire against the main threat through Europe and that main threat is in our backyard at the time."

For 29-year-old Billy Williams, an electrician in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Northcote, war was declared with unfortunate timing.
He had just served five years in the Naval Reserve and had only a week to go before discharge when Australia, through Britain, found itself at war with Germany.

Williams' mum was anxious about Williams heading off to war as he was her only son. Her husband had died some years before. Within weeks Williams found himself part of the hastily assembled Australian Naval and Military Expedition Force.

On September 11, 1914, a party of 25 went ashore at Rabaul.
Their target was the wireless station at Bita Paka, about seven kilometres inland.
It was not long before the Australians were ambushed by a German patrol.
In the ensuing skirmish, Williams was shot in the stomach and collapsed on a jungle road. What unfolded next was a remarkable act of gallantry.

Army doctor Captain Brian Pockley rushed to Williams' aid.
Captain Pockley, the son of a distinguished Macquarie Street surgeon and a gifted athlete, quickly realised the seriously wounded Williams needed to be taken back to the HMAS Berrima.
Without thinking, Pockley took off his Red Cross armband and gave it to the reservist carrying Williams as cover from German fire.
No longer with that protection, the doctor himself was shot and wounded.
Williams and Pockley were both taken back to the Berrima.

They died within an hour of each other, the first Australians to die fighting for their country in the Great War. Another 60,000 would die before the war was over, from AWM

It took possession of German New Guinea at Toma on 17 September 1914 and of the neighbouring islands of the Bismarck Archipelago in October 1914. On 9 November 1914 the Royal Australian Navy made a major contribution when HMAS Sydney destroyed the German raider SMS Emden.


Most of the men accepted into the army in August 1914 were sent first to Egypt, not Europe, to meet the threat Turkey posed to British interests in the Middle East and the Suez Canal. After four and a half months of training near Cairo, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) departed by ship for the Gallipoli peninsula.

High hopes, and expectations

11th Light Horse Darling Downs Troop Inc

Not many families were unaffected in some way or other from those days.  A visit to the many cemeteries provides a very powerful realisation of just how many lives were lost.  60,000.

Within the Durnford family there have been many brave soldiers, and some nurses.  Recognition of them was done while discovering and sharing their stories  But there are so many others. This next series of posts is in their honour.

We have been fortunate to have visited both the Western Front and last year Gallipoli.  For both of us, we had family who fought there, great uncle who died at Gallipoli, and grandfather, who served on the Western Front.

When War was announced, men in their thousands, left home and rushed to the recruiting centres to sign up.   The Australians included those who were proficient on horseback, men of the land, who became the Light Horse Brigade. Men of all walks of life.  

 Many were reservists already serving in those units.  Resplendent with their uniforms, and their well known turned back brimmed hats with emu feathers.

The ANZAC forces, under the command of Lieutenant General William Birdwood, had been based in Egypt due to of a lack of training and accommodation facilities in England. Later, these forces helped protect the Suez Canal following Turkey’s entry into war in October 1914.

As fighting on the Western Front in France in late 1914 deteriorated into a stalemate, the British War Council suggested that Germany could best be defeated by attacks on her allies, Austria, Hungary and Turkey. Initially, the attack on Turkey was planned as a naval operation. However, following several abortive attempts to force the Dardanelles in February and March, the British Cabinet agreed that land forces could be used.

A combined international force (the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force) was assembled under the command of British General Sir Ian Hamilton, and a three-pronged landing was planned to clear the Turkish defenders from the straits. Once the straits were clear, the allied fleet would steam into Constantinople where, it was believed, the threat of the fleet's guns would cause mass panic and force Turkey to surrender. At dawn on 25 April 1915, the ANZACs landed north of Gaba Tepe (the landing area later named Anzac Cove) while the British forces landed at Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

The aim of these two landings was to capture the Turkish forts commanding the narrow straits. French forces attacked the Turkish positions on the Asia Minor side of the Dardanelles as a diversion and later landed and took over part of the Helles frontline alongside the British. Later reinforcements included the dismounted Australian and New Zealand Mounted Brigades at Anzac Cove. In August, a new British corps landed at Suvla Bay, to the north of Anzac Cove, in support of an attempt by allies to break out of the Anzac beachhead.

The campaign was a heroic but costly failure and by December plans were drawn up to evacuate the entire force from Gallipoli. On 19 and 20 December, the evacuation of Anzac and Suvla was completed with the last British troops leaving Cape Helles by 8 January 1916.

The entire operation evacuated 142 000 men with negligible casualties. Australian casualties for the Gallipoli campaign amounted to 26 111, comprising of 1007 officers and 25 104 other ranks. Of these, 362 officers and 7 779 men were killed in action, died of wounds or succumbed to disease. Nine Victoria Crosses were awarded to soldiers in Australian units.

While the campaign is considered a military failure, Gallipoli became a household name in Australia and with it the ANZAC tradition was created. Gallipoli became the common tie forged in adversity that bound the colonies and people of Australia into a nation.


 At the same time another expeditionary force, initially consisting of 20,000 men and known as the First Australian Imperial Force (AIF), was raised for service overseas.

Mess orderlies.

Zeitoun Camp near Cairo, Egypt, January 1915.

The AIF departed Australia in November 1914 and, after several delays due to the presence of German naval vessels in the Indian Ocean, arrived in Egypt, where they were initially used to defend the Suez Canal. In early 1915, however, it was decided to carry out an amphibious landing on the Gallipoli peninsula with the goal of opening up a second front and securing the passage of the Dardanelles.

The Australians and New Zealanders, grouped together as the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), went ashore on 25 April 1915 and for the next eight months the Anzacs, alongside their British, French, Canadians and other allies, fought a costly and ultimately unsuccessful campaign against the Turks.

Timeline of our Forces January to April 1915

25 January 1915

1st Australian General Hospital opened in the Heliopolis Palace Hotel, Cairo, Egypt.

4 March 1915

The 3rd Australian Infantry Brigade — 9th (Queensland), 10th (South Australia), 11th (Western Australia) and 12th (Tasmania, with some South Australia and Western Australia) Battalions — accompanied by 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station, 3rd Field Ambulance and part of the Australian Field Bakery, landed on Lemnos approximately 96 kilometres from the Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey. They had been sent there to become part of an occupation force should the British navy succeed in capturing the forts along the Dardanelles.

18 March 1915

Warships of the British and French navy failed to silence the guns of the Turkish forts at the Dardanelles. Shortly afterwards the decision was taken to invade the Gallipoli peninsula with a combined force of which the Anzac Corps would be part.

1 April 1915

The Anzac Corps in Egypt received orders that it was to move to the front.

12 April 1915

Units of the Anzac Corps began arriving on Lemnos.

13-14 April 1915

The British battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth took senior Anzac Corps officers and battalion commanders to view the coast of Gallipoli and to select landing sites.

25 April 1915

Between 4.30 and 4.45 am the 3rd Australian Brigade — 9th (Queensland), 10th (South Australia), 11th (Western Australia) and 12th (Tasmania, with some South Australia and Western Australia) Battalions and the 3rd Field Ambulance — landed on Gallipoli around Ari Burnu point. The rest of the Anzac corps came ashore throughout the day. By the evening, despite strong Turkish counter-attacks, the Anzacs held a narrow triangle of land roughly 2 kilometres long at its base on the coast and extending to just under a kilometre inland at its widest.

26 April 1915

By 3 am on 26 April more than 1700 casualties had been evacuated from the area of the Anzac landing, mainly via the beach to the south of Ari Burnu which became known as Anzac Cove.



  ON JANUARY 13, 1915, the beginnings of a plan that would change 

The course of the Anzacs forever was being decided behind closed doors in London.
Politician Winston Churchill, then the First Lord of the Admiralty, presented his plan to the British War Council to capture the Dardanelles, something he saw as a naval action that would give the Allies access to the Sea of Marmara and Black Sea, and thus supply route access to its ally, Russia.
Another potential benefit of this plan was drawing in Greece and       Bulgaria to join the Allies, for these neighbouring countries were constantly circling the Ottoman Empire (known then as the "sick man of Europe") in pursuit of more territory.
Churchill had been ruminating over the Dardanelles scheme since September 1914, a month before Turkey closed the straits to Allied shipping, but it wasn't until early in January that he raised it with British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith.

The Dardanelles defences in February/March 1915. The straits connected to the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, which were of strategic importance to the Allies. Churchill had already cabled Vice-Admiral Sackville Carden, commanding the British naval squadron in the Mediterranean, asking him if he believed the Dardanelles could be forced by ships alone.
Choosing his words carefully, Carden replied: "I do not consider Dardanelles can be rushed. They might be forced by extended operations with large numbers of ships."

The Dardanelles defences in February/March 1915. The straits connected to the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, which were of strategic importance to the Allies. Contributed
Carden, who had four battleships at his disposal at the time, outlined a scheme to capture the Dardanelles in stages with 12 battleships, extra submarines, four seaplanes and 12 minesweepers.
The Vice-Admiral's plan contained enough detail to appear credible to the War Council, which was quite taken with the idea when Churchill presented it during the January 13 meeting.

There was another reason opening up a Turkish front sounded appealing - the news from the Western Front was becoming more depressing all the time, and it was felt the Allies could do with a victory somewhere.
Churchill's scheme was approved.

Despite the general enthusiasm for the Dardanelles plan, there was an important dissenting voice, however - that of First Sea Lord John Fisher, who had been brought out of distinguished retirement by Churchill.

Fisher - a naval hero who was more accustomed to directing the Admiralty with the support of the political First Lord, rather than taking orders from him - did not believe the Dardanelles should be a naval operation alone.

The straits, a long-known strategic asset, were well protected with forts and batteries along their length, not to mention natural geography, the advantage of height giving the Turks good visibility over any invaders below.

According to Les Carlyon's Gallipoli, later in January Fisher wrote a letter to Admiral Sir John Jellicoe stating his disapproval of the strategy.

"I just abominate the Dardanelles operation, unless a great change is made and it is settled to be a military operation, with 200,000 men in conjunction with the fleet," he wrote.
But by then it was too late. Carden would be granted his extra ships and a plan was being developed to make the first naval assault on the Dardanelles the following month.
If it failed, ground troops would have to come from somewhere.
Australian infantry troops train in the desert near Mena camp, Egypt. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial PS0760Anzacs put to the test with intensive training in the Egyptian desert

Australian infantry troops train in the desert near Mena camp, Egypt. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial PS0760 Courtesy of Australian War Memorial
Since the 1st Australian Division had arrived in Egypt in early December, its troops had been spending at least eight hours training every day but Sunday, often having to march several miles in the soft sand wearing full kit packs to get to and from their training areas.

In his Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, Charles Bean said the desert near Mena camp, outside Cairo, had been divided into three large training areas, one for each infantry brigade. The light horse, artillery and engineers' divisions were given stretches of desert outside these, while the transport and ambulance divisions were allocated ground closer to camp.

"All day long, in every valley of the Sahara for miles around the Pyramids, were groups or lines of men advancing, retiring, drilling, or squatted near their piled arms listening to their officer," Bean wrote.

While the training followed the British Army textbook, little advice came from the commanders on the Western Front and all the organisation and drilling was carried out by the Australian staff and officers.

One thing on the side of the Anzacs - many of whom had come from a history of hard work on farms and in trades - was their physical size, even though they didn't know it until they landed in camp.

"Subsequently many visitors from Great Britain and the Western Front declared that the Australians and New Zealanders in Egypt and Gallipoli were the biggest men that they had seen in any force," Bean wrote.

But it takes more than size to fight a war. The Anzacs had big hearts and had the benefit of six weeks training at home, six weeks on the sea voyage, and for up to four months in Egypt, depending on which convoy they had arrived in.

Bean remarked: "A British officer on (Anzac commander) General Birdwood's staff said that a better division than the 1st Australian had never gone to battle.

"(Their training) was one of the finest achievements in the history of the A.I.F. 

Christina Ongley | 13th Jan 2015


 The one thing that strikes accord is their smiles - they are all so happy, perhaps that was important also given what they would be subjected to in the coming weeks.  
Who could have possibly imagined what they were going to face.

The next Sphinx they would encounter would not be so welcoming!

Camped in Egypt before being shipped to the Dardanelles, the men of the Australian Infantry Division’s 11th Battalion were ordered to a nearby landmark, for a group photo. It was likely the last ever image taken of many of them.
“After Church this morning the whole Battalion was marched up to the Pyramid (Old Cheops) and we had a photo took or at least several of them,” wrote Captain Charles Barnes in his diary for Sunday, January 10, 1915.

With most officers in the front, the men clambered up the ancient steps to pose.

For 30 years, Western Australian researchers have been working to identify all the soldiers in the extraordinary photograph. Mount Lawley's Allan Ellam and his wife Raye started gathering letters, photos and other material related to the 11th Battalion in the 1980s.

The couple have since died, but the WA Genealogical Society has picked up the project and so far 225 of the 703 troops have been named. Project leader Chris Loudon said in the past year the society has identified 100 soldiers, as well as correcting a few misidentifications.

He said 65 of the men pictured were killed on the first day of the Gallipoli landings.
Mr Loudon said today's event was an opportunity to remember the diggers' sacrifice.
"We need to pay tribute to these men. They're not just faces in a photograph, they did their service to our country," he said.  "And for the past 100 years we haven't really known who they were."


Some interesting comments regarding life at Camp

When we commemorate Anzac Day, it is important to remember that the soldiers did not suddenly appear on the shores of the Dardanelles, but had a long journey to get there.

Mena camp, Egypt.
 Mena camp, Egypt.          

Part of that journey involved training in large army camps in the Egyptian desert.


by Samir Raafat EGYPTIAN MAIL, April 20, 1996

The Egyptian Gazette goes on to described the Aussie camp in its 18 December 1914 issue. "Although the camp is not yet quite fixed, the men seem cheerful and at home. Large wood fires burn beneath and around oval iron pots of tea; toast too, seems a great favorite, baked and often sadly burned in the wood ashes. The many lines of beautiful and much loved horses strike the onlooker immediately; they have practically constant attention night and day.

Being packed on the boats as they were the whole time from Australia, standing for seven or eight weeks has for the time weakened and stiffened their legs and joints and at present not one of them is being ridden. They are exercised daily, at first gently, increasing to 10 mile exercises and training they are now undergoing. There are wild and almost wild horses amongst them many of which were presented to the regiments before they left."

"The lines of tents are like most lines of tents but for a few of the officers' which showed an almost Oriental brightness with their linings of brilliant orange and the huge canteen tents built of native tenting. Mascots of the regiments are of-course a chief and interesting sight and a motley crew they are. One regiment is the proud possessor of two great birds, of the kind called the laughing jackasses whose shrieked of mirth can be heard by the inhabitants of Meadi half a mile away. There was also the rock kangaroo or wallaby."

From other sources we learn the camp was not without its own amenities. There was a cinema tent where mass or Holy Communion was celebrated each morning. A recreation tent provided by the Maadi residents. There were also a boxing ring, a billiard saloon, a stadium and for lack of a nearby parade ground, Maadi's tennis courts were used. A Maadi Soldier Club was opened in December 1915.

From the Light Horse Brigade's Routine Daily Orders we glean interesting snippets which shed light on the camp's impact on the immediate neighborhood and on the outlying communities. Much in there would suggest there were severe communication problems and culture gaps between the Aussie digger and the Egyptian native. By natives the Aussies meant the villagers, felaheen or peasants and Bedouins who populated the outlying area. It was not intended to describe the pasha, the bey or the effendi class who lived in Cairo proper. And yet, the Egyptian gentry themselves were not too keen on the Aussie.

In his biographical essay, The Prison of Life (AUC Press, 1964), author playwright Tewfik al-Hakim has this to say. "We in the cities did not experience the effects of the war to any great extent, except in so far as we had to put up with the insolence of the Australian soldiers and the drunken English. They grabbed what passers-by had in their pockets at night and what street vendors had in their hands by the day." Words that hardly flatter Egypt's unwelcome guests. But, as we'll find out these feelings are reciprocated by the Aussies.

Following are is an Australian army directives listed in the Routine Daily Orders for the period 1915-16 (source: the Australian War Memorial, Canberra).
All native villages and cemeteries are out of bounds to the troops; twelve Sudanese have been appointed as gaffirs for the camp; gambling with natives will in future be considered a criminal offense; men are warned against familiarity with the natives; all ranks are warned against molesting natives and it is to be clearly understood that any soldier interfering with their property will be court marshaled and is liable to a term of imprisonment with hard labour. 

Men are warned that the practice of taking fruit from the gardens of the natives must cease; Owing to the number of thefts lately all natives except those employed in the horse lines or with passes signed by the adjutant must be kept out of camp; it has been reported that soldiers traveling by train have taken possession of compartments in carriages set apart for ladies, thereby preventing veiled ladies from traveling. 

If further complaints of this nature reach the camp commandant all leave will be stopped. A special military train now runs from Bab al-Louk to Maadi at 10:00 p.m. Men are requested to travel by this train in preference to the 09:30 p.m.; all guides, dragomen and other natives found in camp without a pass or committing misdemeanors are to be handed over to Lieutenant Jordon, officer in charge of military police, Maadi. The list goes on.
On the other hand, in an effort to remain in the good books of Maadi's British population we find the following:
Permission to exercise horses in Maadi will not be granted. (Months later) Attention is again drawn to the fact that no horses are to be exercised in the streets of Maadi; horses must never be ridden at a faster pace than a walk when riding outside the camp, motor cars not to exceed 6 miles per hour; all forms of horse racing are strictly forbidden; damage has been done to Maadi trees through men tying their horses thereto. 
This practice must be discontinued at once; all men appearing in Maadi except when on fatigues must be properly dressed, that is shirts, putties with shorts or riding pants, leggings and jackets. Belts must be worn but not bandoleers. On or after December 15 shorts must not be worn; Shops near the Maadi railway station in future (December 1915) will be out of bounds at all times except by pass; the practice of drilling on the Maadi Public Tennis Courts and the grounds immediately adjoining is hereby prohibited. The ground is for the use of the residents of Maadi and not for military purposes; It has been brought to notice that men are in the habit of digging in search of antiquities. This practice must at once be put a stop to.
There was also the problem of hygiene and refuse. From the Daily Routine Order we learn that stable and kitchen refuse was purchased by a local native Hamouda Mohamed while carcasses were removed by the Manure Co. of Egypt at one shilling per each animal. Other daily orders include:
Soldier suffering from venereal disease are to report themselves without delay; all hair must be cut short; all natives found defecating or micurating will be handed over to the Native Police for punishment. Officers Commanding Mounted Brigade will instruct their Sanitary Squads to see that the Natives Latrine are carefully disinfected; horse manure form the lines of the 7th Regt. must in future be put in a heap on the far side of the ditch running behind the men's mess room, in rear of the shoeing-Smith shop in line with the men's latrines; 
All Europeans and native employees in canteens, officers messes and kitchens, ice cream makers, vendors etc. and hair dressers are to be dressed in clean white overalls; it has become the custom for soldiers to pass urine in other places than in latrine buckets and urinals. This is a filthy practice and men doing so will be crimed; European employees in the camp found to be dirty or verminous as to their clothing are to have their names and that of their employer forwarded to the A.P.M. of the district in which the camp is situated with a view to the passes of such persons not being renewed; drinking water at the railway station is forbidden as this water is drawn from the sweet water canal.
The Australians had their own clinic in Maadi. It was was attached to the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital under the command of a Lt. Col. Bryant. Staffed by three resident nurses and three medial officers it closed down on 26 March 1916 but not before the sewage problem was fixed whereby both catch pits were completely cleared. (house is still in existence today).

When hostilities ended in October 1918 with the defeat of Germany, British-occupied Egypt, which had been so far spared the vagaries of bloodshed, was ready to wage its own war of independence against the Anglo-Saxon colonizer. Ironically, it was to the Diggers who survived the carnage in Gallipoli and elsewhere that the Brits turned to in order to quell Egyptian uprisings and civil disturbances. This did little to endear the Aussie to the already hostile local population.

When the orders finally arrived for the Australian troops to pack up they were only too happy to comply. Homeward bound at last. They too had had enough of the Gypos and their repugnant British administrators. As for those diggers who never made it back from the war front, they were buried near battlefields such as the cemetery at Anzac Cove in the Dardanelles.

Others rest near their temporary bases such as the ones in Egypt. Little did they know their sons would be back twenty years later to inflate these same cemeteries some more.

So on to Lemos  

The 3rd AGH (Australian General Hospital) Lemnos Island, Greece, 1915

The 3rd Australian General Hospital, AIF, was set up in response to a request from the British War Office by Thomas Henry Fiaschi, a well-known Italian surgeon. Fiaschi had had a distinguished career as a military surgeon serving with Australian forces during the Boer War where he was awarded the DSO (Distinguished Service Order) and he was appointed the commanding officer of 3AGH. On 15 May 1915, the new unit sailed from Circular Quay, Sydney, on the Mooltan just one month after its formation had been requested. On board were a number of AANS (Australian Army Nursing Service) nurses. As recalled by Sister Anne Donnell, their uniforms were heavy and the weather on the voyage warm:
We had another full dress parade this a.m. and sweltered in our heavy serge dresses, and wrung the perspiration out of them afterwards. Words fail me while this heat lasts - honestly we haven't ceased sweating since the third day out from Australia. A Sergeant-Major died suddenly in the small hours this morning - owing to the heat.
Australian sisters on board S.S Mooltan, 1915[Anne Donnell, Letters of an Australian Army Sister, Sydney, 1920, pp.9-10)
Australian sisters on board S.S Mooltan, 1915 [AW Savage, photo album, PXE 698, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales]
The Mooltan arrived in Plymouth, England, on 27 June and the unit travelled to London. There, preparations were made for their service in France at Etaples. However, on 1 July, 3 AGH received orders to proceed to Mudros on the island of Lemnos in the Aegean Sea near Gallipoli. They were advised that a site had been selected for the tent hospital and that it would be provided with huts about six weeks after their arrival in Mudros.

The days before embarkation were spent in organisation. Both the Australian Red Cross and benefactors in Australia had assisted with equipment and donations for the hospital. All of these, as well as further purchases made in London, including a small laundry plant, had to be loaded on the supply ship, Ascot. On 12 July, Colonel Fiaschi and most of the male personnel embarked on the transport, Simla at Devonport. The men arrived at Mudros on 27-28 July, before the arrival of the Ascot.

The nurses, who had remained in London, embarked in two groups, six days after the men. Sailing on the Themistocles and the Huntsgren, they disembarked at Alexandria on 30 July-1 August. Those who arrived first were distributed between other Australian hospitals pending their embarkation for Lemnos.

At 5 pm on 2 August 1915, the nurses sailed for Mudros on the hospital ship, Dunluce Castle. They reached Mudros on 5 August to find that the Ascot still hadn't arrived:
The officers and men are bivouacking amongst the rocks and stones and thistles of the camp site - there are no tents: no store-ship. 
[Lieutenant Colonel J A Dick, '3rd Australian General Hospital', manuscript, MSS 407, Australian War Memorial 224]
Arrival of first detachment of Sisters on Lemnos Island. They marched to the hospital headed by a piper.

Arrival of first detachment of Sisters. [AW Savage, photo album, PXE 698, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales]
With no accommodation ashore, the nurses were transferred from the Dunluce to the Simla, anchored in the harbour. Six of the nurses left for 10 days temporary duty on board the hospital ship, Formosa.

By 7 August, after lots of hard work, the hospital site was pegged out and some marquees that had been found in a small ordnance store were erected. At about 7 p.m. on 8 August, forty of the nurses were landed and, accompanied by a piper, were marched into their new tents. The remainder landed at North Pier the next day, the day the hospital opened. [Lieutenant Colonel J A Dick, 3rd Australian General Hospital, manuscript, MSS 407, Australian War Memorial 224]

Before breakfast on 9 August, more than 200 wounded and sick had been admitted to the new hospital. Four days later, there were more than 800 patients:
The officers' mess and all utensils were given up today for wounded as was the orderly office marquee. Still no store ship and making do … AGH personnel still bivouacking … Sick and wounded on ground on mackintosh sheets and blankets or palliasses on floor of tents
[Lieutenant Colonel J A Dick, 3rd Australian General Hospital, manuscript, MSS 407, Australian War Memorial 224]
The firing after a burial, Lemnos Island
The firing after a burial, Lemnos Island [AW Savage, photo album, PXE 698, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales]
The entries in 'The Register of Deaths' of 3AGH showed the different causes of death during the Gallipoli campaign. For example, the four soldiers who died on 9 August – the day the hospital opened - all did so from gunshot wounds. Indeed, between 9 August and 22 August, 32 men died of wounds and only one of disease.

These days marked the height of the 'August Offensive' on Anzac and thousands of wounded were being brought to all the hospitals on Lemnos. Although it was an Australian unit and the policy was, where possible, to treat Australians in Australian hospitals, the 3AGH admitted large numbers of wounded from all the allied armies. Of the 32 who died of wounds at 3AGH during the 'August Offensive' only seven were Australian soldiers. After the end of August 1915, most of the deaths at 3AGH were from disease.

The first entry in the 'Register' is for Private Eric Bloom, 2nd Battalion, AIF, who died from a severe gunshot wound. He was actually 'admitted dead'. It is likely, although not certain, that he received his wound during his battalion's participation in the Lone Pine battle of 6 to 9 August. Over those three days, 172 men of the 2nd Battalion were either killed or wounded.

The Ascot, carrying all the 3AGH's main stores, finally arrived at Mudros on 20 August. However, in late October, when Staff Nurse Anne Donnell arrived at Mudros, she wrote that although huts were being prepared for them, the Australian nurses were still in tents, unlike their Canadian and English colleagues who were already living comfortably in huts on the island.

The 3rd AGH was not the only hospital on Lemnos. There was also the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital, the 1st and 3rd Canadian Hospitals, convalescent camps and various English hospitals situated at Mudros and East Mudros. Sister Donnell recalled the miserable autumn at Mudros:
Winter time
Winter time [AW Savage, photo album, PXE 698, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales]

The weather is terrible, bitterly cold, with a high wind and rain. We are nearly frozen, even in our balaclavas, mufflers, mittens, cardigans, raincoats and Wellingtons. It's a mercy we have ample warm clothing else we should perish. Last night five tents blew down, one ward tent and four Sister's tents.
[Anne Donnell, Letters of an Australian Army Sister, Sydney, 1920, p.58]
She also lamented their diet: no fruit or vegetables and butter and eggs only once a month.

On 4 November, Colonel Fiaschi, who was seriously ill, was evacuated to London and Lieutenant Colonel Constantine De Crespigny took over as Commanding Officer until the 3rd AGH left Lemnos for Egypt in January 1916.

When the 1040 bed hospital closed in Egypt in January 1916, it had treated 7400 patients of whom only 143 had died. The hospital later went from Egypt to Brighton, England, and then to Abbeville, France where it was based until 1919.


Then there were the Nursing Staff - Hundred of them


The formation of the Hospital as an A. A. M. C. Unit of the A. I. F. was sanctioned by the Commonwealth Defence Department in August 1914. One of the aims in the recruiting of the original personnel of the A. I. F. General Hospitals was to form them as Federal Units. Of the original staff of the First Australian General Hospital, the Medical Officers were recruited from different States of the Commonwealth, the N. C.O’s and Men were chiefly recruited at Bowen Park Camp, Brisbane, Queensland, the Nursing Sisters were recruited from different States.

The unit left Australia as a General Hospital of 520 beds. In Egypt, during 1916, the establishment was increased to 750 beds and later, in France, in 1916, it was increased to 1040 beds.

The staff and equipment embarked on board the S. S. “Kyarra” along with four other Medical Units of the A. I. F. viz : N° 2 Australian General Hospital, N°s 1 & 2 Aust. Stationary Hospitals and N° 1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station, and sailed for Egypt on 2ist November 1914.

Arriving in Egypt on January 14th 1915, the 1st A. G. H. wns accomodated in a building and tents at Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo. The building was very large and palatial, and is well known as the Heliopolis Palace Hotel. On January 24th 1915 the Hospital was opened for the reception of patients.

The Heliopolis Palace Hotel was only built in 1910

The patients received consisted of all ranks of the A.I.F., and all classes of cases were treated. After a short period, and owing to circumstances, the hospital took over other additional premises for the treatment of different classes of cases.

Amongst such were Aerodrome; The Luna Park; The Atelier; The Sporting Club buildings and grounds at Heliopolis, and The Artillery Barracks at Abbassia Depots, and they were attached to and within the command of the 1st A. G. H.

 Subsequently, however, all of these Auxiliaries, with the exception of the Aerodrome which was closed in April 1915, were made into separate A. A. M. C., A. I. F. units, each with its own personnel and equipment. They became respectively the N° 1, N° 2, N° 3 and N° 4. Australian Auxiliary Hospitals in Egypt, each of which has a history of its own.

The 1st A.G.H. had a most useful career from fourteen to fifteen months in the land of the Pharoahs, having served there from January 1915 to March 1916.

During that period the hospital attended to its full share of patients from A.I.F. troops serving in Egypt, also its share of. Australian sick and wounded soldiers who had served in the Gallipoli Expedition in 1915.

In March 1916, following upon the decision that the A.I.F. should serve in France, the various A.A.M.C. units were ordered to close and pack up, their patients being transferred to the Auxiliary and other Hospitals.
First Casulties Gallipoli

The 1st A.G.H., after a hurried departure from Heliopolis, with personnel and equipment for an establishment of 750 beds, embarked at Alexandria on 29th march 1916 upon H.M. Hospital Ship “Salta”. This vessel has since been sunk by enemy action.

Customs Hotel for Infectious Diseases

AGH opened for cases on 25 January 1915 at the Heliopolis Palace hotel, where it became the centre of medical activities. The rush of sick and wounded from the Dardanelles necessitated the adjoining Luna Park, “Atelier” and Sporting Club being taken over for beds as auxiliary hospitals. The Al Hayat Hotel at Helouan was hurriedly equipped for 500 convalescent cases. The conditions were rough, often “deplorable”

Arriving at Marseilles on April 5th the unit disembarked, and after a few days waiting for orders, proceeded by rail and arrived at Rouen on April 13th 1916; and the hospital was opened for the reception of patients on April 29th 1916. The 1st A.G. H. has thus been receiving patients in France for considerably over two years.

The patients received have been from all ranks (except officers) of the British Armies in France viz : English, Irish, Scotch. Welsh, South African, Canadian, New Zealand, and our own Australian soldiers, etc. No distinction are made. Recently some U.S.A. soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force have also been received. All the patients are treated equally conscientiously and well, and it is a privilege, an honour and a pleasure to be able to do anything to help them in the great cause in which we are all engaged.

Following the cessation of hostilities on Nov. 11, the hospital ceased to receive patients in France on Nov. 30 1918 preparatory to its transfer to reopen at Sutton Veney near Warminster, England.

No. 1 Australian General Hospital was criticised publicly for its administration — HOSPITAL MUDDLE.

 Outspoken Article from Egypt. being one example of what was printed in Australia. “Through the unhappy fate that seemed to overshadow that hospital from its inception,” said Sister Jane Bell, “the splendid service rendered to Australia and the Empire by its nursing staff has been somewhat obscured.” Bell had been Matron of 1AGH but was lost to the unit through maladministration.

 An inquiry led to a reorganisation of the system of command; “it was fortunately the first and only ‘medical scandal’ in which the service was involved” (Butler, 405).

In March 1916, the base hospitals 1 and 2AGH were ordered to close and follow I Anzac Corps and the Second Division to France.

Echoes of the War. In a Base Hospital.

The First Australian General Hospital is installed in the magnificent premises of the Heliopolis Palace Hotel. The building is said to be the most gorgeous hotel building in the whole world, but to day it is filled with the manifold activities of a great general hospital. The figures themselves are large, accommodation for 1,000 sick, but when you pass along corridor after corridor, every door opening on the neat white beds in every room, when you find the grand dining-hall converted into a great convalescent ward with 100 beds, then you begin to understand something of this great institution, filled alas, to-day with the flotsam of youth being prepared for war. 
For there are no wounded in our 600 sick, only the toll being paid to pneumonia, rheumatism, influenza, and the obscure diseases of this Eastern land. No, it is not a hotel to-day, for grey-robed nursing sisters from Australia move quietly around, cheerfully doing heroic service, and khaki-clad orderlies carrying stretchers or filling their multitudinous duties, pass along the halls and passages. Truly motors constantly come and go, at the front entrance, but they are painted white or grey with the big red cross on sides and top, and their passengers more frequently than not are carried up the marble steps into the spacious entrance hall. 
And sometimes, alas, the slow march of troops is heard, and the tramp of horses’ feet, the grinding of the wheels of the gun-carriage, for a party of men have come to take away, and pay last honours to the comrade who has died. Within these walls great fights have been, are being fought, medical skill and attention beyond all praise, nursing that fails not, day or night, against the disease that would destroy. Great victories have been won. A haggard man will tell you that he has lost a month of memory. 
A few months will fill again the wasted cheeks, and build again the muscular limbs, but that lost month of his was spent by nurses and medical officer in an apparently hopeless war against pneumonia and typhoid combined. Again and again defeat seemed inevitable, but the Australian nurses nursed to the last, and victory was snatched, out of apparent defeat. Peace hath victories more wonderful than war. But there are sad things here — too sad for words. Let all who in the Homeland are mourning their dead lying in Egyptian graves know this — that nothing can surpass the tenderness and care with which our Australian women ease the last moments of our boys who die here.
1915 ‘Echoes of the War.’, Spectator and Methodist Chronicle (Melbourne, Vic. : 1914 – 1918), 18 June, p. 882, viewed 13 September, 2014,

Rouen, France

No.1 Australian General Hospital arrived at Marseilles from Egypt with a nursing Staff of 117. They disembarked on 6.4.16, and after a few days’ rest, proceeded to Rouen, where the unit took up the site on the racecourse vacated by No.12 Stationary Hospital. Fifty members of the Nursing Staff proceeded with the unit to Rouen, where they were temporarily accommodated in Imperial units pending the preparation of their quarters. 
The remainder were distributed temporarily in the Havre, Etaples, and Boulogne areas, but were to rejoin No.1 Australian General Hospital as soon as accommodation was ready for them. As however, the hospital had at first only 750 beds, it was found that a Nursing Staff of 75 was ample, and authority was requested to employ the remaining 47 members temporarily in British units. D.G.M.S. sanctioned this, and the surplus nurses remained for some time in Imperial units. Amongst the Nursing Staff of No.1 Australian General Hospital were two certified masseuses (not trained nurses) and 3 Red Cross ladies accompanied the unit from Egypt and remained with them at Rouen, where they were billeted out and attended the Hospital daily. 
The Matron of No.1 Australian General Hospital on its arrival in France was Miss M. M. Finlay A.A.N.S. In January 1918, she was recalled to England and was replaced by Matron E. Cornwall A.A.N.S., who however, did not arrive until 21.2.18 owing to illness.
On 7.12.18 the Hospital at Rouen was closed, the whole unit being under orders to proceed to Sutton Veny, England, where it was re-opening.

The institution shown in the above photographs is the No. 1 Australian General Hospital (Palace Hotel), Heliopolis, and the portraits are those of the first nurses who left Western Australia. 1915 ‘Hospital Work In Egypt.’, Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885-1954), 25 December, p. 48, viewed 19 June, 2011




23 September 1918. Group portrait of the Nursing Staff of the 1st Australian General Hospital (1AGH).

Left to right, back row: Staff Nurse (SN) M. Knight; SN A. Bowtell; SN A. B. Tapp; SN V. C. Hobson; Sister (Sr) D. J. L. Newton ARRC; Sr A. E. Jackson; Sr N. OcC. Walsh; Sr E. E. M. Doepke; Sr C. C. McSpedden; Sr M. Bentley; Sr A. E. McIntyre; Sr B. M. Gibbings. Third row: SN G. A. Morton; SN M. J. G. Wilson; SN F. Kay; SN E. Beagley; SN D. T. Henry; SN F. M. Auld; Sr M. G. Dwyer; Sr A. Hewlett; Sr E. McClelland; Sr E. J. Garven; Sr E. A. Perry; Sr N. B. McKay; Sr M. A. Bromley; Sr E. Hooker; Sr M. H. Matthews; Sr L. M. Burke; Sr E. H. O’Reilly; Sr N. Row; SN C. Mackley; SN A. A. Morehead; SN S. J. Proctor. Second row: Sr T. N. K. Ritchie; Sr H. Morris; Sr M. Ogelthorpe; Sr E. M. J. Graham; Sr L. S. Powell; Sr M. E. Cullen; Sr W. A. Newell; Sr A. E. Shadforth; Sr E. D. Smith; Sr E. G. Dolson; Head Sr E. M. Menhewitt ARRC; Matron Miss E. Cornwell RRC; Head Sr A. Kiddhart ARRC; Sr G. A. Grewar; Sr G. M. Doherty ARRC; Sr C. O’Connor; Sr S. C McDonald; Sr E. Geoghegan ARRC; Sr A Kemp ARRC; Sr M. D. Edis; SN F. E. Harte. Front row: Sr B. E. Williams; SN J. G. Francis; SN S. R. Francis; Sr R. B. Just; SN M. Nisbel; SN L. Creasy; SN M. B. Donaldson; Sr E. Pullar; Sr E. Blythe Clarks; Sr L. Riley; Sr A. Searl; SN A. R. Alleyens; SN G. W. Cadle; SN J. P. Down; SN S. L. Capley; SN S. A. Kirkham; SN K. M. Taylor. AWM E03440
  • Alice Ross-King
  • Elsie Grant – in Egypt

The troops were unfairly criticised for their love of a nip or two, and were criticised in the press!

Now to an Australian, that would be like waving a red rag at a bull!

It was not often that Captain Bean received the unbridled wrath of the men in Egypt. However his critique of Australian behaviour in Egypt despatched in January 1915 raised the hackles of the troops. Not that there weren't Australians behaving badly, there were and these men were okay at admitting to that, but it was a small minority causing the trouble but that was painting the rest of the troops with the same brush, which they felt was unjustified.

Bean responded:


(From Capt. C. E. W. BEAN, Official Reporter with the First Australian Expeditionary Force.) CAIRO, Feb. 28, 10.45 a.m.

An article in which I stated that the Australian troops were not responsible for certain rowdiness in Cairo some months ago, but that it was due solely to a small percentage of unsuitable men, seems to have been so twisted and misquoted by a certain newspaper (or newspapers) as to appear to be an attack on the Australian troops in Egypt.

That is exactly opposite to what was written by me or intended. Readers of my articles and cable messages know that the condition of the Australian force in Egypt, the way in which it has carried through its strenuous and tiring training, and the condition in which it is emerging from it are such as would make Australians, if they could only see it, very proud indeed. The newspaper article alluded to also contains sweeping criticisms on the whole of the officers, who were never mentioned in my article, and the criticisms are quite unjustified.

 Such offences as took place were military offences. Nothing else occurred which does not happen in Australia and other cities every day. The newspaper article referred to omits the fact which I was careful to state, and which it is immensely important not to omit that all the men returned to Australia are not unsuitable, but that a large proportion consists of men whose health has broken down often through hard work and exposure, and who are bitterly disappointed at not being able to go on.



Members of the 4th Australian Field Ambulance display the contents of their Christmas billies, which all included a pipe and food. They are wearing the lids on their heads! Lemnos, December, 1915

The hampers/billies contained an assortment of items that the Anzacs considered luxuries, but which we might take for granted: tobacco/cigarettes, matches, razor blades, knitted socks, a pencil, writing paper, cake, sauces, pickles, tinned fruit, cocoa, coffee and, of course, Anzac biscuits! They were described as a “fragrant message from home” and according to the distributors were rapturously received.

Sauces were coveted because they added flavour and variety to the otherwise salty, monotonous bully beef. Sometimes the men traded or bought curry powder from the Indians stationed at Gallipoli, but longed for the more familiar Worcester or tomato sauce.

Socks and sauces were particularly welcomed. Men fighting in cold, wet winters were susceptible to developing trench foot. One of the best methods of preventing this malady, which could turn gangrenous and lead to amputation, was keeping the feet clean, dry and warm in a dry pair of socks. By providing the men with a spare pair of well-made woollen socks, they were able to wash and dry out one pair, while wearing the other.

And of course Anzac Biscuits

ANZAC Biscuits

During World War 1 and World War 2, Australians were fiercely patriotic. This can best be described in the words, my country - right or wrong. The wives, mothers and girlfriends were concerned for the nutritional value of the food being supplied to their men. Here was a problem. 

Any food they sent to the fighting men had to be carried in the ships of the Merchant Navy. Most of these were lucky to maintain a speed of ten knots (18.5 kilometres per hour). Most had no refrigerated facilities, so any food sent had to be able to remain edible after periods in excess of two months. A body of women came up with the answer - a biscuit with all the nutritional values possible. The basis was a Scottish recipe using rolled oats which were used extensively in Scotland, especially for a heavy porridge that helped counteract the extremely cold climate.

The ingredients they used were rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water. All these items did not readily spoil. At first the biscuits were called Soldiers' Biscuits, but after the landing on Gallipoli, they were renamed ANZAC Biscuits.

A point of interest is the lack of eggs to bind the ANZAC biscuit mixture together. Because of the war, many of the poultry farmers had joined the services, thus eggs were scarce. The binding agent for the biscuits was golden syrup or treacle. Eggs that were sent long distances were coated with a product called ke peg (like Vaseline) then packed in air tight containers filled with sand to cushion the eggs and keep out the air.

As the war drew on, many groups like the CWA (Country Women's Association), church committees, schools and other women's organisations devoted a great deal of time to the making of ANZAC biscuits. To ensure that the biscuits remained crisp, they were packed in used tins such as Billy Tea tins. You can see some of these tins appearing in your supermarket as exact replicas of the ones of earlier years. Look around. The tins were airtight, thus no moisture in the atmosphere was able to soak into the biscuits and make them soft.

A Favourite Recipe  Anzac Biscuits  (No they definitely are not Cookies)

1 cup rolled oats 
1 cup plain flour 
1 cup sugar 
3/4 (three-quarters) cup coconut 
125g (4 oz) butter 
2 tablespoons golden syrup 
½ (half) teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 
1 tablespoon boiling water 

Combine oats, sifted flour, sugar and coconut. 
Combine butter and golden syrup, stir over gentle heat until melted. 
Mix soda with boiling water, add to melted butter mixture, stir into dry ingredients. 
Take teaspoonfuls of mixture and place on lightly greased oven trays; allow room for spreading. 
Cook in slow oven (150°C or 300°F) for 20 minutes. 
Loosen while still warm, then cool on trays. 
Makes about 35. 

Two-up is a traditional Australian gambling game, involving a designated "spinner" throwing two coins or pennies into the air. Players gamble on whether the coins will fall with both heads (obverse) up, both tails (reverse) up, or with one coin a head, and one a tail (known as "odds"). It is traditionally played on Anzac Day in pubs and clubs throughout Australia, in part to mark a shared experience with diggers through the ages.
The game is traditionally played with pennies – their weight, size, and surface design make them ideal for the game. Weight and size make them stable on the "kip" and easy to spin in the air. Decimal coins are generally considered to be too small and light and they don't fly so well. The design of pre-1939 pennies had the sovereign's head on the obverse (front) and the reverse was totally covered in writing making the result very easy and quick to see. Pennies can often be observed being used at games on Anzac Day, as they are brought out specifically for this purpose each year.


With so much sadness the encompasses the stories of the brave men who fought, this "story behind the story" offers a little bit of "light" reading while highlighting one of the serious issues of the War, the health of the soldiers.

PostcardOne hundred years ago, in 1915, Good Friday fell on 2 April. While their families were going to church and preparing fish dinners, the Anzacs stationed in training camps near Cairo, Egypt, went on a rampage. The 'Battle of Wazza' took place in Cairo's red light district. Parts of Derb el Wasa and Haret el Wasser (known affectionately as 'The Wozzer', Wassir, Wasser, Wassar etc.) were gutted.

The facade of burnt out buildings after the Good Friday riot.During the afternoon and evening of Friday 2 April, the soldiers torched brothels, dragged furniture and mattresses onto the streets and burnt them and fought with the squadron of soldiers and military mounted police who were sent in to quell the fracas.

Peter Stanley estimates that up to 2500 troops were involved. There were 20,000 soldiers on leave over Easter, and some of them would have been in the area observing, encouraging or participating in the riot.

The facade of burnt out buildings after the Good Friday riot. C00525
Horse-drawn carriages pass through Cairo after the Good Friday affray.

Sister Alice Ross King was stationed in Cairo and recorded in her diary: "about three people were killed and a few dozen injured - the police driven back, heavy missiles such as tables and big logs of wood thrown." Shots were fired and it was well into the night before the military were able to restore order and the fires were subdued. The nurses were warned not to walk around the town alone or in uniform the next day (see Peter Rees, Anzac Girls, p.30).

Horse-drawn carriages pass through Cairo after the Good Friday affray. 

A Council of Inquiry was held to try and address the reasons the rampage started. In true trans-Tasman sporting fashion, the New Zealanders blamed the Australians and the Aussies blamed the Kiwis. The consensus was that the riot was a reprisal for the spread of venereal disease (VD) (for which Cairo's prostitutes were held responsible, not the men who paid them), misunderstandings about the cost of different sexual services and a rumour that some pimps had stabbed soldiers (see Peter Stanley, Bad Characters, p.36).

Egyptian men walk amongst the damaged wagons and furniture in a Cairo street after the riot. Egyptian men walk amongst the damaged wagons and furniture in a Cairo street after the riot. P04172.001

VD was rife in the army and was becoming a serious medical and military problem. Early in 1915, about 1000 men in the AIF (Australian Imperial Force), or 10%, were affected - the equivalent of a battalion at full strength. However, as Peter Stanley points out, this was less than the incidence of VD in the urban populations of Paris, Melbourne, London and Berlin (see Bad Characters, p.36).

It was not a military offence to seek the services of a prostitute, but if men contracted VD, they were punished. Their pay was suspended while they received treatment and sometimes the allowances paid to their dependants at home were also halted.  Further, they took up a hospital bed and nursing time that could have been used for a soldier wounded on the battlefront.

Many of the Anzacs training in Egypt were young, impressionable and on their first (and possibly only) overseas adventure. They had 'bags of money' to spend (three times as much as their British counterparts) and were keen to taste the exotic and unfamiliar delights of Egypt.

Four Australian soldiers astride donkeys photographed in front of the Sphinx and the pyramids Four Australian soldiers astride donkeys photographed in front of the Sphinx and the pyramids H02273

Charles Bean was so concerned about the temptations awaiting the Anzac novices that he wrote a hastily published guide book for them: What to Know in Egypt.

It warned the soldier tourists to resist the siren call of the "women riddled with disease", and if they could not, to arm themselves "with  certain prophylactics". With an estimated 30,000 sex workers operating in Cairo in 1915, condoms were much harder to come by than prostitutes.

Some highly spirited Anzacs participated in the Good Friday rampage, while others cheered or hid.

The 'spirit of the Anzacs' started well before the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.


ANZAC   Australian New Zealand Army Corp

ANZAC' stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. On the 25th of April 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula.

When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only 13 years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.

The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated, after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. News of the landing on Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.

Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left us all a powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as the “Anzac legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways they viewed both their past and their future.

The 25th of April was officially named Anzac Day in 1916. It was marked by a wide variety of ceremonies and services in Australia, a march through London, and a sports day in the Australian camp in Egypt. In London over 2,000 Australian and New Zealand troops marched through the streets. A London newspaper headline dubbed them “the knights of Gallipoli”. Marches were held all over Australia; in the Sydney march, convoys of cars carried wounded soldiers from Gallipoli attended by nurses. For the remaining years of the war, Anzac Day was used as an occasion for patriotic rallies and recruiting campaigns, and parades of serving members of the AIF were held in most cities.

During the 1920s Anzac Day became established as a national day of commemoration for the 60,000 Australians who had died during the war. In 1927, for the first time every state observed some form of public holiday on Anzac Day. By the mid-1930s, all the rituals we now associate with the day – dawn vigils, marches, memorial services, reunions, two-up games – were firmly established as part of Anzac Day culture.


Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, revered in Turkey as the saviour of the Battle of Gallipoli and as the father of the country that he helped form after the war, wrote in 1934 a tribute to the ANZACs:

"Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well."


It wasn't our War - we both lost family who were unknown to us.
An Australian and a Turk at Anzac Cove 2014

For so many there was no tomorrows!!!  But for some there were no beginnings! 


JOHN AUGUSTO EMILIO HARRIS killed in action at Gallipoli in World War One
not yet 16 years of age, and killed 17 hours after arriving.

Lance Corporal John Harris
2251  2nd Battalion

The Australian War Memorial Honour Roll recognises at least 58 boy soldiers or sailors who died while serving our country in the Great War. These are 58 boys who never became men, who never became husbands, who never became fathers who never experienced the "good: things in life, only the brutal and the sad.

Lance Corporal John Auguste Emile Harris who was just 15 years and 10 months old when he was killed in action at Lone Pine Gallipoli.  

Before the war, John attended Cleveland Street High School in Sydney and worked as a clerk. He lived with his parents Alfred Thomas Harris and Alphonsine Anna Camille Nee Prudthomme at 165 Denison Street, Waverly, and is believed to have attended the Church of England.

He also had reached the rank of 2nd Lieutenant of the 28th infantry in the New South Wales Senior Cadets. But John left all of this behind when he enlisted for the Australian Imperial Force on 2 June 1915. John’s age was given as 18, Alfred Harris signed the parental consent form for his son’s enlistment and a mere 2 weeks later, John embarked on the HMAT A63 Karoola; final destination Gallipoli.

Arriving at Gallipoli a meagre 17 hours before the August Offensive began, John and his great friend and perhaps mentor, 33 year-old 2nd Lieutenant Everard Digges La Touche, had little time to accustom to trench life. Involved at the charge at Lone Pine, John Auguste Emile Harris was last seen at 4:30pm on 6 August.

Speculation surrounds the date of John’s death, some official records recording it as 6 August while others recording it as the 8th. A logical explanation for the error is that the 2nd battalion was relieved by the 7th battalion on the 8th, making it an appropriate time to do a “head count” of sorts. 

It seems probable that John died on 6 August, and this is backed up by witness accounts, and notes stating that he and Lieutenant La Touche died on the same day. La Touche was mortally wounded on
 6 August, but supposedly lived long enough to order that John’s military service tags be removed, and mailed home to his father.

It is believed that John August Emile Harris only has a headstone because the return home of his dogtags proved that he fell at Lone Pine. Red Cross Wounded and Missing files claim John’s body was left where it fell and that he received no burial.

John’s story of sacrifice emphasises the importance of the continuation of the Anzac spirit among young people from generation to generation.

His resolve and his courage should be well recognised, a shining example of a true Australian.

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