Friday, 18 October 2013

First actions by Anzac troops in Egypt

The Anzac troops first saw action in February 1915 when the Ottoman Army attacked Egypt from the east. This attack was unexpected as they had to cross the Sinai desert to reach the Suez Canal. A feat hitherto thought to be impossible for a large force. The Ottoman VIII Corps from Syria exhausted themselves doing it. The New Zealanders, who were encamped at Zeitoun, were called to assist the British and Indian troops in repelling the attack. It was during this battle that the EnZeds lost their first soldier killed in action in The Great War.

The next “battle” involved soldiers from both Australia and New Zealand – it is known as “The Battle of the Wozza”. It occurred in Cairo two days before the Anzacs left for the Gallipoli campaign. A few soldiers held grievances against the hotel and brothel owners in Cairo’s red light district, and after hearing they were about to embark, they went to “settle accounts”. The 5th Battalion Unit Historian described the area as “a festering sink of iniquity that was well purged by fire”. The resulting fracas was labelled a riot; however most of the Anzacs who were there were mere spectators and did not take part in the violence. It did however give the Anzacs a bad name for unruly behaviour which was to follow them for a long time.

(There was a “Second Battle of the Wazza” which occurred later in July, after the 1st Division had left for Gallipoli, and was more serious, with a number of buildings being burnt down.)

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