In Egypt one hundred years ago, on the 4th of April 1915, the 1st Australian Division and the units of New Zealand Expeditionary Force who combined to make the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) were at this commencing to sail northwards across the Mediterranean Sea from Alexandria. Their destination was
(Much of this is covered on page 15 of my book.) Lemnos Island
|NZ's and Australian's confront the Redcaps at "The Battle of the Wozza"|
The long awaited orders to move to the Front had finally arrived on the 1st of April. After the “
of the Wozzer” described in an earlier post (here) the soldiers got on with the task of dismantling their tents and
organising their gear for transport to Alexandria.
Piles of kit bags, etc grew beside the road at Mena and Zeitoun. The once busy areas
occupied by these units were now deserted. Arab shopkeepers who had set up
their shops outside the camps (an occurrence still happening today outside our
camps overseas) looked on bewildered, as the respective areas were tidied, emu
bobbed and the rubbish burnt in big pits. The members of the Australian Light Horse and NZ
Mounted Rifles asked enthusiastically when they would be going as well. But all
they got was a shake of the head; for, at this moment, only the infantry brigades
were moving. Men who had been using excuses to exempt themselves from certain
duties (malingering) were seen to be lining up in front of their unit RAP’s in the
hope of being found fit to go with their units. Nobody wanted to miss out on
the adventure, and get away from Egypt.
|Troops embarking at Alexandria.|
Throughout the night and morning of the 3rd of April as the time for the first few units to move arrived, the men formed up and marched off to the
train station. It took four days to move the entire 1st Division
from Mena Camp, leaving only the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, the 4th
Light Horse Regiment, and a few other small units.
The news was splashed across the
Cairo newspapers. Security was out the door.
The whole world, including the enemy, soon new that ANZAC was moving. The men
crammed onto troop trains at Cairo and were soon
enroute to Alexandria.
The British and French navies so dominated the Mediterranean
that the ships sailed without an escort.
This proved to be sufficient, for there were not many instances where the Allied troop movements were threatened. On one occasion however on the 17 April, as the SS Manitou, carrying British 29th Division artillery units, was a day out from Lemnos, a Turkish torpedo boat, the Timur Hissar, slipped through the “net” and drew alongside. It was a time when chivalry still existed; a Turkish voice shouted “I’ll give you ten minutes to leave the ship, then I will sink you.” With that the troops aboard began to hastily man the life boats.
One boat with sixty men aboard crashed heavily into the sea smashing itself to pieces and 53 men drowned. As it turned out the Turkish torpedo boat fired three torpedoes and they all missed, then some British destroyers arrived and chased it off.
Thus it was that ANZAC was taking the last steps towards its ultimate fate.