Chatby Military and War Memorial Cemetery

The Chatby Military and War Memorial Cemetery is in the eastern part of Alexandria and is sited between the Al Horaya (the dual carriageway to Aboukir) and the Mediterranean Sea. This cemetery is a part of the main Alexandria Cemetery Complex and its entrance is along the road Sharia Anubis which goes centrally north/south through the area. The front entrance has a metal gate in an archway further along from two small grass areas which are a part of the front roadside.

The Chatby Military and War Memorial Cemetery is a former garrison cemetery. During the Great War this cemetery was mostly used until April 1916, when the nearby Hadra War Memorial Cemetery was opened. Only 3 of Chatby’s 464 Australian First World War graves came after that time, although there are a further 47 Australian graves interred here from the Second World War.      

Like in the First World War, Alexandria was an important hospital centre in the Second World War. There were also camps, hostels, an anti-aircraft base, a communications centre and a military police headquarters set up in the area.
Inside the cemetery stands the Chatby Memorial. The structure with three archways fronted by a stone engraved with ‘Their Name Liveth For Ever More’ commemorates 988 Commonwealth graves (134 Australian) of the sea. Some of these men were buried at sea due to wounds or illness but others were killed on hospital or transport ships throughout the war. 

Image: Chatby War Memorial and Military Cemetery
Source: Christopher Karykides.

This portrait is of Private Miller, who enlisted at Morphettville, South Australia just a month after war was declared. He was part of the 16th Battalion which landed at Gallipoli the afternoon of 25 April. Eight days later Private Miller was wounded in action, suffering gunshot wounds and a compound fracture to the lower jaw. He was invalided to a hospital at Tanta, between Cairo and Alexandria, and died there at 4 o’clock in the morning on 29 May. 

Mrs Clarie Miller and her family were ‘harrowed’ by many false reports surrounding her son’s death – the dates, the places, the details were inaccurate and contradictory. The frustration at misinformation was one reason Clarie decided to travel to Egypt in 1916. Private Miller was originally buried in a local Presbyterian cemetery at Tanta and it was this grave Clarie tended. She also visited the Tanta hospital and pressed its staff for their accounts of her son’s death as part of her pilgrimage. Certainly it comforted her to have such sound information and she wrote with confidence, ‘I have visited the hospital and seen the grave’.

After the war, and after Clarie had returned to Australia, Private Miller’s body was moved to Chatby Military and War Memorial Cemetery and he now lies in Row E, Grave 165.

Private Miller reminds us that Gallipoli is an important part of the Egypt story. Throughout the campaign cargos of wounded men were taken to hospitals at Lemnos and Malta, but also to the further away hospitals in Egypt.  

Image: Portrait of Private Donovan James Miller.
Source: Australian War Memorial P07159.043.

Many Australian troops enjoyed the warmth of the Egyptian climate, but the appeal could quickly wear off. Although the Australian sun can be harsh many nurses and soldiers were not prepared for the intense heat of Egypt and as such sunstroke was an issue for the AIF. One Sydneysider wrote home ‘surfing and sun-baking at Manly made me brown but the Egyptian sun is fast making me black. I hope we’ll be out of it before the summer sets in properly’.  

And the effects could be far more serious. One of the Australian men commemorated on the Chatby Memorial is Private Fred Agutter. Sailing into Egypt, just days out from arriving at Alexandria, Fred died from the affects of sunstroke. Onboard the same transport ship, Private Ray Vernon Jenkin died from sunstroke too and he is buried at Port Said War Memorial Cemetery.  

Although death from sunstroke was not common its effects could be extremely debilitating, mean a lengthy recovery and could even lead to men being invalided home to Australia.   

Image: Chatby Military and War Memorial Cemetery, Alexandria, the Chatby Memorial can be seen at the centre of the image.
Source: Christopher Karykides.

Throughout the First World War, in all its theatres, the unsanitary conditions of battle caused many cases of severe infection. The lengthy time before wounds could be treated and extended periods between dressings and ongoing treatments inevitably meant that many wounds led to death or severe disability through infection. Many graves in Egypt commemorate the loss of life due to septicemia.  

Private Leonard Pepper is one such case. Private Pepper was wounded in the Gallipoli evacuation and he was hospitalised at Murdros for pleurisy and thrombosis. He eventually arrived back in Alexandria a few weeks later but he was gravely ill. One of his tending nurses, Sister Lulham, noted that in his state of infection:  

He had a temperature and wandered sometimes … He did not like being alone, and the Matron arranged for there to be a special nurse for him, so that he was never left for a moment day or night … He was always so nice and polite. Sometimes the pain that we gave him while shifting him made him cry out, but he always apologised afterwards … He would often say “give my love to Mother and the Sisters” and kept saying he would write himself, but was not really strong enough. Once he said “Oh poor Mother, she wouldn’t like to see her Len like this” and he alluded to her an hour before he died.

After weeks of pain and sickness, Private Pepper died of septicemia in the No 17 General Hospital on 2 February 1916 at just 19 years. 

 

Image: Imperial War Graves Commission workers at the Chatby Military and War Memorial Cemetery in the interwar years.
Source: Courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission archive.

 

Sources:

Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing.
Enquiry Bureau files, 1914-18 War
2209 Private. Leonard William Percy
1DRL/0428.

Service Dossier, Private Ray Vernon Jenkin
B2455
JENKIN RAY VERNON
National Archives of Australia.

Service Dossier, Private James Donovan Miller
B2455
MILLER D J
National Archives of Australia.

Service Dossier, Private Leonard William Percy Pepper
B2455
PEPPER LEONARD WILLIAM PERCY
National Archives of Australia.

Butler, A. G. ‘Chapter 10 - The Landing: Expeditionary Base’, Volume I – Gallipoli, Palestine and New Guinea, Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services, 1914–1918, 2nd edition (Melbourne: Australian War Memorial, 1938).

Sydney Mail, 31 May, 1916, p. 18.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
www.cwgc.org

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