Hadra War Memorial Cemetery

Hadra War Memorial Cemetery is in the east of Alexandria city. The Cemetery is south of the Al Horaya (the dual carriageway to Aboukir) and it is close by to the University of Alexandria, running along the road Sharia Manara. Hadra Cemetery is located nearby the Chatby War Memorial and Military Cemetery, just a one kilometre walk, and is open to visitors Saturday through Thursday from 7.30 to 14.30.

As a port city, Alexandria was a busy and important site during the Great War. Before the Gallipoli campaign began the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force base was moved there from Murdros, making the city the camp and hospital centre for both the Commonwealth and France. Beyond the Gallipoli campaign, Alexandria continued to host various hospitals and served as a key point where the sick and wounded were transported.

Not long into the war it was realised that the Chatby Cemetery would not be able to hold the ever growing number of dead and so the Hadra War Memorial Cemetery was used from April 1916. Most of the men interred at Hadra died in hospitals based around Alexandria.

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. The Hadra War Memorial Cemetery was used again in this war from 1941 onwards. There are 1705 Commonwealth graves from the First World War and 1305 from the Second World War interred here, including 115 Australian burials from both wars.    

Image: Hadra War Memorial Cemetery, Alexandria, looking north-west.
Creator: Nathan Wise

Alexandria, ‘the pearl of the Mediterranean’, is a coastal city and as such has long played an important part in Egypt’s industry, trade and commerce. Founded by Alexander the Great in 331BC, this city has rich historical layers from ancient and more modern eras.

Alexandria offers a range of fascinating sites, outside the scope of the First and Second World Wars, including the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the National Museum, the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa and the Roman Amphitheatre.

During the First World War, Alexandria’s location as a seaport made it an ideal hospital city and the 17th, 19th, 21st, 78th and 87th General Hospitals and No 5 Indian Hospital were stationed there at various times. Alexandria was also a popular place for troops and nurses to spend leave time and explore as tourists. Sister Alice King kept a detailed diary about her service in Egypt and she noted her reflections of this city:

Alexandria is a fine city. Electric trains etc, big shops and well paved streets … French is the language commonly spoken. In most of the shops you go into they do not speak English at all. We visited the catacombs and the museum. The former were only discovered 14 years ago. A site was selected for building a fort and when the builders were digging the foundations they suddenly came upon these catacombs. They are wonderfully carved and irrigated with Nile water. The Mummies were removed and put in the Alexandria Museum.

Alexandria’s cityscape also impressed Australians, one correspondent described:  

The town itself … is one of the greatest seaports in the world, and amongst the most ancient … There is an Oriental appearance about Alexandria’s narrow streets, but the city is really cosmopolitan and in architecture almost European … Its buildings are in khaki-coloured concrete. It is built on khaki-coloured limestone and sand. Naturally the city’s colour is yellow, but irrigation and industry have given it some beautiful splashes of green in its beautiful parks and gardens.

Image: Lateen sail boats in the Nile River Delta alongside the road from Alexandria to Port Said.
Source: Nathan Wise.  

Built as a summer home for the Khedive Abbas II in 1892, Montaza Palace (also often spelt Montazah) sits atop a bluff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, ten miles from Alexandria. The ornate retreat was constructed amid lush, beautiful gardens filled with date palms and pines.

During the First World War, Montaza Palace became the No 7 Convalescent Hospital, although reportedly the former Khedive was not impressed that his summer home was taken over and reappropriated for such purposes.

The British and Australian Red Cross jointly transformed this opulent estate into the ‘best of all the convalescent homes’ hosting thousands of men who required treatment, observation and recovery. The staff resided in the Palace and three blocks were set up for the patients, one of these men was Bombardier George Stewart, who wrote home to his family about his stay at Montaza:

It is a beautiful old place, surrounded by magnificent gardens. A beautiful marble stairway leads down to the beach, and in the bay are yachts and rowing boats, which are at the disposal of any of the soldiers who care to use them. There is also a plentiful supply of rods and lines for those who delight in fishing. The food is first-class, and there is plenty of it.

Being so close to the water allowed for pleasant recreation but also meant somewhat cool relief and respite ‘away from the sand and flies’ of more busy centres of Egypt.   

Over the years, and the reigns of King Fouad I and King Farouk I, the Montaza Palace was developed and expanded. Today, the Palace stands as a luxury hotel and the still beautiful Montaza Gardens are open to the public.  

Image: Montaza Palace.
Author: Daniel Mayer
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alexandria_-_Montaza_Palace_-_front_view.JPG

With such an eclectic mix of troops – men from Australia, Egypt, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Ireland and India - stationed in Egypt, there were often assertions of nationality. Unofficial, and often stowaway, mascots were a popular way to identify where you came from. Mascots identified nationalities but they also served to distinguish units within such a mass of troops. Animal mascots were, and still are, an important part of military culture.     

Alongside local or European animals like rabbits, monkeys, dogs, parakeets and ‘laughing jackassess’, there were some Australian animals in Egypt - there were kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras, koalas, there are even reports of a Tasmanian devil. The strange Australian fauna was a curiosity, sometimes a frightening one, to the Egyptian locals. One soldier described arriving in Alexandria with their mascot:

… our pet kangaroo created an amusing scene, refusing to budge on being placed on the wharf. For some time he was eyed by the natives with great curiosity, but suddenly he bounded forward. Then, with ear splitting yells, some hundreds of Alexandrians made record time in seeking safety from the “ferocious” beast.

Transporting these native animals was not official and they were smuggled onboard troop ships. So what became of them? Signaller Isaac described the nearby Cairo Zoo as the best in the world but there was a notable exception: ‘There is one animal missing and that is the kangaroo, but there are about a dozen pet ones here in camp, which have all been given to the Zoo, though they stay with us until we leave Egypt.

Image: Mascots at home and abroad. Patients and a nurse holding a koala at the No 3 Australian General Hospital at Abbassia.
Sources: Australian War Memorial J01713.

 

Sources:

Butler, A. G., ‘Chapter XVIII – Egypt: August to December’, Volume I: Gallipoli, Palestine and New Guinea, Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services, 1914–1918, 2nd edition (Melbourne: Australian War Memorial, 1938).

Scates, Bruce and Frances, Rae, Women and the Great War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). 

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
www.cwgc.org

El Salamlek Palace Hotel & Casino
Palace History
http://www.elsalamlekpalace.com/doc/palace_history.htm

Montazah Palace Gardens
Lonely Planet
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/egypt/mediterranean-coast/alexandria/sights/palace/montazah-palace-gardens

Papers of Sister Alice King, Australian War Memorial, PR02082.

Chronicle, 23 January 1915, p. 43.

Sydney Morning Herald, 30 January 1915, p. 15.

Bendigo Advertiser, 16 February 1915, p. 3.

Kalgoorlie Western Argus, 26 October 1915, p. 12.

Argus, 8 November 1915, p. 7.

Sydney Morning Herald, 4 December 1915, p. 7.

Sydney Morning Herald, 11 December 1915, p. 7.

Chronicle, 8 January 1916, p. 43.

Western Mail, 30 December 1937, p. 9.

Sources

Butler, A. G., ‘Chapter XVIII – Egypt: August to December’, Volume I: Gallipoli, Palestine and New Guinea, Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services, 1914–1918, 2nd edition, (Melbourne: Australian War Memorial, 1938)

Scates, Bruce and Frances, Rae, Women and the Great War, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).  

Commonwealth War Graves Commission,

www.cwgc.org

El Salamlek Palace Hotel & Casino

Palace History

http://www.elsalamlekpalace.com/doc/palace_history.htm

Montazah Palace Gardens

Lonely Planet

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/egypt/mediterranean-coast/alexandria/sights/palace/montazah-palace-gardens

Papers of Sister Alice King, Australian War Memorial, PR02082.

Chronicle, 23 January 1915, p. 43

The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 January 1915, p. 15

Bendigo Advertiser, 16 February 1915, p. 3

Kalgoorlie Western Argus, 26 October 1915, p. 12

The Argus, 8 November 1915, p. 7

The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 December 1915, p. 7

The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 December 1915, p. 7

Chronicle, 8 January 1916, p. 43

Western Mail, 30 December 1937, p. 9

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