Moascar War Cemetery

Image: Moascar War Cemetery entrance, courtesy Edward McManus,
Battle of Britain London Monument, www.bbm.org.uk

The Moascar War Cemetery is just ten kilometres from Ismailia, just off the main Ismailia-Cairo Road and then 3 kilometres along Treaty Road. The cemetery is within an army camp and thus there are special requirements as part of any visit. You will need to apply for a security pass through the Military Attache at the British Embassy in Cairo. It is important to submit the application well in advance of your planned trip, at least ten days beforehand, but the earlier the better. The Embassy’s details are:  

PAA to Defence Attache
Defence Section, British Embassy
7 Ahmed Ragheb Street
Garden City
Cairo

E-mail: DLDefenceStaff.CAIRX@fco.gov.uk
Tel: 002 02 2791 6051
Fax: 002 02 2791 6056
Office Hours:
Sun/Mon/Tues/Wed: 05.00 - 12.30 GMT
Thursday: 05.00 - 11.00 GMT

Moascar War Cemetery is open from 7.30 to 14.30, Saturday through to Thursday, excluding public holidays. There is wheelchair access through the cemetery’s main entrance but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission suggests contacting them for further information about this access, or with any questions, given the special nature of this particular location. Their Enquiries Section can be contacted via telephone on 01628 507200.

Moascar War Cemetery is a Second World War cemetery. There are 474 Commonwealth graves, including 18 Australian burials, mainly from the Canal Zone, between 1942 to 1945. There are also servicemen burials from the post-war years for troops killed in the evacuation of Commonwealth forces from Egypt. The Moascar War Cemetery also includes nearly 500 non-war graves and 19 non-Commonwealth graves.

Although Moascar is a Second World War cemetery, the Moascar area was an important site during the First World War too, hosting the Australian Training Centre and numerous hospital sections.

Image: Moascar War Cemetery.
Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Image: Three patients each receive treatment at the Australian Dental Hospital, Australian War Memorial B00691

For much of the Great War, there was little focus on the dental health of troops, most work was being done in the field under very trying conditions, such as in tents where ‘the heat was well above meteorological shade temperature, the light bad, the flies often swarming’.

However from 1917 onwards there was a much needed shift in the AIF’s approach toward the dental health of troops in Egypt. An objective was established that whenever possible troops on leave and men convalescing would be treated for any dental issues before returning to the front, so leaving dental work in the field for emergency cases. Although this policy was far from perfected, the approach did improve the situation. Mostly the dental work was occupied with fillings, fitting and repairing dentures and minor operations, generally work was intended ‘keep the teeth serviceable’ and was basic care.

By mid 1918 there were seven dental units based at Moascar – six at the Training Centre and one at the No 2 Stationary Hospital. At the Training Centre a cement building was especially constructed and whilst there were ongoing struggles to gather supplies, towels and other accessories donated from Australian dentists at home, helped.

However, there was an obvious weakness in the AIF’s dental care in Egypt – a lack of skilled professionals trained for work on damaged jaws and with prosthetics, devestating realities of facial war wounds. This kind of expertise was strongly developing in other places though, particularly in the hospitals in England.

Image: Three patients each receive treatment at the Australian Dental Hospital.
Source: Australian War Memorial B00691   

Image: Australian troops on leave travelling on an Eygptian tram,
Sunday Times, Perth, 28 March 1915, p. 17

Of all the diseases that the Australian Army Medical Corps faced venereal infections were ‘the most difficult to prevent, the most troublesome to treat, and the most productive of absence from duty’.

Marina Larson notes in her work that almost as many men contracted venereal disease as died on the battlefields. And high rates of infection were an issue from the beginning. In the first weeks after Australians arrived in Egypt, venereal disease cases exploded and whilst their numbers decreased and levelled out over the war, they were a constant cause of concern for medical staff and the AIF. Compared to their British counterparts, Australian troops had much higher rates of VD and the only point of difference seen to be playing a part was their higher pay scale.

So how did the AIF handle this health issue? At first, there were appeals to senses of both morality and fear, however the most effective method was cessation of pay and isolation from the ‘sphere of influence’. Given the values of the era, there was a fairly veiled approach toward dealing with the questions of VD – neither official promotion of prophylaxis nor decent education were encouraged.   

In Egypt there were several hospital arms with expertise treating venereal disease, creating wards of infected men. This was an improvement on when they remained in the camps and infected men were forced to wear a white arm band and quarantined in guarded isolation nearby Mena.

Throughout the war the rates of VD infection varied. In Egypt 1915, then in Egypt, Palestine and Sinai the remaining war year, the numbers of men per 1,000 admitted to hospital for VD were:

1915   133.41
1916   137.7
1917   53.3
1918   109.6

In 1917 the venereal disease section of the No 14 General Hospital was transferred to the Camp Clearing Hospital at Moascar and between June 1917 and May 1918 the VD section of the No 2 Australian Stationary Hospital had 1256 men admitted for infection.

Image: Australian troops on leave travelling on an Egyptian tram.
Source: Sunday Times, Perth, 28 March 1915, p. 17

Image: A cross marking the grave of Sergeant-Pilot Huon Tasman Nation at Moascar War Cemetery, Australian War Memorial MED2163

Buried at Moascar War Cemetery is Sergeant-Pilot Huon Tasman Nation. Sergeant-Pilot had joined the RAAF in 1940, when he was 24 years old and the following year he was redrafted to the RAF. He trained in Canada and served in Great Britain before being moved to fight in the Middle East campaigns.

On 23 October 1942, at 5:30pm, Sergeant-Pilot Nation was killed in an air accident, he was found dead at the crash scene, with a compound fracture to the skull, right humorous, right tibia, fibula, left tibia and fibula.

Sergeant-Pilot Nation left a wife he’d only married to for three and half years and already been away from for a year. He also left two small children, Patricia and Barry. They remembered him though, inserting their memorial notices in the Tasmanian paper:

Time goes on, but memories stay
As near and dear as yesterday

Of the 18 Australian men buried at Moascar War Cemetery, 13 served in the RAAF. Throughout the Second World War and in many theatres of battle, there were nearly 10,000 RAAF deaths.  

Image: A cross marking the grave of Sergeant-Pilot Huon Tasman Nation at Moascar War Cemetery.
Source: Australian War Memorial MED2163

Sources

Huon Tasman Nation
Service Dossier
National Archives of Australia
A9301
408147

Butler, A. G., Chapter VII – The Gallipoli Campaign: Tactical Preparations, Volume I – Gallipoli, Palestine and New Guinea, Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services, 1914–1918, 2nd edition, (Melbourne: Australian War Memorial, 1938).

Butler, A. G., Chapter XIII – Egypt during June and July, Volume I – Gallipoli, Palestine and New Guinea, Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services, 1914–1918, 2nd edition, (Melbourne: Australian War Memorial, 1938).

Butler, A.G., Chapter XXII – Egypt: Reorganisation of the AIF, Volume I – Gallipoli, Palestine and New Guinea, Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services, 1914–1918, 2nd edition, (Melbourne: Australian War Memorial, 1938).

Bou, Jean, Light Horse: A History of Australia’s Mounted Arm, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 220.

Larsson, Marina, Shattered Anzacs: living with the scars of war (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2009) p. 82.

Advocate, Burnie, 29 October 1942, p. 2

Advocate, Burnie, 23 October 1946, p. 2

Examiner, Launceston, 28 October 1942, pp.2, 4

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
www.cwgc.org

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