A visit to the Middle East – May 2018
Oddly, this was an unexpected highlight of the trip. The Cairo War Cemetery, which is just five kilometres from the city centre, is behind high walls in very unattractive urban setting. However, the cemetery itself is one of the most beautiful with one of the biggest ‘wow’ moments I have had in visiting CWGC cemeteries.
Perhaps being a clear morning with blue sky helped, but the condition of the cemetery was superb. The grass was bowling green standard and the many Poinciana trees with their flowing red flowers were spectacular.
The cemetery is partly civilian at it was the British Protestant cemetery prior to WW1. There are just over 2,000 WW1 graves and 340 WW2 graves plus some memorials.
The OW we came to visit was Lt-Col Robert Garrick Wilson, who died of illness on 9 February 1916. An honorary rank, he owned the land at Broadmeadows, Melbourne which the AIF camp was built. He ran a canteen there and when the First AIF left for Egypt he and his son went as well to continue a canteen/comforts service for the troops. He was 52 years old when he died.
Another grave of interest was of Private Edward Attfield. On Anzac Day, just a few weeks prior, a new headstone had been placed on his grave to mark his resting place. Prior to that, it had been an Australian soldier “known only to God”. For over 100 years Attfield had been treated as a deserter when he failed to report to camp in February 1916. For reasons, which I do not understand, the body of an Australian soldier found in Cairo at about the same time was not linked to his disappearance. Thankfully that error has now been corrected. He is of particular interest to me as he lived with his parents at 72 Lang St, South Yarra. This would have him, as a member of the Church of England, in the parish of Christ Church South Yarra whose WW1 war dead I have been researching.
We also visited the grave of Major General John Campbell, VC who died 26 February 1942.
Cairo war cemetery
Cairo war cemetery – Campbell VC
The last cemetery we visited was the Heliopolis War Cemetery, just ten kilometres to the north-east of central Cairo. We were looking for an Indian Army VC who is one of the 4,000 men commemorated on the Port Tewfik memorial. A memorial was originally been at the south end of the Suez Canal but due to Israeli-Egyptian conflict was destroyed and replaced here in this large cemetery with 1,830 graves from both WW1 and WW2. We noted a number of Australians with late 1942 deaths, which we assumed were casualties of the El Alamein conflict and died in Cairo hospitals.
Panoramic photograph of Heliopolis
 Badlu Singh VC, died 23 September 1918 14th Murray’s Jat Lancers