The battle of Wazza in Cairo in 1915 - and sex had a lot to do with it...
By Peter Petterson
First published at Qondio:
In 1915 the Anzac troops were training and resting in Egypt before moving towards the Dardenelles in Turkey and a date with destiny in Gallipoli and World War One history. These were mostly young men, some no more than boys, from the bush, towns and the cities in every state of Australia; and their cousins over the Tasman Sea from the North Cape to the Bluff, the North, the South and Stewart Islands, from the countryside, the bush,the towns and the cities, Pakeha and Maori alike, even a few from Cook and Niue Islands as well. These were the Anzacs - the Australia New Zealand Army Corps. And history would, indeed, record and remember their deeds in coming months.
This is one of their stories: The Battle of Wazza.
The Anzacs had been stationed in Cairo in 1915 for a number of weeks leading up to the Gallipoli campaign. Suddenly one day they turned on some of their hosts, and rioted in one of Cairo's most notorious streets on which several handred Anzac troops set fire to brothels while hundreds of other troops looked on. In fact it has been recorded that 3,000 Anzac troops rioted for three days throughout Cairo's red-light district burning and trashing these houses of ill-fame.
The actioned was allegedly precipitated by claims that alcohol supplies had been urinated in to make them go further. The difficulties in getting treatment for veneral disease probably helped the situation as well. Many troops had been isolated in special compounds during this period.
An enquiry made later allegedly revealed that Kiwi troops were more heavily involved than their Aussie cousins. Perhaps it was the beginning of a century when New Zealanders were in the forefront of many campaigns involving social justice in a variety of theatres of action.
This riot, and the actual reasons which precipitated it, resulted in a New Zealand woman, Ettie Rout, setting up a social and sexual support service in Paris for Anzac soldiers on leave from the Western Front. She advocated the supply of condoms and antiseptic ointments to the troops, and the setting up of a safe sex brothel. She would be considered a 'saint' by the troops and the wickedest woman in Britain by a British Bishop.