The Diary

Sandy Mulligan volunteered with a few days of the outbreak of World War 1. His service record indicates his service began on August 10, 1914. In April 1915 he was amongst the New Zealand troops who landed at Gallipoli in the Dardenelles. He was there until evacuated in December 1915.

He kept a diary from the time he enlisted until he was evacuated from Gallipoli. The entries are published below on their centenary.

Unfortunately there is a gap in his diary from 5 December 1914 until 9 April 1915 during which there are no entries. It does not appear they are simply "missing".

Timeline showing key events related to New Zealand's involvement in the Gallipoli campaign.

ANZACs & The Battle of the Wazzir

April 2 is the centenary of the so-called 'Battle of the Wazzir'. It was a riot which occurred in Cairo, Egypt. The riot took hold in a street called "Haret el Wasser", an area of Cairo where there were a large number of brothels and drinking establishments.

It is claimed that at its peak about 2,500 Australian and New Zealand soldiers were involved, many of whom were intoxicated. The soldiers were reported to have had an assortment of complaints, including recent price increases, poor quality drinks, and concerns about the spread of venereal disease. The riot resulted in considerable damage – estimated at several hundred pounds worth[1] – to several brothels which were set on fire; firefighters who responded to the blaze were also accosted. In response, mounted police were dispatched, as well as yeomanry, Lancashire Territorials and military police. [seeWikipedia]

Another source says that "The so-called ‘Battle of the Wazzir’ supposedly began as a reprisal for the spread of venereal disease and was not helped by rumours that Egyptian pimps had stabbed soldiers. It became a milestone in the unofficial history of the Anzacs." [see Anzac soldiers riot in Cairo's Wazzir brothel district, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 9-Dec-2014; downloaded 31 March 2015.]

The most detailed description I have found appears to be in a Blog called "Middle East Institute Editor's Blog".

Dunn says "The ANZACs were trained in camps near the Pyramids. So, not unnaturally, they spent their free time in Cairo. ... It would be nice to say they spent their time sightseeing, but they spent their time the way many soldiers have in many wars, drinking and seeking women, especially of the sort whose virtue was negotiable.

... the rate of venereal disease during the war was enough to create major problems for the British and colonial forces. ANZAC units reported an average incidence of VD across the Corps as 12%, or one man in eight; one unit is said to have had a rate of 25%. And penicillin hadn't yet been discovered.

Egypt had developed a licensed brothel quarter in the late 19th century, where the houses were nominally subject to medical inspection. Beyond the licensed quarters, there were areas where prostitution was semi-tolerated.

Now, to further set the scene for the Battle of the Wozzer, the Red Light District of the Day (or the Red Blind Quarter as it was known, and other streets to the north of the Ezbekiyya Gardens.

... Now, we come to April 2, 1915. The ANZACs were getting ready to ship off to the Greek islands of Lemnos and Mudros to prepare for the Gallipoli landings. According to some of the accounts I will be quoting below, there had been some incidents leading up to the "battle," but since April 2 was Good Friday, there was no training that day and large numbers of men had leave. So all the resentments came to a head....

Depending on the version, and there are many, the immediate provocation was one or more of the following:

  • Anger over the extremely high rates of VD, already mentioned;
  • An Englishman was trying to rescue his sister from one of the houses;
  • Claims the beer was watered or even stretched with urine;
  • A New Zealand unit was outraged because one of its Maori soldiers was rejected by a girl as too dark-skinned;
  • Arguments over price.

Perhaps it was some combination of all these, or just the imminent deployment.The fight began with an attack on a house at Number 8, Darb al-Muballat, for whatever reason. Soon sofas were burning in the street, a piano came crashing out a window, and as many as 2000 ANZACs were torching brothels and fighting with natives and each other. Both mounted British military police and Australian units eventually put the riot down; the whole thing started between four and five in the afternoon (remember, the men had the day off and doubtless started drinking early) and ended by eight.

A formal inquiry was convened the following day under Colonel Frederic Hughes, commander of the AIF's 3rd Light Horse Brigade, to investigate the causes of the riot and establish responsibility for its outbreak. Many New Zealand officers attempted to disclaim that their men had played any part, although the evidence of their presence was quite conclusive - the officer leading the Australian picket was adamant that `New Zealanders predominated'. In any event, nine-tenths of those present had been merely spectators. Apportioning blame was next to impossible, however, with few of the 50 witnesses able (or willing) to provide precise information. As the number of men injured by the MPs' bullets (three Australians and one New Zealander) was roughly in proportion to the size of the respective contingents, it could be said that the ‘honours' were about equally shared. So too was the damages bill of £1,700.

... Next night a riot started in the canteen of the Abbasieh camp. Somebody caught an Arab who was employed at the canteen making water in a tub of beer. The Arab was at once pulled & half killed. All the beer casks & tubs were broken & spilt & all the groceries & goods stolen & the place burned down.

The guard was called out again but by the time we got there everything was over & the camp was quiet except for the fire still burning.

On Sunday evening the New Zealanders burned down a picture show. The man had advertised a boxing match & doubled the admission & then showed just the same pictures as he usually did. So they burned his place down.

... There was a second Battle of the Wozzer fought on July 31. This was a much smaller affair, and took place after most of the ANZACs were ashore at Gallipoli.

There is no suggestion that Sandy Mulligan was in anyway involved; the Diary is silent on the first date in question, and on Gallipoli when the second Battle occurred.