Black and white photographic print depicting the remains of a burnt-out building in Cairo that was reportedly destroyed during a rampage popularly known at 'The Battle of Wassa' (also known as Wasa'a, Wozzer, Wasser, Wassar or Wazzir) involving Australian and New Zealand troops and the Military Police. The 'Battle' took place on 2 April 1915. Scholar Peter Stanley estimates that up to 2500 Australian and New Zealand troops were involved. Three Australians and one New Zealander were wounded and an estimated £1,700 worth of damage was sustained.
The reasons for the 'battle' remain unclear; however, it seems to have been prompted in part by anger about veneral diseases contracted by some of the troops, or an attempt to rescue the sister of an Englishman who had fallen victim to the white slave trade (or a combination of both). Racial tensions are likely to have underpinned the rampage. During a subsequent Council of Inquiry the Australians and New Zealanders blamed each other.
The photograph is attached to a small notebook used as a photograph album, containing 55 black and white photographs of Anzac soldiers in Egypt, Mudros and Gallipoli during World War I. The photographs were taken by an Australian soldier, Sergeant John Lord or one of his friends (to be verified). John Lord served in the 13th Field Ambulance and returned to Australia shortly after the end of the War in 1919. The album was one of many souvenirs brought back to Australia after World War I by Lord. Part of a larger collection of photograph albums, images, documents and World War I memorabilia donated by John Lord to Museum Victoria.
Description of Content
The ruins of a building in Cairo occupy the main part of the photo. The face of the building is deteriorated and the upper storeys are exposed. In the foreground on the right, an Australian soldier is silhouetted, while behind him on the left is a local Egyptian man with a loaded pack donkey,
Black and white photograph, mounted in a small, blue, army-issued notebook used as a photograph album.
This photograph is in a very significant album which includes a number of excellent photographs of Australian soldiers at Gallipoli and surrounding areas. Some of these are particularly clear and well-composed - for example, 'Rest Gully Anzac' shows hundreds of soldiers sitting and standing around talking and a valley with lots of dugouts and shelters. 'Old Kit etc at Anzac Ordnance Stores 1915' is another clear photograph, ,showing rubbish that the Anzacs generated at Gallipoli. Many of the photographs were taken when the weather was hot, but there are also a number of images taken in the snow. Another, 'Extreme Right of Anzac' demonstrates the steepness of the terrain and the mixture of clothing that the soldiers wore. All of the photographs appear to have been taken at times when the photographer was 'off duty', since the images are of the landscape or soldiers at rest.
Donation from J. Lord, 24 Feb 1986
Place & Date Depicted
Sergeant John Lord
Private John Lord was originally identified as the photographer of the album, but as there is no record of him serving on Gallipoli, and images in the album depict Gallipoli, the photographer is probably an unknown soldier.
Photograph, Black & White
Hand written in pencil directly below photograph: 'Remains after fire supposed to / have been caused by Australians'. Hand written in ink on verso: 'Remains of a building / said to have been set alight / by the Australians. / Commonly called. / "The Battle of the Wassa"'.
Type of item
Image Dimensions - Photograph
67 mm (Width), 110 mm (Height)
Image Dimensions - Photograph album page
100 mm (Width), 145 mm (Height)