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Wozzer ?

To avoid all misunderstandings, let's first state that the term " the Wozzer " refers to the " Haret Al Wassir ", the red-light district in Cairo's Ezbekieh Quarter at the beginning of this century.

To the Australian and New-Zealand troops that were encamped in the vicinity of the city, it soon became known under a series of different names : the Wassah, the Wazzir, the Wazza are only a  few of the many they used to refer to the place. As C.E.W. Bean, in his official history, opts for " the Wozzer ", which is probably a fairly accurate transcription of what he heard, let it be like that in this article.


2nd Wozzer ?

The term " Battle of the Wozzer " refers to the disturbances, caused in Cairo by the Anzac troops, before they were transported to Gallipoli. As such, it is in fact a misleading term, for the simple reason that events of this kind occurred twice with an interval of only 3 months. In both cases, houses were damaged and set on fire by drunk troops, citizens were maltreated, furniture was thrown out of windows and the military authorities had quite a hard time to restore order.

So, when one speaks about the " Battle of the Wozzer ", two different occurrences should be mentioned : 1st Wozzer, which took place on Good Friday,  2nd April 1915 and 2nd Wozzer, a new 'battle', which was fought on 31st July 1915.


But why not 1st  Wozzer ?

As a matter of fact, the First Battle of the Wozzer was much better covered by Gallipoli historians. There are of course good reasons for this : as it was the first time a disturbance of this kind occurred in Egypt, the outbreak of violence was completely unexpected and therefore got more attention in the press.

Another fact is that every Gallipoli history   deals with 'The Preparations for the Campaign'. Automatically, the first battle is then included in such a chapter, partly because of its spectacular character, but even more so as an attempt to give an impression of the mentality of the troops.

A third factor is of course that shortly after the Good Friday battle, the ANZAC forces were shipped to Gallipoli. When the 2nd battle was fought in Cairo, it was completely overshadowed by the events taking place on the Peninsula.

So why the 2nd Battle of the Wozzer ? Well, because it's a story that was never told, as far as I know at least, in more than a few vague lines. It was not the ANZACS' most glorious battle, but what happened in Cairo on that evening of 31st July 1915 may add a small piece to that big puzzle that was,  and still is, the Gallipoli Campaign.

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