Sunday, August 3, 2014

First World War -- 100 years ago, in Gaza

Today marks 100 years since the outbreak of World War I.

Many do not realize that thousands, many thousands, of young Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in that war are buried in Israel.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintains four cemeteries in our region.

One is in Ramleh, not far from Ben Gurion Airport.
Recently I posted about the British Cemetery in Beer Sheva  here and also about the yearly  Australian Light Horse commemoration.
Please see ANZAC Day for my posts about the World War I cemetery in Jerusalem.

But the fourth cemetery is one I will never be able to visit.
It is in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.
So here are two photos from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, on the Find A Cemetery page.

Gaza War Cemetery contains 3,217 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 781 of them unidentified. 
Second World War burials number 210. There are also 30 post war burials and 234 war graves of other nationalities.

The CWGC gives this:

Historical Information

Gaza was bombarded by French warships in April 1915. 
At the end of March 1917, it was attacked and surrounded by the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in the First Battle of Gaza, but the attack was broken off when Turkish reinforcements appeared. 
The Second Battle of Gaza, 17-19 April, left the Turks in possession and the Third Battle of Gaza, begun on 27 October, ended with the capture of the ruined and deserted city on 7 November 1917. 
Casualty Clearing Stations arrived later that month and General and Stationary hospitals in 1918.

Some of the earliest burials were made by the troops that captured the city. About two-thirds of the total were brought into the cemetery from the battlefields after the Armistice. The remainder were made by medical units after the Third Battle of Gaza, or, in some cases, represent reburials from the battlefields by the troops who captured the city. Of the British Soldiers, the great majority belong to the 52nd (Lowland), the 53rd (Welsh), the 54th (East Anglian) and the 74th (Yeomanry) Divisions.

During the Second World War, Gaza was an Australian hospital base, and the AIF Headquarters were posted there. Among the military hospitals in Gaza were 2/1st Australian General Hospital, 2/6th Australian General Hospital, 8th Australian Special Hospital, and from July 1943 until May 1945, 91 British General Hospital. There was a Royal Air Force aerodrome at Gaza, which was considerably developed from 1941 onwards.
(Linking to Our World Tuesday.)


William Kendall said...

We so often think of the European theatre of that war that we overlook other places in the world where the fighting was just as intense.

Cloudia said...

Thank you for showing us around, and teaching us context, dear Dina.


Patsy said...

So sad Gaza let darkness consume it.

Kate said...

Row after row of war dead. Nothing seems to have been learned over the years. Human life seems to be too cheap.

Sara said...

Wow, I had no idea!

Anonymous said...

War war and always war.
We are fed up.

Hels said...

That is amazing. While I have visited 1 or 2 of the others, I have never heard of Dir al-Balak in central Gaza. If there were 3,217 Commonwealth burials from WW1 alone, there must have been a lot of children and grandchildren who would have wanted to visit their father's grave.

cieldequimper said...

That great butchery... General mobilisation was on the 2nd in France and last Friday the tocsin (the bell) was supposed to ring at 4 pm in a lot of cities but I never heard a thing from my office.

Peter said...

A great reminder and lovely photos. Thankyou.

Dina said...

See also
which says "The Royal British Legion has a great website that is attempting to document every British Empire/Commonwealth World War I dead. Every Man Remembered is attempting to give every dead warrior a story and map out their final resting place."

yael said...

It is amazing Dina. I did not know.

Birdman said...

This blog teaches me a lot. And I thought I knew cemeteries.

VP said...

The strange thing about these bloody facts of history is that people think that all this can be avoided following some simple teaching/religion/system of beliefs. History sadly teaches us otherwise.

EG CameraGirl said...

How very sad that wars destroy so many lives. I hope all is well with you, Dina.

Englepappa said...

Thank you - another brick in the knowledge-puzzle is placed... And the killings continues. It's sad. Human beings seem to never learn by history.

Adullamite said...

Aye many from where I now live were amongst the fallen at Gaza. The cemetery is well kept and damage from the last incursion has been repaired.
That are of land has seen many wars over the years, Turks, Babylonians, Egyptians, who knows who else has had their wars before that way back in prehistory.
Such a place to live in.
These three cemeteries are well looked after.

Dina said...

Adullamite, yes, these 4 cemeteries and I'm sure all the CWGC cemeteries around the world are beautifully kept up, usually by older men who are devoted to their cemetery.
Yes, unfortunately there was damage during the previous Gaza operation and Israel paid to repair it.

Bill Nicholls said...

I think we all forget that was a big area of conflict in WW1, and still is now unfortunatly

Vagabonde said...

I did not know about all these cemeteries in Gaza – WWI was such a horrendous war. I also wrote a post on 3rd August, which is the day Germany declared war on France, but relating to the Tour de France in 1914. I was reading in a French newspaper that around Verdun, they constantly find, still, gun shells in the fields and forests around it. Here in the US though I have not heard much about the centennial of the beginning of this war. Your post was most interesting.

retriever said...

Interesting post, greeting from Belgium