In the land of the Pharaohs

28th Battalion parades along Barrack Street

28th Battalion parades along Barrack Street

William Granger was a young journalist working for the Great Southern Leader in Pingelly. When WWI broke out, like many others in this State he joined the 28th Battalion to serve the Empire.

On arrival in the Middle East he penned a brief account of everyday life. In his memory, Dodgy Perth invites you to sample the sights and sounds of Egypt while war raged across Europe.

The reader should be aware the following uses language no longer acceptable, but which was normal among white Australians at the time.

Well to say the very least, the train journey was a remarkable eye-opener. I have been always led to believe that the Suez to Cairo journey was through an endless tract of arid desert, but I found that just the opposite was the case. For miles upon mile there was stretched as far as the eye could see, vast green fields in. which profusely growing were tobacco, cotton, dates, grapes, melons, rice, grain, and numerous other articles.

Stations are very numerous and at any of the larger ones a small army of natives besiege us with melons and fruit which they endeavoured to palm off on us at ridiculous prices. However, one can barter with them and often the price is reduced 75 per cent.

The nigs are the laziest and most cunning beggars ever known, they won’t do a tap of work unless the boss stands over them all the time. If the work extends over an hour or so they plead hungry and complain of divers pains—an Australian native is bad enough but they are kings compared with these heathens. They too are abominably dirty, and you can see them covered in sores and flies wandering around eating out of slop buckets. Ugh! they make one sick.

We are at Abbassich, seven miles from Cairo and a mile from Heliopolis. This latter place is an achievement of modern masonry and architecture and is wonder fully clean compared with other towns here. The buildings are large, airy, and the thoroughfares spacy and there is not the appearance of slummery that is so frightfully prevalent in Cairo. Picture shows and salons are run in conjunction with bars and the musical and pictorial portion is free to all.

There are a tremendous lot of wounded here and many large buildings have been commandeered by the military authorities for hospitals. One of the largest and finest buildings in the world containing 700 rooms and a picture of modern science—the Palace—has been taken over for this purpose. This magnificent building was built for a casino, but the license was not granted, hence its being utilised thus, which methinks is for a much better cause.

In passing, beer is obtainable from 1 piastre (2½d) to 2 piastres per pint. English beer can be obtained that is alright, but the local stuff, which is obtainable at every cafe in the street, is abominable stuff and is more deadly than “Mallet Bark”.

A decent feed costs from 6 to 12 piastres, but the mode of dishing up a meal is most peculiar and takes some getting used to.

I have been in Cairo several times but don’t care much for the place. It is of big dimension, and holds a large population and almost every country is represented amongst its cosmopolitan numbers. There is no design about the lay-out of the place, and a street just goes where it will, very often ending abruptly at the wall of some building and back you go to try another way. There are numerous alley-ways and these beggar description, being absolutely indescribable. Filth and immorality prevail and every building seems to be a place of ill-fame and it is not safe to go through these parts singly.

Everybody from mites about two years old to old men somewhere in the vicinity of a century seems to be a business man and spends his time annoying pedestrians trying to palm off his wares. They sell anything and everything. As you walk through the streets you are almost continually followed about by a horde of these pests and they won’t leave till they are forcibly driven off.

I think I have written about all for this time so I will bring this short description of the place to a close.

Corporal William Granger fell in action at the Battle of Polygon Wood on 1 November 1917, aged 25.

WA’s first jihadist

turkish troops

Turkish troops looking forward to going home for a kebab and a packet of Camels

When fighting at Gallipoli, you probably don’t expect to run into an old mate fighting for the other side. Yet that is exactly what happened to Private Henry Molloy.

Henry was a stretcher bearer and one morning he was, as usual, preparing a cup of tea. He had just boiled the water, and started to add the tea and sugar when a familiar voice called to him from behind Turkish lines.

“Hullo, Molloy,” said the voice in a heavy accent, “how vos Blossom?” Blossom was a colleague of Molloy’s at the Midland Railway Workshops, where he had worked as a fitter before the war.

Henry immediately knew who was speaking. Frederick Shack was a German also employed at the Workshops until he was dismissed for quarrelling with the foreman. After that, Fred set up a grocers in North Perth, where he was a familiar face doing the rounds with his cart. But somehow Fred had evaded the authorities, left Perth, and joined the Turkish troops.

The two chatted about the latest gossip from the Midland Workshops. Then Henry remembered the foreman’s son was also at Gallipoli, and would likely shoot Fred for insulting his father some years earlier.

Fred didn’t seem all that worried. “You hop it before you’re seen,” he replied, “or Jacko will put you in the harem.” (‘Jacko’ was digger slang for Turkish forces.)

Henry retorted with a friendly “Fuck the Kaiser!” before scooting back to the safety of the trenches.

War may be hell. But it can also be very odd.

Guy, Shannon, Jessica and Power Pinn


When Guy Sebastian, Shannon Noll and Jessica Mauboy team up with others to record a modern-day patriotic song, you know it’s going to be awful. And boy does it suck. Big time.

We challenge you to get halfway before scrambling for the stop button.

So Dodgy Perth thought it was time to take a look back at Perth’s best known patriotic composer of WWI, who went by the fabulous name of Elizabeth Power Pinn.

Mrs Power Pinn—who lived in Florence Street, West Perth—was utterly convinced of her own talent.

On her delicate shoulders fell the responsibility of churning out poems and songs which would cheer the troops, remind people at home of their duty, and generally assist the war effort.

It is an inviolable rule, though, that there are only two types of poet utterly convinced of their own talent: geniuses and the talentless.

Mrs Power Pinn fell into the second category.

Her biggest hit song was Australia’s Call to Arms, of which the opening verse went:

We’re the worthy sons of Britain,
The Nation of the world!
We’re going to hold the banner,
No matter where it’s hurled.
Of ev’ry page of his’try,
We’re going to paint the red;
And conquer foes as in the past,
When Drake and Nelson led.

Seriously? WTF?

On Friday nights, His Majesty’s Theatre would put on a variety show hosted by The Dandies. One of its stars was Linda Bradford, who was variously reviewed as a ‘gem’ and ‘she sings to the soul’.

Well, in January 1915, Linda made the mistake of singing one of Mrs Power Pinn’s latest jingoistic offerings: Flag of Liberty.

She did the best she could. But nothing could cover up the fact that the thing was god-awful.

The Sunday Times reviewer noted that while the words were bad, the tune was worse.

His sensible advice to The Dandies was to keep a gun handy for the next patriotic songwriter who offered “untuneful hogwash”. And to use it.

He kept a whole armory to stop jingoist writers himself, as well as mining the door to the office.

If only Guy, Shannon and Jessica had been given such advice, we would have been spared their instantly forgettable piece of blandness.

But to cheer up the Dodgy Perth readership convinced that songs can’t support your nation and be good, we offer the only decent jingoistic melody (slightly NSFW) ever written:

Anzac profits


A few Anzac gifts available from the Post Office

As you bite into your Anzac biscuit, preparing to celebrate Anzac Day at Anzac Cottage, or maybe have a pint at the Oxford Hotel on the corner of Anzac Road, or…

You get the point. Anzac is a bit more than a military term. It’s a word full of emotion and value. Value in the ‘give me all of the money’ sense, that is.

The wonderful Ms History Punk has exposed the cashing in immediately—really immediately—after the word Anzac was coined. It wasn’t even an official word at first, just a nickname. It wasn’t even popular with some soldiers. So Ms Punk explores the seedy world of business folk safe back home in Australia who never missed a chance to make a little extra.

Like the Imperial Boot Co on Hay Street who announced an Anzac Sale in 1916. Yep. Apparently all those Anzac heroes going off to war meant they weren’t buying footwear like they should have been. And the poor shop was overstocked. So here was your chance to get some cheap shoes before the soldiers came home and the prices went back up again. That’s what they meant by Anzac Sale!

If you were in Bunbury during WWI and fancied a cool drink, fruit, lollies, or perhaps some beef or ham, we’d recommend the deli quickly renamed The Anzac to catch the current mood. Or if you were in Kalgoorlie, why not eat at the Anzac Grill Rooms?

Didn’t get a residence built for you by the local community? Presumably that’s because you weren’t a wounded serviceman. Never mind, estate agents will still sell you a lovely house as close as possible to Mt Hawthorn’s Anzac Cottage. Really close if you can afford a bit extra.

And finally, not serving overseas? Well you can pretend you are by buying some Anzac badges and Anzac hat pins to wear on Anzac Day. Then you can imagine you’re playing your part. And Boans can make a profit. By coincidence, of course.

It was all getting so out of hand that the WA poet Dryblower (aka Edwin Murphy) imagined a dystopia where:

It’s ‘Anzac Cottage’ and ‘Anzac-street,’
Anzac sox for your tender feet;
Anzac collars and Anzac ties,
Anzac puddings and Anzac pies.
Anzac stockings and Anzac shoes,
Anzac buttons and Anzac booze.
There’s an Anzac hat for an Anzac head,
And an Anzac bridegroom newly wed,
While spoony pairs will be sighing soon
For a sweet little Anzac honeymoon!

We were spared this nightmare when the Government suddenly banned the use of the word on anything commercial.

But you should still go to Anzac Cottage. And eat an Anzac biscuit. And be thankful we were spared Anzac socks. Although a pint of Anzac booze would go down nicely right now.

The battle over Anzac Day


So, with Anzac Day coming up and the hundred year thingy being all important, Dodgy Perth asks the question: Won’t somebody think of the children?

More specifically: How should we introduce Anzac Day to the kids?

We have been pondering this since enjoying the savage beating Peter Stanley inflicts on Anzac Ted (an appalling-written book for pre-schoolers).

So Dodgy Perth now looks back to a different war. One between the Government and the RSL.

In the 1920s schools would invite a digger to speak on the subject of Anzac Day. Until 1925 when the Minister for Education banned them.

The RSL was outraged. Seriously, seriously outraged.

Led by the holy trinity of Rabbi David Freedman, Archbishop Riley and Sir Talbot Hobbs, the anger still seems palpable 90 years later.

The peacenik teachers and politicians were more concerned with ‘turning the other cheek’ and the newfangled League of Nations than teaching children to do their duty.

“Whether certain people like it or lump it,” Talbot Hobbs declared to loud applause, “we are going to do our duty by our fellow comrades.”

Anyone who said the RSL wanted to go into schools to teach children to kill people or war was a glorious thing was simply a liar, he thundered.

The Government, though, stuck to its guns.

There was no question of children not being taught about Anzac Day, it insisted. The question was not what should be taught, but who should do the teaching.

In this case, people who are trained to give instruction to young minds (we call them teachers, usually) were ideally placed to deliver lessons on the War.

Returned soldiers had certainly done their duty, but they were not qualified to communicate with the kids. That was best left to teachers.

In any case, there had been complaints after one digger spoke to the assembly for more than two hours the previous year. Which showed exactly how much they understood young minds.

Interestingly, for all their concern over children, the RSL regularly banned kids and women from the Dawn Service in Kings Park. Women and children do not lend an air of dignified respect to the occasion said the RSL, so they had to stay away.

So, nearly a century later, what have we learned about how to teach pupils about the Anzac story?

Given the regular fights between opposing camps of historians, Dodgy Perth suggests the answer is we have learned bugger all since 1925.