The Egyptian Armed Forces has marked 100 years on WWI by commemorating the contribution and sacrifice offered by Egyptian troops in battle. The event was held at the Military Research Authority (MRA) where the Egyptian flag was flown side by side with the flags of the Allies.
Colonel General Sidqy Sobhy, Minister of Defence, assigned his assistant General Amin Hussein, head of the Arab Union for War Veterans, to attend the celebration.
The celebration opened with a speech by General Gamal Shehata, and president of the MRA, who stressed that the Egyptian army derives its values, traditions, and legendary bravery from a long history that goes back to the ancient Egyptian military. He also reviewed the role of the research conducted at the MRA to document the history of Egyptian military achievement, prominently including Egyptian participation in WWI.
Fighting on several fronts
The speeches were followed by screening a documentary on the Egyptian troops who fought in three continents alongside the Allies in WWI. Back then, in November 1915, armed conflict arose in North Africa when the Grand Senussi in Lybia sided with the Ottoman Empire against the British and the Italians. The Ottomans persuaded him to attack Egypt—which was then occupied by the British—and proclaim Jihad in the west as the Ottomans conducted an offensive against the Suez Canal on the east. Even though Senussi achieved a number of victories at first, he was pushed back and defeated in March 1916 by the Western Frontier Force of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force.
In Sudan hostilities erupted between the Anglo-Egyptians and the Sultan of Darfur who was believed to have prepared an invasion of Egypt. Again, Egyptian forces allied with the British were able to defeat him.
Some 100,000 Egyptian warriors also took part in battles on the European front, fighting in four countries: Belgium, France, Italy and Greece. Many died in action and were buried in the Commonwealth War Cemetery. A number of them were awarded the Victoria Cross for “valour in the face of the enemy”.
The MRA researcher Ashraf Sabry reviewed his 13-year-long efforts to document the role of Egyptian forces in WWI. Dr Sabry talked of the numerous documents he scrutinised to prove the heroism of the Egyptian military in their fight alongside the Allies. This heroism, he said, has been recognised, and the Egyptian flag will now be flown in Belgium over a war memorial for the Egyptian soldiers who died in action.
As the event drew to a close, the attendants were treated to a photo exhibition that also included copies of documents which had been recently declassified by the British and French National Archives, and by several European universities.
The exhibition also included rare photos of the Egyptian armies ever since ancient times and till the present.
Participating in the celebration were prominent figures of the Armed Forces, public and media figures, figures from the diplomatic corps and military attaches, as well as military and police cadets.
The event wrapped up with the Egyptian national anthem.
11 November 2014