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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Memorial or Useful Building?

Terry Denham

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For many years I have wondered what the CWGC Giza Memorial in Egypt looked like as I had never seen a picture of it. Now, courtesy of fellow Pal, Peter Beckett, I have such pictures and thought that members might like to see this unusual official memorial.

This memorial to the missing is unique amongst such CWGC memorials as it is a utility building rather than a simple monument. It was built as an opthalmic laboratory and appears to still fulfill that function although it now also houses a medical museum. The Memorial commemorates the missing from the Egyptian Labour Corps and the Camel Transport Corps. The names of these missing men were never recorded or were lost and so no names appear on the Memorial.

There was a great debate when it came to designing memorials to the missing and there was a large pressure group urging that 'useful' buildings be built rather than traditional memorials. CWGC resisted this pressure as they believed that such buildings would lose their significance over time. However, Giza was the one occasion when they gave in to the lobby for a utility building - possibly because of the lack of men's names to be engraved.

Apart from the name over the entrance, the only other memorial signs are two bronze plaques inside the entrance - one in English and one in Arabic. The English version is shown below.

Thanks again, Peter


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I went on a trip to Cairo myself(with my then girlfriend, now wife) some years back.

The idea to build a utilitarian building fits in with the whole ethos of the city. Buildings in Cairo tend to get used, by someone or other as housing is in short supply and the population is growing fast.

A trip to the City of The Dead, where people live in the mausoleums of the main cemetery and look after the crypts(they are called the Guardians, I believe), underlines this. Many apartment buildings had Shanty style add ons on top at the time-where the caretaker had built his home also. Unfortunately in the mid 90's and earth tremor brought lots of these down, killing thousands.

I think it may be best such structures as pictured are occupied officially , so to speak, as opposed to un-officially.

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