Alexandria and Cairo

All of the the following photographs were taken by Harry Belson, or with his camera, and were taken in 1919 after the return to Egypt. There were few notes on the back of these prints, so hopefully there may be people who see the photographs and recognise the locations or the events pictured.












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Harry Belson, pictured on the left in the photograph above, and likewise in the two pictures below.

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HB_1318HB_1319HB_1321HB_1613 March past Cairo 1919 (Allenby?)

The mounted figure at the head of the victory parade looks very much like Field Marshal Vicount Allenby.

Harry Belson returned to England via Italy & France (over land) and was demobbed in June 1919.


In the garden shed which my grandfather called his office was a framed portrait of a Bedouin, whom Grandpa said had given his permission to have his photograph taken. Unfortunately I have found no trace of that photograph, although I am hopeful that the negative may still be amongst the others….

© Paul Barham, May 2018


My grandfather was always proud of the fact that he had been baptised in the Suez Canal. So it was in a spirit of pilgrimage that in the Easter after the end of the War he travelled to Jerusalem.

The first set of photographs were taken by him, and the captions, where present, are all as noted by him on the backs of the prints.


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St Paul’s Steps – from where he is reputed to have addressed the crowd of Jews that were mobbing him – St Anthony’s Tower

(The tower of St Anthony’s Coptic Monastery)


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Jerusalem – the Golden Gate


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Russian Orthodox Church – Mount of Olives. Easter 1919. All the roof was gilt and looked wonderful in the sun. It was sealed up so we couldn’t go inside.

HB_1624_Jerusalem - Easter 1919

Jerusalem – showing the dome of the Mosque of Omar. Taken by me from the Mount of Olives. Russian Church on the right. Easter 1919.


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Jerusalem – Mosque of Omar

HB_1623_Jerusalem - Temple & Mosque of Omar

Jerusalem – Temple area & Mosque of Omar



The house where Lazarus was raised from the dead


HB_1626_Mount of Olives - Easter 1919

Church of the Ascension taken from the tower of the German Church on the Mount of Olives. Easter 1919.



The remainder of the photographs of Jerusalem and Bethlehem are postcards of Christian holy places. The messages written to the family give a clear picture of the impact that these places had on my grandfather.

PC_01 Dead SeaPC_04 Monument of AbsalomPC_05 Rachel's TombPC_08 Grotto of the NativityPC_06 The Manger

PC_07 Bethlehem Basilica

“Basilica, Bethlehem. The oldest Christian church in the world – below this is the birthplace of Christ.”


“A view of the Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem. The large tree is an ancient olive tree some hundreds of years old & reputed to have descended from the actual olive trees at the time of our Lord’s visit. The garden has been much modernised. Love Hy. Easter 1919”

PC_03 Holy Sepulchre

“The Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. Contains site of Calvary and sepulchre where Christ was buried        – of course this is disputed by certain authorities.”

PC_02 Holy Sepulchre

“The Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Easter 1919. The Sepulchre where Christ was buried after Crucifixion.”

PC_09 Ecce Homo

“Jerusalem, Interior of the Ecce Homo Basilica. Presented to me by the Mother Superior of the Church of Our Lady of Sion, Jerusalem – which stands on the site of the Ecce Homo Arch – during my visit there. Easter 1919 HB. The Arch and Wall forms the reredos behind the Altar shown in the photograph.”

My grandfather retained a keen interest in the Holy Land for the rest of his days, proof of which can be seen on his – now my – bookshelves, on subjects ranging from the history of the English church to the development of the modern state of Israel.

© Paul Barham, March 2018

Haifa, Beirut and Juniya

“Last Trek to Beirut – from breakthrough at Medjel Yaba to Beirut.”

The three Brigades of 54 Division held their positions to the south through the spring and early summer of 1918, and the stronghold of Medjel Yaba was taken in September of that year. The Brief Record documents the ruin of Sirisia taken by 163 Brigade on 19th September, with 600 prisoners and 11 guns taken.

Early October saw the Division advance to Haifa, continuing the march north to Beirut at the end of the month. My grandfather has noted in the margins of the Brief Record: “as the 161 Brigade ambulance had to remain at Haifa, a small number of men (self included) were detailed from 163 Ambulance (including me) with 2 MO’s to accompany the 161 Brigade from Haifa to Beirut.”

The Brief Record notes that 54 Division marched through Beirut on 31st October 1918, at the hour Turkish hostilities ceased.

All of the the following photographs were taken by Harry Belson, or with his camera, and captions, where present, are as noted by him.

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With the Camel column on the trek North towards Beirut



Somewhere in Lebanon on the way to Beirut – The final breakthrough – hill country

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Turkish prisoners captured in the last stump


Haifa Bay – Haifa taken from Mount Carmel


Fir plantation on the sand dunes behind Beirut, to stop the sand drifting into the town.



In the Beirut district. The man was a Copt.


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Dog River

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The Turkish Light Railway crossing a hill stream. This was on the coast, the hills running right down to the sea, the road hewn a ledge out along the rock. The scenery was fine. I find this is the famous “Dog River”.


Junie about 12 miles north of Beirut – vineyards

The coastal town now more commonly spelt “Juniya” or “Jounieh”. Modern photographs show how dramatically the townscape has changed in front of the distinctive hillside backdrop.



Arrival in Beirut marked the end of the War and the end of my grandfather’s long trek north through Egypt and Palestine. Another marginal note in the Brief Record reads: “54 Division – November – Embarked at Beirut & proceeded to Suez and then to Cairo to deal with rioting in Egypt.”

© Paul Barham, May 2018

Medjel Yaba

“Between Wilhelma & Medjel Yaba, up to the time of the breakthrough.”

The maps in the Brief Record show the 161, 162 & 163 Brigades all more or less on a line 8 miles East of Jaffa during the first two months of 1918, with 163 Brigade initially at Rantieh and 162 Brigade moving to positions 2 and 4 miles behind the line in February 1918.

All of these photographs were taken by Harry Belson, or with his camera, and captions, where present, are as noted by him.



Roman remains somewhere in the region of Mulebbis – Mejdel Yaba – Ras el-‘Ain Castle. N.E. of Jaffa.



River Anya – front line held at the time of the final break through. The line was on the North side of the river which flowed through orange groves.


The Mill Bridge over the Anya – scene of some desperate fighting



Isolation Camp for Indian troops



Cuchel near Medjel Yaba – near Jaffa

My grandfather makes no mention of the cricket match being played close behind the front line.



Medjel Yaba – our Section accompanied the Infantry when they captured this hill village.



Medjel Yaba village captured by 163 Brigade. This will give you an idea of places our men have to capture. Yet it was done in broad daylight with hardly any casualties owing to some real “strategy”. This was the time we were up at the AWS. This place is also mentioned in the history of the Crusaders. Note two decent shell holes in the buildings.

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Snapped whilst we were out in the open being shelled. The transport can be seen getting away by a Waddi. I have marked with a cross over myself, my chum with an O. This is absolutely genuine, no fake. Harry – Palestine – This happened during the capture of Medjel Yaba.

© Paul Barham, March 2018


“Wilhelma and the surrounding country (not Medjel Yaba side). Taken after return from Hospital at Alexandria until we moved out of Wilhelma.”

The above description would place these photographs in the first two or three months of 1918. All were taken by Harry Belson, or with his camera, and captions, where present, are as noted by him.

Wilhelma had been a German colony and was where the Brigade was billeted during this time. Most of the photographs show village life and agriculture, with some excursions into the neighbouring towns of Jaffa and Ludd.


Wilhelma – near Jaffa – German Colony – ‘our house’


Wilhelma – about 9 miles S.W. of Jaffa – German Colony – we lodged in this house


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A rest in a straw stack at Wilhelma – German Colony



Miriam smiles – a girl from one of the villages selling oranges. She is only 17 but was rather in need of a wash. Palestine 1918.



Well at village of El Yehudiyeh near Wilhelma



Well of village near Wilhelma


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Youhadieh near Wilhelma



A well near Jaffa – Between Wilhelma & Jaffa. Frank & I had a day in Jaffa, walked across the plain.



Mosque on the road from Wilhelma to Jaffa

HB_1614_Ludd - Water Dump !!!

Ludd – Water Dump!!!


School house, Ludd. The Church of St George can be seen left of flag mast.

© Paul Barham, March 2018

Third Attack on Gaza

“Main camp before Gaza & advanced stations. Taken after we left the Sheikh Nebhan position after the 2nd attack on Gaza & moved over to the coastal sector.”

The Brief Record of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force places 162 Brigade at Umbrella Hill in late July 1917. The following month the Brigade was included in XXI Corps. This set of photographs were all taken by Harry Belson, or with his camera, and record the period in the lead up to third and final attack on Gaza. Captions, where present, are as noted by Harry Belson.


Small Section encampment at Deir El Belah Rail Head – Our old camp at Belah where we spent such a good time last summer. My bivvy is on the right of my chum who can be seen drying himself with his shirt off. Sept 1917 HB


No 1 The Grove


British military cemetery near Umbrella Hill on the Gaza front

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“At home” – Gaza front


Our Mutual Friend – who also had some hard work under difficult conditions



“A friend in need” – How we wash our backs – Gaza front



One of our recent Dressing Stations – Tel al Ajul – Q11 – in front of Gaza

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Rail Head Camp – Deir el Belah – “Gamel” – we have tried friendly overtures such as stroking their noses & necks – hence the respectable distance observed by us after such experiments. HDB Palestine 1917


Neddy just off for rations – A typical Syrian lad & his moke. Sept 1917 HB




Our “St James Gardens”. The figures in the foreground are hunting for grapes. Nice black ones.


St James Gardens in the Gaza area


Taken from Gardens – showing irrigation channels



Ruins of farm house showing wooden gear apparatus for winding endless chain fixed with buckets running down into well 100 feet deep. The stonework in front of photo is remains of reservoir. Gaza front.


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Wadi Ghuzzele


A distant view over Wadi Ghuzzeli – Looking across the Wadi Ghuzzeli towards Turkish positions at Gaza

The Brief Record goes on to map the movements of the three Brigades of 54 Division from a position 4 miles south of Gaza at the end of October 2017, advancing to take Gaza in mid-November and to positions at Ludd and NE of Jaffa at the end of November. Positions, dates and movements are also marked up in some detail on Harry Belson’s large scale map of Gaza (Sheet XIX of the British military series), pictured below.


162 Brigade withstood a Turkish attack on Wilhelma on 27 November and 161, 162 & 163 Brigades were positioned along a line 8 miles NE of Jaffa-Ludd by 22 December 2017. This progress is shown in some detail on the series of Plates numbered 3-29 in the Brief Record.

Palestine large map detail_2

On Harry Belson’s smaller scale map of Palestine (above) he has noted: “El Muzeira, where a Roman temple in orange and pink marble aroused interest”; and also, reminding us that this was no picnic: “Station Junction to Ramleh, Christmas Day…. Very wet. Quartered in a large stone building, slept on stone floor. No blankets.” 

© Paul Barham, March 2018

Second Battle of Gaza

All of the following photographs, with the possible exception of the picture of Frank Clark, were taken by Harry Belson, or with his camera, and the italicised text and captions, where present, are as noted by him.

The second battle of Gaza took place over the three days of 17-19 April 1917. This set of photographs covers the period from from the aftermath of the first attack on Gaza up to the second attack, ending with Harry Belson’s hospitalisation back in Alexandria.

“From after 1st attack on Gaza when we re-lined on the plain near Deir el Belah until the time we moved forward to the 2nd attack on Gaza.”

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Natives outside a Bedouin village. Quite a pantomime posing these, their one cry is “Backsheesh Johnny” – Deir el Belah



Sinai Desert – Well & reservoir


Palm grove – Deir el Belah – famous for its fine wells – in front of Gaza


“Modernisation” – One of our lightning construction tracks. Deir el Belah



Arab scouts working for the British forces in front of the Suez defences


Gaza. Mosque roof “holed in one”. Was this by the Artillery or the Navy?

The following photographs document the lead up to the second attack on Gaza, and the attack itself.

“After leaving Deir el Belah for second attack on Gaza. Sheikh el Belian Tomb &c.”


Sheik Nebhan. Tomb of the Sheik, Wadi Ghuzzeli, Gaza.



Sheik Nebhan – Tomb of the Sheik Nebhan – Wadi Ghuzzeli – Gaza



Our dear friends – Transport camel & driver

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Preparing for the fray behind Sheik Abas – 2nd battle of Gaza in Wadi Ghuzzeli


2nd battle of Gaza – Wadi Ghuzzeli – Advanced Dressing Station


HB_0709Party of our boys on roof of shelter at advanced D.S. The roof was ultimately covered with 3′-6″ of earth. Kh. El Burjayeh just behind Mansura Ridge – A relic of Gaza. We squared out a Waddi & built in this compound for wounded. The roof top was eventually covered so as to be level with the surrounding ground. We did all this under the supervision of 2 R.Es. Another fellow and myself did the sandbagging round the top.


HB_07032nd battle Gaza – Sheik Abas ridge, Hants Reg going into action. I carried an officer shot through both ankles on my back across the plain to the dressing station.

HB_0707_1Group of us taken at our Advanced D.S. previous to returning to base after attack by us during which time we had experienced a very strenuous time. I have a cross marked at my feet – in a Waddi behind Sheik Abbas Ridge.



R.30 – At el Burgallyeh – Behind Mansura Ridge – A dressing station (advanced) near the line in front of Gaza



Sheik Abbas ridge in front of Gaza


54 Div. Royal Artillery (18pdr) Palestine. Gunpits in front of Gaza near Sheik Abbas.


54 Division 162 Brigade. Machine Gun position in trenches facing Gaza

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Frank Clark – my constant “bivvy mate” from 1916 right through the Palestine Campaign until we returned to England together in 1919.


“After 2nd attack on Gaza – went down to Alexandria with dysentery.”

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“In dock” at 19th General Hospital, Alexandria. Taken on roof

Another picture signed and dated late in 1918, in this case October of that year – suggesting that the photographs were not developed until just before the end of the War.

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© Paul Barham, May 2018

First Battle of Gaza

“Desert Trek from Kantara to Raffa. Early Spring 1917.”

All of the following photographs were taken by Harry Belson, or with his camera, and captions, where present, are as noted by him.

The first battle of Gaza took place over the three days of 26-28 March 1917. This set of photographs covers the period from leaving the Suez Canal in the early spring of 1917 to the attack on Gaza, crossing the Sinai Desert on the way.

“Desert Trek from Kantara to Raffa. Early Spring 1917.”


Oasis on the way across Sinai desert



Watching the old melon patch



On the coast – palm grove & wells – Sinai Desert near El Arish





Arab scouts used on the Suez Canal defences



For Pa – Taken on a Sunday afternoon approaching Gaza the day before the first battle of Gaza – Somewhere near Raffa – motor tractors taking up ammo’…. 60lb artillery shells

Below the above dedication to his father this photograph is signed “Hy 1918”, suggesting it was posted home a year later.

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Khan Yunis on the way to Nu Seirat near Deir el Belah preparing for the attack on Gaza


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Gordon Trodchett & self – when at Bir El Abd in the Bardawel area on trek across the Sinai

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Deir el Belah – in front of Gaza



Our camp at El Arish – Sinai Desert


Pumping drinking water into the reservoirs: Artesian wells sunk in desert by Australian well borers



Blockhouse – Sinai desert


Home sweet home – Sinai desert – Bivouacs had not then been issued



Old Turkish Barracks – El Arish


Water from Artesian wells sunk by Australian well borers

HB_1602First battle of Gaza. A recollection of our first touch of Active Service in Palestine when a small section of us went up & assisted another Brigade clean their wounded, a day which every man who went up will ever have cause to remember, especially the retirement at night, we being one of the last to leave. Note Turkish prisoner on left hand of photo just below the elbow of the man with his back to the camera. We took a load down that night. We couldn’t get these men away & they laid out all day.

HB_1603Our advanced dressing station during the attack last Spring. This was only a few hundred yards away from the ridge we had just captured. I am knocking about somewhere. Behind Sheik Abass Ridge. A shell exploded in here & killed several of our fellows.

HB_1633_After KantaraSad reminders of some who went before us and were killed on the desert. Note bulge in helmet on top of cross where the bullet passed out. After leaving Kantara during march up.

© Paul Barham, March 2018

Suez and Kubri – 2

“Taken at Suez during the time we were stationed at Kubri and on our subsequent move to Suez early in 1917.”

The second set of photographs from the encampment on the Suez Canal. While there is clearly some overlap with the first set, the photographs have been kept in their original groupings. As with the first set, all photographs were taken by Harry Belson (with the possible exception of the picture of Lt. Col. Bremner), or were taken with his camera, and captions, where present, are as he has annotated them.

There is very little commentary to this set of photographs, and while the images speak for themselves the stories behind them may never be told – from the picnic in the desert to the brisk funeral procession which has a resonance with much more recent scenes in the Middle East.

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Isolation Compound at Suez – Diphtheria contacts





An unsuccessful trial of camels in a sand cart. The whole lot bolted causing much fun. Taken down in the desert in Feb. 1917. HDB








A village near Suez wiped out by cholera – Just behind our isolation compound at Suez


One of a number of photographs of Harry Belson, taken by one or other of his comrades.


Lt. Col. Bremner, C/O 1/1 F.G. 163 Brigade, 54 Division (Norfolk)

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Our “bivvy”. Please note the sweet smile which nearly brought on brain fever from keeping up the pose. We only did 3 exposures in getting this. HDB Palestine 1917


HB_1629_Egyptian well & ox - Oct 1917

Egyptian well and ox

HB_1630_nr Cairo - Virgin's Well - Oct 1917

This is the well (near Cairo) where Joseph and Mary with the child Jesus rested whilst fleeing Herod. Known as the “Virgin’s Well”.

These last two images are signed “Harry, Oct. 1917”. However, that date would have seen Harry in the midst of the campaign for Gaza, and after that he would not see Egypt again until the end of the War. One possible explanation for the apparent discrepancy is that the photographs were amongst those printed before the campaign and posted to the Belson family from the front (I can see nothing on the official records about any detachments being sent back into Egypt at the height of the Gaza campaign).

© Paul Barham, May 2018

Suez and Kubri – 1

All of the following photographs were taken by Harry Belson, or were taken with his camera. Italicised text and captions, where present, are as noted by my grandfather.


Camera purchased at Suez in 1916 during the time we were stationed at Kubri. The series of photographs starts from here.”


Our encampment on the banks of the Suez Canal at Kubri, near Suez



A baby camel captured from some hill tribes, near Suez. The boy standing was in Truth Ward, Hackney Hospital, same time as myself. Since this, was thrown from a camel and badly hurt.


Arab scouts on the Suez Canal defences



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Your offer brother Harry and “Emily” Regt. Pet of the Regt. Somewhere in Egypt – Jan/17 – at El Kubri on the Suez Canal


2/1 East Anglian Field Ambulance Camp, Suez Canal, Kubri, 1916

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Swing bridge over the Suez Canal at Kubri, near Suez


Ships passing through the Suez Canal


Looking across the Canal


 The grain in the ship had shifted causing the ship to list.


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Patrol Boat “Bee”


Mosque near fish market at Suez

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“Yours HDB – Suez 1917”

© Paul Barham, February 2018