Egypt was a word always associated with William Lyons. When family spoke of him, he was encapsulated in two sentences: “He was a Military Man. He fought in the Boer War and in Egypt during World War One!”
On the surface, that statement didn’t tell me very much, but once I began to dig through the mountains of memorabilia stored behind the old cupboard doors, I realized it said it all. It became apparent to me that Egypt had an immense impact on my Great Grandfather’s life. The shelves were overflowing with books, vases carved with hieroglyphics, textiles and postcards purchased during his stay in the land of the Pharoahs. For me, wandering from shelf to shelf was like being on an archaeological dig in favourite land of antiquity.
It was always my dream to visit Egypt; to see the great pyramids with my own eyes; to visit the tomb of Tutankhamun, the subject of my semester of archaeology during my senior year at school. Finally in 1988 I succumbed to my most precious dream and visited the great land and it didn’t disappoint. As I stood before the Sphinx and the great pyramids of Giza, I had no idea that my Great Grandfather had stood on the very spot 70 years before. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to talk to him about what I’d seen, knowing that he would totally understand my excitement and awe at the monuments that I saw.
During my wanderings one day I stumbled upon a seemingly insignificant booklet, called “What To Know In Egypt”, which I souvenired for myself. Yes I did feel a slight twinge of guilt for stealing a piece of antiquity from my Great Grandfather’s things, but the word Egypt urged my hand, over which I had no say.
Now it wasn’t until 20 years later that I realized the significance of that book. Last year I was part of a project conducted by the Townsville City Library about local World War One veterans. When I sorted through my collection of memorabilia, I came across that booklet and noticed it was written by C.E.W. Bean.
For those of you who are not aware, Charles Bean was the war correspondent sent to Gallipoli on behalf of the Australian Government. He played a major role in the real facts getting past sensors as to the dire situation at Gallipoli. So to hold this little piece of history in my hands was quite sobering. He had compiled it in 1915 as a guide for Australian Soldiers in Egypt and any profits from its sales were given to the Red Cross.
Sadly, being over one hundred years old, it is frail and coming apart, but I will gladly share some of its pages with you. Please click on the link below.
Note on the pages of the above link, the special visiting rights for soldiers wanting to visit the Cairo Museum and the page dedicated to the Mohamedan Religion. If one didn’t know better, it could be mistaken it for a tourist holiday guide.