Skip to main content

Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

See other formats

136                  THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM                CHAP.
labour of an unskilled descriptifn. The conditions of service were such—clothing, food, and 305. a month—as to attract the Egyptian fellah in large numbers, particularly at a time when low wages and much unemployment still prevailed. No difficulty was experienced in getting together a large number of men. The recruiting was carried on in the provinces with the assistance of provincial Mudirs and district Mamours and village Omdehs, under the supervision of special " Egyptian Labour Corps " officers, British residents or protected subjects, and sometimes foreigners of Allied nationality, who were collected without much discrimination and very hastily trained.
After GaUipoli, the Corps was brought back to Egypt. Some were sent to France and some to Mesopotamia. Others were sent to the Suez Canal and beyond, when we began to feel our way into the Sinai Peninsula. For trench-digging, the erection of earthworks, road-making, pipe-laying, etc., Egyptians could be freely employed to release our own men for combatant duties. To a fresh appeal early in 1916 the fellaheen again responded freely. But before the year was out, and notably after our unfortunate reverse at Katia, a revulsion of feeling took place. Fear had crept into the minds of the labourers, and still more so into the minds of their relatives in the villages. The Corps had been under shell-fire. Men had died whose deaths were not notified by the authorities to their relatives. Typhus had broken out and was making ravages. In the Egyptian villages the Labour Corps suddenly became synonymous with the bottomless pit. That was how the difficulty of enrolling fresh recruits arose, though a great number of those who had already served were still willing to re-enlist of their own free will. The authorities failed to deal squarely with the situation. Had they frankly adopted a system of conscription to which the people were already accustomed in the Egyptian army, and had they seen to it that it was fairly enforced all round, not nearly so much harmholesale