Friday, February 08, 2002 

I am trying to locate the burial site of my grandfather Arthur Tom Smith. He was murdered on 14th March 1919 at the railway station in El Wasta, where he lived with my grandmother and their 3 boys. I have found reports on the trial in the "Egyptian Gazette" dated May/June 1919, but there is no mention of where he was buried. I have contacted the British Embassy in Cairo many times but they say records were not kept. I really feel that somewhere there MUST be some sort of record, mainly because of the terrible way he died. 

The Egyptian Government set up a Trust Fund for the 3 children after his death,  (I have the original papers) but still nobody can assist me. My grandfather worked as an Inspector on the Egyptian State Railways at the time of his death. I am hoping to visit Egypt in the near future and would love to be able to visit the burial site, so any ideas you might have would be very, very welcome. Many thanks for taking time to read my message. 

Wendy Baxter (Mrs) 

Dear Wendy,

The unfortunate incident of your grandfather's death occurred at the beginning of the 1919 Egyptian Revolution.  From my research, it would seem that your grandfather, being an Inspector on the Egyptian State Railways, must have been a target of those who were involved in this rebellion, as they were systematically cutting off all communications and travel (especially the railways).  This, despite the stern warning issued by the British High Commissioner that he would burn the villages of those who participated in the rebellion, which he did.

Below is a chronology of the events, which started on the 8th of March, 1919.  However, on the date you mention for the death of your grandfather, March 14th, I can find no reported deaths of British civilians.  There were reported British casualties on the 12th and the 18th.  Is it possible that his death might have occurred on a different day? 

The reason I am asking, is that according to reports, eight British officers were killed on the Upper Egypt Train, on March 18th, and were subsequently taken from the train and buried in al-Miniyah.  This town is just a little bit south of al-Wasta, and it is possible that your grandfather might have been killed during this incident on the 18th.

Could you share with us a transcript of the article regarding the trial from the Egyptian Gazette?  This might help to determine the location and the date of his death.

On May 15, 1919, Mr. Harmsworth, the deputy secretary of the British Foreign Office issued the following tabulation regarding the casualties: 1,000 Egyptians killed, 1,600 wounded; 27 British soldiers killed, 70 wounded; 9 Punjabis killed, 40 wounded; and four British civilians killed.


The opening days of the month of March found Egypt seething with excitement. Sir Milne Cheetham, who was acting as High Commissioner at the time feared that in such a mood the Nationalist leader Sa`d Zaghluwl would insist on Egypt's independence. 

He therefore lost no time in commending that the Egyptian Leader and his colleagues should be deported to Malta, and to this the British Secretary of State agreed. Before the step was taken, a warning was issued to the Egyptian leader Sa`d Zaghluwl in person and nine other leading members of the Party of Independence by General Watson, then commanding the forces in Egypt. 

On the 8th, therefore, Sa`d Pasha Zaghluwl, and with him Hamd Pasha al-Basil, Isma`iyl Pasha Sidqiy, and Muhammad Pasha Mahmuwd, were arrested. The following morning they were taken to Alexandria and placed on board a British destroyer, to be deported to Malta. 

The arrest of these four men set the conflagration alight and the Revolution began.

The students were the first to stir. When the news spread on the morning of the 9th, they deserted their studies and dispersed through the streets, carrying the torch of revolution everywhere with them. That very evening, acts of sabotage were occurring, and the following morning angry crowds were destroying property and buildings, and the military had to be called upon to help the police. 

On the 11th, the situation was changing for the worse.  A strike of the lawyers was concerted, and some officials deserted their posts in sympathy, while clashes between angry crowds and the troops and police were frequent.  Stern warnings were issued by the British authorities that cutting off communications and sabotaging railways would be dealt severely and perpetuators would be executed on the spot and their villages burned. 

By March the 12th the provinces were alight: there were outbreaks at Tantah, where the military had to open fire in order to repel an attack upon the railway station, at Zagaziyg, Damanhuwr, and Mansuwrah. The trouble then spread with rapidity all over the Delta and into Upper Egypt. 

On March 15th the Egyptian railroad workers, numbering 4,000 went on strike.  They also destroyed the railway switches, cutting off completely the railway service to Upper Egypt. 

By the 17th, Cairo was completely cut off from the rest of Egypt: the railway lines had been destroyed, telegraph and telephone wires cut. In Alexandria, continuous riots were taking place; in almost every other important centre the military were in conflict with the people and could do little more than hold precariously some point of vantage, while elsewhere over the Delta anarchy reigned. In Upper Egypt the position was equally serious, where the British detachments of troops, mainly Punjabis, were beleaguered and cut off from their headquarters. 

On the morning of the 18th, just after General Bulfin's arrival at Cairo, there occurred the Dayruwt incident, in which eight Englishmen were killed. These men, three officers and five non-commissioned officers, were traveling by train from Luxor. At Miniyah  their bodies were taken off the train and buried. Incidentally al-Miniyah is situated just south of the town of al-Wasta in Middle Egypt (see attached map)

At Miniyah, the British residents were surrounded; at Asiyuwt all foreign subjects sought refuge in one building, which was with difficulty defended by a small detachment of Punjabis.

On May 15, 1919, Mr. Harmsworth, the deputy secretary of the British Foreign Office issued the following tabulation regarding the casualties: 1,000 Egyptians killed, 1,600 wounded; 27 British soldiers killed, 70 wounded; 9 Punjabis killed, 40 wounded; and four British civilians killed.