Anzacs and International Lacrosse in Egypt
Curiously, Australia's first international lacrosse contest
played away from Australian shores involved the Anzacs and occurred
in Egypt in 1915 during World War 1. The game was played under the
shadows of the Great Pyramid of Cheops.
The Australian team was selected largely from the 9th Queensland
and 10th South Australian AIF battalions plus some
Victorians who were stationed in Cairo, and the team representing
England came from two Manchester regiments.
How could this be?
From the time of the outbreak of war in 1914,
sportsmen were pushed hard to enlist and go to war with the
Australian Expeditionary Forces. At a special meeting of
practically every sporting body (including lacrosse), held at the
Melbourne Town Hall on 10th February 1915 a motion was
passed as follows:
"That in the opinion of this meeting of
representatives of governing bodies of sport, immediate action
should be taken to impress upon sportsmen in Victoria that it is
their duty at once to respond to the Empire's call by enlisting,
and if that is not practicable, by actively participating in
training, in drill, and in rifle shooting"
Prior to this a call had been made in the Argus
Newspaper for donation of lacrosse sticks for the Australia troops
heading to the front. The sticks were to be used for
recreation on shipboard and in rest camps.
In March 1915 Private Roy White of the 10th
Battalion, a lacrosseur from Holdfast Bay Club in South Australia,
wrote a letter home and provided an account of lacrosse activities
from Mena Camp, Cairo. He told how the 10th
Batallion AIF Lacrosse Club had been formed on the 18th
February 1915 after seeing a report in the Egyptian Times of a
lacrosse match played by two Manchester regiments at
Heliopolis. Contact was made with the English lacrosse
players and a match between England and Australia mooted.
The Australians organized a
practice match between the 10th Battalion and the
9th Queensland Battalion which was played on the
21st February. The match started at 3.30pm but the
teams had only 15 lacrosse sticks between them. At 4.20 pm
two of the 6th Manchester turned up with 9 extra
sticks. That started a "fair dinkum game" and two terms of 15
minutes were played with the South Australians winning
easily. White reported that the "goals were brigade marker
flags and four oil sheets, two each end-laced together"
The English had some 60 lacrosseurs in the Manchester regiments
and practically an all-England team. Some had represented
England in the Olympic Games lacrosse in 1908.
When the England v Australia game took place, England won the
match 20 goals to 6.