Watt McEwan talks about brothels in Cairo

Watt McEwan, a sergeant with Divisional Signals, left New Zealand with the Fifth Reinforcements on board the Mauretania in 1941. He was posted to the radio section of Divisional Signals where he was a radio operator. In October 1942 he became the radio operator on Major General Bernard Freyberg's communications tank. Here he describes the delights of the Burqa, the brothel district in Cairo.


Megan Hutching: I suppose, thinking about it, you'd have had hardly anything to do with women, would you?

Exactly. Yes, yes. ... it was nice to talk to them. It'd probably please, if they knew, a lot of fiancees, ... girlfriends and wives and mothers – the large number of soldiers who didn't use brothels. They'd go and have a look. Like the Burqa in Cairo, it was a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. There was ... the buildings of the brothels there were probably three, four stories and there were some very, very attractive girls there but ... a lot of us went there for the fun.... there were stalls and bars. The worst thing they ever did was close it which they did ... before Alamein. It was closed when we went to the pre-Alamein leave.... I don't know but Montgomery got the blame for it. They thought he was a puritan.... All it did was drove the trade underground and they turned up in the bars and nightclubs, and not the good class....

They gave you lectures on the dangers of Veneral Disease (VD), and one of the must do's in Cairo was a visit to the Museum of Hygiene which would put you off sex for the rest of your life.... They were very graphic descriptions of cases of, various cases of VD.

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