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Australian Wine in Egypt


The Australian Army Medical Service reorganized in response to the declaration of war in 1914 to establish hospitals in Egypt.  The Australian Red Cross was simultaneously founded to assist the sick and wounded during the war.  The Red Cross immediately gathered supplies to assist and accompany the First Australian General Hospital aboard the coastal steamer Kyarra.  Due to space constraints they were only able to store the supplies as the last minute. With these and other supplies, the Red Cross established a depot from which to supply the hospital with additional goods.  These supplies played an important role for there were disastrous consequences from the Gallipoli Campaign.  For example, one 520 bed hospital had to expand to 10,500 beds.   The Red Cross depot received goods directly and had a telephone line to the hospital from which to take requests.  Fortunately, a very detailed list of supplies dispersed was published.  Within this list, among the cholera belts and air cushions are 8 cases of wine.

Cholera Belts 7, 400
Pneumonia jackets 341
Air cushions 17
Envelopes 28,470 pkts
Wine 8 cases
Mittens 675

Excerpt From the List of Red Cross Goods Supplied From Store Apart From Other Goods Purchased and Supplied [2]


Unfortunately, we do not know the type of wine that was in those eight cases.  What we do know is that on August 25, 1914, Penfold & Co. responded to a request by The Register for wine to be donated to the Red Cross Society.[4]  Incredibly, we know that not only did they donate five hogsheads of Australian port but there is also a surviving photograph of them!

Messrs. Penfold & Co. write:— ‘In a recent issue of your paper we, noticed an appeal for good Australian –wine for the Red Cross Society, and. we’ have pleasure in informing you that we would like to present the cause with five hogsheads (300 gallons)of the best Australian port wine.’

Five barrels of wine being sent to the Red Cross, a gift from Penfold & Co. of South Australia during World War I.

Five barrels of wine being sent to the Red Cross, a gift from Penfold & Co. of South Australia during World War I. c. 1914 [3]

Perhaps this partially explains why a subsequent list of articles to be requisitioned includes Port wine.


Allenbury’s Diet Food
Port Wine
Robinson’s Barley
Tinned Rabbits

Excerpt List of Articles in Red Cross Stores Which Must Be Requisitioned For By Commanding Officers of Units For The Care of The Sick and Wounded and Where There Is No Red Cross Store. 1916. [2]


[1] Oppenheimer, Melanie. Shaping the Legend: The Role of the Australian Red Cross and Anzac. Labour History, No. 106 (May 2014), pp. 123-142. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5263/labourhistory.106.0123
[2] Deane, Lieut. D. E.The Australian Army Medical Corps in Egypt an illustrated and detailed account of the early organisation and work of the Australian medical units in Egypt in 1914-1915. 1918. URL: https://openlibrary.org/books/OL7239831M/The_Australian_Army_Medical_Corps_in_Egypt
[3] Penfold’s wine for the Red Cross. c. 1914. National Library of Australia. URL: http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/8881635?q=+&versionId=10281951
[4] Australian Wine. (1914, August 25). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), p. 8. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56698492

Categories: History of Wine

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