It’s common to associate war memorials with the commemoration of those who died in combat. But disease, too, is a major killer of soldiers in a time of war yet few memorials explicitly mention disease as cause of death.
One which does do so, however, is the Imperial Camel Corps Memorial in Victoria Embankment Gardens.
The memorial, which features a bronze figure riding a camel atop a stone plinth has a number of inscriptions and plaques recording the corps’ engagements during World War I and the names of the fallen.
Among them is an inscription which reads “To the glorious and immortal memory of the officers, NCO‘s and men of the Imperial Camel Corps – British, Australian, New Zealand, Indian, who fell in action or died of wounds and disease in Egypt, Sinai and Palestine, 1916 -1917-1918.”
Disease was a significant killer in World War I – it’s estimated that some 113,000 British and Dominion soldiers died of disease – but the number was far fewer than those who died in combat or from wounds, a figure which equates to at least 585,000 (not including the tens of thousands of missing).
Yet, medical advances meant disease was far less a killer than in previous wars – it’s said that in the American Civil War, for example, as many as two-thirds of those who died were the result of various diseases.
The Imperial Camel Corps, which grew to four battalions including two Australian, one British and one New Zealander before it was disbanded after the end of the in 1919, suffered some 246 casualties during World War I – we don’t have a breakdown for how many of those deaths were attributable to disease.
The Grade II-listed memorial, which was sculpted by Major Cecil Brown – himself a veteran of the Corps, was unveiled in July, 1921, in the presence of both the Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers.