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Suez Canal Zone Memorial
Saturday the 13th March 2004 was a very special day for all Suez Veterans, for the Memorial to their dead was dedicated in the grounds of the National Memorial Arboretum Gardens near the small village of Alrewas, near Lichfield in Staffordshire.
The creation of the state of Israel after WW2 heightened the Arab suspicion against Western nations and in 1952 growing Egyptian nationalism led to attacks on British garrisons and communities. Britain responded by threatening to invade Egypt. A military coup followed and General Mohammed Negulb seized power.
In 1954 Colonel Nasser replaced General Negulb. He wanted to free Egypt from British interference and to construct a dam at Aswan to irrigate the Nile Valley and thereby improve the economy. He also wanted to develop a military capacity in order to defend the country from Israel. Later that year Britain signed a treaty with Egypt agreeing to withdraw troops by 1956. In return Egypt would respect rights of passage through the canal. However, when US money for the Aswan Dam project was withdrawn Egypt decided to nationalise the Sue Canal to replace the capital. Britain was concerned about the guarantee to allow safe passage through the canal.
Following a secret meeting with the British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, Israel’s leader Moshe Deyan agreed to attack Egypt. The conflict would give legitimate cover for an invasion of the canal area by Britain and France. On 29th October 1956 Israel’s attack began and during the fierce fighting, Israel pushed ahead to attempt to take the Melia Pass. On 5th November British and French troops destroyed the entire Egyptian Air Force and captured the Gamil airfield before moving swiftly towards Port Said. Despite the gains, full control of the Canal Zone was not established before the troops were halted.
Political pressure worldwide and from the US in particular caused the military action to be brought to an end. The United Nations, spurred on by fears of Soviet involvement acted swiftly to clear and re-open the canal. Britain’s reputation was severely damaged by the conflict.
54 British troops were killed in the Canal Zone Emergency.
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