SERVICE in the SUEZ CANAL ZONE of EGYPT until 1956

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Odd Bits
from, and about, the Suez Canal and the Canal Zone.

( A bit about the Canal to start off with, then the other odd bits in no particular sequence. )


The Suez Canal was opened in 1869 and is approx 120 miles (192km) long.

  Present day figures:
  Width at water level - 328 yards (300 metres)
  Width between buoys - 197 yards (180 metres)
  Depth - approx 66 feet (20 metres)
  Maximum permissible draught of ships - 53 feet (16 metres)
  The speed limit varies between 7 mph (11km/h) and 10 mph (16km/h) depending on the category and tonnage
  of the vessel and the velocity and direction of the tidal current.
  The average transit time is 14 hours.
  During 2004 an average of 1,378 ships per month passed through the Canal.

Leave Pass sent in by D Moore.

beer label
I bet you remember this beer label !!
"Among my souvenirs."
Mick Pestell bought this at 'The Hole in the Wall'.

Two more photo albums brought home from the Canal Zone.

  How many of these did you bring back through

Cpl Neave's driving licence.

cinema program
cinema program
AKC Cinema programme. August 1953.
Supplied by Al Webb.
cinema program

Tony Tolan supplied this.

A Serviceman’s Farewell to Egypt.

1/ Land of sweat and a shirt that stinks,
Land of Pyramids and Sphinx,
Sweat Rash, Foot Rot, Prickly Heat,
Aching hearts and blistered feet,
Swarms of flies that buzz and bite,
Mosquitoes zinging thought the night.

2/ Land of Scorpions, Camel, Bugs,
Spanish Fly, Hashish and other drugs,
Streets of sorrow, streets of shame,
Streets that you could never name.
Clouds of dust and sand that send
The sanest ‘bod’ clean round the bend.
Donkeys, Goats and Pyard dogs,
Cut-throats, thieves and pestering w**s

3/ Land where children in their teens
Sell souvenirs outside canteens,
“Bucksheesh - Bucksheesh” is their cry,
For this alone they live and die.
Where Typhoid thrives and ‘Gypo’ gripes,
And men smoke ‘Hubbly Bubbly’ pipes.
Obnoxious smells, eternal strife,
Oh for Britain and the wife

4/ Where men with ‘prep chits’ sit and gloat
While others dream about the boat.
Their only aim to dodge and skive
Until their clearance chits arrive.
Their chief delight to laugh and shout
At some poor ‘erk’ who’s just come out.

5/ Land of Tarbosh, Galabiah,
“Qwoise tamahm” and “qwoise khetir”,
Land of shia and mungaria,
Moya, chapaties and Stella beer.
Where one can always hear men say
“Thank God we have the YMCA”.

6/ Oh for Britain’s happy life
Where people never see such strife.
My final chit, I’m going home !
Away from there I’ll never roam.
I’m going there, and oh, how grand
To see green fields instead of sand.

7/ Land of sorrow, filth and shame,
I’ve seen you once but never again.
I leave you now with no regret,
But sights I’ve seen I’ll not forget.
Natives Heaven, white mans hell,
This hot dusty Egypt,

In this version, some of the words have
been changed from the original poem that
was going the rounds fifty or so years ago.
I cannot guarantee the spelling of some of
the Arabic words used but Suez Vets will
recognise them.

Charlie D.

Another rhyme going the rounds during the early 1950s was this one
1/. To relate this tale of woe,
Off to Egypt we must go.
To desert sands ‘neath burning sun,
Where Heaven ends and Hell begun.
Where in a place so grim and bleak,
Lie our new homes for many a week.
No laughing faces do we see,
But faces lined with misery.
Most every night we stand and stare,
Across the desert crude and bare.
Sometimes we sit beneath the moon,
And dream of Blighty in mid June.
Of times we had when we were there,
With this place you can’t compare.

2/. “Sand in my shoes” was just a song,
Now it’s a curse we’ve suffered long.
Across the desert we must tramp,
Guarding our beloved camp.
We guard by night, we guard by day,
To keep those thieving ***** away.
The dogs do bark but the night is still,
Of guarding camps I’ve had my fill.
Its hot by day and cold at night,
There’s not a blasted thing that’s right.
I’m lost for words, can say no more,
My mind is dumb, my heart is sore.
This camp is desolate without a doubt,
Roll on Demob, and lets get out!!

Christmas at the Airmans Mess, RAF Abyad.



Cereals or Porridge

Grilled Bacon & Egg

Bread, Butter & Marmalade

Tea or Coffee

Christmas menu card 1953


Assorted Cold Meats

Russian Salad

Pickles,  Sauces

Fruit Salad

Blancmange & Jellies

Christmas Cake

Tea or Coffee

Sounds good, but I can't remember if it was or not !

And Christmas dinner at Abu Sultan.
9 Base Ammunition Depot. R.A.O.C. - 128 Maintenance Unit. R.A.F. - No.1 Dog Company, R.M.P.
menu menu
This menu supplied by Nobby Clarke. R.M.P.

post card
A request notification from the FBS sent to Nobby Clarke.
Question. Guess what song the request was for.
(Answer at bottom of the page.)

Did you collect your photos in one of these
envelopes ?

I know that some Airmen, and maybe some Airwomen, (but not sure about members of the Army,) sent home a copy of the following letter a few days before they were
to return home from the Canal Zone.  In exchange for a bottle of beer or a pack of cigarettes there was always a friendly clerk who was willing to type the letter, and if on
official headed paper, so much the better.   What the recipients thought of it is something I can only guess at.


Issued on: (Date)….......................   To all relatives, friends and neighbours of: (Rank and Name)……......................

Very soon the person and character of the above named serviceman will once again be made available to all.  He will shortly be leaving the Suez Canal Zone with the intention of returning to the human fold of civilised living.  There may be some changes in him since last seen and the reason of this notification is to prepare all at home for the arrival of the said serviceman.  He will be coming home dehydrated and demoralised and it is the task of loving family members, friends and neighbours to see that this person becomes de-dehydrated and de-demoralised at the soonest possible opportunity.

In making your joyous preparations to welcome him back into the organised society of home you must make allowances for the crude environment which has been his lot for many months.  In a few words, he may be slightly Eastern in his habits, - suffering from Egyptitis or a little too much sun.  Therefore show no alarm if he prefers to squat on his haunches instead of sitting on a chair, insists on removing his shoes before entering the house, or has a tendency to bow to the east five times a day. Keep cool when he pours gravy on the salted skin of ham and mixes it with a little kipper juice and ice-cream, be tolerant.  Do not be shocked if, when answering the telephone, he says, “Saida” instead of Hello and “Ma’sallam” for Goodbye.  In a relatively short time he can be taught to speak fluent English once more.

Keep in mind that beneath his tanned and rugged exterior there beats a heart of gold, - with a covering of sand.  Treasure this as it will be the only thing of value he has left, except your friendship.  Treat him with kindness, tolerance and an occasional  quart of good liquor and you will be able to rehabilitate that which is but a hollow shell of the happy man you once knew.

Never ask him why the lad down the street had a bigger or better aeroplane or tank than he had, nor why the same lad had a higher rank.  Please do not make any flattering remarks about the Navy, Army or Air Force in his presence.  Above all, NEVER ask him when he is going to start work again.

On receipt of this notification, please do not post any more letters to his Egyptian address.

Remember, keep cool and calm and this lad will eventually return to normal.

Signed:……………......                On behalf of the Officer Commanding…………………………….

visitors addmission card   visitors addmission card    picture of ticket
                       A receipt shows the holiday cost me six pounds thirty ackers.                                                And a visit to the cinema 9½ ackers.


dance ticket
The year confirmed as 1954 by one of the
organisers, who also told me that a large number
of lads attended, but only about 8 girls.
Ticket supplied by Dick Woolley.
Information supplied by JG.


Event Poster
Copy of a poster supplied by Gerry Moreton

Programme cover.
Supplied by Brian Barber

The Green Valley
There’s a refreshing café, not a bit like the NAAFI
It’s a place where one drinks and gets pally
There’s food and there’s beer throughout the year
It was known as the famous ‘Green Valley’

It was run by a Greek, a woman unique
but not one with whom you could dally
She kept a big baton with which she could flatten
troublemakers inside the ‘Green Valley’

On Saturday night you could get pretty tight
so by Sunday you’d just about rally
And if you hadn’t the backers to lend you some ‘ackers’,
you maalished* the old ‘Green Valley’
The Military Police used to maintain the peace
Of misbehaviour they would keep tally
If punch-ups got steep, they’d call up the Jeep
and haul culprits from the ‘Green Valley’

If you made it to ‘Ish’, it was said there’s a dish
of a WRAF, whose first name was Sally
But you’d have to settle for Ish’s ‘Blue Kettle’
Instead of Fayid’s ‘Green Valley’

Now my time’s almost up, and I no longer sup
pints of Stella with no shilly-shally
I’ll have one or two fresh ‘uns, but no more the sessions
that we had at the old ‘Green Valley’

* maarlished.  Rough translation in this sense - forgot about.
© The 'Green Valley' poem is taken from the book ‘Buckshee Ballads’ with permission from the author John Mitchell, who holds the copyright.

This copy of a cutting from an old magazine, (1951-1952)  was sent in by
SV Gerry Moreton.

The wording underneath reads, "Volunteers for canteens in the Middle East."
The map in the background is obviously the Suez Canal Zone, but I wonder which
canteens they had volunteered for and where they ended up.  Whoever they were
and wherever they served, whether it be N.A.A.F.I. - Y.M.C.A. - or whatever, we say

"Thanks Girls, you did a great job."

greetings card

1 pound note

This is the type of work local photographers would occasionally do, add
your photo onto various items either to send home or keep as souvenirs.
After having his photo taken in Fayid, the card on the left was sent home by
SV Joe Routledge who supplied the picture.

newspaper photo
The caption reads: "Fishing is good, if the outlook is bad.  Off-duty, a  major goes down to the Great Bitter Lake with his family.
The sun is warm, but the angler in khaki wears his revolver."

  This photo appeared in a newspaper of the time and was sent to this website by Gerry Moreton.
The caption is incorrect, a ship wouldn't be this near when on the Great Bitter Lake, it must be on the Canal.

  Answer. The request was for Jo Stafford singing "You belong to me."  ("See the Pyramids along the Nile.")
©.Charlie Delta.  November 2004.
Last update: Jan. 2007.