SERVICE in the SUEZ CANAL ZONE of EGYPT until 1956

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An Introduction to the 1951 - 1955 Roll of Honour

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Kilo marker

 
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Far away in a foreign land
They pitched their tents in the desert sand.
Oh, so young, were these brave men,
Never to see their homes again.
That heat, disease, and then the foe
Would take young Bill, and Fred and Joe.
Three long years this war went on,
So many souls were dead and gone.
Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and civilians too,
Commonwealth troops, to name a few.
We will remember them with pride,
It was for all of us they died.


Poem: © Suez Veteran Tony Tolan. 2003.


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    The Suez Canal,  near El Qantara. (2004.)

British troops had been in Egypt since 1882 and in 1914 the country became a British Protectorate until it gained its independence in 1922, with Britain being allowed to keep a military presence there.  In 1936 an Anglo-Egyptian treaty was signed which agreed that the British Military should remain in the country but be concentrated in the Suez Canal Zone area, the Zone effectively remaining in British hands for another 20 years, finally withdrawing completely by July 1956.
Soon after the Second World War, in 1946, the Egyptian government made certain demands for a revision of the 1936 Treaty, one of which was the immediate withdrawal of all British troops.  This was the time of the ‘Cold War’, with Russia amassing her troops near the Turkish border with a possible threat to the oil fields in the Gulf, and there was general political unrest all through the Middle East, both of which could threaten the safety of the Canal.  Britain regarded the protection of the Canal, an international waterway, and the free passage of ships, as being paramount, therefore could not agree to the unreasonable demands made by the Egyptian government and insisted on complying with the terms agreed to in the 1936 Treaty.


In 1951 the then Egyptian Government unilaterally declared the 1936 treaty void, abrogated it, and ordered its police and troops to start harassing British troops in the Zone. This harassment escalated into more serious terrorist (‘Fedayeen’) activities against British personnel and property and resulted in the ‘Emergency' period of October 1951 to October 1954.  The situation became so serious that towards the end of 1951 the garrison in the Zone was increased from about 20,000 troops to 80,000, plus equipment, in just ten days, the swiftest ever build-up by the British Armed Forces in peacetime.  Service families ‘living out’ were hurriedly evacuated to the safety of guarded camps, or even in some cases, back to Britain.  Some families arriving at that time from the UK on the Troopship  'Empress of Australia' were returned home on the same ship without disembarking.

From 16th October 1951 to 19th October 1954 the troops were on an ‘Active Service’ situation, it was a dangerous time and many lives were lost through
organised terrorist attacks on camps and vehicle convoys, sniping, abductions, murder and sabotage etc.  It is estimated that around 70% of the British Armed Forces stationed in the Canal Zone during this Emergency period were Conscripts completing their ‘National Service’ and were not fully trained in anti terrorist fighting. For years it was called by many as ‘The Forgotten War fought by a Forgotten Army’, but in July 2003 the British Government decided that, after a long campaign by Suez Veterans and their numerous supporters, those who had served in the Canal Zone from 16th October 1951 to 19th October 1954 were to be awarded the General Service Medal or the Naval General Service Medal with ‘Canal Zone’ clasp, 50 years after the event.  A large proportion of the names included in the Roll of Honour list are entitled to the medal and it is hoped their next of kin will apply to have it awarded.


Because of incomplete records it is doubtful we will ever know the exact number of people killed as the result of terrorist activities. British Service personnel and members of their Families, Commonwealth troops and Civilians also lost their lives through illness, accidents and disease due to the poor conditions that prevailed. These persons are included in the list, as also are those Servicemen who were in an aircraft that crashed in Malta, 18th February 1956, killing everyone on board. These Servicemen were returning home from Egypt on finishing their tour of duty in the Canal Zone. Also listed are the Civilian crew of this plane.  Remembering the service pesonnel who were abducted and/or killed whilst in the Zone but have no known graves, those of which we have details are also included in the lists. The names of those who died and were buried in 1955 are included as it is almost certain they would have been stationed in the Canal Zone during the Emergency.

A great amount of research and work has been done to compile and present this list and it is as comprehensive as we can judge. Unfortunately many details of this period have been 'lost', were never recorded, or are not available to us. We do apologise for any person that has not been listed and for any wrongly spelt names or typographical errors.

The four cemeteries mentioned in this Roll of Honour are:
The British Military War Cemetery,
Fayid, in the Suez Canal Zone, Egypt. (Listed as - 'Fayid' - in the Cemetery columns.)
The British Military War Cemetery, Moascar, in the Suez Canal Zone, Egypt. (Listed as - 'Moascar' - in the Cemetery columns.)
The New British Protestant Cemetery, Cairo, Egypt.
The Military Cemetery, Imtarfa, Malta.


Acknowledgements:
I would like to give sincere and grateful thanks to the following:
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission for allowing me to re-print names from their data base, also for permission to use their photographs of the Cairo and Imtarfa Cemeteries.
Suez Veteran Ted Sparrow for his great help in carrying out extra research and supplying the names collated into the different Regiments, Corps and Units.
Suez Veteran John (Jock) Marrs for his support and encouragement during the production of this Roll of Honour.
Suez Veteran Tony Tolan for allowing me to use his poem.
My wife for not complaining about the large amount of time I spent working at the computer when producing these Roll of Honour webpages.

©  Richard (Dick) Woolley. May 2004.

The Four Cemeteries

 
The entrance to the British Military Cemetery, Fayid, Suez Canal Zone, Egypt. 
(The entrance to Moascar Cemetery is of similar design and construction.)




British Military Cemetery, Fayid, Suez Canal Zone, Egypt.  
 

   

British Military Cemetery, Moascar, Suez Canal Zone, Egypt.
Fayid and Moascar Cemetery photos by courtesy of  Richard Woolley.  © 2004.

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British Protestant Cemetery, Cairo, Egypt.
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The Military Cemetery, Imtarfa, Malta.

Cairo and Imtarfa Cemetery photos by courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. ©

It is noticed from the above photographs, taken in 2004, the Cemeteries continue to be maintained in a wonderful condition.



The Roll of Honour list on this web site is almost identical to the one on the Britain's Small Wars web site, the only differences
being: on this version the fonts are a size smaller, the lists slightly narrower and the cap badge images have been omitted.
All the names and other details remain in full.
Doing these alterations has made it approximately 2MB less in size and quicker to down-load.

 
Click here to view the Roll of Honour

With thanks to Richard Woolley for his permission to include the Roll of Honour on this site.

© Charlie Delta.
October 2004.
Some alterations done to the page layout and better quality photos of the Fayid and Moascar Cemeteries added February 2008. ©