BBC Home
Explore the BBC
Search ON THIS DAY by date
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
About This Site | Text Only
1956: 'Laughing stock of the world' - Suez veteran
There were celebrations in Egypt as British and French forces pulled out of the canal zone, bringing the Suez Crisis to an end.

International pressure for the withdrawal came after Britain and France launched an assault on Egypt in early November in an attempt to regain control of the newly-nationalised canal.

Egyptian President Abdel Nasser responded by sinking all ships in the canal and effectively closing it to shipping.

The crisis greatly improved President Nasser's standing in the Arab world - while in Britain, Prime Minister Anthony Eden was forced to resign.

Your memories of Suez:

I was recalled back into the army on 9 August 1956, two days after getting married.

I eventually was sent to Port Said at the beginning of November. What a fiasco that war was.

We arrived on the troop ship Asturious and started to unload petrol ships. Five gallon jerry-cans, thousands of them.

We were the laughing stock of the world, thanks to Eden

We had little or no food, I remember we were given tins of stewing steak, nothing to heat them with so we had to eat them cold.

Within two weeks 60% of the camp were down with dysentry, me included.

I had injections in my backside for a week until I couldn't sit down, was sent to Cyprus and was home by Christmas Eve. I think we were the laughing stock of the world thanks to Eden.
George Larbey, England

August Bank Holiday, 1956, and I was training with Notts County, while on demob leave from the army after serving three years in Egypt and Libya.

My wife, in Liverpool with our two children, let me know that a telegram had arrived instructing me to report to a barracks at Ashton under Lyme, Manchester.

My leave had been cancelled for the emergency at the Canal Zone. I was a day or two late, they said. I wasn't home, I said. And so started a comedy of errors.

The authorities had been warned to look out for troublemakers so I rolled my sleeves up and got stuck in.

My first bleat was to ask for a job. They just stuck us in a room and told us to lay low. I was furious at losing my chance to play football so insisted they give me job.

They had me sort the mail. I got that down pat to about two hours a day and asked for more work or send me home.

They eventually put me in a section sending allowances to other reservists who hadn't got called back. Rather ironic I thought.

I applied for married quarters (MQ). They said there was a Queen's regulation which stated that personnel had to have six months to serve to qualify for a MQ.

I said, I have a job waiting for me, please tell me the date on which I'll be going home again. As the Government had not given an ending date to the "emergency", they had to reluctantly give me a married quarter.

I believe I was the only reservist with an MQ. I brought my bride and two children to a 100- year-old block of apartments at Ladysmith Barracks in Ashton Under Lyme, near Manchester.

I celebrated the event by scoring six goals for Dukinfield Town. Oh yes! I remember the Canal Zone farce all right.
Bill, US

I was on holiday in Switzerland with my mother and sister. A few days before we were to return to Egypt, the problems got worse and because we were Jewish, my father advised us not to return.

Shortly after, my father's business was expropriated by the Egyptian Government. My father together with other Egyptian Jews was accused of being a "Zionist who had sucked the blood of Egypt."

Our Egyptian citizenship was also revoked. I did not see my father for two years.

The Suez crisis is a sad memory for us and we blame the USA for stopping the British, French and Israelis. It was a great victory for Nasser.
Sami, USA

Looking back all I remember was being part of an ill-equipped, poorly fed army. The lack of medical care and poor hygiene led to as many deaths as those through hostile acts. The final insult was having to wait 50 years for recognition via a begrudged medal.
Geoff Wright, Australia

 E-mail this story to a friend

Soldiers with sinking ship in background
British forces faced international criticism when they attacked the canal zone

sinking ship in Suez canal
The Suez Canal was an important trade route for Britain

Witness Stories

Search ON THIS DAY by date

^^ back to top
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
©MMVIII | News Sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy