On this day in 1956

2ème RPC paratroopers patrol in Port Said. Oct...

2ème RPC paratroopers patrol in Port Said. October 1956 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

British and French troops landed in the Suez Canal Zone as part of Operation Musketeer.  Objective:  recapture the Suez Canal from nasty old Nasser and show that where cheap oil was concerned there was nothing we wouldn’t do.  Cynical? Me?

Ok, perhaps just a little bit.  The Suez Crisis of 1956 isn’t something Britain comes out from smelling of roses.  The problem with secret plots and protocols is that when revealed (and they often are) you look like a lying ****.  You definitely do if you’ve lied to Parliament as well.  The Soviets might have been stamping on the Hungarians, but that didn’t mean they’d taken their eye off the global ball.

US President Eisenhower realised that the combined British/French/Israeli action had seriously destablised the region – Soviet support for Nasser meant a real liklihood of Russian intervention if the situation wasn’t sorted and soon.  Solution?  Simple – remind the Brits that they owed the USA a lot of money and threaten to collapse their currency if they failed to stop pretending they had an Empire.  British PM Eden then compounded matters by arranging a ceasefire without letting his French and Israeli allies know.  OK, he was probably panicking but it made an already bad situation look even worse.

It certainly did to the French – ‘perfide Albion’ didn’t even start to cover it. It didn’t lead to de Gaulle taking France out of NATO but it was certainly a contributory factor in that decision.


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