The Suez Veterans Association


The main aim of the Association is to re-kindle and promote a spirit of comradeship amongst those who served in the

Suez Canal Zone, Egypt.     

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Suez Veterans Association.

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Re: Hello

Have missed the page, in the spirit of the post I have never met anyone I served with in the zone, I spent twenty months there, as an eighteen year old was too stupid to realise really why we were there, and the risks involved. Done lots of guards lots of escorts, saw all of the Zone from the direct Canal Road Treaty Road bases to TEK. I loved the desert and loved the heat. When I came to Canada and took vacations to Arizona, Las Vegas, Hawaii, I had the same feeling it just didn't get hot enough. On retiring I moved to an area in B.C. which is described as Canada's only true desert, golfed in 102 degrees, walked the course, and my buddy and I went out at noon on a Friday in the hottest part of the day, because we got the course to ourselves and felt like a pair of millionaires.
I had one scary occurrence in Egypt when an escort I was on the driver deviated from the specified route. There had been two paras killed quite recently, and the instruction we were given was if this happened warn the diver three times, then if need be kill him. I ended up with my sten gun pointed under his chin, telling him stop, he just kept saying o.k. Jock,o.k. It just got to the time and almost at pressure on the trigger time when we entered a sort of village and a number of people laughing and waving. It transpired they were friends and he was picking up a package of fish, all quite innocent.

I also had an interesting experience in Ismailia when the a sergeant came to our tent told told me to get dressed, starched k.d shined brasses, spit shined boots, forage cap as opposed to sd cap, the forage the one with the dicing around it.A number of us were then taken to Ismailia, where we marched down behind the pipe band and carried out a formal guard mount in front of a house that was the residence of some high British official, they wanted to put on a show for some high muck mucky guests.

I also got one of the prized trips to Cairo.

Re: Hello

I was in the Canal Zone for about twenty months, bridging the years 1952 and ‘53. I was stationed in the Suez Garrison at the extreme south end of the Canal. This is important because, it was less isolated from Egypt-the-country, than those garrisons sitting in the middle of the Zone, such as Tel-el-Khebir and others. When you drove south from Port Said down through the many garrisons to the Suez Garrison you had come to the end of the Suez Canal Zone. Your next stop was the city of Suez and then the Gulf of Suez on the Red Sea, you were in Egypt and had left the Canal Zone.
The garrison location had its rewards, once each month we had a day at the beach, swimming in the Gulf of Suez and sometimes in the Red Sea itself (talk about a privilege).

However, one caveat, we were never allowed to enter the city of Suez - that would have been suicide. For some reason the Egyptians didn’t like us . . . yes, even although we were REME (I never understood that).
During my time there the authorities tried ( on an experimental basis), to open up a nearby town called Tawfiq on weekends. I joined in on that first weekend and there were as many MPs as squaddies in the streets. It must have been a bonanza for the local merchants and beer halls but unfortunately it didn’t last beyond that first night - we went out of control and the plan was scrapped.
Our only contact with the city of Suez returned to being a distant glow in the sky at night and a strange late evening noise coming across the desert sands during Ramadan ( we were on full-alert during Ramadan).

Just another thought: the twenty months I spent in the Canal Zone were historically significant ones (I take no credit):
When I arrived in Egypt the ruler was King Farouk and Queen Farida. After an army revolt, Farouk was deposed by General Neguib. A few months later Neguib was replaced by Colonel Nasser - who was the actual leader of the original revolt, General Neguib was a figurehead intended to give the revolt some gravitas. So there you have it: Farouk, Naguib and Nasser and I was in Egypt for all of them.

The entire Suez Canal Zone was on full alert during this period, but the closest I got to the historical event was at the beginning. I was involved in a vehicle recovery job in the desert at the foot of Gebel Ataqa when a “Silver Bullet” train raced past on the desert rail track, it turned out to be King Farouk and his queen, heading for a ship standing by in the Gulf . . . my moment in history. Not bad for a nineteen-year-old.
That’s why I say . . . “I left for Suez at eighteen and returned two years later as a twenty-four-year-old”.
Don’t make light of our time in Suez, our lives weren’t in great danger, but they were being changed. Having been in Suez became part of our identity . . . part of our inner selves.

JimW.

Re: Hello

I first saw the Canal Zone in November 1947 when passing through it on way to Malaya then fourteen months later on return to the UK then later in 1951 was posted to Benghazi where I spent a couple of months before the whole of 22 Engineer Regt, RE went on standby then early December embarked on LST Humphrey Gale and set sail for Port Said where we landed December 24th then went to Moascar, North Camp in convoy, arrived just in time to go on guard after driving my Leyland Hippo, but the rest were getting camp ready, Christmas Morning the smell of bacon and eggs frying, after guard was issued with palliasse and told to fill with straw and get bed ready, Christmas Dinner was sandwiches and a bottle of beer, RASC had not delivered our rations, but our RQMS soon sorted that out, but never got a proper Christmas Dinner, but later manage to take part in a cordon and search when the East Lac's fusiliers took on the Police at the Carocle, also manned trench's side of the Canal looking at the Egyptian Army and hoping they did not take part, later at AKC after watching "Scrooge" got a few shots fired, then we Moved to Wagon Hill Camp, Fanara, where we spent a couple of years, I never met anyone I served with, but am in touch with a couple, I used to drive a Leyland Hippo and carried a D4 Bulldozer on it,(due to lack of Scammel and trailer) later after passing course became VM and MT Nco, we later went across the road to Minden Lines were we had a NAAFI which we did not have in Wagon Hill Camp, during my service I spent a week with Egyptian Army doing a short tour of the Sinai, also managed a 24 hour guard of GOC's residence, where I learnt how to present arms with a Mk4 Sten Gun, I also used to go to places like Suez, Geneifa by motorbike, picking up spares for vehicles, I was in HQ Tp, 17 Field Squadron RE, returned home July 1954

Re: Hello

It never ceases to amaze me that you repeatedly post articles on the forum which reek of dogmatism, and yet have no truth to them, this thread is a classic example.Two of the salient points of your narration owe much to an overworked imagination.

(1} You never saw a silver bullet train carrying Farouk and Farida going to Suez in order to board ship. The reason being Farouk divorced Farida years earlier and was married to Narriman at the time of the coup

(2) When the coup took place The Family were at their Palace in Alexandria, Forewarned of events, Farouk and his family drove to the docks and boarded the Royal Yacht "al Mahrusa" which carried them into exile.

Those are the facts, which anyone with a modicum of common sense would have ascertained, before regaling this forum with another cockeyed view of history according to Jim.

Obviously I neither like or respect the views of Mr Watson, this is a man who described both myself and Jack Wheeler, and a few others, in disparaging terms on a number of occasiouns on the other forum. In his unconsidered opinion Jack and I were" A geriatric train crash" .Rod Amey was invested with a bladder problem, his crime , having the temerity to question the date given on the founding of R.E.M.E. Jack can no longer answer but there are no such constraints on me.
Keep hitting the buffers Jim. We geriatrics would find it funny., if it were not so sad.

It has been mentioned before, and reiterated by Bob Sharp in this thread, we should have more to talk about than a tiny moment spent doing what, for the most part, was a fairly mundane job. Undoubtedly there were exceptions, as those names on the" Roll of Honour" bear testimony to.
I find it ironic, that of all the contributors to the forums, Mr Watson and myself have the most in common with regard to Corp membership and trade training, unfortunately he will also know that like poles repel.

PS. If you want to persist in tales of fixing power lines in the desert, repairing potato peelers, and rescuing Para's lost in the desert. You will have to give me the specifics of your training. As an electrician (V+P) I underwent the same course and at no time would I have been required to carry out those tasks. It was pointed out at the time of the lost Para incident that there were thousands of troops trained to carry out that task, so why would the job have been given to someone palpably unsuited to the task?

Re: Hello

Hello Charles,

(1) You are correct I never saw a silver bullet train carrying Farouk and Farida to board ship, as I came to Canal Zone from Benghazi the LST Humphfrey Gale and arrived in Moascar by convoy.

(2) I cannot remember saying we repaired cables in the desert, we did do cable patrols, looking for anyone who may damage cables, also we did keep roads clear of sand though. What bladder problem I had I cannot remember,although I did have severe diarhea twice, nor can I remember repairing can openers although I still have one of the compo ones still.

Where you got the ideas of rescuing Para's in the desert I don't know, There was a chap from my time in civvy street before I joined the Army who was in the Sinai but I never met him there or rescued him.

So the reason you are so scathing in your remarks I can not understand, my training consisted, of driver B2, Vehicle Mech A3, Sapper B3, Marksman on Rifle, Bren Gun, and Mk4 Sten gun, any other things you accredit me to, I do not claim to, so where you get you information from, it's wrong.

Cheers Rod

Re: Hello

Rod, I don't think Charles was referring to you, I think his train comment was aimed at another poster, I also remember very well that the rescue of Paras at least in one case was claimed by a member of the RAF who shortly after his arrival in Egypt was sent on this particular mission shortly after getting off an aircraft from U.K. and putting up tents and digging their toilets. There may be something in there I am not sure that relates to you and your time I don't know, I know as a highly trained infantry man I on the old Forum was surprised at some of the things non infantry personnel were asked to do. I know that when we went out for something we had the arms and ammunition and extensive training to do it. We each carried our own supplies and and in addition carried extra mortar shells, bren mags, and other items. When taking up a position for the night we if preparing a camp scene did so and positions were delegated with precise arcs of fire, there was always a bren gunner and his number two, who changed if necessary the magazine, the barrel the extras that we carried, we all knew our responsibility if am emergency arose.

There have been without a doubt some extreme stories of adventure by some who to be kind were only guilty of exaggeration,I know I became to the annoyance of quite a few a consistent critic, but I don't mind, I never tried to tell anyone how to repair an airfield runway, Inever suggested I could repair, drive or otherwise utilise a vehicle better, I would never try to tell a Royal Engineer how to do his skilled job, I just took exception to those telling me how they done my highly trained job as if it was something you learned in the back of the NAAFI, some it has to be stated were absolute lies, proven by their ignorance of the facts. For example the missing Paras, I am sure they have the same pride as the Guards. and the ;ast thing they would have done is call for help, especially from Airfield Construction. Two if the men were lost how were the Airfield Construction personnel going to find them faster that the Paras or any of the other infantry personnel who were available by the thousands.

A long way round to give my understanding of waht Charles was trying to say and I honestly don't think it was aimed at you. But thats the SVA, I was hoping for some peaceful rapport, but I guess its not to be. Well I am trying, and I know to some I am very trying but thats O.K. just gort my second great grandchild anybody else got some.

Re: Hello

Hi Bob,

Yes I have just found that out from John Grant via email, it was misleading just following my recent post and not addressed to a named person, so all is well.

Cheers Rod

Re: Hello

Sorry to be repetitive Rod but on rereading Charles Lewis post I suspect his ire was raised at the named Jim Watson. I think you were the unfortunate but mistaken victim of placement of your and Charles's posts ,his only mention of you was in fact with deference as I saw it.Unless there are circumstances of which I am not aware I think this is probably a genuine mistake, and that there was no attempt to be critical of you, it was all possibly some parts also in error aimed at another member.

Re: Hello

Just to keep the pot boiling, I will comment on my post Canal days. I joined the Edinburgh City Police in September 1955. I would say the majority of the men I worked with wore medal ribbons from some campaign or other. Many of course WW2 veterans, and many Korean veterans, also some with a ribbon for their service in Malaya. In conversation with less informed I related my service in the Canal Zone, to be asked but you didn't get a medal like so and so,the desert and the ocean it must have been like a holiday camp, even some of the guys returning by ship from the Far East commented on how nice an area it looked. I am eternally grateful to the willing and hard working volunteers who finally got us what we had deserved, I will always have a grudge at those who deprived us of the rightful award we should have had, possibly if they had done what they were supposed to I when in uniform would not have to explain, badly, why my service was not recognised.

I had been in Canada for over twenty years and retired from a police career when I got a phone call from a man I did not know, he explained he was a Suez veteran and had heard I was also, and would I be willing to have my name entered on a medal petition, of course I was glad to do so, I am firmly convinced that it was the addition of my name that was the catalyst for the medal award, but seek no thanks or praise my modesty will not permit it.

My highlight was a few years later, my wife and I were invited to an RCMP formal function, as I was a retired officer I was entitled as I did to wear my mess uniform.On it proudly were my Canal Zone medal, Queens Jubilee Medal, and my Canadian police medal, and delightfully enough the one that was most often asked about was my Canal Zone medal, and requests as to what it was for, of course as a good soldier would do I got the light swinging and the bucket of sand out and related tales that Rudyard kiplking if alive would have gained awards for., Just joking.

Re: Hello

My time in Suez was an unusual army experience, and I was lucky to land it.
I landed in Port Said mid-April 1952 just a few weeks from my nineteenth birthday. Just a few days after disembarking from HMTS Lancashire (well past its Buy-Before-Date) I found myself in the back of a Bedford 3 ton lorry headed for Suez - with six others. I had no idea where that was. Half way there we stopped by the roadside for a cup of char and I was given a rifle and assigned to lookout on the top of a giant sand dune.
I had no idea what I was looking for, if an old goat-herder had come in sight I think I would have been shooting.

After a few hours we pulled up outside a camp gate, my bag was thrown out and I followed it. The sign beside the gate said I had arrived at “REME Station Workshops - Suez”. It felt like the middle of nowhere. Sand everywhere and all I could see was a brick vehicle workshop and a few tents behind it (six tents in total) and a ten-bed barrack room. I was to spend the next year and a half in a tent.

Here is where I was lucky: the camp was small and it turned out the total number of bods was between fifty and sixty ( including NCOs and one officer). Smaller than the crew of a submarine - and all tradesmen. I was soon to find out, because of its small size, that there was no separation of Other Ranks and NCOs . . . one evening mess, one snooker table, one dart board and one mess-hall. Of necessity we drank together and socialized together. We addressed each other by name, Geordie, Taffy, Jock etc., regardless of rank - - but never within earshot of the “OldMan”.
It took me a while to get used to it - but it worked: We ate together ( we had four sergeants and they had one separate table in the mess hall with meals served) but we worked together, drank together, shared tents and went out together. My tent, which consisted of two tents in tandem, housed 2 lance-corporals, one corporal and about six other-ranks. I don’t think rank-separation would have worked.

Our Captain (the “OldMan”) was smart enough not to allow any latitude with him. He never entered the mess and enforced strict protocol in his presence, which was almost limited to pay-day and Saturday morning square bashing parades.
He had his family with him and lived in married quarters in the garrison and this helped him maintain his distance from the camp night-life.

It was quite different from the Royal Berkshires over the wire and The Cheshires on the other side of us. We could see how it could have been.

As I said in the beginning, “I was lucky to land it”.

JimW.

Re: Hello

The interest is not what I thought it would be, thats too bad. It would be an opportunity and interesting to see how people are now, what they are doing and all being I suppose retired possibly some career moves. The Canal Zone although important in our lives, is really miniscule when you think of the many years since.

Re: Hello

Bob, did I just hear “Lights-out” being played?
. . . I hope not.

JimW.

Re: Hello

Jim. I actually thought lights out had been played some time ago, and just let curiousity get the better of me and dialled in. I was happy to see the new posts and had to re register to post but did so. It looks like it was all for nought though too bad.
I see you guys had a great summer, our grandaughter is there attending University, actually she has graduated with her Masters in science. She has applied for medical school in B.C but it is tough to get in, although we are critically short of doctors. She will wait in Toronto as she still has a lease on her apartment and has a couple of jobs and is a volunteer at the hospital. She has been laughing at us because of the weather and the smoke here from all the fires. Well I am sure this is not what was wanted but I will take the opportunity while I can.