Operation Musketeer ... The War preparations


Yahia Al Shaer

Operation Musketeer

( Operation Mousquetaire )

The War preparations

On the day that the Canal was nationalised the British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, asked the Chiefs of Staff to plan for a military intervention; the first meeting at which the issue was considered was on the 27th. July 1956.

Not only had the United Kingdom to contemplate the loss of revenues, for Nasser might limit the Canal's use; in any event the Egyptians were considered - wrongly, of course - technically incapable of operating and managing it.

Two days after Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalisation, UK PM Antony Eden called Captain Liddell-Hart into his office and ordered him to develop a plan to regain the Canal and force Nasser out of power Hart developed four plans for Eden, who rejected each in order.

The fifth plan Hart presented Eden was exactly what he wanted. It was a duplicate of the first plan and Liddell-Hart told Eden that -- Eden responded by throwing an ink well at Hart

The French Prime Minister, Guy Mollet, suggested to Eden a joint venture, and planning for an invasion of Egypt followed, the operation to be headed by General Sir Charles Keightley.

On 2 August it was announced that Canberra bomber squadrons would be flown to Malta, UK reservists were called up and at Toulon the French invasion force began forming.

Three days later troops of the 16th Parachute Brigade left Portsmouth for Cyprus on board the carrier HMS Theseus, and a four days later two infantry battalions were despatched to Malta. No sooner had the Paras reached Cyprus, however, than they were flown back to the UK for training, urgently needed by both the paratroopers and the transport pilots.

The dilemma facing Britain and France on taking military action when diplomatic efforts to settle the crisis failed, was to find sufficient justification for invading a sovereign state.

It was decided to encourage Israel to attack the Egyptians in Sinai - which suited the former - with a drive to the Canal.

This would give the Anglo-French force adequate reason to send troops to intervene to maintain the integrity of the Canal. England and France, allying with Israel, secretly prepared military actions to regain control of the Canal. During August 894 British civilians were evacuated from Egypt, many by Solent flying boats of Aquila Airways.

The Israeli "Alliance"

General Moshe Dayan, the Israeli Chief of Staff, first heard of the invasion plan on 1 September 1956 when French interests suggested that Israel join in.

The Israelis flew to Paris for a further planning meeting on the 29th and on 3 October Eden told close advisers that Israel had offered to collaborate.

After a series of tri-partite meetings at Sévres between 22 and 24 October; concurrently the French reached a private agreement with Israel for defensive support involving warships and fighter aircraft. The final plan was for the Israelis to invade Sinai on 29 October.

The Middle-East War

On October 29, 1956, Israeli Brigades trespassed the Egyptian boarders to invade Egypt. England and France, following their plan, demanded that Israeli and Egyptian troops withdraw from the Canal, and they announced that they would intervene to enforce a cease-fire ordered by the United Nations.

The Anglo-French Ultimatum

By the late afternoon of 30 October at 1615 hrs GMT, the British government issued combined Anglo-French ultimatum calling on the Israelis and Egyptians to stop the military hostilities, and requiring both Israel and Egypt to withdraw their forces to a distance of 10 miles buffer on either side of the Suez Canal Banks - east and west respectively which would separate the Egyptian forces from the Israelis .

Thus the Ultimatum requested practically from, Egypt to withdraw their forces ten miles west and in turn gives Israel the advantage of advancing westwards to approach the Eastern Bank of the Canal...

Following their part of the script, it was demanding that Egypt allow the British and French forces to temporarily occupy all key positions
in the Suez Canal area in addition to the main cities, Port said, Ismailia and Suez to safeguard the international maritime transportation through the Canal.

It was confidently predicted that the Ultimatum would be rejected by Egypt, which would give the Allies a justifiable excuse for military intervention.

The British C-in-C orders to the RAF to prepare the first stage of the bombing campaign had already been given.

The Egyptians, have understandably rejected the ultimatum and did not comply. The first Bombardment raids flew over Cairo on the evening of 30th October to attack the EAF Airbases and began a 7 Day Aerial Bombardment Cycle in which

The Anglo-French Allied Plans !

The Suez Canal War characterised by many operation names. It all began with Operation Kadesh, the definite assault operation name was Musketeer-revised. and the War ended with operation Yo-Yo. According to the Allied war plans, the assault would have to be preceded by the neutralisation of the Egyptian Air Force (EAF) and interdiction missions to isolate the war zone This was the original plan known initially by the code-name 'Hamilcar' and later 'Musketeer'.

By 12 September 1956 the plans for 'Musketeer' were ready, although their implementation depended on the very slow process of requisitioning, loading and sailing the large number of merchant vessels required.
The first phase of the intervention plans was to deal with the EAF Egyptian Air Forces .

The Allies were most concerned about the strength of the EAF, the fighting capability of its aircrew, the newly purchased MIG 15, the Illusion 28 Bombers, the heavy Stalin Tanks, the self-propelled
SU-100 guns in addition to other not known types of Russian and Czech arms, but especially the preparedness of Czech and Soviet 'advisers' to fight aside the Egyptians. Allied intelligence was based on aerial reconnaissance, while Israeli assessments were probably the result of more direct espionage.

The Allied estimates of the EAF strength were double those of the IDF.

The DEFE history records

Years will go by, before all the records of this war ever be fully evaluated. The following records listed by Anthony Gorst, a modern historian working in London should be supplemented with the Service Department files And should assist any future researcher in excavating all its stoned secrets
[SIZE=-1]ADM 205[/SIZE]
First Sea Lord Papers - Suez Records some 50 files:

117 - 119 Suez Main Papers
120 Suez Briefs for the First Sea Lord
127 Repercussions in the Persian Gulf and Middle East
132 - 133 Early drafts of MUSKETEER plan 138 MUSKETEER III Plan
139 - 142 MUSKETEER Plans and Signals 149 Miscellaneous Egypt Papers
150 Short account of Suez Operation
Chief of Air Staff Papers - some 30 files:

1940 MUSKETEER General papers
1948 Planning for MUSKETEER
1951 MUSKETEER: situation following cease-fire
2076 - 2078 Implications of Suez crisis: Jordan
2081 - 2100 Various MUSKETEER subject files
WO 106
Directorate of Military Operations and Intelligence:
5986 MU8KETEER planning
WO 216
Chief of the Imperial General Staff papers:

907 MUSKETEER planning
909 CIGS Appreciation of Suez Operation

Dr: Yahia Al Shaer
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Not only had the United Kingdom to contemplate the loss of revenues, for Nasser might limit the Canal's use; in any event the Egyptians were considered - wrongly, of course - technically incapable of operating and managing it.

I read somewhere that the work force at the canal also expressed this opinion and voiced this during the early days of "nationalisation"

Surely without the current work force experience then the persons doing the "nationalisation" would not have had the first idea of how to run the canal ?
I read somewhere that the work force at the canal also expressed this opinion and voiced this during the early days of "nationalisation"

Surely without the current work force experience then the persons doing the "nationalisation" would not have had the first idea of how to run the canal ?

Thre had been quite a smaller number of Egyptian Suez Canal "Skipper" Pilots , who were in service one of them was my cousine .

For explanation ... the passage of a ship in the canal , requires the services of THREE Expert "Skipper" Pilots as follows which applies for both

1 - North-South Convoy 2 Convoies (average 40 ß 50 ships ... max capacities "during the fifties " c.a 125.000 draught tons

One "Skipper" Port Pilot to guide the ship into PorSaid Port

A - The Convoy building took place at the Port Said Horizon Line "Boghaz" - The march to the Port -Said Port , where a halt was always planned, to let the South-North convoy passes the canal ..

That halt was about 3 houres , which enabeled tourists to visit the town , and others to make a quiick but short journy to Cairo ... then catch up with the ship in Suez at the suthern end of the Suez Canal

It was and is still impossible to have two-way ships traffic in the water passage and there was ONLY one bypass by FERDAN north of Ismailia

B- One Passage "Skipper" Pilot to guide the ship through the first half of the Suez Canal , north of Ismailia ... till the Bitter Lakes

C- Change of Passage "Skipper" Pilots during the move , where he takes responsility to to guide the ship through the second half of the Suez Canal , south of Ismailia ... till the south of Suez Port to enterance of the Red See

2 - South-North Convoy the same applies (but in a reversed process order)

Many Egyptian "Skipper" Port Pilots were in service for the first part of the march of (Nort-South) convoys ...

Very very fiew (less than five) were allowed to be engaged in any of the
other activities ... Those were kept to European (mainly French, British, Italian and Greek) and American "Skipper" Pilots

The lower "Skipper" Port Pilot responsibility was foreseen to the Egyptians

Egypt had a great shortage of "Skipper" Pilots

They had to redeploy many of the Navy "-Frigates-Corvets Captains-SkippersÄ to join services immediately on early morning of 27th Juls 1956 after Nasser announced during his speech in Alexandira , the nationalised the French company

Those new Egyptian "Skippers" had to CO-JOIN the other Passage "Skipper" Pilot during A L L the way through to gain experience ....

Most of the available Egyptian "Skipper" Port Pilots were promoted to Passage "Skipper" Pilot and had as well to join other Passage "Skipper" Pilot during A L L the way through to enrich and expand and gain experience ..

When the French company announced on 15th September , the withdrawal of ALL the French and English personnel, the Italians followed step ... but the greek ones refused to comply ...

USA, Sweeden , Denmark , Jugoslavia and Russia had dispatched several or few "Skipper" Pilots to assist Egypt ...

It was a challanging time, which I WILL never forget during my life in Port Said because my father and brother were engineers in the company and many of my friends dads were Skipper Pilots.... One otf them , Mr Mohammad Daoud, had been promoted immediately to become the Traffic Director replacing the French one, who did NOT appear to work as of August

So as you see, Egypt had had a very tough time, but the succeeded in managen and facing the cahallange

The Suez Canal had been deepend and broadend and many bypasses have been digged and added to the passage to make it safer for the ships

Some statalite images of port Said will be added to this topic, to show you a great difference between now compared to the fifties

Dr. Yahia Al Shaer
The Suez Canal

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