Operation Musketeer

Operation Musketeer was the invasion of Suez in 1956, a joint British, French, Israeli operation. The immediate cause was Nasser nationalizing the Suez Canal. It was a military success and a political failure. All three of the Parachute Regiment's regular battalions were there. 3 PARA jumped in. 1 PARA & 2 PARA went by sea so they missed out on the last operational jump since World War II. The Egyptians managed to block the canal so its value was reduced to zero for some time.

It all happened when the Cold War could all too easily have become a hot war. The Russians had just invaded Czechoslovakia in August. They were busy retaking Hungary in November as our men were in Egypt. EOKA was running guerrilla operations against us in Cyprus. We wanted Cyprus because it could spy on Kapustin Yar, the Russian rocket testing base, one reason why the Russians were sabre rattling. The other big issue was access to Oil via the canal.

 

Operation Musketeer Films - at the Imperial War Museum 14.00 Friday 1 July 2011

 

Operation Musketeer (1956) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
Gives the overall picture. The consequences were not good.

 

Suez Crisis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
Goes over the reasons rather better:-
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The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression,..... was an offensive war fought by France, Britain, and Israel against Egypt beginning on October 29, 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to both Egypt and Israel, and then began to bomb Cairo. In a short time, and despite Israeli and British denials, considerable evidence showed that the two attacks were planned in collusion, with France as the instigator, Britain as a belated partner, and Israel as the willing trigger. Anglo-French forces withdrew before the end of the year, but Israeli forces remained until March 1957, prolonging the crisis. In April, the canal was fully reopened to shipping, but other repercussions continued.

The attack followed the President of Egypt Gamel Abdel Nasser's decision of 26 July 1956 to nationalize the Suez Canal, after the withdrawal of an offer by Britain and the United States to fund the building of the Aswan Dam, which was in response to Egypt's new ties with the Soviet Union and recognizing the People's Republic of China during the height of tensions between China and Taiwan. The aims of the attack were primarily to regain Western control of the canal and precipitate the fall of Nasser from power, whose policies were viewed as potentially threatening the strategic interests of the three nations.

The three allies, especially Israel, were mainly successful in attaining their immediate military objectives, but pressure from the United States and the USSR at the United Nations and elsewhere forced them to withdraw. As a result of the outside pressure Britain and France failed in their political and strategic aims of controlling the canal and removing Nasser from power. Israel fulfilled some of its objectives, such as attaining freedom of navigation through the Straits of Tiran. As a result of the conflict, the UNEF would police the Egyptian-Israeli border to prevent both sides from recommencing hostilities.
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Suez (Operation Musketeer) | ParaData
Is about the men in the air, the men on the ground

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French paratroopers with part of the 1st (Guards) Independent Parachute Company were to capture two vital bridges leading south from Port Said and isolate the town.

At 0515 GMT on 5th November 3 PARA conducted the first and last operational parachute assault since the Second World War. Despite vigorous defensive fire El Gamil airfield was captured in 30 minutes. Vicious close-quarter fighting developed as the paratroopers continued the advance through a sewage farm and cemetery nearby, rolling up Egyptian coastal defences. Covering fire was provided to support the amphibious landings that arrived the next day and a successful link-up with 45 Commando achieved.

2 PARA landed by sea and advanced down the canal and dug in at El Cap. This was the limit of the Task Force advance as World pressure was applied to end this controversial campaign.

The 3 PARA parachute insertion had meanwhile inflicted a decisive defeat on the enemy at a cost of four killed and three officers and 29 men wounded.

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Operation Musketeer
A good look which comes from official papers in the Public Record Office

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A look at the current media headlines answered some of the questions. The Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, with his French counterpart, Guy Mollet, decided that the Suez Canal had to be safeguarded. Operation MUSKETEER was the joint British/ French operation to protect the Canal following President Nasser's takeover. Those who looked beyond the headlines wondered why there was apparently to be no US participation. Indeed President Eisenhower firmly disapproved of the action. Undoubtedly, he was distracted by the US presidential elections which were only a week away and by the Soviet Union's fierce suppression of anti-communist uprisings in Hungary. But Eisenhower and his Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, feared that the Suez action would lead to WW3 and behind the scenes they had urged Eden not to proceed with this act of colonialism.


However, in his memoirs, "Full Circle", Eden argued that his reaction to President Nasser's seizure of the Canal had nothing to do with colonialism but much to do with international rights. If the US had to defend her treaty rights in Panama, would Mr Dulles regard that as colonialism? Eden says that it would be foolish to pretend that Dulles' remarks did not represent the anti-colonial feelings of many Americans and goes on to say that George III had much to answer for.


Forty six years after Suez and in the midst of yet another Arab/Israeli conflict, it is hard not to sympathise with Dulles. Eden was smarting because Britain had lost a short cut to the east but a far bigger danger existed. Dulles genuinely feared WW3 and had avoided supporting the uprisings in East Germany in 1953 and Hungary in 1956, (despite his personal views on communism), which might have set the world alight. He certainly did not want to take the risk of a world conflagration over what he saw as a colonial adventure.
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It is sad but true.

 

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