News story

60th anniversary of Suez marked at a commemorative service

Veterans and current Service personnel attended the service at the National Memorial Arboretum.

Defence Minister Earl Howe, veterans and current service personnel attended a commemorative service for the 60th anniversary of the Suez Canal Zone ceasefire at the National Memorial Arboretum. Crown copyright.
Defence Minister Earl Howe, veterans and current service personnel attended a commemorative service for the 60th anniversary of the Suez Canal Zone ceasefire at the National Memorial Arboretum. Crown copyright.

The Ministry of Defence and The Royal British Legion today hosted a national event at the National Memorial Arboretum, to mark 60 years since the ceasefire was announced in the Suez Canal Zone, Egypt.

The event was attended by many surviving veterans, Defence Minister Earl Howe and senior representatives of the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force.

The service was led by The Venerable Jonathan Chaffey QHC, Chaplain-in-Chief of the Royal Air Force. During the service prayers were said in remembrance of the 450 British military casualties in the Suez Canal Zone from 1951 to 1956. The service and losses of former Colonial forces, including British East Africa (now Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda), Mauritius, The Seychelles and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), were also honoured.

The service took place in the Arboretum’s Millennium Chapel and was followed by a procession, led by the Royal Signals Band and The Royal British Legion standard bearers, to the Suez Memorial where wreaths were laid.

Defence Minister Earl Howe, veterans and current service personnel attended a commemorative service for the 60th anniversary of the Suez Canal Zone ceasefire at the National Memorial Arboretum. Crown copyright.
Defence Minister Earl Howe, veterans and current service personnel attended a commemorative service for the 60th anniversary of the Suez Canal Zone ceasefire at the National Memorial Arboretum. Crown copyright.

Defence Minister Earl Howe said:

The deployment of British and Commonwealth forces to Suez is a significant part of our history, today’s event allowed us to remember those that were killed or injured in the operation whilst also giving us an opportunity to say thank you to those that served and reflect on the lessons learnt.

Remembrance is an important time for the Armed Forces and the nation to come together to remember the sacrifices of those that have served in combat operations.

Lieutenant Colonel Colin Kemp, Trustee of The Royal British Legion, said:

It is crucial that we never forget the selfless sacrifice of those who serve, and work to preserve their memory in perpetuity. This was a fitting commemoration for this important anniversary. During the five-year conflict in the Suez Canal Zone our Armed Forces suffered a significant loss of life, with many veterans and their families requiring support long after the British withdrawal.

Defence Minister Earl Howe, veterans and current service personnel attended a commemorative service for the 60th anniversary of the Suez Canal Zone ceasefire at the National Memorial Arboretum. Crown copyright.
Defence Minister Earl Howe, veterans and current service personnel attended a commemorative service for the 60th anniversary of the Suez Canal Zone ceasefire at the National Memorial Arboretum. Crown copyright.

History of the Suez Canal Zone

The history of British involvement in Egypt and the Suez Canal dates back to 1875, with Egypt becoming a British Protectorate between 1914 and 1952. British and Colonial Armed Forces were deployed in the Suez Canal Zone for all of this period until a temporary withdrawal in April 1956.

In 1951, Egypt declared void the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, that granted Britain a lease on the Suez base for a further 20 years. Tensions led to the declaration of an emergency period from 1951 to 1954.

In October 1956, the British and French owned canal was nationalised by the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, in response British and French forces secured the Canal Zone on Operation Musketeer. A ceasefire was announced on 6 November 1956 and all troops were withdrawn shortly afterwards.

The relationship between the UK and Egypt has changed dramatically in the last 60 years. The UK and Egypt are now working together to tackle many of the challenges that both our countries face in 2016, including fighting terrorism, building strong and resilient economies, and promoting stability in the region.

Published 6 November 2016