The Suez Campaign

The Suez Campaign of 1956 as remembered by Pat McKeown in 2010.

or, "Sir Anthony Eden and my part in his downfall" (with acknowledgements to Spike Milligan!)

I was suddenly called up on deck of the troopship Empire Ken, and looking out to port, could see smoke rising from the city of Alexandria. British and French bombers had just delivered their loads as part of a feint attack to distract the Egyptians from their defence of Port Said where we then landed on a very crowded beach close to the port later that afternoon. Somehow it seemed appropriate that it was the 5th November (1956).

As Lieutenant Pat McKeown, Royal Engineers, called back to military service as a member of the Royal Army Reserve of Officers [RARO] and within 84 Regiment RE, (AER), I was in charge of a group of 50 port operating and maintenance engineers, landing 12 hours after the paratroopers and commandos. We had the remit to clear several quays of "sabotage" debris to enable barges to offload equipment and supplies from the offshore invasion fleet in this shallow-water port.

I was very fortunate to have with me as 2/ic, Lt. Tom Mather who demonstrated outstanding initiative and leadership; we were both novices in wartime activities. We also had four very experienced senior Warrant Officers who were highly supportive with their previous war experience, calm efficiency, hard work and natural authority.

This, the "Suez Crisis" or as I prefer to call it, the "Suez Escapade" was to be a very formative experience for a 26 year old whose wife, Mary, was pregnant with our first child and who had been in his first proper job for only two weeks when called back to military service in July 1956 and apparently known to his new work colleagues as "the two-week wonder".