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Bombers at Suez

The RAF Bombing Campaign during the Suez War, 1956

Series : Middle East@War

Author : John Dillon

Bombers at Suez : The RAF Bombing Campaign during the Suez War, 1956


General - Pages : 72 | Images : 70 photos, 6 maps, 2 diagrams, 15 colour profiles

Paperback - Size : 297mm x 210mm | ISBN : 9781914377167 | Helion Book Code : HEL1398

In October 1956 the British government, together with the French and Israelis, launched an attack on Egypt in response to President Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal. The agreement between these three governments, the Sèvres Protocol, was a low point in British diplomacy and a factor in the ending of Prime Minister Eden’s political career. The military commanders had to plan for and launch Operation Musketeer, some 2,000 miles from the UK, while their political masters gave them only limited information on the arrangement made with France and Israel.

The RAF squadrons allocated to the operation came from the UK and Germany where their jet bombers, Canberras and Valiants, were intended for nuclear war against the Warsaw Pact countries rather than conventional war with Second World War bombs in a desert environment.

This account uses Cabinet Minutes, Squadron Operation Record Books, reports written by the Commander-in-Chief and personal accounts by aircrew who flew over Egypt, to detail the involvement of the RAF.

When Anthony Eden took the decision to launch Operation Musketeer the RAF did not have the forces required in the Mediterranean. At short notice, squadrons had to train for high level, visual bombing using techniques that would have been familiar to Lancaster crews in the Second World War. Also, the navigation aids fitted in the bombers were those required for the European theatre, not the Egyptian desert.

The RAF’s primary role was to neutralize the Egyptian Air Force by destroying aircraft and denying the EAF the use of its airfields. The bombing accuracy, as the book details, was not good but the RAF did what was asked of them and effectively removed the EAF from the battle space. If the weather had not been so good and if the EAF had been a more determined adversary, Operation Musketeer would not have come to the same successful conclusion, militarily. From the political point of view, the British involvement in Suez was a disaster. It took place at the same time as a presidential election in America and the Russian invasion of Hungary. The Anglo-French intervention and their duplicity at Sèvres came in for international condemnation and led directly to American pressure on the pound.  

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