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Watching the Suez Crisis

Updated Tuesday 19th May 2009

As editor of the Yorkshire Post, Sir Linton Andrews was in a good position to observe events that were unfolding in the Middle East.

The canal was an important shipping link between the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Suez. It finally opened in 1869, after 11 years of construction, and France and Britain soon became the major shareholders of the Suez Canal Company.

The seeds of the crisis can be found in Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's desire to build the Aswan Dam to provide much needed energy and water for irrigation purposes. To achieve this he required financial support, however, his hint of Russian support led to the immediate withdrawal of American financial aid. In response, Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal Company in order to finance the construction programme, and additionally restricted access for Israeli shipping in the area.

The nationalisation took place in July 1956, and despite British and French desires to restore control of the canal, pressure from America forced them to take part in diplomatic negotiations with Egypt. Ultimately these would prove fruitless, and a keen journalist like Linton Andrews was aware of the underlying tensions. However, he still found time to take a much needed holiday in Hythe. While the diary extract merely indicates he was “much perturbed by the Suez Canal Crisis” and wishes he was at work, a more informative storyline was developed by the dramatist.

Extract from Sir Linton Andrews' diary Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team Writing the Century Series 9 Web content.pdf

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PINKIE
Ooooo - coward! (LAUGHING)

LINTON ANDREWS
Yeah well, now don't do that! You'll make the newspaper wet.

PINKIE
So stop reading it then. You're on holiday

LINTON ANDREWS
I can't. This is the beginning of an international situation, you know. Look at this! It's virtual blackmail on Nasser's part: give me the money to build my Aswan Dam or see what I can do.

British and French troops enter Suez Canal zone

In October events came to a head, with an Israeli invasion on 29 October, followed soon after by the subsequent Anglo-French force on 5 November. The latter was dispatched to the Suez Canal zone on the pretext of stopping the fighting between the Israeli and the Egyptian forces. By incorporating Sir Linton Andrews' work on the Yorkshire Post it is possible to inject contemporary events which are not fully covered in the diary.

Newspaper extract Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team From Writing the Century Series 9 Web content.pdf

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LINTON ANDREWS
Let me see that sub heading, Scott.

SCOTT
Here it is.

LINTON ANDREWS
(READING) “October 29. Anglo- French Military Operation in Mediterranean.” Good. And then… um… um. No, change that next bit. Lets simplify. What about (WRITING) “British and French troops are to enter the Suez Canal Zone. Their objective will be either to stop the fighting between Israel and Egypt, or, if both sides agree, to withdraw from the canal to occupy temporary key positions in the Zone.” That'll do. Facts without bias. We need to be really careful. Feelings are running high against Eden at the moment.

Dramatic developments

By 6 November it was readily apparent that there was little international support for the intervention. The United Nations subsequently passed a vote of condemnation and the United States of America expressed its determination to halt the operation.

Sir Linton Andrews' diary entries in early November provide a fuller account of his views on the crisis. The dramatised account incorporates part of his diary for 3 November, and subsequent days, to succinctly outline the events occurring in Egypt during early November 1956.

Extract from Sir Linton Andrews' diary (3 Nov 1956) Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team Writing the Century Series 9 Web content.pdf

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LINTON ANDREWS
Wednesday, November 10th. Exciting and alarming week owing to Eden’s firm attitude to Israel and Egypt, especially Egypt. Because he feared war throughout the Middle East, Eden was determined to see that we got there before Russia did and kept the combatants apart.

Our Troops landed in Port Said on November 6th and the letters to the Y.P. swung to 20 to 1 in his favour at this point. Eden hopes that Nasser might then agree to an international regime on the canal. But The American Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, has done us harm by his changes of policy and then tonight came dramatic developments from the U.N.

After putting us under increasing pressure they have finally told us to end all bombing in Egypt and withdraw our forces. Eisenhower is determined on it, before he’ll help us get any oil supplies through. At the same time the US are telling Russia to stay out of the Middle East. I fear the casualty lists will inflame the situation.

Fuel supplies dwindle

After the end of post-war rationing, the temporary reintroduction of petrol rationing came as a shock. As fuel supplies dwindled, Britain became dependant upon American support for a loan to purchase the necessary emergency oil supplies. Britain’s eventual withdrawal was achieved on the insistence of the American government and, as the diary for 24 November shows, Britain’s dependence upon oil supplies was used as leverage (for clarity this part of the diary was incorporated into the dramatised version seen above). As a result both Sir Anthony Eden and Britain were humiliated.

At this point, the Manchester Guardian published an account on the suspected collusion of Britain, France and Israel. As Linton Andrews' diary shows, he thought this ‘unlikely’, and Eden even denied before parliament that there had been a plot. History has proved otherwise, and today the secret plan between the British, French and Israeli governments to regain control of the Canal is well known.

Extract from Sir Linton Andrews' diary (24 Nov 1956) Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team Writing the Century Series 9 Web content.pdf

 

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LINTON ANDREWS
November 24th. These are gloomy days. The Manchester Guardian has led a terrific attack on Eden as a treacherous war-monger, coming out with the preposterous suggestion that he colluded with Israel and supported her in starting a war we could then strongly oppose and so get our forces into Egypt to stop it on an honourable pretext.

The Guardian says the State Department inspired it. I’ve never heard anything more unbelievable. But having considered it all deeply, over the last three weeks I’m now convinced we should get out of Egypt.

 

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