25 January 1952
By January 1952, the British Army, which was still stationed in Egypt’s Suez Canal Zone, was growing increasingly frustrated by attacks on its positions by small groups of Egyptian guerrilla fighters, who were determined to force their former colonial masters to evacuate. The British suspected the Egyptian police of failing to crack down on the insurgents. On 25 January, hoping to give Egypt a sharp reminder that Britain wouldn’t tolerate anything except complete collusion, they sent a force of some seven thousand troops, backed by tanks and artillery, to surround the police station in the town of Ismailiya and demand its surrender.
When to the surprise of the British, the Egyptian police refused, they resorted to overwhelming firepower, including the use of giant 50 ton Centurion tanks and heavy artillery, to take the building, killing fifty Egyptian police recruits. Four soldiers were also killed and 12 wounded.1 One officer recalled that ‘dead and wounded littered the barracks and rooftops.’2 The following day, crowds in Cairo vented their anger against British owned property and vehicles. Shops and hotels were burned to the ground and seventeen British residents were killed and in order to deter rioters from storming the British embassy, bren guns were mounted on the pavements outside.
- “Egypt: The Next Move,” The Northern Daily Mail, 28 January 1952, p1.
- Gregory Blaxland, Regiments Depart: History of the British Army 1945-70, Harper Collins, 1971, p 226.
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