BRITISH Official Report of Damage In Port Said 1956

Dr.Yahia Al Shaer

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Sep 14, 2020
BRITISH Official Report of Damage In Port Said 1956


Canal Zoners - Suez Crisis
To: The Right Hon. ANTHONY HEAD, M.P., Minster of Defence

1. I was requested on the afternoon of Friday, 7th December, as President of the Law Society, to proceed to Cyprus and Port Said for the purpose of making an independent investigation of the number of Egyptians killed and wounded as a result of recent Allied operations, and, as far as time permitted, to investigate also the extent of physical damage to Port Said.

I interpreted my instructions as being limited to Port Said. I did in fact visit Port Fouad for the purpose of testing the reliability of certain evidence given to me in Port Said, and for that purpose I had the contact with the French authorities to which I refer below. A French surveyor came out for the purpose of investigating physical damage in Port Fouad and subsequently a French lawyer for the purpose of investigating Egyptian casualties in Port Fouad. At the request of the French authorities I saw both these gentlemen and explained to them the methods I had been pursing in Port Said.

I did not interpret my terms of reference as including the investigation of damage or casualties in places further afield, and in any event none of those places would have been accessible to me.

2. On the afternoon of Friday, 7th December, I saw Sir Walter Monckton and went through with him the material he had collected in the course of his recent visit. Having read these documents and discussed them with Sir Walter Monckton, I came to the conclusion that I could not confine my investigation to such statistical material as might be produced by the Egyptian authorities but must widen it so that I could assess the value of this material against the background of the operations as a whole. For this purpose it appeared to me necessary, firstly, that I should understand the object, the nature, and the conduct, of the operations; secondly that I should go over them on the ground; thirdly that I should relate as far as possible the damage to the various phases of the operations; and fourthly that I should examine the Egyptian witnesses and their records.

3. In pursuance of the plan with I had formed, I proceeded by air during the night of Saturday, 8th December, to Cyprus where I arrived at General Keightley’s headquarters in the forenoon of Sunday, 9th December. I spent the day in the company of General Keightley and some of his staff studying the objectives and conduct of the operation. On the morning of Monday, 10th December, I proceeded by air to Port Said and remained there until the late afternoon of Thursday, 13th December. During this period I made myself thoroughly familiar with the whole town including Arab town, visiting every part of it. I went over the ground of all the fighting with senior officers who had actually been concerned in it. I examined a number of other senior Allied officers and also such independent witnesses as I could find, including the British, Italian and Greek Consuls, the representative of the Swiss Red Cross and the British Manager of Worms & Co. I examined the various officials concerned with the keeping of statistics at hospitals and cemeteries and with the official register of deaths and I made a personal and detailed inspection of the cemeteries in the company of most of the people (e.g. grave diggers, ambulance drivers, lorry drivers etc.) who took a personal part in the burials. I also interviewed the Director of the Municipality and the Commandant of Police. The Governor failed three times to keep an appointment to see me after I had sent him messages indicating the nature and object of my mission.

Having carried out these surveys, I made a final tour of the town including a detailed inspection of Arab town.

I then returned to Cyprus on the afternoon of Thursday, 13th December, and had an opportunity of checking certain facts with General Keightley, and his staff. I proceeded to Beirut on Friday, 14th December, and returned by air from Beirut to London on Saturday. 15th December.

As I expected to find, mathematical certainty supported by unambiguous evidence is not possible. But I am quite satisfied that as to the course of operations and the resulting physical damage, my account is strictly accurate, and that with regard to casualties, I cannot be very wide of the mark. Indeed where in doubt I have thought it wise to err on the side of using a higher rather than a lower figure.

4. In this report therefore I propose to deal with the following matters in the following order:
a) The object and nature of the operations
b) The geography of Port Said
c) The actual conduct of the operations
d) The evidence of independent witnesses
e) The statistical material including inspection of the cemeteries
f) The evidence of certain senior Egyptian officials

5. The object and nature of the operations. On the 30th October, 1956, after Israeli forces had attacked Egypt, Her Majesty’s Government and the French Government addressed communications to the Egyptian and Israeli Governments, requiring both countries to withdraw their forces to lines ten miles on either side of the Suez Canal. The Egyptian and Israeli Governments were required to give their acceptance by 4.30a.m. G.M.T. on the 31st October. Israel accepted but Egypt refused and the Allied forces, under the immediate command of Lt.Gen. Sir Hugh Stockwell, who was responsible to the Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Charles Keightley, were ordered to take military action against Egypt. The first phase of this action was designed to actualise the Egyptian air force by bombing and by rocket attacks from low-flying ship-borne and land based aircraft and to engage Egyptian naval forces wherever they might be found. After this action failed to induce Egypt to accept the Allied requirements, the second phase was to occupy the territory adjoining the Suez Canal from Port Said through Ismailia to Suez. In that event the main objective was not the capture of Port Said but only the control of Port Said so as to secure the landing of armoured and other forces and their passage to the south. The intention was to obtain this control by means of parachute troops on Monday, 5th November. Should this not be achieved it was intended to reinforce the attack by landing troops over the beaches immediately in front of the town.
In addition to the air attacks upon airfields referred to above, air attacks were made on concentrations of Egyptians armour with a view to preventing their entry upon the territory bordering the Canal.

Egyptians armour with a view to preventing their entry upon the territory bordering the Canal. Medium level bombing attacks on four Egyptian airfields began in the early morning of the 31st October. During the operations airfields at Almaza, Inches, Abu Sueir, Kabrit, Kasfareet, Cairo West, Fayid and Bilbers were attacked. An Egyptian destroyer was set on fire and four E boats were attacked by naval aircraft. The attack was broken off to enable one E boat still afloat to rescue and take ashore survivors from the others. Air attacks were made on Huckstep Camp Barracks, the Cairo radio transmitter at Abu Zabal on the edge of the desert fifteen miles from Cairo, on marshalling yards near Ismailia and on various other military targets.

Throughout all these preliminary operations, which were broken off at the time of the landing of the parachute troops at Port Said in the early morning of 5th November, one of the main concerns of those who planned and took part in the operations was to limit damage and loss of lives and property of Egyptians and other nationals. Targets were strictly confined to military objectives but it was decided whenever possible to issue detailed and repeated broadcast warnings to the local population in advance of the various stages of the operations. A warning to all civilians to keep away from military airfields was given before the first bombs were dropped and was constantly repeated. Other warnings were issued at appropriate times to keep away from barracks, marshalling yards, guns and other military objectives as they became due for attack. On the other hand, the people of Alexandria and other towns were told on the 3rd November that there was no intention of bombing in their district and that they would have a quiet day. These warnings were sent out by the B.B.C., by the Voice of Britain (Arabic) in Cyprus, and in Arabic on the wavelength of Cairo Radio after that station had been attacked on the 1st November. I do not think it is necessary to enumerate in this report the numerous warnings issued prior to the 4th November (large numbers of which I have personally checked) but I shall hereafter make reference to certain warnings issued from the 4th November onwards with regard to the attack upon Port Said.

The preliminary operations to which I have referred did not achieve their object, namely, the withdrawal of Egyptian forces to a line ten miles from the Canal, and it became necessary therefore to proceed with the operations against Port Said with the consequences of which this report is particularly concerned. It is to the Port Said operations that I now turn.


Dr. Yahia Al Shaer

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BRITISH Official Report of Damage In Port Said 1956

6. The geography of Port Said. In order to follow the nature and consequences of the operations at Port Said it is necessary to understand the geography of the city and its environs, which is rather unusual. Port Said, on the westerly side of the Canal entrance, and Port Fouad on its easterly side, are situated on a narrow strip of sand. There are arms of the sea behind this strip on both sides of the Canal, the arm of the sea on the west side being called Lake Manzala. On the south and west sides of Lake Manzala are numerous villages situated to the east of the most easterly mouth of the Nile, called the Damielta Mouth. Along this belt of sand runs a road crossing by two bridges over two entrances from the Lake to the sea. These bridges are about one and a half miles to the west of the Port Said airfield, in the report referred to as the Gamil airfield. Following this road from the Gamil airfield in an eastward direction towards Port Said, one has the sea on the left-hand side with few buildings, but the land on the right-hand side gradually increases in width. Immediately adjoining the eastern end of Gamil airfield there are one or two farms on the right-hand side of the road, and then comes the Port Said sewage farm. From the sewage farm to the edge of the built-up area of Port Said itself is a distance of about one and a half miles. On the right-hand side of the road come some more farms and then the Moslem, Orthodox and Jewish cemeteries. These are all the cemeteries to be found either in Port Said or in Port Fouad. Next come, still on the right-hand side of the road, large blocks of flats and the Isolation Hospital. One comes then to the first of the shanties forming the western extension of Arab town.

On the left-hand side (the seaward side of the road) proceeding eastward from Gamil airfield, there are virtually no buildings until one comes to the Coast Guard Barracks opposite the Isolation Hospital. Just past the Coast Guard Barracks, the road bifurcates. The right-hand branch is called the rue el Gamah Tewtiki which is commonly called Shariatewfiki. This street forms the north-eastern boundary of Arab town which extends to the intersection of this street and the Rue Mohammed Ali. The street then becomes the Safia Zaghioul and continues right through to the Canal. The left-hand fork of the bifurcation becomes the Rue 23 Juillet and again continues right through to the Canal. The Arab town consists of very tightly packed tall wooden houses of several stories with a balcony at each storey, in strong contrast with the more modern part of the town to the east, which consists largely of brick, plaster, and in some instances stone buildings, much more sparsely populated although still crowded by English standards. North of the Rue 23 Juillet there is a broken line of quite high buildings. Again, in front of these buildings to the north, and immediately adjoining the beach are densely packed rows of match wood beach huts built on piles, though in the centre of the beach and further north still near the water’s edge there is a double row of beach huts of more solid plaster construction. As an annex to this report I attach two sheets of a map prepared by the War Office and Air Ministry (Edition 2 – GSGS 8011 Sheet 94 & 95/735 and Sheet 95/720). The first sheet shows all the area I have described to the east of the sewage farm and the second sheet all that I have described to the west of the sewage farm.

Port Fouad lies on the easterly side of the Canal.

To the south of the main built-up area of Port Said is the railway station with the railway running south. To the west of this lies the so-called golf course area between the railway and the interior canal, and the Raswa area (with the road and rail bridge and a pontoon bridge across the interior canal, and the water works) lie about one mile still further south.

Dr. Yahia Al Shaer
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BRITISH Official Report of Damage In Port Said 1956

Canal Zoners - Suez Crisis
. The actual conduct of the operations. By the 3rd November it had become evident that the preliminary operations referred to above were not having the desired effect upon the Egyptian Government and in consequence the landing at Port Said was proceeded with. Operations began in the Port Said area by air attacks upon Egyptian positions such as dug-in tanks and SU 100 guns and anti aircraft guns. So far as I can judge, three strikes were made on Saturday. 3rd November, in the actual vicinity of Port Said and five on Sunday, 4th November. On the Sunday also an attack was made on the two bridges referred to above to the west of Gamil airfield. These attacks were all ground attacks with rockets and cannon fire delivered from roof level and not by bombs. I am satisfied that at no stage was any bomb dropped on, or in the environs of, Port Said. All witnesses agree that all these attacks were delivered with a very high degree of accuracy. At no time on the Saturday or Sunday were any air strikes delivered in any part of the built-up area.

The probability is that there were in Port Said and in Port Fouad as many as 4,500 regular Egyptian troops armed with modern weapons including a number of Russian designed and built rocket launchers and SW100 self-propelled guns. In addition there may have been anything from 1,500 to 2,000 police armed with rifles.

The Allied transport aircraft took off from Nicosia and other airfields in Cyprus and arrived over Port Said at 0515 GMT on Monday the 5th November. Some inaccurate anti-aircraft fire was encountered but the drop of British parachute troops was made successfully at Gamil Airfield and all aircraft returned safely. The third Para-troop Battalion Group of 16 aircraft – strength in men approximately 780 – dropped on the airfield where they were met with considerable fire from tanks, mortars and light anti-aircraft guns used in a ground role.

Initial Egypt resistance was tough but after some three hours started to slacken. The airfield was secured by 0900 GMT and was capable of receiving aircraft by midday. By 1300 GMT the Parachute group had advanced eastwards and reached the edge of the built-up area of Port Said. This success was due largely to the co-operation of ground attack aircraft which consistently knocked out enemy strong points and centres of resistance. During the whole day shore-based and carrier aircraft provided constant support.

I have already described above the geography of the district between Gamil and the built-up area of Port said and that should be borne in mind in following the Gamil battle. It is important to follow the Gamil battle in order to assist in checking what may have been the casualties involved.

The airport buildings, so far as I can see, are not visibly damaged, the few beach huts between the road and the sea are virtually undamaged. When one goes on, still looking to the left hand side of the road to the coastguard barracks these are severely damaged; in fact I should call them a total loss. The reason for this is they were strongly held by the Egyptian Army who had guns and mortars there as well as machine guns and the parachute brigade called down an airstrike which was delivered in the form of cannon fire and rocket fire.

After the coastguard barracks there is practically nothing on the left hand side of the road until one comes to the bifurcation road where there is a T.B. Hospital. This is slightly damaged. Going back to Gamil and proceeding with one's eyes on the right hand side of the road there are fields and farmhouses to which I have referred and these appear to be somewhat damaged by light missiles. The sewage farm is completely undamaged. After the sewage farm come a few small houses with gardens which are damaged. Then come the cemeteries. Then comes the Isolation Hospital. This is severely damaged but it had been evacuated before the battle began. Then one has reached the bifurcation of the roads with the burnt out section of the shanty town on the right hand side. There seems to be little doubt that some civilian casualties took place amongst the people working in the fields and gardens between the Gamil airport and the cemeteries. There is a considerable amount of damage in the Moslem cemetery which is the first one comes to when proceeding from Gamil towards Port Said. The damage appears to have come from two sources. First of all the cemetery was held as a strong-point by the Egyptians, with a gun in the north-west corner. They appear to have broken down the wall to secure a field of fire. During this period the Moslem cemetery was damaged from two sources: the first the small arms carried by the Parachute Brigade and the second the rockets from an air strike which appears to have been called down. The damage is not severe or very widespread. After its capture the cemetery was held as a strongpoint by the Parachute Brigade. Further damage appears to have come from rockets fired from a rocket launcher which was operating in the shanty part of Arab Town. The Parachute Brigade had reached about the edge of the town at the bifurcation of roads when operations ceased pending the abortive cease fire negotiations.

At about the same time as the British parachute troops were dropped at Gamil, there was a parachute drop of approximately 500 men from the French 2nd Regiment Parachute Colonial (RPC) which was made at Raswa on the waterworks immediately south of the Raswa Bridges. Their object was to capture the waterworks and to capture and secure the two bridges carrying the road and rail over the internal canal. There was also a pontoon bridge a little to the east which had to be captured. The French rapidly attained all their objectives but were instructed not to proceed further north because, as will be seen hereafter, the Royal Marine Commandos were coming down from the sea in that direction and a clash might easily have occurred. In any event the objective of the French was to keep the road and rail to the south open for use by the armoured and other forces which were to be landed at Port Said later in the day. The French at Raswa met with strong opposition. They were met also with heavy fire from automatic weapons and mortars but not from artillery or tanks. The main bridges were captured intact but the centre portion of the pontoon bridge was damaged by the Egyptians. The waterworks were also secured undamaged and a number of guns captured. During these operations the French parachutists called for a number of air strikes with cannon and rockets but these were directed agains Egyptian troops on the open ground to the north of the Raswa Bridges and not against any buildings. It was most unlikely that any civilians were on that open ground mixed with the Egyptian troops there. The position of the Raswa drop and bridges in question and the internal canal can be seen well from the first sheet of the maps referred to above.

At 1500 GMT negotiations began between the Governor of the town and the Commanding Officer of the Parachutists (both French and English) Brigadier Butler, for a cease fire. These negotiations appeared to be successful and the Governor was prepared to surrender the town believing that all further resistance was useless. Unfortunately, he seems to have received instructions from Cairo to go back on his decision and negotiations were broken off about 2300 that night. At this point loudspeaker vans were sent round the streets urging the Egyptian soldiers to return to their posts, urging the civilians to take up arms and stating that Paris and London had been bombed by the Russians who would shortly be sending help to the Egyptians. At the same time arms were distributed to the civilians in the streets, some from lorries and some from piles in the roadway. These arms appear to have been distributed quite indiscriminately and to have been taken up by men and women and even boys and girls. There was no fighting of any kind during the night of the 5th/6th November, but there was a certain amount of desultory firing in the streets which must have been partly Egyptians settling old scores between themselves and partly civilians (many very young) firing rifles and other small arms in a spirit of joie de vivre. It is believed that some casualities took place during the night from these causes.

In consequence of the failure to the cease fire negotiations it was clear that the parachutists could not alone clear the town in time to make secure the landing and forward movement of the armoured and other forces to be landed later in the day. The landings from the sea, therefore, were permitted to continue. The landings were by two Royal Marine Commandos, No. 42 on the right and No. 40 on the left. No. 42 landed to the west of the Casino Pier and No. 40 between Casino Pier and the Canal Harbour breakwater. The only artillery support for the operations was provided by naval gunfire from Destroyers using 4.5" guns. Cruisers were ordered not to fire with their heavier guns. The original fire support programme which had included targets on the breakwaters, the golf course, and in the town was modified in view of the instructions to minimise damage and casualties to civilians. These targets were taken off the target list and the Destroyers were given strict orders to direct their fire only on the area of the beaches. The naval gunfire lasted for 45 minutes before the landings. About 900 rounds were fired from 21 guns in all. For 10 minutes before the bombardment began a series of airstrikes were directed on the beaches. As the assaulting troops went in some 6 to 10 aircraft machine-gunned the beaches flying from east to west along them. The naval gunfire was very accurate and observation shows that in the buildings immediately behind the beaches very little damage was done. The beach hut immediately in front of the landing places of 42 and 40 Commandos respectively however caught fire and were burned out. The intensity of the fire was equivalent of about one burst per 200 square yards of beach spread over 45 minutes and it is estimated by the naval authorities as being about one-tenth the intensity which should normally to used to support such a landing, The troops landing on the beaches were fired on by small arms from the buildings behind the beach huts and the beach huts themselves contained stores of arms and ammunition as was shown by explosions in the course of their burning. Near the bifurcation of the roads by the T.B. Hospital there was a least one and probably two SU 100 guns, one of which fired on a destroyer. The destroyer returned the fire and the probability is that the shantytown to the west of Arab town caught fire at this particular moment when there was a strong north west wind blowing. There is no dount in my mind that this shanty town had been evacuated prior to the naval bombardment and the resulting fire. All through the latter part of the previous day it had been part of the Gamil battle area from which Egyptian forces were firing with rocket launchers and SU 100 guns.

At the moment of landing the situation of the Egyptian troops appears to have been as follows: There was still a formed body of uniformed troops in and about the burnt-out part of the shanty town and the buildings lying behind the beach huts were occupied by Egyptian troops and police with small arms. The buildings behind the 23rd July Street were occupied by Egyptian troops and there were armed police still in the streets. However, during the previous night a very large proportion of the Egyptian troops had put on civilian clothes, which consisted of a familiar garb rather like a voluminous night-shirt, and in addition many civilians similarly clad had taken up arms from the lorries and from the streets. In consequence a great many troops, indistinguishable from civilians, were dodging in and out of Arab Town where they had taken refuge and a great many of the buildings in the other part of the town were occupied by troops or civilians who were indistinguishable from one another and who had established themselves in buildings and on roofs for the purpose of firing on any troops that might pass through or attacking them with hand grenades. The whole of the population, with a few exceptions, appear to have been within doors. I cannot find any evidence that the broadcast warnings were much heard or acted upon, but there is no doubt that the bulk of the population was indoors and behind Tewfiki Street. There was nothing in the nature of crowds thronging the streets although the landings were so localised that a considerable number of civilians watched the show from their balconies.

The Royal Marine Commandos were supported by 3 Squadron 6th Royal tanks who landed from four LCTs almost simultaneously to the east and west of the Casino Pier. Four tanks were in support of 40 Commando on the left flank which had the task of clearing the dock area to Abbis Hilmi Basin. The remaining 10 tanks were in support of 42 Commando who had the task of establishing a force on the golf course to cut off the town from the area to the south, and to seal off the Arab Town. On landing, the tanks joined the Commandos on the road just south of the beach huts between the Government Square and the fishing harbour. The is the street of the 23rd July. During the landing 42 Commando reported that a counter attack by some 200 men was being made on them from Government House, the school on the west side of Government Square, and from the houses at the extreme western end of the beach huts. Six tanks took up positin on the east side of Government Square to fire on this counter attack.

Approximately 70 enemy in uniform were seen in and about Government Square and were fired on with 20 pounder HW shells and Browning machine guns. One LMG in the centre of the Square and two in the Government building were fire at by tanks and silenced. Between 0500 and 0645 GMT enemy infantry in uniform were seen and fired on in the area of the houses at the north western end of Rue Mahraussa. This opposition was stubborn and at five past seven an air strike was directed on to these houses. They were therefore subjected to rocket and cannon fire from the aire and tank fire from the ground. They caught fire. From personal examination my own opinion is that the damage to the Government House itself, which is fairly slight, was caused by tank fire and that the major damage on the buildings in the south west corner of Government Square was caused mainly by the air strike. There may have been two consecutive air strikes on these buildings - I cannot check this because at that time the air strikes were being called for by the troops on the ground by direct wireless communication with the aircraft supporting them from above. Either or both strikes were made from virtually roof level and the damage was extremely localised. The object of this operation was to clear the way for 42 Commando and its accompanying tanks to move south past the Government House and along the Rue Mohammed Ali to the golf course. One anti-tank gun was found half way down Rue Mohammed Ali and a further three were found in a belt of trees on the west side of the road near the Nile Cold Storage Co. All these guns were engaged with MG fire. The anti-tank gun in the Rue Mohammed Ali was also attacked with one or two rounds of 20 pounder HE.

One troop of Commandos and three tanks halted near the gas works and the Commando supported by the tanks cleared the gasworks area. The other troop of Commandos and four tanks halted east of the road opposite the prison. Between 0730 and mid-day enemy infantry attempting the cross the Rue Mohammed Ali from the east, that is to say into Arab Town, were fired at by two tanks and one tank engaged enemy infantry moving into a house to the south of the Place el Baladie. A number of enemy infantry were seen on the east side of the interior basin and were fired on by two tanks. This was followed at approximately 0900 by an air striked on the shipyard to the south of the prison. From mid-day to 1430 when tanks with 42 Commando were withdrawn to the beach area, they fired occasional shots at snipers who had been located by the Commandos.

After passing Government Square, 42 Commando with its accompanying tanks had proceeded along the Mohammed Ali street, a distance of about 1,000 years at a speed of approximately 20 miles an hour. They were continuously fired on and bombarded with grenades from the balconies in Mohammed Ali Street and replied with machine-gun and rifle fire. Fire also came from numerous soldiers in the streets to the east and west, and the fire was returned. The only use of tank gunfire was against the anti-tank guns referred to above. During this part of the engagement Royal Marine Commandos suffered their heaviest casualties and the remaining part of 42 Commando in consequence protected themselves by systematically entering and clearing the buildings on either side of Mohammed Ali Street. The route taken by 42 Commando from the moment of landing though the battle of Government Square, to the attainment of all its objectives in the golf course area, including the sealing off of Arab Town is shown on the large street map of Port Said.

I now return to follow the fortunes of 40 Roya Marine Commando landed between the Casino Pier and the fishing harbour. Their objective was to clear the dock area and then join up with 42 Commando in the vicinity of the golf course area. 40 Commando with its accompanying four tanks started their move south along the Quai Sultan Hussein at approximately 0615 GMT. This operation was a slow deliberate clearing of the houses along the route and a considerable number of enemy infantry in the streets and houses to the west of their line of advance were engaged by the tanks and the Commandos. Considerable opposition was encountered in the warehouses in the Bassia di l'Arsenal area. There was also a hold up alongside the Customs warehouse. With the exception of the Navy House, the damage done to the points I have mentioned was as a result of tank fire. The tanks were called on to assist the Commandos in the warehouse area by shooting open the doors and by giving supporting fire after 1630 when they moved back into the maintenance areas. Once again I have followed the proceedure of noting this damage first and following the line of operations second and checking whether the one is consistent with the other, and I find that to be the case. Along the houses to the west of the advance of 40 Commando there are marks of small arms fire. The customs shed had evidently been burned out as a result of tank fire. The warehouses at the end of the Basin have evidently been burned out as a result of tank fire and Navy House has been gutted as a result of an air strike with rockets and cannon fire personally authorised by General Stockwell, which took place just before sunset. 40 Commando being held up at this point. Shortly after the landings of Nos. 40 and 42 Commandos from the sea, 45 Commando was landed round about the Casino Pier from helicopters. Their task was to work up south between the line of advance of 40 Commando and the line of advance of 42 Commando and clear the intervening areas from snipers in and on the roofs of buildings. This was a slow and methodical process and some tank gun rounds were fired mainly at buildings where machine gun nets and other concentration were observed. The tank guns were 20 pounders and their effect may be illustrated by the fact that one witness whom I interviewed was watching the battle from the top of a high block of flats when a tank gun shell exploded in the ground floor. He was somewhat alarmed but the building was barely shaken. The buildings to be cleared were in general multi-storey blocks of concrete of brick flats, the ground floor consisting of shops protected by steel shutters. Inside the buildings narrow stairways gave access upwards. The houses were occupied by civilians with children and Egyptian soldiers and police, many of whom were in plain clothes and after fighting the posed as civilian refugees. During the fighting 45 Commando beieved that they had caused 150 Egyptian military and 20 civilian casualties. They consider that about 40 soldiers were killed while firing from balconies or in streets. On Thursday, 8th November, mainly in Arab Town, 45 Commando recovered 57 3-ton loads of arms and ammunition. This material was surrendered by people mainly in civilian clothes who may or may not have been civilians.

In addition to my personal examination of the ground and journeys over the routes taken by the Commandos with officers who were actually concerned and perusal of their reports, I have obtained from the Officer Commanding the 6th Royal Tank Regiment a return of the expenditure of ammunition on the 6th November, that being the only day when the tanks were in action in support of the Commandos. After the Naval bombardment, and apart from the air strikes to which I have referred, the tanks represented the only artillery support. The Regiment had 43 tanks, none of which fired after sunset, which was about 1630 GMT. Between landing and sunset 26 rounds of 20 pounder armour piercing shell was fired and 139 rounds of 20 pounder H.E. shell, 114.5 belts of .30 Browning ammunition were fired. Of the 26 rounds of armour piercing shell fired, 14 were fired on the beach well away from buildings to clear the water-proofing material from the barrels. Also on the beaches each machine gun fired half a belt to warm the gun and test its operation, which accounts for about 40 belts. In the course of their actual opeations therefore the tanks fired 12 rounds of armour piercing shell, 139 rounds of high explosive and 74.5 belts of Browning ammunition. In the dock area adjacent to Navy House, where 40 Commando encountered most resistance, tanks fired the remaining 12 rounds of armour piercing ammunition for the purpose of breaking into warehoses and buildings, and 45 rounds of high explosive. They also fire 15 rounds of Browning ammunition. This action adjacent to Navy House, therefore accounts for the whole of the remaining expenditure of armour piercing shell and all but 94 rounds of high explosive. It also leave 59.5 belts of Browning ammunition unaccounted for.

In the area of Government Square battle 38 rounds of high explosive shell was fired, leaving 56 rounds unaccounted for. 15 belts of Browning ammunition were expended, leaving approximately 35 belts unaccounted for.

South of the Interior Basin six rounds of high explosive were fired and 10 belts of Browning ammunition. leaving in total 50 rounds of high explosive shell and 25 belts of Browning ammunition unaccounted for. This remaining ammuniation expened by troops working in support of all three Commandos in clearing the remainder of the town represents less than 2 rounds of high explosive and 1 belt of Browning ammunition per tank, the fire being spread over a period of 8-10 hours. From my own independent observation, I would say that the marks of damage are just about consistent with this expenditure of ammunition though of course so far as small arms are concerned, the Marine Commando must have fired a good deal.

It will be seen from the foregoing account of the operations that casualties both militay, para-military and civilian could have occurred at any time between the morning of Saturday,3rd November and the night of Tuesday, 6th November, and could be related to the following phases of the operations:

  1. Preliminary air strikes on Saturday, 3rd November and Sunday, 4th November
  2. The Gamil fighting on Monday, 5th November
  3. The Raswa fighting on Monday, 5th November
  4. The sea-borne landings on Tuesday, 6th November, including the Naval Bombardment
  5. The operations of 42 Commando and their supporting tanks including the battle in Government Square, the passage through Mohammed Ali Street and the fighting in the golf course area with the subsequent clearing of buildings en route.
  6. The operations of 40 Commando and their supporting tanks including the subsequent clearing of buildings en route.
  7. The operations of 45 Commando and their supporting tanks in clearing the area between the routes of 40 Commando and 45 Commando.
  8. The air strikes on buildings during the course of the operations at Gamil and in support of 40 and 42 Commandos.
  9. Indiscriminate firing by Egyptians during the night of 5th/6th November when arms were distributed.

Dr. Yahia Al Shaer
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BRITISH Official Report of Damage In Port Said 1956

Canal Zoners - Suez Crisis
8) The evidence of indepentent witnesses. (By independent witnesses I mean witnesses other than representatives of the Allied Forces concerned and Egyptian officials). These independent sources are as follows:

  1. Mr. Thudikum of the Swiss Red Cross
  2. Mr. Coe, the British Consul
  3. Mr. Mareri, the Italian Consul
  4. Mr. Scarpurlassos, the Greek Consul
  5. Col. Eastar, a shipping agent of British Nationality residing in Port Said
  6. Cdr. Gilette, the United States Naval Attache

Dr. Yahia Al Shaer

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