Operation Musketeer ´... The Withdrawal


Yahia Al Shaer


Operation Musketeer

( Operation Mousquetaire )

The Withdrawal

No alternative for Anglo-French withdrawal As it has been all too apparent that there could be no alternative to an Allied withdrawal, the formal intention to do so was not announced until 3rd December; at the same time General Keightly C-in-C of the Allied Forces was instructed to to work out with General Burns ( U.N.E.F Commander ) a timetable for the evacuation.

This was an operation of considerable magnitude.Like the assault which preseeded it. At the beginning of December it was estimated that there were still some 20,000 Allied troops of which 13,500 were British, with close to 5,000 vihecles and 10,000 tons of stores aqnd equipments ashore in Port Said. The final phase of the evacuation plan was a joint UNEF-Allied undertaking.

The British garrison Forces in Port Said

At the beginning of December 1956 the Port Said and Port Fouad garrisons consisted of the following Troops:

19th Infantry Brigade comprisingThe Royal Scotts
The West Yorkshire Regiment

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

2 Regiments of the 29th Brigade

The Royal Fusiliers

The Royal West Kents

The French garrison Forces in Port Fouad

The French maintained one brigade in Port Fouad comprising
The 1er Regiment Parachutistes Coloniaux
The 1er Regiment Eranger
A squadr on of AMX-13 Tanks

The massive evacuations

More than 11.000 British troops were evacuated in the second week of December 1956, most of them sailing in the troopships HMS Dilware , HMS Ascania and HMS Theseus, en route for Cyprus, Malta or Britain. So far as possible , the FIFO principle of ( First In, First Out) was applied, but the reservists were excluded to be in the early evacuations, meanwhile the nationals of Britain, France, Italy who were living in Port-Said in addition to the British civilian employees - contractors of the Suez Canal garrison who were exchanged with Egyptian prisoners of war, were evacuated at last.

Rearguard troops

The remaining soldiers according to the set plan

It was decided that the last remaining rearguard elements in Port Said and Port Fouad for covering the back of the evacuating troops, would comprise the following troops
1. British & French units in Port Said and Port Fouad as Rearguard troops
1.1 British units consisting of:
- The 19th Brigade - A squadron of the 6 RTR Royal Tanks Regiment

1.2 French Rearguard troops in Port Fouad consisting of elements:

- 1500 soldiers of the French Foreign Legion ( Legion Étranger)
- A squadron of AMX-13 Tanks belonging to the French Legion Étranger

The E-Day
There were some Egyptian regular troops in and around Port Said, many have bee hurriedly brought in from Sinai. The clearing of the town was therefore a slow process, if further casualities were to be avoided.

Saturday 22ed December was anticipated by the Egyptians to be the last day for the occupation forces on the Egyptian soil.

What remained of the Anglo-French forces ( British troops) has now withdrawn behind the perimeters centred on the Casino Palace Hotel facing the DeLeSepps statue, to leave Port Said quietly.

Meanwhile the French soldiers have been preparing their departure from Port Fouad in a different way, parading and the presentation of colours, near to the landing stage.

Since the Egyptian authorities needed ongoing and up-to-date information about the progress of the evacuation steps within the barbed area , and a constant observation of the waters area (Haven) we have engaged a broad network of information gathering persons to observe the British troops, soldiers and their movements in Port Said.

To avoid attracting the attention of the British intellegence or soldiers, we have decided that these person should be disguised as street merchants in addition to recruiting students from the area etc.

The most important of all, when we engaged one of the street photographers to deliver ( the photographic evidences )...

His photographs have helped to set many pieces of the buzzle together .

So we were able to avoid any suspecion of the British troops and collect very valuable information, photos and materials.. as base for our wireless reports to Cairo....

The Commander of the Egyptian underground organization, ( Major Saad .A, summoned from Cairo to take over the leadership for the new escalated phase of activities against the British troops, waited at the wireless communication hide-away place at Yahia Al Shaer's home).

Major Saad ordered me to recruit a person who can move freely within the occupied perimeters close to the Canal without attracting attention or raising doubt.

We have dedicated Mustafa A., a very close friend of mine, who lived opposite to the Haven (European looking Egyptian student with blond hairs ), to collect all the needed information and gathere them then deliver them to me in order to give to (Major S.A) at our home. (Lt . F), will code them and dispatch the messages to Cairo, using the secret wireless hidden in the cloth cuppord of my mother at our Home.

After recommending Mostafa to take over this sensible task, Major Saad ., met him at our home. He gave him a crash course in information gathering and the necessary communication methodology between him and me and asked him to keep a pray.

Mostafa began his observation work and delivered excellent reports reflecting the situation behind the barbered wires. They were summarised and dispatched to Cairo.

On that Saturday, we recieved reports from our observation posts, particularly from within Casino Palace - HQ General Stockwell - , that there are unusual movements within the present troops.

Many were packing their equipments or buring papers and destroying some other.

The were reports about lorries being loaded by their personal belongings and equipments...A sort of hectic has been observed.

We recieved from Port Fouad information about the rear guard troops taking some looted things to their docked ships.

We have noticed that a stronger traffic has taken place between the British Destroyer, the British troop ship p and the French Cruiser C 604 ( Georges Lygos ) and French destroyer Claude-Bernard, - which took General Andree Beaufre and his staff-.

Maj Saad, summond us earlier in the morning ( Cpt Kamal El Sayad, Cpt. Samir and 1st Lt (General) Samy Khodeer (later Govornor of Port Said) and gave us his orders of the day....We were ordered to raise the alert level within the groups, stay by weapons, span spread our observations in and around the city.
A specific preset Eergency plan was in action for all eventualities, including possible - out of control - mopping.

Maj. Saad, ordered me to ask Mustafa to begin his nonstop observations of the haven and Canal Waterway, to deliver to us his - two houres - reports about all the movements in the haven and an immediate report about the last ships departing Port Said, confirming that Egypt soil was - free - from any occupation forces, once again.

French soldiers left heavier

Remarkably enough, that many French soldiers who landed in Port Fouad with their personal equipments, have left the town in possesion of many Luxerios cars.

Many were either German or American made. Many have carried with them from their - unwelcom visit to Egypt - valuable packed souvenires ranging from old oriental rugs to old paintings, and silverware.

The villas where they resided in Port Fouad, were lteraly emptied from any - seems to be valuable - thing. General Andrée Baufre has best descried the events on this day on pages 128 129 in his Book ( Suez Expedition 1956).

Operation Yo-Yo

The exchange of POW prisoners of war on the 21d December. Between them the British and had 230 Egyptian prisoners in their joint bridgehead, some being true POWs , but most of them civilians. The Egyptians had detained all Britons - about 450 - who had been employed prior to the invasion by the contractors in charge of the military basis in the Canal Zone .

The ontime exchange of prisoners was endangered because the French have shipped some of ther prisoners out of the country and have to fetch them back .

The actual exchange took place very quickly at El Cap, the most southern point of the British frontlines of the Port Said War under the supervision of Finish guards Code word Lobster In both Port Said and Port Fouad, the last troops embarked their waiting ships at 1700 hours and the code name Lobster was transmitted to advise the Allied Headquarters in Cyprus that the Anglo-French forces were now clear of Egyptian soil Port Fouad was totally evacuated at 16.00 hours Port Said was free of British (military) personnell at 19.15 hours

A Leutnant never joined them home
( Lt. Antony Moorehouse)

The last of the infantry soldiers who had formed a tight cordon round the landing stage below DeLeSepps Statue, jumped into one of the two remaining land craft about 1900 hours an took them out to the troopship at the canal enterance

Only Brigadier E. H. W. Grimshow, the Commander of the 19th Infantry Brigade accompanied by two of his staff officers and the U.N.E.F liaisonon officer, Captain Ghellink remained the on the quay and waited in vain.

It was hoped that Lt Antony Moorehouse, of the West Yorkshire Regiment who was kiddnaped on the 10th December, would return and jopin them to go home, but he never came back on this evening to join them in their final journy to go back home, for he was dead and buried in the Egyptian soil in Port Said .

Weeks later, after the intervention of the United Nations by the Egyptian authorities and from the gathered evidences that became available subsequently, it was known that the Moorehouse´s captors had intended to hold him as hostage for exchange against Egyptians POWs who were then in the hands of the British, including the seven Saaka officers captured and taken prisoners by the British soldiers on the 9th of December.

But uncontrolled tragical co-incedences in which the British search troops were engaged have led to his death situation.

Mostafa reports "The Freedom again"

Mostafa reported to me at 19.15, that the Last British Destroyer has left the outscirts of Port Said's waters.....

The report was coded first, then dispatched to Cairoat 19.30 houres, in order to be announced as the main news of the Egyptian Radio 20.00 News......Cairo preferred to keep the news unannounced until 23.00 houres news, for reasons of Port Said's internal security measures.

The takeover plan was active for all involved units, the police, the security, Egyptian armey units (present in the city), other organizations and the UN troops to guarantee the SAFTY of all citizens.....

Major Saad summoned (C-i-C, Commander of the Underground Resistance, since Col. Fadl returned to Cairo) all of us (the responsible leading figures of the resistance) to an emergency meeting at our home.
- Cpt. Kamal El Sayad, The leader of the Resistance
- Cpt. (Brigadier) Samir G.

The officer dispatched from Cairo to lead the official organisation

- Cpt. Galal (leader of the Saaka group)
- Police Lt. Samy Khodeer (later Governer of Port Said)
- Lt. Farag (Wireless operations) - Yahia Al Shaer (Coordinator and planer of the resistance)
We recieved the last order to be relayed to the different sections of our groups. Maj. Saad's instructions were to be implemented as of immediate effect.....
two important issues were discussed in addition to the orders:
1- The future of the resistance groups and their weapons 2- The Moorehouse destiny
Cpt. Kamal El Sayed disclosed for the first time, the whereabouts of Lt. Antony Moorehouse place.. Yahia explained brifely the circumstances that led to the death and the action taken to hide his body..

We lefts the house and Lt. Farag began his coding work (Wireless unit hidden at our home)

Major (Ambasador) Saad, changed his cloth into the military uniform and left to meet with the Governer Mohamed Reyad to discuss many other immediate and future security issues for the city.... But this is another chapter in the story of the 1956 Egyptian secret resistance in Port Said

But the news of evacuation spread in Port Said like fire in a wind, The Sky was full with shootings, tracers were jumping around, the noise of rattling machine guns every where in the city has filled the Air once again.....

We started to hug eachother, to chant to laugh, PORT SAID was free again and EGYPT have overcome a massive military aggression once more...

I was very happy...... I coudl'nt stop my tears


Dr. Yahia Al Shaer
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