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Middle East 1930 - 1947:

British Troops in Egypt 1930 - 45

British Troops in Egypt (B.T.E.) was a pre-war Command. The first British Troops came to Egypt in 1882 to suppress a nationalist military uprising against the Turkish Sultan. The British Troops remained throughout The Great War. In 1922, Egypt gained independence, but British Forces remained to defend the Suez Canal. Between the wars, B.T.E. was a Lieutenant General’s command, the only one outside the United Kingdom or India.

In 1930, there were three formations under command, namely the Cavalry Brigade, Canal Brigade and Cairo Brigade, each commanded by a Temporary Brigadier (Colonel). The main British bases were at Abbassia on the outskirts of Cairo, Kasr-el-Nil (in central Cairo), Moascar (Ismailia) and at Alexandria.

In 1936, the U.K. government and the Egyptian government agreed a treaty between the two countries. Under this treaty, the U.K. was required to withdraw all military forces from Egypt, other than those required to protect the Suez Canal and its surrounding areas. A limit of 10,000 troops was placed on British military presence in Egypt. The U.K. also agreed to train and equip the Egyptian Army. The treaty was signed on 26 August and ratified on 22 December 1936.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, the British retook effective control of Egypt, which became an important military base in the Middle East, although Egypt remained nominally an independent country. In 1940, B.T.E. comprised the:

Mersa Matruh Garrision;
Alexandria Sub-Area;
Cairo Sub-Area.

On 17 June 1940, Western Desert Force was formed in B.T.E. by the re-designation of the Headquarters, 6 Infantry Division, which had just arrived from Palestine. For the rest of the war, the role of B.T.E. was as the main logistics and training base for British and Allied operations in the Middle East. Following the second battle of El Alamein in October 1942, Egypt became a military backwater as the campaign moved westwards.

With the end of the war, resentment about the British presence in Egypt manifested itself. In late December 1945, rioting broke out, escalating through to a peak in February 1946 with violent attacks on British Service Clubs and other Military locations in Cairo.

On 25 January major rioting took place in Ismailia, which was put down by the Lancashire Fusiliers. The next day, rioters attacked British property in Cairo, The Turf Club was torched, with eleven members dying in the attack. The GOC 1 Infantry Division, Major General F. R. G. MATTHEWS, prepared a force consisting of the 2 Infantry Brigade and 16 Parachute Brigade to advance along the Suez Road to restore the situation, however, King Farouk took control and order was restored. During the ‘disturbances’, the 3 Infantry Brigade lost thirty-three killed and sixty-nine wounded. About thirty Egyptians died in the rioting during this period.

In May 1946, plans were announced for the withdrawal of British Troops from Egypt into the Canal Zone. The H.Q. B.T.E. was moved from Cairo to Moascar, a suburb of Ismailia in the Canal Zone. Disputes between the United Kingdom and Egypt over The Sudan led to negotiations collapsing, but the British withdrawal continued. On 9 February 1947, the 2 Bn. The Royal Fusiliers handed over Mustapha Barracks in Alexandria to the Egyptians. On 28 March, The Life Guards left Kasr-el-Nil Barracks and withdrew into the Canal Zone. The Canal Zone was divided into two Brigade Areas, the northern formed by the 3 Infantry Brigade, which also was designated the Strategic Reserve, and the Southern Brigade Area.

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