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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 21 November 2010
This 470 page tome with 30 pages of notes but with no bibliography is an adequate expose of the 1956 Suez incident.The book is badly presented as the 25 chapters have no headings only numbers so the reader can not judge time, place or incident.
The author has done a good deal of research but there are a number of elementary errors.His conclusion that this was an oil war is more than a little suspect.
The lesson that Britain should have learned from this episode is never trust the Americans.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2010
When Gordon Brown was proclaimed to be the worst Prime Minister Britain has ever had, one newspaper columnist suggested that the estate of Anthony Eden should sue. Barry Turner, the author of "Suez 1956", would probably agree.
The Suez Campaign, Operation "Musketeer", was Britain's last imperial war (if you take the Falklands to be a face-saving rescue mission and Iraq and Afghanistan as mere adjuncts to American policy), at a time when Britain was no longer an imperial power but had yet to realise it (and I don't think it has yet fully accepted it). This book does draw very clear parallels between the case against Egypt's seizure of the Suez Canal and the drumbeating some fifty years later regarding Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction", particularly in that when one excuse for war faltered, another was found to take its' place.
This is a comprehensive account of the Suez crisis and its' origins, starting with Napoleon's dreams of a Mediterranean-Red Sea canal and taking us through the labours of Ferdinand de Lesseps, the arrival of the British and their subsequent policy towards Egypt, and the first big standoff over the Canal - the so-called "abrogation crisis" - between 1951 and 1954, when a certain Mr Anthony Eden, Foreign Secretary, was at the forefront of efforts to negotiate a British withdrawal. Towards Eden, Turner is scathing, portraying him as a vain, arrogant, deceitful, spiteful, vindictive, unhinged creature, corrupted by the power of his office, with his Cabinet almost uniformly - with particular opprobrium going to Eden's Foreign Secretary, Selwyn Lloyd - condemned as spineless little men without the gumption to halt the steamroller to war. In this, Turner nails his colours firmly to the mast: "Musketeer" was a fiasco, militarily as well as politically. HM Forces are painted very negatively, with ineptly-led and under-motivated troops sent into battle with old equipment and poor communications, and in no way prepared for rapid response to sudden overseas crises. But of course, this was not just a British adventure - the French and the Israelis were involved, too, and Turner seems to view them with much more understanding and sympathy than he does his own countrymen, suggesting that they at least had just cause of sorts for attacking Egypt (Colonel Nasser's support for rebels in French Algeria, and his threats to destroy Israel) whereas Eden just wanted to beef up his ego. He attacks frontally the old argument about the Americans "stabbing us in the back", quoting numerous sources to illustrate that at no point did the Eisenhower Administration ever sanction or support military action against Egypt, and indeed made repeated and seemingly honest efforts to avert it. Furthermore, if you somehow think that the West could have responded any differently, you will find resonance with Turner's agreement that the Suez campaign gave the Soviet Union the diversion it needed to crush the Hungarian Uprising that was going on at the same time. Personally, I find it difficult to believe that the West WOULD have acted any differently without Suez, in that there was very little it could do short of going to war. The most damning indictment of Eden in this book is the fact that, having contrived so much to get his war, he ultimately lacked the courage to see it through once the pressure began to bear down on him. As his predecessor famously said of the operation: "I wouldn't have dared; and if I had done, I wouldn't have dared stop." Eden stopped, and it destroyed him, as well as tarnishing Britain's reputation for several decades onward. If Operation "Desert Storm" was America's exorcism of Vietnam, then the Falklands War was Britain ejecting the ghost of Suez.
All-in-all, this is a highly readable, briskly and at times humourously written study of the Suez Crisis, with equal time given to the political, diplmoatic and military aspects. Turner's vituperation on the subject of Eden and the British Government as a whole means that, as a history, it should be treated with a little caution, but as a means of broadly understanding how things happened, and why, it is highly recommended.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 1 January 2010
I remember when I was kid watching films about wars. Be it films set in the medieval age or more modern settings, I was always given the same impression - that leaders declared war and within hours they had their armies ready for battle. Action was instantanous and the outcome of the battle a foregone conclusion being that the good guys would win.

If that was a childhood impression then Suez 1956 by Barry Turner is a wakeup call, albeit a protracted wakeup call in places. The Suez Crisis was for me always a footnote in school history, merely mentioned occassionally as a reason why Britain and the USA didn't stop the Soviet Union invading Hungary in 1956. Barry Turner work has demonstrated for me what a central event Suez was in 1956. However Turner does not start his narrative in 1956 but in the era of Napolean. In doing so he demonstrates that the Egypt and then its Suez canal had a larger than life presence amongst the powers of Western Europe. He details the construction of the canal, the later involvement of Britain (who snapped up the shares for the bankrupt Egyptian leader) and finally Britain establishing rule in Egypt (albeit through puppet leaders).

Before the author delves into the high politics of the canal we are given a wonderful insight into the psychology of colonial rule. An eyebrow raising moment is when the author describes an enquiry into a collision between a British army vehicle and the car of King Farouk. During the the enquiry a soldier states that he collided with a car containing "two wogs". The officer chairing the enquiry told him to watching his language - the soldier changed his answer to "King Farouk of Egypt and a wog".

Once the author moves beyond World War Two events suddenly accelerate and the author takes off at breakneck speed. What struck me was the backward looking viewing of many of those in government and the mismatch between economic and military power. Britain embarked on such intiatives as the Baghdad Pact to bolster is waining presence in the Middle East. Trying to convince the USA that Britains desire to maintain power in the middle east was in keeping with the containment of communism. And finally to the canal itself - the British seeing Nasser as the bogey man of the post-colonial world (the colonies could have independence as long as they kept singing the British tune). The British Government comes across as a rabbit caught in the headlights. In the actions it took to avoid its feared scenario it ended up bringing them about.

Now the author comments on the parallels between 1956 and Blair's 2003 action in Iraq. He comments that "in both cases Arab leaders were demonised as prospective Hitlers; in both cases the dangers they represented to the rest of the world was exaggerated and. when it turned out to be largely mythical, other reasons were created to justify military action...finally, in both cases the underlying motive was to achieve regime change". Parallels that speak for themselves. The author also relates the same problems in the civil service that existed then and can be said to exist now - insulated views of the world born of the fact that many have lived inside politics all their lives - as my mum would say "they are all brains and no common sense".

One element of the book that is particularly strong is the angle that the author takes when describing the action in Suez by the military. He leaves high politics aside and conveys the experience of everyday men who were called up(which was apparently illegal because it was not authorised by Parliament) to fight on behalf of leaders wanting to maintain an image of British glory. What occured had more in common with Blackadder Goes Forth, recall the scenes from the final episode:

General Melchett:"Don't worry my boy. If you should falter, remember that Captain Darling and I are behind you."
Edmund Blackadder:"About 35 miles behind you."

In the 1956 most did not know what they were fighting for or why.

So Suez 1956 - a classic case of history not repeating itself - but certainly rhyming. A well balanced book, if only Tony had been reading on this subject rather than modelling himself as a Churchill wannabe.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A very good book that explains the cause of the crisis and why Eden had a breakdown over it - The secret involvement of Israel who were going to feint an invasion so we could come to their defence as an excuse to invade the canal zone - it is interesting to ponder what would have happened if nothing was done. It is easy now to look at it and be confused by the whole idea that we could take control of the canal but at the time the waterway was seen as a prime target for our enemies. Also Britain was still trying to recover economically and the idea that our oil supplies could be cut off was too much for Eden who saw Nasser as another Hitler.
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on 4 April 2015
great book worth the price and postage
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8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 3 July 2010
This book was given to my father as a Christmas present, as he'd served as a National Serviceman in the Suez Canal Zone between 1948 and 1949. He barely got beyond the first chapter before putting it down and giving it to me.

The text is strewn with as many inaccuracies as there are IEDs in Afghanistan. For example, we have RAF Hastings and Valetta aircraft being described as "Second World War vintage". Elsewhere, we have the German Wehrmacht spelt as "Vermacht" and the French Foreign Legion as "Foreign Language". On page 213, we read about Pickfords using massive "roadsters" to transport Centurion tanks. For goodness sake, Barry Turner, or whatever junior postgrad researcher he used, doesn't even know the difference between a flat-bed trailer and an MG sports car! Interestingly, on the same page, he goes on to blame army administration for the failure of the private sector haulage industry to speedily transport said Centurions to ports of embarkation. The truth of who was really behind this inefficiency is in the text for all to read, and it wasn't the army at all, but the trade unions.

The subtitle is "The Inside Story of the First Oil War". Even if we accept that the campaign was fought for oil, and Egypt has very little, then we must assume the author is ignorant of the following:

1. The Japanese attacks on the USA and the British and Dutch Empires in December 1941, brought about by the oil embargo imposed by the USA upon Japan.

2. Hitler's failed Caucusus Campaign in 1942, where his armies, and primarily the Sixth Army, attempted to seize the oilfields in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea but got sidetracked by Stalingrad.

3. The German support, primarily using the Luftwaffe, of the pro-Nazi Iraqi leader Rashid Ali's 1941 attempt to evict British forces and hand over control of Iraq's oilfields to Hitler.

There is nothing at either the beginning or the end of the book to say anything about the author. What are is qualifications? What was agenda? I suspect that he's a typical sandal-wearing, bearded academic who inhabits a shabby ivory-tower somewhere. I encountered many of the sort when I was at Uni in the early '80s. I learnt a lot more from my flight commander when I went into the RAF. He actually flew in Handley Page Hastings in the Suez Campaign of 1956.

The book is only worth one star because of the recollections of those involved, mostly described in Chapter 23.

PS. Since I wrote this review, I've looked up Barry Turner on Wikipedia and discovered that he started his career as a ... teacher. The old adage of "those that can, do, those that can't, teach, and those that can't do either write about it" seems to be particularly apt here. His first book was about girls' education.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2013
A pageturner, which gives a clear and complete account of what led up to one of the last colonial conflicts of Great Britain. A balanced account, mostly about the politics, because there wasn't much of a war.
As an aside: my thoughts kept returning to Dennis Potter's Lipstick on Your Collar [DVD]. Highly advisable to watch this after reading the book!
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7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 24 January 2010
I think this book has been written by a bitter ex national serviceman. Boring and very anti British. Look elsewhere for an impartial Suez account.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 December 2014
Good description of item and speedy service
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22 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2006
This book is rightly described as the first oil war. The auther has done well to write a gripping tale backed up with authoritive facts.He describes the backcloth of clumsy British policy in the Middle East and Egypt in particular,the racism and paternalism that bred a hatred for what were occupiers,similar to Iraq and Afghanistan today.MR.Turner indicates quite rightly that the British public if given the oppurtunity would much prefer higher living standards,better public services,than fritting away our wealth on massive amounts on arms ,an aggressive foreign policy and prancing about on the world stage telling other countries what to do or impressing the Americans,similarly what a Blair regime does today.Democracy is o.k. until the people request it.MR. Turner describes the events following the completion of the Suez canaland links British policy to domination of the Middle East and control of oil supply in hindsite we can see there was nothing to worry about ,however the mindset of the British political Establishment were concerned at carrying on Britains Imperialist traditionin a Post War settlement, much as today Blair is trying so hard to maintain Britain as a World power at a terrible cost.As MR.Turner so eloquently descibes all came crashing down with Suez,as Blair will one day find out .The book is a must read besides its historical importance but also for its understanding of todays happenings in the region.
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