Ismailia Police Clash

This 1952 photograph shows Egyptian police firing against British troops.

On the morning of 25 January 1952, Brigadier Kenneth Exham, the British commander, issued a warning to Egyptian policemen in Ismaïlia, demanding that they surrender their weapons and leave the canal zone entirely. The British were convinced that the police were providing arms and support to anti-British fedayeen groups operating in the Canal Zone. The Ismailia Governorate refused the British request. As a result, 7,000 British soldiers equipped with machine guns, tanks and armour surrounded the governorate building and its barracks, containing nearly 700 Egyptian officers and soldiers. Armed only with small arms, the Egyptians refused to surrender their weapons. The British commander thus ordered his troops to bombard the buildings. Vastly outnumbered, the Egyptians continued to fight until they ran out of ammunition. The confrontation, which lasted two hours, left 50 Egyptians dead and 80 others injured. The rest were taken captive. When news of the event became known, it caused widespread disturbances and anti-British feeling throughout Egypt.

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by Stephen Luscombe