Copyright© CJ Magro, Paratroopers of the 50's



Is proud to honor our British Para "MATES" with a pictorial history of the 1956 Suez Combat Jump

Editors note:  the background on this page of American, British Paratroopers in France during WW II speaks volumes of the mutual respect and friendship they felt and still feel for each other.

Suez Jump
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Most of the following pictures was frunished by Bryan Hunter who served with 1 Para:

"I did not drop at Suez, there where not enough aircraft to drop us all, and I went in by sea. 1 Para where scheduled to make that drop but there had been a bit of mutiny in the Battalion so the Army took the drop away from us and gave it to 3 Para. 3 Para dropped at day break on the 5th November 1956."
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Guys, I thought Yankees talked funny but My British Mates have them beat "READ" and enjoy :-)LOL

Well we had arrived at Port Said by landing craft on the morning of the 6th November,

It quickly became apparent to the rank and file that no one was sure just what we should be doing. We were moved some distance along the beach to some beach huts where we made our base camp. Now these beach huts must have been grand places in their time and built for the Victorians and Edwardians to escape the worst of the Egyptian heat, there were lavish bedrooms, kitchens and dining rooms, and you could still see the faded glory from those days lingering in the buildings. Well during the day we did some patrol work which I wont go in to on this story, but come the evening we went to settle down in the beach huts, but gave that up as a bad job as the thin planks of wood were letting bullets in like you would not believe and for safety sake we abandoned them for the sake of a slit trench. Well about 22.00 hours some lorries were passing through our lines when a 105 mm shell hit one of them.

The lorry a brand new Bedford did not explode but caught on fire. The driver who was fairly a very young national serviceman was terrified of getting into trouble and was try putting out the fire with a hand pump Pyreen fire extinguisher, and was standing amongst the flames pumping away why we stood around the lorry cheering him on. After a few minutes the flames were spreading fast and some bright spark asked the chap what he had on the lorry, the driver proudly announced that he was carrying ammunition.

Well we pulled the driver of the back of the lorry and headed for the slit trenches and no sooner had we arrived the whole lot went up. Well emerged some minutes later rather sheepishly and relieved once a head count had been done that we were all in one piece. Now we had another problem the ammunition had set fire to a couple of the beach huts and the whole area was lit like day and the Egyptians shells started popping of at fairly regular intervals as we were such a good target. Our officer thought we should put out the fires, which we agreed, the question was how. The sea was near by but we nothing to carry that amount of water in so, some bright spark suggested that if we got a number of us standing around one of the burning buildings and if we all had a hand grenade and on the count of three we would all pull the pins out at same time and throw them in to the building it might just bring it down then we could shovel sand on it and put the fire out. Well he thought about for a minute then agreed. Well dozens of grinning Para’s arrived with their grenades and on the count of three, a dozens were thrown at the building. There was a clatter glass as some went in, but there was some loud thumps as some of them hit the building or wood work and came bouncing back, when I looked at my feet there was a smoking grenade.

Well we took of for trenches again but this time we made for the closest one. Those that got there first were squashed by the late comers who dived in on top of them, those that got there last dived for the trench and found that they were a couple of feet in the air as the trenches were that full. Well after a number bangs we got up and checked and again we had all survived. The beach huts were still standing but with some big holes in them that allowed the air to get in and the fires to burn brighter than ever. The officer went of muttering that we were all trying to kill him one way or another and if he could remember who suggested such a daft thing he we shoot the silly sod. So that night we slept in the trenches safe, sound and very warm.

It was while we were out in Suez did we realize just how poorly the British Army was equipped in many area’s.

During this time we had theLee Enfield’s rifle .303, this was a very accurate rifle and in good hands was deadly and most of our lads could shoot very well with it, you crash it and bash it and throw it around and it would always work. The problem was that this rifle had hardly changed in the last 80 years, it was bolt operated and a magazine that held just ten rounds. You can imagine our surprise as we walked around the streets of Suez and we were picking up AK 47 and boxes of ammunition which the Egyptians had thrown out the back of lorries hoping that the local population would pick them up and help fight the foreign invaders with them. Now these weapons could be fired on single shot or automatic and had a magazine that held 30 odd rounds, the bullets all had different coloured tips on them. Now if I can remember rightly that far back, red was for tracer, green was for an explosive bullet and blue was for amour piercing, and some times you would find some that had a mix of colours on them, also these guns had a sprung loaded bayonet built on to them, the metal the bayonet was made out of was rubbish but if you did not twist it as it went in it worked fine. Well as you can gather we were rather taken with these weapons and soon we were all equipped with them, we acquired a large Mercedes saloon car as our platoon transport and slung all our old rifles and much of our other kit in the back and as much ammunition for the AK 47’s as we could find. Well no sooner had we got our self’s settled and ready to take on any one, the news came that we were to be withdrawn to cover the withdrawal of the British forces as the fighting had now come to an end.

Well I think it was the next morning we were marched down to the docks to board an aircraft carrier for our return to Cyprus and we told to leave all our ill begotten gains on the quay which we took to be our beloved Mercedes. Well as we left it there one of the lads turned around to a sailor and said to him “What ever you do be careful with that car as it belongs to our CO”. Well we had not moved far when we saw the sailor sticking a label on the windscreen and we did not think much more about it.

On our arrival we were met by a number of military police and people in civvies who wanted all captured weapons and military material turned over to them for assessment, so we lost all our AK 47s, well I think some of the lads shed a tear or so to lose such a nice bit of kit. Well no sooner Than we were back in camp we were informed that as from the next day we would be training for an airborne assault on the Egyptian Barrack at Ismailia, and if the any thing went wrong with the withdrawal or if there was attack on our troops then we would have to take this key point. Now we had seen a few photo’s of this place and felt it could be a tough nut to take if the Egyptian troops stood and fought. Well the next morning we were given our duties and I had got the short straw. My job in this attack was to go forward with engineers to the bard wire and when they had exploded the Bangalore torpedoes [steel tubes packed with gun cotton] and had blown a hole in the wire I had to run through the gap with two haversacks of hand grenades and hurl them into and at every structure I came to keep the Egyptians heads down while the rest of the Battalion made the main assault. Now there were about 10 of us in what I termed the suicide squad much to annoyance of our sergeant. Later in life talking to some of the lads I found that every chosen for this assault was a National Serviceman, well. I could only conclude that the reason for this Was that in the 50’s you could not get married until you were 21 with out your parents consent so all the chaps would have been single and the Army would not have to pay out any pension or child allowance or a widows pension. We practiced this assault a number of times in the Cyprus and to say the least I was pleased when we were all stood down and this assault was became nothing but a memory to us.

A few days later the CO was in a right flap, it appeared he had a message from the docks saying that his Mercedes car was there ready for collection, well from what his clerk told us he tried to disown it but was told, it was down to him and he had to collect it. Well his driver went over and brought it back now he had in his possession a bit of rather expensive loot that he did not know what to do with, and as he had been threatening all men with a fate worse than death for looting he was now the worse offender. Well he decided to sell it and put the money into Battalion funds so that if anything happened at a later stage he could say he did not profit from it. So ended 1 Para’s involvement in the Suez invasion of 1956.

Reunion Pictures
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