Ellon Probus Club president Norman Davidson recently welcomed a return visit by Ken Mills of Aberdeen Probus Club as guest speaker.
Ken’s talk was about his experiences as a newly-qualified surgeon during the Franco-British invasion of Egypt in 1956, commonly referred to as the Suez Crisis. He explained how after years of deferment from national service during his student years he was drafted immediately on qualifying into the RAF as a surgeon and sent to Egypt.
At the heart of the crisis was the Suez canal, constructed by Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps in 1869 and originally jointly operated by French interests and the Egyptian government.
In 1875, however, the latter sold its share-holding to the British government and the canal was then operated by a Franco-British consortium. By the 1950s Egypt, under the control of Col. Nasser, was in need of additional electrical power sources and proposed building a high dam on the Nile at Aswan.
Initially funding was backed by Britain and USA but both countries subsequently withdrew from the project. To obtain funding Nasser, in face of French and British objections, proceeded to nationalise the canal.
On October 31, 1956, a Franco-British air and sea invasion was mounted to regain the canal. This invasion had no international backing and on November 6 had to be called off due to mounting UN pressure and threats of bankruptcy to Britain. The invasion led to the resignation of Prime Minister Anthony Eden.
During the crisis Ken worked in a medical unit onboard the aircraft carrier ‘Ocean’ where wounded servicemen were delivered by helicopter.