The Argyll and Sutherland
All photographs are the property of RHQ Argylls and may not be reproduced or copied without permission from RHQ Argylls.
The Port Said action can be divided roughly into three parts. The first from the Battalion's arrival in Port Said until the arrival of the first United Nation's troops (14th to 21st November); the second from that date until the start of the allied withdrawal (21st November to 7th December), and the third period covering the allied withdrawal and setting sail for the U.K. (7th to 22nd December).
When the Battalion arrived off Egypt, Port Said was still recovering from the confusion caused by the bombardment and landings. 19th Infantry Brigade, consisting of 1st Battalion The Royal Scots, 1st Battalion The West Yorkshire Regiment and 1st Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was organising itself and allotting Battalion areas of responsibility. The Paratroops and Commandos were re-embarking as units came in to replace them. The battalion were the last Infantry Battalion to land, and the first task was to make secure the Gamil airfield which, until then, had been defended by one flight of the R.A.F. Regiment. The battalion was also tasked to patrol and enforce the curfew in the Shanty Town to the south of the Arab quarter.
On 15th November, C and D Companies, with M.M.G. and 3-inch mortar support, were sent out to the Gamil airfield, while A Coy. was given the task of patrolling Shanty Town. On 17th November the Companies at the airfield took over the task of twice daily helicopter patrols along the Alexandria Road to the west of the airfield, and over the islands in Lake Manzala to the south. A day later B Coy. took over patrolling and controlling the Manzala Canal, Quabuti fishing village and the shore between, with the assistance of a boom constructed by the Assault Pioneer Platoon. Two nights later the B Coy. position at Quabuti was fired on from the village. During the search for the culprit a small quantity of arms and ammunition was found, although the marksman went undetected.
The Battalion was also responsible for searching all Faluccas bringing food into Port Said through the Manzala Canal for arms. This was done by escorting them from the boom up to the town, where each item was searched with a mine detector as it was unloaded. In the general search for weapons, B Coy. was required to co-operate with frogmen from H.M.S. Forth, who recovered arms from the bottom of the Manzala Canal. These, with their equipment, had been thrown into the canal by the Egyptian troops as they withdrew. This gives a clear indication of the poor discipline and morale of those Egyptian troops who had occupied the town.
Click on pictures to enlarge
On 21st November the first U.N. troops arrived amidst tremendous cheering from the natives, and the battalion’s role changed from one of dominating the town by patrols and guards at strategic points to " keeping the peace " and preventing the Egyptians from causing trouble.
Two days after the arrival of the U.N. troops, The Royal Fusiliers went up to the front line at El Cap, and the battalion took over the guarding of the sewage works on the airport road and the guard on the power station and gas works ; this meant moving D Coy. to there from the airfield. At this point the Companies were all from one to three miles from B.H.Q.—B Coy. to the south at Quabati and Manzala, A Coy. on the airfield, C Coy. on the way into Port Said, and D Coy. at the power station. As will be appreciated, this necessitated the Signals Platoon working at fever pitch, the Commanding Officer spending a great amount of time in his Landrover and the M.T. working flat out to maintain supplies. However, morale was never higher.
Battalion H.Q. moved on 27th November into flats vacated by 42 Commando, centrally situated on the sea front. The Battalion as a unit was rehearsed in crowd control and internal security duties and were also required to guard four specially important political prisoners.
On 30th November it looked as though the battalion might be required to move to the front line at El Cap, but this was later cancelled. Two days later, when it was obvious that the battalion would be withdrawing to make way for the U.N. troops, M.T. and Signals cadres were started to replace reservists as and when they were demobilised. Also, on 2nd December, the battalion took part in the first of a series of searches. This one was for terrorist propaganda in five separate printing presses, in one of which some success was achieved. For the next five days there were only minor incidents, but on the 7th, B Coy. at Quabati discovered, in the grey light of dawn, two small ships being unloaded on the shore of Lake Manzala. On being challenged the occupants fled, and, despite a subsequent search of the village, remained undetected. In the boats were found some 20,000 rounds of ammunition, grenades, detonator sets, rockets and gelignite. A full report was eventually made to U.N. observers on the spot, and a protest lodged by the Corps Commander at this flagrant breach of the cease fire.
On 7th December, when the battalion were warned to have the advance party ready to leave within 24 hours, it was realised that, despite rumours, the battalion was really were going back to the U.K. Gradually the transport was called for and re-embarked, loaded with all non-essential stores. The Battalion, however, was still to experience the full rigour of the Egyptians' hate for all things British! Columbian U.N. troops took over from D Coy. at the Power Station on 9th December, but D Coy. left a platoon there to patrol Shanty Town. The next night the fun started with the ambush of a Royal Scots patrol on the border of Shanty and Arab towns. They suffered no casualties and took one prisoner, but, as a result, the battalion were asked to send one Company nightly to dominate Shanty Town. The lot fell to A Coy. On the 12th one of their patrols was fired on in Arab Town ; in consequence a search of the suspected houses took place. This produced several rifles and a small quantity of ammunition, but the culprit was unidentified.
Thanks to Jim Gillespie for sending in the above collection of pictures
On 14th December a plan to wire off an inner perimeter within which all allied troops would withdraw prior to re-embarkation was put into effect ; by midnight the task was completed. In the early morning, following the wiring, terrorist activity greatly increased. Grenades and automatic fire were used against A and D Companies and against M.T. vehicles. No casualties were sustained by our troops in these raids, all of which were of a hit-and-run nature.
The same morning the Battalion combined with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Scots, and the 1st Battalion, The West Yorkshire Regiment, in a search of a portion of the north of Arab Town, where 2nd Lt. Moorhouse of The West Yorkshires was thought to be concealed. Readers will know from other press reports that this met with no success, although arms and ammunition were recovered and all male personnel were taken for screening by Field Interrogation.
Throughout the night of the 15th and the morning of the 16th, No. 5 Platoon of B Coy. was under continuous automatic fire from Shanty Town. They succeeded in doing a dawn withdrawal without sustaining any casualties, while their other flank captured four Egyptians who were part of a patrol trying to penetrate our positions. By the 18th all allied troops had withdrawn behind the wired perimeter, and the Battalion was given the task of patrolling and guarding the 2 Corps axis along Rue el Gamouriah. That part of the perimeter wire across the immediate front of the blocks of flats on the sea front, occupied by the Battalion, was also delegated to us. The battalion were now given its final instructions for withdrawing on to H.M.T. Asturias on the night of the 21st and early morning of the 22nd. These were put into effect and a successful tactical withdrawal completed. The Battalion sailed from Port Said on 22nd December, and arrived back in the U.K. on 31st December.
Bury St Edmunds
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Updated: 16 March 2015