Egypt was faced with an invasion from the western desert, it had become
obvious that Egypt would have to spend a good deal of money and effort
to provide facilities and amenities for the British Army and their Allies
which had grown to a force of 550,000 men strong. Her foremost
role was to serve as a vast Allied miltary base. Furthermore
as a historian noted "facilities for rest and recreation were
also being provided by an entrepreneurial class which made money from war
profiteering, military contracts, nightclubs and bars. The sight of so
many uniformed soldiers walking about the streets of the main cities in
search of amusement shocked the sensibilities of a population that was
largely traditional, deeply religious, and which frowned on the bars and
houses of prostitutions that mushroomed." (1)
`Afaf Lutfiy al-Sayyid Marsot, A Short History of Modern
Egypt, p. 99-100.
is within this atmospher that one of the strangest and humiliating episode
of Modern Egyptian history took place.
FEBRUARY 4th, 1942 INCIDENT
After the outbreak of
hostilities in September 1939, King Faruwq's first move had been
to reinstall as Prime Minister `Aliy Mahir Pasha, a politician with
strong anti-British views, who strongly advised the King not to declare
war on Germany, even though he was obliged by the 1936 treaty to act in
concert with the British in matters of mutual defense. Instead, he declared
his neutrality, though he coupled it, at Britain's prodding, with a declaration
of a state of siege, which was tantamount to martial law.
The Egyptians didn't
expect Britain to complain too loudly about their reluctance to come to
grips with the enemy, because their immediate concern was to maintain Egypt
as a friendly line of communications. `Aliy Mahir continued to serve
the King until he was reluctantly replaced by Husayn Sirriy, a move
aimed primarily at appeasing the British. However `Aliy Mahir
continued to closely advise the king behind the scenes.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian
government used this period to start a crash-program munitions industry,
increase its own armed forces, and start Egyptian industries*(1).Such
as cotton mills in kafr al-Dawar (1938) , expanded those already
established in Mahallah al-Kubra (in the 1920's);
and sugar refineries at al-Hawmdiyah in Hilwan (a
suburb south of Cairo) and Nag` Hammadiyin Upper Egypt which
could use Egyptian home-grown products. Today both sectors,
the textiles and Sugar refinery industries in Egypt, owe their existence
and development to a powerhouse to this crash-program mentioned above.
as the war continued unabetted, Egypt 's economy began to falter
seriously. The heavy British presence in a country of 17million
inhabitants, with a foreign army swelling to over half a million
men strong to feed, had caused terrible inflation and strained Egypt's
econmy to the brink of disaster*(2)
Wages of the fallahiyn stayed the same. They could not afford the
skyrocketing prices of basic goods like food and medicine and kerosene.
was pathologically cheap, cashed in on the price boom by selling "Embassy
mangoes" straight from his garden and game birds he had shot on social
outings in the Fayuwm to luxury purveyors for top pounds.
was a marked rise in industrial investment and production. The industrial
labor force rose from barely a quarter of a million in 1919 to over one
million in 1939, while capital invested in limited industrial companies
tripled from seven to twenty-four millions Egyptianpounds. Capital
invested in commercial entreprises increased ten times.
with the sharp rise in the cost of living , during the the Second World
War, real per capita income dropped despite all these developments.
The consumption of goods and foodstuffs by the vast majority of the population
decreased and their health deteriorated" (For more details
see ChapterXV; From the Old Order to the New , 1939-79. The failure of
liberalism in: The History of Egypt , P.J. Vatikiotis,
"LET THEM EAT GROUSE"-
the impoverished Fallahiyn couldn't afford their Fuwl Middamis
Lampson is quoted saying:"Let them eat grouse."(1)
Throughout the months
of battle in the western desert, tremendous effort was exerted in beaming
propaganda from both London and Rome. In a futile attempt to reach
the Egyptian masses, the BBC hired famous Egyptian crooners to sing love
songs in between news items and propaganda pieces; whereas the Axis
propaganda described pro-British Egyptians as Schweingesicht Pasha "Pasha
Pig face" and fetter Kopf Pasha "Pasha Fat head" !
The British propaganda,
as usual childish and inept, promised the Fallahiyn, "A
new order of freedom". Ironically, quite the opposite was happening.
According to Liwa’ Muhammad Naguib, British
soldiers "molested our women, assaulted our men and committed acts of
vandalism in public places…..Their troops marched through the streets of
Cairo singing obscene songs about our King, a man whom few of us admired
but who, nevertheless, was as much of a national symbol as our flag. Faruwq
was never so popular as when he was being insulted by British troops.....Of
no country did the British demand more than they did of Egypt during the
war, and of no country's interests were they less considerate." (2)
and cities were filled with British and Allied troops over half a million
strong. Domestic conditions became critical in the winter of 1941-2.
A sharp rise in living costs was aggravated by a scarcity of basic commodities
such as sugar, flour, fuel and ordinary cloth for the traditional attire
baladiy) worn by the masses. Black marketing was rampant. The
Egyptian population blamed both the government and the British for these
difficult conditions. The latter were especially accused of providing for
their troops first and consequently consuming most of the country's cereal
production, to which the government responded by limiting the land area
cultivated in cotton and allocating an additional 200,000 feddans for cereals
and basic foodstuffs production.
1942, bread was scarce. The bakeries were mixing sawdust in with flour,
and "meatless" days were instituted. The public was hungry and angry. Inhabitants
of the poorer native quarters in Cairo were storming bakeries for bread.
to add insult to injury, a system of rationing was instituted under the
direct supervision of an Anglo-American organization attached to the
Eighth Army: TheMiddle East Supply Center. Such blatant and humiliating
interference with the necessities of life was utterly resented by the Egyptians.
the beginning of 1942, Ahmad
the Royal Chamberlain persuaded the King to take his first
real holiday, away from the war in Upper Egypt. Meanwhile back in
Miles Lampson was still demanding the eviction of the King’s
Italian entourage and was urging the suspension of diplomatic relations
with Vichy and the closing of its legation which the Ambassador
contended the Germans were using as a spy center.
crisis worsened when the British finally succeeded in bullying the government
in severing diplomatic relations with Vichy France. The opposition
in Parliament, led by Isma`iyl
for the safety of the three hundred Egyptian students still in Paris, raised
a big fuss over this move. They recalled the services rendered by
and Frenchmen to Egypt
in the past, and deplored the government's
action under British pressure.
was annoyed and livid that he was not consulted. He cut his vacation
short and returned in haste to
There, his cabinet officials
informed him that Lampson had triumphed over the Vichy
and that Husayn Sirry had taken action at the Ambassador's
insistence without conferring first with the King.
top of this, Faruwq now faced renewed pressure to sack his
Italians. It was too much! The King, in a meeting with
his Foreign Minister Saliyb Samiy, stormed,
"Sir Miles thinks he has won the first round, but I shall knock him
down in the second." Saliyb Samiy got the message and
immediately tended his resignation.
Sirry had gone over the King's
head and thereby had dared to violate all Royal Protocol.
Sirriy asked the King to call out the militia (Buluwk al-Nizam)
to quell the student troubles,
Faruwq merely shrugged his
shoulders. That gesture meant that Sirry was out of office.
government resigned on February 1, 1942. The crisis intensified.
This went on for a day or two while the country remained without a government.
received the Sirriy news on a chill and damp crack-of-dawn duck
shoot in the Fayuwm. He packed in his Purdeys and struck out
for Cairo. Faruwq may have finally "gotten"
Sirriy. Now Lampson was going to try to retaliate
and "get" Faruwq.
To make things worse,
forces had captured
Benghazi on January 28. The Afrika Korps
once again was advancing towards Egypt and targeting Alexandria and
the British bases
with devastating air raids. At the same time,
Mahir alerted the king that he had gotten wind of Britain's
earth" plans for the Nile delta in the likely event that they
lost to Rommel in the desert. The British would retreat.
Burning, flooding, and ruining the most fertile land on earth."
Grouse: A term denoting "chicken like game birds ", roughly translated
into Arabic as Tiyuwr/ dawaginbarriyah of the
type known as Samman.
Destiny: A personal Statement. Mohamed Naguib, Doubleday &
Company , Inc. Garden city, New York, 1955 pp. 77-78.
The Supreme Guide (Murshid) of the Society of Muslim Brethren .
He was a fine orator and a charismatic figure who attracted thousands of
followers. He had been a disciple of Rashiyd Rida
. To his followers, the bulk of whom were the urban poor, Shaykhal-Banna
gave pride and self respect. He blamed the frustration of the Egyptian
society upon the influence of the Europeans who had induced changes by
introducing foreign elements and forcefully imposing them onto Egypt. Consequently
such influences alienated Egyptians from their traditional ways of
life. The rejection of the British presence was the essence of his movement.
By the time World War II broke out the Muslim Brothers had become a powerful
organization with arms hidden in different parts of the country and a well
trained military wing to content with.
15th Panzer Division sweeping across the Western Desert
the beginning of February the situation had changed to the detriment of
the British. Rommel had counter-attacked, forcing the British back
to Tubruq and al-Ghazalah and was gathering
his forces for a thrust through Libya that was to carry him to within
miles of Alexandria. Meanwhile, upon hearing the news, the Egyptians
were parading the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, shouting,
"Down with England." Students were marching with them, singing
to the British, " Rommel will kick your asses." (1)
some time now, the King had been expecting a visit from Sir Miles
and so was prepared when the Ambassador walked into his office in
The British Ambassador
wasted little time on preliminaries. He wanted to know how it was that
all Italian nationals had not been rounded up and sent to concentration
"I can assure you
that this has been done," King Faruwq said.
"I am informed that
Pulli Bey and his Italian friends have not been interned."
"I think that you
have not been fully informed on the subject,"King Faruwq
"I have the evidence
of my own eyesight," Sir Miles said.
"I do not speak about
their liberty. I am merely saying that these men on my palace staff are
Egyptian nationals. Antonio Pulli has been elevated to Bey."
"and if you don't believe that he's a good Muslim I can have him show you
Sunday, the first of February, an urgent message in the afternoon
from GeneralTerence Stone
Lampson when it seemed
Husayn Sirriy would have to hand his resignation
to the king.`Aliy
Mahir's shadow was lengthening. That, and the fact that Rommel
retaken western Cyrenaica. and was advancing on Egypt, forced
Miles hurry back to Cairo. That night he dragged Faruwq
out of a dinner party at his home to explain the situation. Faruwq,
the premier said, was determined to appoint another palace government,
if not `Aliy Mahir, a coalition of those who had served him
since he dismissed al-Nahhas and the Wafd.
ardor for the task ahead was further inflamed when Husayn Sirriy
reiterated what Faruwq had told Saliyb Samiy
the outset of this game of musical parliamentary chairs. "Sir Miles
has won the first round but I am going to down him on the second."
Lampson' wrote one word in his diary:
Sir Claude Auchinleck
who had been a restraining force in keeping Lampson
(2) from deposing Faruwq
had left the Middle East to become commander in chief of the British
forces in India. Trading places with Sir Miles was his successor
as Middle East commander in chief, General Sir Claude Auchinleck,
a tall, handsome officer who had spent his entire military career in India.
Auchinleck, too, showed considerable hesitation and grumpiness
wrote, at the notion of ordering around the boy-king (4)
Auchinleck was concerned the country might rise up in revolt against
such imperialistic behavior (5)Auchinleck's
line was that he knew Egypt and not to worry. Because "the Auk,"
as Lampson called him, was new in Egypt, the ambassador
was able to push his ultimatum past the general.
have to accept al-Nahhas as prime minister, or accept the
Militant youth following the lead of ShaykhHasan al-Banna
went even further; they regarded British uniforms with increasingly
undisguised repulsion, indignantly resented any vexatious incidents
due to the passage of the troops, and repeated shocking tales of their
drunkenness and debauchery. Repercussions in Egypt of the adverse developments
in Britain's war fortunes were very serious as the Egyptians began actively
resisting the British .
The British Ambassador, Miles Wedderburn Lampson, those who knew him well,
have said he was by nature vindictive , a bully and a mean individual.
He was born in 1880, educated at Eton, had entered the Foreign Office in
1908. In the1934 he was made High Commissioner for Egypt and the Sudan,
replacing Lord Lloyd, a post he held for two years, becoming the first
Ambassador in 1936. Lampson stood nearly eighteen inches higher than
any member of the Egyptian Government and earned himself an adjective once
applied to an earlier British Ambassador; OVERBEARING.
Auchinleck 'shesitation was mainly due to the fact that Lampson had not
been able to adapt himself to his diminished position of diplomat from
High Commissioner. Some of the Embassy staff felt so strongly that Lampson
should not have been kept in Egypt that a secret report was sent as a telegram
to the Foreign Office outlining their reasons. This was ignored. Hence
it was this man whom the British chose to represent them in Egypt
and to deal with the young King.
Faruwq at this time was only 22 years old. Lampson frequently
talked about King Faruwq who was forty years his junior as "the
boy" and treated him as such, condescendingly, this irritated Faruwq
The retired Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Army, Field Marshal `Aziyz al-Masriy,
along with two Egyptian Army officers: Husayn Dhuwl
Fuqar Sabriy and `Abd al-Mun`im Ra'uwf , had previously
attempted to reach the German lines aboard an Egyptian Royal air force.
A few miles north of Cairo the plane experienced engine trouble and crashed
landing on an orange grove in the province of al-Qalyuwbiyah. For
a while the three adventures eluded the authorities, but after a
while they were caught and brought to trial in May 1941 for having attempted
to reach the Axis lines in the Western Desert and thus defecting
technically to the "enemy". security conditions in Egypt remained dangerous
for the British.
a similarly situation, the Pro-German Shah
Pahlavi of Iran had been deposed from his throne by the British
and sent to exile in South Africa.
DEAD EYE OF THE STORM-
Lampson went to call on Faruwq, "who was even
more cordial than usual," basically agreeing with Lampson on all
his points and agreeing to "see" al-Nahhas for a "consultation."
would consider appointing al-Nahhas
as prime minister to
form a coalition government. But Lampson didn't want any coalitions
that involved "Palace" parties. He wanted the Wafd and only
the Wafd. It was ironic that the Wafd, which had come into being
as an anti-British nationalist party, had now gotten into bed with its
This was unforgivable
diplomatic behavior, passing all limits of what an independent nation should
be asked to do. But Faruwq took it calmly, since
he was dealing with
England, and listened to Sir Miles' argument
to the end. He felt that judicious delay would solve the question.
Wasn't it obvious that the British
were getting ready to clear out?
Their gold reserves had already been removed to Palestine, where,
in addition to the
Sudan, military stores were also being
sent so that they would not fall into German hands. Faruwq
even allow himself to show his anger over the fact that the British Government
was imposing al-Nahhas Pasha, the very man that he, Faruwq,
had dismissed from office in December 1937. Faruwq's
reply was diplomatic:
"I shall do as you
suggest and call in Ahmad Hasanayn my
and his staff and we shall give this matter our immediate attention."
"I cannot leave
without stressing that we regard this a matter of such importance that
we shall wait only until 9 o'clock Tuesday night. Should you not have conformed
to our desires by that time, you will have to take the responsibility for
whatever may occur." Sir Miles bowed stiffly to the King, and was ushered
from the room.
ultimatum, for that was what it was, was quite real. Real enough to
blow him right off his throne if he made a single misstep. But he wasn't
telephoned al-Nahhas Pasha to inform him that it was His
Majesty's desire (he didn't bother to explain that the desire
had been prompted by a British threat), for he was certain that
al-Nahhas was already in collusion with them that he call in
all the heads of political parties, and that he, al-Nahhas
form a coalition cabinet. In order to facilitate this matter, he was placing
a conference room in `Abdiyn Palace at their disposal, and he hoped
that by that same afternoon they would begin discussions.
Pasha, who was willful, and disliked even by many of the members
of his own Wafd party, had been a rabid anti-British figure. His
sudden switch to the English side could mean but one thing that a deal
had been made. To force him to select a coalition cabinet "for the
unity of the nation" was a strategy Faruwq
used to get
the politicians to argue among themselves until long past the deadline.
In this way he could demonstrate his good faith to Sir Miles, put
the responsibility on his enemy, al-Nahhas Pasha, and, most
important, do nothing. al-Nahhas didn't rise to the bait.
He sent a message to Hasanayn that he would accept the job
of Prime Minister on the sole condition that he be permitted to
name his own cabinet.
THE THREE-LEGGED STOOL-
Hasanayn late on the evening of the third of
and instructed him to tell the king that he must send
for al-Nahhas Pasha by six o'clock the following evening.
I hear that the king has sent for the Wafd, he must accept
the consequences," the Ambassador repeated. The
attempted to compromise. Could they not form an interim government which
would then be replaced by the Wafd? No, said Lampson There
is no alternative.
dwelt, in the meeting, at length on Article Five of the 1936 treaty
which stipulated that neither Britain nor Egypt should adopt
an attitude to foreign countries inconsistent with the treaty provisions.
This meant, Sir Miles went on, that the king must call on
a government which would remain loyal to the treaty and which would command
support in the country. It followed from this that the king must
send for Mustafa al-Nahhas Pasha. He had twenty-four
hours to act on this advice, said Sir Miles.
next day al-'Azhar and Fuw’ad Universities flared
up, despite the fact that
Faruwq had personally passed a
message to the heads of Universities to keep their students quiet. At
mobs broke shop windows and doors and then attacked people suspected of
pro-British sympathies. In the middle of all this, word leaked out from
Faruwq had packed several trunks and was
preparing to make a dash for freedom. To where, no one knew. Just in case,
an alert went to British troops and military police to watch all
airports in the country and every road out of the capital. The embassy
took the view that the king would only lose face if he tried to
students taking to the street against the British on February the3rd, 1942
Miles Lampson had on his hands the sort of operation at which he excelled
sitting inert while everything spun madly around them. It was like the
old days of Cromer and Kitchener, Allenby and Lloyd.
had prepared the event. Down to the last man and tank, the personal escort
for himself and
General Stone; down to his peroration before delivering
the abdication document; down to the hourly checks on the will-o'-the-wisp
al-Nahhas who must be on call; down to the phone
message which would bring PrinceMuhammad `Aliy, the old
pretender, into `Abdiyn Palace and Faruwq's vacant
seat; down to the air-raid sirens which would clear the streets and the
way for the dispossessed monarch. Sir Lampsonwas leaving nothing
was the abdication document to draft. By an ironical twist, Sir Walter
who had drawn up the abdication form for King Edward VIII,
was attached to the embassy. Who better? Oddly enough, it took
longer to find a suitable piece of paper on which to ask a king to surrender
his throne than the form of words. In wartime Cairo such paper hardly
existed, and who could expect the King of Egypt to abdicate
on British foolscap!
was rehearsing the dethronement of Faruwq, things were happening
in `Abdiyn Palace. The king had summoned all the former presidents
of the Chamber of Deputies, including al-Nahhas, who sat
impassive, savoring the moment as much as Lampson. Across the table
was his old adversary, `Aliy Mahir, In the study at
the king had enough prime ministers and party leaders to fill every
cabinet post in the coalition which he saw as the solution to the crisis.
made a short speech, calling for unity and an end to personal differences
to bring the country out of its hours of danger. He spoke firmly, even
"I am asking all
of you to help form a coalition government. I think that if each of you
will sacrifice something, the nation will gain much. I am hopeful that
you will accept my advice. In these grave hours, we must forget self and
remember only the country. When theBritish Ambassador was here, I told
him that I had already decided to give al-Nahhas Pashathe post of
yesterday's consultations were ended, the
British Ambassador met
my chamberlain who informed him that
refused to form a coalition government, and he the Ambassador asked
that I be informed that it was his desire that al-NahhasPasha
be given full freedom to select his own cabinet. My chamberlain
communicated to him that the question was being considered by al-Nahhas
Pasha and the party leaders, and that they are in the midst of forming
a new government.
has faith in the patriotic sentiments of the leaders and feels that they
will surmount all difficulties to his satisfaction. "I leave you now
to discuss the matter freely, counting upon your patriotism to study the
question and to refer the opinion of all to me. In this matter I wish you
to know only one thing . . . that I am not afraid of anything, that I am
ready to sacrifice everything in the interest of my country."
was mid-afternoon; over the Pyramids to the southwest the sun was slanting;
the afternoon siesta had thinned out people and traffic in the streets;
nothing seemed amiss. Except that, at Qasr al-Niyl
in the middle of Cairo, the password had gone to those troops who
would oust the king. Farther down the Nile, the embassy staff sipped
their tea, having set everything in motion.
It was three hours
from Lampson's deadline...
Lampson was convinced that unless he acted quickly the British situation
in Egypt might be undermined and the Canal Base itself threatened. Lampson
was not alone suffering misgivings about the security of the
base. Oliver Lyttleton, sent out by Churchill several months earlier as
Minister of State with ultimate responsibility for the country's defense,
had interrupted his tour of Syria, another trouble spot, to fly back to
the crisis in Cairo. Immediately he summoned the Defensee Committee, which
included the service chiefs, General Sir Claude Auchinleck, Admiral Sir
Andrew Cunningham and Air Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder. Lampson, Stone and
Sir Walter Smart joined them. To this group Lampson outlined the situation,
making it clear they might have to force the king to bring back the Wafd
by delivering an ultimatum. To this, the military chiefs dissented, and
it fell to Lyttleton to resolve the dispute. In his memoirs, he wrote:
ambassador favored strong action. It was clear that words would be futile
and that a show of force would be necessary if we were to get our way.
The military demurred, but I asked that at least the necessary measures
should be concerted so that if an ultimatum from us became necessary, we
could enforce its terms. The abdication and removal of the king might be
involved. They reluctantly consented to make a plan, but at the same time
pointed out that we should probably have tumult in Cairo and a sit-down
strike of all the civilian labor upon which we relied. I retorted that
the disturbances which would follow the flouting of the popular party were
likely to be much more severe because backed, and rightly, by the mass
of the people."
THE SHOWDOWN -
was mid-afternoon, three hours from Lampson's deadline. Over the
Pyramids to the southwest the sun was slanting; the afternoon siesta had
thinned out people and traffic in the streets; nothing seemed amiss. Except
that, at Qasr a-Niyl
barracks in the middle of Cairo,
the password had gone to those troops who would oust the king. Farther
down the Nile, the Embassy staff sipped their tea, having set everything
at `Abdiyn palace the party leaders bowed as Faruwq
left the chamber to return to his office. With the single exception of
Pasha, all agreed that there should be a coalition government. Shariyf
suggested that al-NahhasPasha select a neutral cabinet, and
then suspend both houses of parliament and head the government as president.
Again al-Nahhas Pasha refused. Isma`iyl Siddqiy
proposed a resolution turning down the British ultimatum, but only if all
present were to sign it. This put al-Nahhas Pasha directly
on the spot, and he had to agree to be one of the signatories.(1)
at six o'clock, the phone rang on Lampson's desk. A court chamberlain,
Taymuwr Bey, informed the Ambassador that
had just quit the palace with the King's reply to the ultimatum.
In ten minutes the cabinet chief arrived, his long, sad face gray with
anxiety. He read Lampson a communiqué speedily drafted
and addressed directly to him . "In their opinion",ran the communiqué
signed by seventeen Egyptian prominent political leaders. (2)
ultimatum is a gross infringement of the 1936 treaty and of the country's
independence. For these reasons, and acting on their advice, His Majesty
cannot consent to an action resulting in an infringement of the Anglo-Egyptian
Treaty and of the country. In answer to a communication that you have made
to our King, stating that he appoints a certain person selected by you
to form the Egyptian cabinet, and in answer to the direct threat of force
that accompanied this communication, I have the honor as President of the
Chamber of Deputies, to inform you, as representative of the government,
of my protest at this aggression against the independence of Egypt. It
has violated the treaty of friendship existing between us and has placed
the relations between our people in great danger. I regret this intervention
into our internal affairs, one that has been committed at a time when Great
Britain in war is defending the democracy and liberty of nations."
scanned the signatures: `Aliy Mahir, ‘Ahmad Mahir,
the usual suspects.Lampson concealed his surprise as Hasanayn
read the document over to him; he considered it a piece of cool cheek to
accuse Britain of breaking the treaty. But the document had also shocked
him, for he noted that among its signatories was the name al-Nahhas.
The man he was backing, relying upon, seemed to have sided with the others.
had Faruwq won over al-Nahhas? Or was the
Wafd leader convinced the Axis would triumph and unwilling to sacrifice
himself and the party by siding with the British? It meant that he, Lampson,
was staging a coup de palais which might inflame the masses and could have
no point without the one man who could control the mobs. Lampsonwas
livid, he turned to Hasanayn and warned
the chamberlain of the gravity of the situationandsaid in a blunt language.
The king, he said, could expect him at `Abdiyn Palaceat nine
sharp that night. He omitted to mention that he would come with
an armed escort.
tried to dissuade him, searching for a solution that would save face for
all parties concerned. Lampson wasn't interested. Dismissing Hasanayn,
Lampson called for Amiyn `Uthman, the Oxford-educated
former minister of finance who played an important role for Lampson
intermediary between the British and the Wafd. Having signed
the resolution. "Was I still safe in relying completely onal-Nahhasif
I carried on?" Lampson asked the go-between.
he would bet his bottom dollar on al-Nahhas being firm, and that
he could only suppose he had been lobbied into agreeing to the resolution."
of al-Nahhas' loyalty by `Uthman, Lampson
put on one of his trademark double-breasted white suits, fastened his watch
chain, read and approved
Sir Walter Monckton's abdication instrument,
and went down for his last supper as ambassador to King Faruwq. "It
doesn't often come one's way to be pushing a Monarch off the Throne," he
wrote, unable to conceal his excitement.
Miles Lampson sat in his office in the Embassy watching the clock.
The letter of protest arrived, but he brushed it aside as not being a direct
answer to his ultimatum.
At the stroke of 9, he arose and told the
army officer with him to give the signal. General R.G.W.H. Stone,
in command of British troops in Egypt, was called in to establish
troops around `Abdiyn Palace.
Lampson"would go down suitably accompanied" to order the king to
abdicate. "It was clear that we should have to take the king away with
wrote,"either with or without his abdication in my
pocket."Then they would take him to a warship off Alexandria that would
take Faruwq to his own Elbain theSeychelles.
Garden city at Manyal Palace on Rawdah island , Prince Muhammad
`Aliy was also packing his bags, preparing for his grand entrance into
`Abdiyn later that night.
the British Embassy, Officials for their part, betrayed no hint of crisis.
Phlegm seemed to be the password. The Embassy staff was told to behave
normally, but to listen for the air-raid sirens which would warn them of
the beginning of the operation.
(who was then British Minister of State in Singapore
then being attacked by the Japanese on his way from the Far East
to London) left his room at the embassy accompanied by his wife,
to keep a dinner engagement with Alexander Kirk, the American Chargé
d'Affaires. Only the fact that Oliver Lyttleton and his wife
had arrived at the embassy from their villa near the Pyramids just before
eight o'clock might have signified something.
General Stone and senior embassy staff with
glum faces were hovering around a shortwave Radio listening to the BBC;The
news about general Yamashita's Japanese forces were closing in on
Singapour left the audience with a sour note and a bitter pill to swallow
and General Stone having another crisis on their hands, withdrew
to a private room to confer for a while. Their conclusion: the king
had rejected the ultimatum and must go. Then, over the coffee and brandy,
the Ambassador suddenly remarked to
we do if the king agrees to our terms?" The ultimatum had expired,
but could they push Faruwq off his throne for acceding to
their demands only three hours after the deadline?
Lyttleton felt uneasy
about unseating the King on such a technicality. How would they justify
it to the House of Commons let alone world opinion?Not only might it cause
friction between Britain and Egypt; it could set the Arab world alight.
As they rose, the statesman and the diplomat decided that if Faruwq
climbed down they could not compel him to sign the abdication.
before nine o'clocka battalion of six hundred steel-helmeted British troops,
armed with rifles and Stern guns, were taking up positions in `Abdiyn Square.
Along with tanks and armored cars, surrounding the square around the Royal
Stone arrived in Lampson's Rolls-Royce followed by a
group of hand-picked officers, all over six feet tall and heavily
armed. The ornamental palace gates had been locked. One of the officers
shot the lock off with his revolver. "I could see by the startled expressions
of the Court Chamberlains who received me at the entrance," Lampson
"that this imposing arrival registered an immediate preliminary
effect."Lampson delighted in the roar and rumble of the tanks taking
position outside the palace,
and in the anxiety among the palace staff the rumble caused. Lampson
was kept waiting for five minutes in the king's antechamber. Lampson
about to wait any longer. He and General Stone got up to force their
way in. The chief chamberlain, Dhuwl Fuqar
Pasha, thought this was a terrible breach of his beloved protocol.
Fuqar tried to block General Stone's path. Lampson
shouldered the frail old man aside and pushed him to the floor. As both
men reached the door, Hasanayn stepped forward. Seeing the
the soldiers, he barred the Ambassador's path, shouting :
"Not this way,
Sir Miles . . . not with soldiers."
him aside and strode into the King's study.
was seated at his desk (4) when the
British ambassador strode
in and confronted him. Behind the ambassador was General Stone,
of British forces in Cairo, and just inside the room were the eight
armed junior officers. Sir Miles Lampson, never lacking in the niceties
of behavior, bowed low. "I have come for Your Majesty's answer," he
was suffering from a painful sty in his right eye, which did nothing to
soften his expression. "May I keep my chamberlain with me?" Faruwq
and Lampson nodded his assent. He dispensed with formalities, going
straight to the point. The king had received the ultimatum to which
he had replied, through
Hasanayn, in terms which could only
mean he did not accept it.
did not reject the terms. We offered an alternative suggestion," the
shot back. Lampson waved this aside, furnished his prepared text
and read it to Faruwq.
The King, he said, had broken Article
Five of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty by following the advice of politicians
who were working against Britain and for the enemy. Furthermore, the King
had acted irresponsibly in creating a crisis over the Vichy French question
which was embraced by the letter of the treaty. Thirdly, he had flouted
western democratic ideals by refusing to appoint a government which would
have British support (5) and could therefore ensure that the
treaty terms would be observed. By these actions the King had jeopardized
the security of Egypt and was therefore unfit to rule, Sir Miles concluded
drew the abdication document from his pocket and threw it in front of the
king, remarking that he had better sign it if be did not want further trouble.
up the abdication form and exclaimed: "Isn't it rather a dirty piece
three men watched his eyes wander over the text, slowly, as though be wondered
what to make of it. Monckton had worded the document thus:
Egypt, mindful as ever of the interests of our country, hereby renounce
and abandon for ourselves and the heirs of our body the throne of the Kingdom
of Egypt and of all sovereign rights, privileges and powers in and over
the said Kingdom and the subjects thereof, and we release our said subjects
from their allegiance to our person.
Given at our Palace
of `Abdiyn this Fourth of February 1942.
picked up a pen from his desk and bent over the paper to sign away his
few seconds and he would have ceased to be King of Egypt. But, as his hand
moved so did Hasanayn who quickly advanced toward the king,
shouting forcefully in Arabic "Mihlak `alaya ya Mawlaya,
haya diyh salq bayd!"(7) an expression which neither of the Britons
paused . . .
From "Mudhakarat" Memoirs of Hafiz
Ramadan Pasha, his account of the event:.
Ironically in a twist of fate, while Sir Lampson was trying to dethrone
a king in Egypt, In the Far East the British governor of Hong Kong was
himself being simultaneously deposed and replaced by the Japanese
General Rensuke Isogai previously Chief of Staff of the Japanese Kwatung.
Faruwq, upon hearing that the British tanks have demolished
the palace gates, reached for a gun in the drawer in front of him
and place it in his lap out of sight planning to use it if and when
the importunate moment came. Faruwq was determined not to concede
without having put up a fight. Thereupon, Antonio Pulli Bey stepped
in and grappled with the king, wresting the revolver from his hand, and
said, "I cannot let them kill you."
A statement uttered by Lampson, which for public consumption, later
on was tuned down and subsequently altered to: popular support.
"Mudhakarat (Memoirs) al-'ustadh Muhammad
al-Tab`iy" quoting `Umar Fathiy Pasha who witnessed the confrontation
with Sir Miles Lampson.
CUT OF THE KNIFE HAD SLIT DEEP-
students protesting against al-Nahhas puppet government, while
holding the King in contempt for having bought his throne at the price
of an abject surrender. Henceforth, the more militant forces of the national
movement are throwing in their lot with the Muslim Brotherhood.
looked over the document, which was typed on old British Residency foolscap.
Owing to a paper shortage in Cairo, there wasn't even any British embassy
notepaper to write on. Faruwq sighed "You might
have given me a decent piece of paper" to Lampson
to dip his pen in ink. "After a tense pause," Lampson
wrote, KingFaruwq with considerable emotion said that for
his own honor and for the country's good he would summon
That was quite a surprise to me and reluctantly I had to go along."
wasn't going to sign after all. Had General Stone not been standing
by, Lampson might have forced the king to sign. As
it was, he had to listen to Faruwq's proposal, which was
to summon al-Nahhas at once, in Lampson's presence
if necessary, and ask him to form a government. Lampson himself
paused. His own moment of glory was slipping away, and he hated losing
it. He looked at General Stone and realized he had to let the King
crisis had its element of farce. Minutes after
Lampson had quit
the palace, the troops still guarding the gate stopped a man who drove
up and demanded admittance. In vain he pleaded that he was
Pasha, that the king had sent for him to form a new government. To
the British officer on the gate he looked more like a carpet peddler
than a prime minister, so he was refused admittance. al-Nahhas
had, therefore, to go to the British Embassy to receive a laisser-passer
before he could answer the king's summons. Half an hour later, he
was back, this time at Faruwq's behest, to discuss with Lampson
Lyttleton the best way out of the political crisis.
and General Stone took their leave, past the court chamberlains,
described as "a crowd of scared hens," past the
British troops with their tommy guns and rifles at the ready, into
the courtyard in view of the big British tanks, and into the big
Rolls-Royce that took them back to the big British embassy.
Little did Lampson know that Faruwq's,
larger than the British, three Albanian bodyguards were hiding behind the
curtains of his chamber, their own pistols drawn, to shoot Lampson and
Stone if they moved to harm or abduct Faruwq and that
the palace guards, also armed, were hiding behind his so-called scared-hen
chamberlains, ready to kill Lampson's men if the need arose.
the rest of his days in Egypt, Lampson regretted not having kicked
out the King then and there. Back in the embassy, Sir Walter
Smart asked how the operation had gone. When Lampson explained,
muttered, "You've scotched the snake, but you haven't killed it."
The Ambassador could only concur; he did not see eye to eye with
those who fancied Faruwq had learned his lesson. In his view,
hatred would grow.
days after the incident of `Abdiyn, reaction to the coup was muted.
A polo match between the Royal Artillery and a team of Egyptian diplomats
and Pashas was called off because the Egyptians didn't arrive. From that
day, until the moment Lampson left for a holiday in South Africa
the end of the war, Faruwq
closed the palace gates to members
of the British Embassy, except official callers. The cut of the
Knife had slit deep.
the aftermath of the February 4th incident, Newspaper editors wrote
vitriolic articles. Tempers boiled. There were casualties every day from
mob violence. Schoolboys and university students organized themselves into
secret societies whose declared purpose was to harry anyone in a foreign
uniform. Enraged citzens roamed the streets of Cairo at night, looking
for intoxicated British soldiers and sailors, who would be bashed over
the head with clubs and left in the gutter. No attempt was made to
rob them. That was not the purpose.
Egyptians were beginning to feel the centuries of humiliation bred into
their core, the degradation to which their people had been subjected by
one conqueror after another. For hundreds of years uncomplaining fallahiyn
had taken the oppression stoically and lived to see the invader absorbed
or eventually driven out. But now they were not about to accept such treatment
with meekness and resignation
serving as good introduction to the struggle for the independence
of Egypt and the problems of the war are outlined here below:
the economic problems and development of Egypt before the Second World
War, a standard work has been A. E. Crouchley, The Economic Development
of Egypt (London 1938). A monographic study on the population problems
of Egypt that is still useful is Wendell Cleland,
The Population Problem
in Egypt (Lancaster, Pa 1936).
monograph is E.R.J. Owen,Cotton and the Egyptian Economy (Oxford
1969). Others find the Department of Overseas Trade publications, Reports
on Economic and Commercial Conditions in Egypt, published by HMSO in
the twenties, thirties and forties useful.
the general phase of secular liberalism before the Second World War, in
addition to the references in the notes, see Politics and Diplomacy
in Egypt: The Diaries of Sir Miles Lampson, 1935–1937 edited by M E
Yapp; Nadav Safran, Egypt in Search of Political Community (Cambridge,
Mass. 1961); Henri Laoust, L'évolution politique et culturelle
de l'Égypte contemporaine', Entretiens sur l'évolution
de pays de civilization arabe (Paris 1937). Walter Z. Laqueur, Communism
and Nationalism in the Middle East (New York 1956); and Ibrahim Ibrahim,
Egyptian Intellectuals Between Tradition and Modernity 1922-52,
unpublished Oxford D.Phil. thesis 1967. The secular liberal movement in
the inter-war period is the subject of Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot's
Liberal Experiment, 1922-1936 (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London 1977).An
excellent account can also be found in Jacques Berque's
and Revolution(Édition Gallimard 1967). One of the better-known
accounts of quasi independent Egypt before the Second World War is
Amine Youssef , Independent Egypt (London 1940.)
as they may be many of these excerpts can be also found in the detailed
diaries of Sir Miles Lampson , Lord Killearn Diaries, which are held in
their entirety at St, Antony's College , Oxford , and published in their
abridged form as The Killearn Diaries 1934-1946 (London: Sidgwick
and Jackson, 1972). Other British prespective on this period are Lawrence
Bright Levant (London: John Murray, 1970)
. Lord William sholto Douglas' Years of Command ( London: Collins,
1966). Artemis Cooper's Cairo in the War, 1939-1945 ( London:
Hamish Hamilton ,1989) is a densely detailed account of the high tide and
last gasp of Anglo dominion.
folders of the British Foreign Office files , particularly the famous Egypt
File # 371, at the Public Record Office in Kew, contain much information
on these events. From The Egyptian perspective written in Arabic is
Latifa Salim's Faruwq (Cairo: Madbuwliy, 1889). The most sympathetic
to Faruwq is Adel Sabit's A King Betrayed (London:
Quartet, 1989) in his book relates the memoir of a member of the Cairo
pasha elite. Muhammad Subayh's 'Ayam wa 'Ayam
is from Misr al-Fatah perspective is also very informative
about the nationalist movements of the period, (Dar al-Ta`awin,