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The Anglo - Egyptian Alliance Treaty 1936

The mutual agreement that allowed Britain to
have troops stationed in Egypt for a further 20 years

In early October we at this website received an email from a military historian and researcher, Phil Roberts, who informed us he had just obtained a copy of the original 1936 Treaty between the British Government and the newly formed Independent Egyptian Government.  Phil has spent most of his life collecting and studying books and documents on the history of Courts Marshal, Military Law and related matters.  He took redundancy from IBM several years ago to enable him devote much more of his time to carry out this sort of work, and has endless admiration for those who 'Fought for the Flag'.  Phil appears to be one of those types who can delve into Military archives and find information that others tend to miss, to do this requires years of determined study and practice at this category of work.  We thank Phil for this very welcome addition to our 'Suppressed Series' here on the website.  His email address is:  Milhist1@aol.com

In its entirety the Treaty, which is a historical document, runs into 29 pages written in Governmental legal jargon and would have been too lengthy and complicated to produce here in full.  For our advantage, Phil has worked on it and without losing any of the important contents and facts has summarised it into understandable English and offered it for publication here on the website.  Here is what Phil sent.  Words in italics and bracketed are his own comments.

OUTLINE OF THE 'SUEZ CANAL' TREATY 1936.

 (The correct name of the Treaty was:  The Treaty of Alliance Between His Majesty, in Respect of the United Kingdom, and His Majesty the King of Egypt. Integral with theTreaty was a Convention Concerning the Immunities and Privileges to be Enjoyed by the British Forces in Egypt. The complete Treaty with Convention consisted of some 29 pages averaging several hundred words a page, plus a map.)

(A) The Treaty

01    The Treaty was between the UK and the newly independent Egypt.

02    It was signed on 26th August 1936 and ratified on 22nd December 1936 when it came into effect.

03    The occupation of Egypt was terminated and troops withdrawn except those to be stationed in the vicinity of the Suez Canal for its defence.

04    Egypt was recognised as a sovereign independent state. Ambassadors were to be exchanged, and Egypt to be assisted to join the League of Nations. (fore-runner of the UN).

05    An alliance was formed between the two countries, extending to assistance in war. This would include use of the Egyptian infrastructure such as ports.

06    The Suez Canal was recognised as an integral part of Egypt (a big mistake this - we and the French had paid cash for it. This clause was later used to justify nationalising it) but also as essential to the British Empire for communications.

07    Until such time as both countries agreed that the Egyptian Army was in a position to ensure by its own resources the liberty and entire security of navigation of the Canal, the UK was authorised to station forces in Egypt in the vicinity of the Canal. This was not to constitute an occupation and would in no way prejudice the sovereign rights of Egypt.

08    If after twenty years the two countries could not agree on whether the Egyption Army was 'in a position to ensure...etc' they could submit the matter to the Council of the League of Nations or another agreed body.

09   There were detailed conditions as to: places where military, air and naval forces could be stationed, railways, roads utilities etc to be provided and training areas.

10   In time of peace 10,000 troops plus 400 pilots, with ancillary personnel could be stationed in the vicinity of the Canal, plus civilian support staff. The numbers might in-crease in time of war.

11    In the Sudan, broadly the status quo would apply but with options to renegotiate.

12    There are numerous minutes/notes etc on interpretation.

13    Egypt to be exclusively responsible for the lives and properties of foreigners in Egypt

14    Capitulations in Egypt to be phased out ( In those days 'client states' such as Egypt often conceded privileges for foreigners especially in the judicial and financial areas and even the right to open British Post Offices. These were known as 'capitulations').

15    All existing agreements etc which were inconsistent with this treaty to be abrogated.

16    The League of Nations to be used as necessary to settle any interpretative problems outstanding.

17    After ten years the treaty might be revised at the request of both parties.

18    After twenty-five years the treaty might be revised at the request of either party.

19    Any revision must leave the alliance terms intact and unresolved differences to be referred to the League of Nations.

(B) The Treaty Map

The 18 x 13.5 inch colour map at scale 1:1,000,000 shows Egypt from the Nile Delta down for about 200 miles, and from Alexandria in the west to the Bay of Tinato to the east of the Canal, which is shown in detail with the locations of major British bases. The borders of two training areas are marked, one for all year round use; one for use in February and March only.

(Despite the frequent use of the term, 'Canal Zone' no such single zone was defined. The Treaty simply referred to 'the vicinity of the Canal' and named locations, in the vicinity of which the British servicemen were to be stationed. The result was that instead of having distinct Canal Zone borders which could be fortified and defended or at least signposted, there was a series of British camps with individual perimeters. These were inviolable but between them the sand and the Egyptians could flow freely. This was a charter for terrorists and was eventually treated as such.)

(C) Convention on Immunities and Privileges of British Forces in Egypt.

These included :-
01    Immunity from civil or criminal trial by Egyptian courts in respect of acts done as part of their duty.
02    British camps to be inviolable though remaining Egyptian territory.
03    Freedom of movement between camps and between camps and access points to Egypt.
04    Unrestricted rights of communication.
05    Right to generate and distribute electric power.
06    Right to send messages including telegrams in clear/code/cipher over the Egyptian communication systems.
07    Right to use Egyptian rail and communications system at rates then in force.
08.    Interpretation: The term 'British Forces' meant:
a. Every person subject to the British Army Act, Air Force Act, or ( the treaty says 'and' here. That would be ridiculous.) Naval Discipline Act, or to the equivalent acts of other parts of His Majesty's Dominions who was stationed with or attached to His Majesty's Forces present in Egypt under the provisions of the Treaty of Alliance; plus
b. Every civilian official of British nationality accompanying or serving with the said forces in Egypt or the NAAFI, who is either granted relative status as an officer (a rather meaningless term legally) or held a pass designating his status issued by the appropriate British Authority;  plus
c. Wives, and children under 21 years of age, of the above persons.

The treaty was signed in Cairo by a list of grandees including : Anthony Eden; Ramsay MacDonald; Halifax for the UK and
El Nahas Pacha ; Maher ; Mahmoud ; Boutros Ghali Pacha (ancestor of the late UN General Secretary) for Egypt.
The ratifications were signed in Cairo by Eden and el Nahas only.

© Copyright: P.R.2002.    Phil Roberts :   milhist1@aol.com

So, here you have it, answers to the questions:  'What was that 1936 Treaty the Egyptians abrogated?'  and  'Why were we sent out to the Canal Zone?'

Aye,  Jock Marrs and Richard (Dick) Woolley.

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