Major | Infantry

The first Europeans to intervene in the Mau Mau Rebellion were the officers and men of the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers when they shipped to western Africa on 19 October 1952.  It was an uncomfortable journey by air, but after a few days hopping between stops and many long months in the desert, they were overwhelmed by their first interactions with the country of Kenya.  Their meals were wonderful and without shortage of fresh pineapple, coffee, tea, and other offerings from the fertile land.  A variety of trees dispersed along intermittent hills and plains offered a refreshing feeling in comparison to the unfaltering, flat, and dusty expanse the regiment had just recently departed.  Beyond this beauty, however, lurked the impending threat of the Mau Mau.

The change in duty was a welcome one after months in the featureless Western Desert, where living was most uncomfortable - either far too hot in the summer months, cold in the winter, and always dry, leaving the Fusiliers parched and coated with a fine film of sand.  After abrogating their treaty with Great Britain, Egyptian authorities had done little to quell the people's increasing displeasure with the British presence in the region and escalating tempers were becoming violent.  The 1936 treaty between the two countries had allowed the British to maintain troops along the Suez Canal area, permitting they train and supply the Egyptian Army.  At the close of the Second World War, the Egyptians began to seek total independence, and six years later took action to try to permanently dispel British control.

At the Lancashire Fusilier's 1st Battalion camp in Moascar, A Company received an alert to mobilize for security duty in nearby Ismailia the next day, 16 October 1951.  The officers and men had initially thought they would be moving to Korea to support the effort in the Far East, but instead had remained in the Canal Zone.  The monotony of garrison duty suddenly cut into a frenzied rush to draw ammunition and board lorries to speed off into the city, leaving a cloud behind them that settled as a new layer of dust over the tent city.



(1) The Lancashire Fusiliers Website


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