In 1869, the Suez Canal, built and owned by the British and the
French, was opened allowing greater trade to flow between the Mediterranean and British India.
Between 1882 and 1922 the British occupied Egypt.
In 1922, Egypt became nominally independent but Britain and France retained control of the Suez Canal.
Despite Indian independence in 1947, the British continued to view
the Suez Canal as a major strategic asset in the Middle East, a region which helped to supply Britain and its allies with oil.
Britain signed a treaty with Egypt in 1936 giving them the right to retain a military base in the Suez Canal Zone until 1956.
In 1951, the increasingly nationalist Egyptian government disowned the treaty and demanded the withdrawal of British forces. The British refused to withdraw. The Egyptian government began a campaign of harassment to attempt to force a British departure.
Britain swiftly built up its military presence to resist Egyptian infiltration and declared a State of Emergency. Egypt stepped up its campaign of harassment. British soldiers faced bombings, ambush
and knife attacks on a regular basis. More than five hundred died as
a result of violence and ill health.
The British finally agreed to evacuate the Suez base in 1954.