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Sinai and the Gaza Strip
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In 1956, Egypt’s President Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal Company, touching off the Suez Crisis. The British and French governments convinced Israel to launch an attack on Egypt and then intervened to prevent the canal from being damaged by the fighting.
The United Nations stepped in to prevent the escalation of this minor event into a major war. Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson’s government invented the concept of peacekeeping and the United Nations Emergency Force was born. Canada would contribute logistics and communications elements and a Recce Squadron to this effort. The Royal Canadian Armoured Corps 56 Recce Squadron was formed, equipped with Ferret scout cars and dispatched to the Middle East. 56 Recce Squadron would establish many of the observation posts and camps which would be used by several succeeding contingents. In January of 1959, D (Recce) Squadron replaced the 8th Hussars Recce Squadron in the Sinai.
On 1 March 1959, a Ferret commanded by Corporal Babcock was escorting a ration truck to an observation post known as Winnipeg. The Ferret struck an antitank mine buried in the patrol track which sheared the front right wheel and the storage bins right off of the car and penetrated the hull in the area of the driver’s compartment. Trooper F.W.G. Pang suffered injuries to his right leg. Corporal Babcock and Private Crowe, who was riding in the Ferret with the crew, were both shaken up by the incident but unharmed.
On the morning of 28 November, two UNEF marked jeeps were patrolling on the Demarcation Line. D Squadron had worked out a local agreement with the Egyptian Army so that the patrols could get around an area of impassable ground. The jeeps were three miles west of the Demarcation Line, conducting a routine patrol. In the lead vehicle were Lieutenant W.A. Jacobs and Trooper Ronald H. Allen. The landscape was suddenly lit by a flare and the jeeps came under fire from the front and both flanks. The crews bailed out and sought what cover they could. The shooting continued until Lieutenant Jacobs shouted “United Nations” several times. Some Egyptian infantrymen approached and told the patrol they had been warned and left. Lieutenant Jacobs discovered that Trooper Allen was gravely wounded. He died an hour after the attack while being evacuated in the surviving jeep, leaving a widow and a small daughter in Halifax. In February 1960, D Squadron packed its kit, received its medals and boarded a plane, leaving the Sinai and Trooper Allen behind. Today in the Regiments home at CFB Petawawa the hanger of B Squadron (C-53) is named after Trooper Allen and honours his memory.
The final Dragoon foray into the Sinai was A’ Squadron in 1961. At the end of 1962, the Squadron returned to Gagetown and the Dragoon’s association with the United Nations Emergency Force came to an end.