There was a message on the piece of paper which fluttered to the floor when someone opened the door of the Commander-in-Chief's room: 'Hooknoses' D-Day - 29 Oct.' Throughout the late summer and early autumn of 1956 there had been a build-up of British and French forces in the Mediterranean, following President Nasser's nationalisation of the Suez Canal. The possibility of military operations by the former imperialist masters of the region was the object alike of Egyptian propaganda and American concern. Nor did it take much imagination to foresee that Israel might characteristically conclude that aggression was the best form of self-defence. This opened up the possibility of a collision between the war plans of the anti-Egyptian powers. But whatever the Hooknoses were up to, how could General Sir Charles Keightley, as Allied Commander-in-Chief, apparently possess privileged knowledge of what was afoot? Had collision been averted by collusion? This shocking thought crossed the mind of Air Marshal Bennett, commander of the Air Task Force, as soon as he gained his inadvertent glimpse of the note on Keightley's floor. 'Christ,' he thought, 'you aren't in some bloody awful hook-up, are you?'
LRB 15 August 1991 | PDF Download