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Extracting the best deal for Britain: the assassination of Sir Lee Stack in November 1924 and the revision of Britain's Nile Valley Policy.

It was the invasion of Egypt in 1882 that established British hegemony in the region until its humiliating withdrawal in 1956. At the heart of British policy throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the importance of maintaining control of the Suez Canal to safeguard imperial communications, defence, and trade. The 1920s witnessed a crucial phase in British policy in Egypt. Under severe pressure to find economies and retrench large numbers of military personnel in the region, British policy makers faced increasing demands from Egyptian nationalists for greater control of their own affairs. The Anglo-Egyptian relationship was further complicated by the Sudan, which, with the defeat of Mahdist forces in 1899, was administered through the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium. The British faced a conundrum: how would they implement economies in the face of an intensive Egyptian nationalist propaganda campaign which Saad Zaghlul, leader of the popularly elected nationalist Ward government, had failed to discourage, while at the same time protecting their vital strategic interests in an increasingly volatile region which stood on the Middle East-African nexus of British policy making?

The assassination of Sir Lee Stack, Governor-General of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in Cairo in 1924, provided British authorities with an answer to this question. His murder gave them the opportunity, even the pretext, to dictate new terms to Egyptian nationalists and to extract a set of important foreign policy goals that Britain had hoped to achieve in the Nile Valley. Above all, this included wholesale British supremacy in the Sudan. Politically, this was ensured by Premier Zaghlul's resignation, which momentarily checked Egyptian nationalism; economically, by the removal of irrigation restrictions that limited cotton cultivation at Gezira, and thereby impeded the economic development of the Sudan; and militarily dampened by the eviction of Egyptian troops from the Sudan and thereby any Egyptian aspirations to expand southwards. However, London and Cairo did not necessarily agree on the method of achieving British supremacy in the Sudan and, in the aftermath of Stack's assassination, a gulf opened up between the new Foreign Secretary, Austen Chamberlain, and Field Marshal Edmund Allenby, High Commissioner for Egypt and the Sudan, in Cairo. Allenby's ultimatum to Zaghlul, which included the evacuation of all Egyptian troops from the Sudan, without London's prior approval, bore all the hallmarks of the High Commissioner acting with scant regard for his superiors. Despite Allenby earning Chamberlain's ire over the demands presented to the nationalist Wafd, Britain actually achieved her aims within the Fertile Crescent. Zaghlul resigned and his successor, Ahmad Ziwar, accepted all of Allenby's demands on 30 November. This therefore ensured Britain's dominance within the Sudan and checked Egyptian nationalism, since the Residency and Palace authority once again dominated Egyptian political life.

I. The Imperial Context

The United States led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the maintenance of allied forces within the region, while attempts are made to forge, and sustain, a Western-friendly government in that country demonstrates the continuing importance the Middle East holds for Western strategic thinking. This priority represents a continuity in policy that dates back to the nineteenth century when western European diplomacy, in particular that of Britain, was focussed upon maintaining the territorial integrity of the "sick man of Europe"--the Ottoman Empire. During the twentieth century, Western diplomacy continued to focus on the former Ottoman provinces by attempting to incorporate them into their colonial empires or spheres of influence.

As a product of the "Scramble for Africa," Egypt was, at the same rime, a vital piece of the strategic puzzle in the Middle East helping Britain achieve a wider imperial reach. British involvement in Egypt was long standing. The opening of the Suez Canal in November 1869 by Ferdinand de Lesseps, a former French consul in Egypt turned engineer, supplanted overnight the Cape of Good Hope's advantage in freight carriage between Europe and the Far East. The Canal, at just over a hundred miles in length, shortened the distances from the Port of London to Bombay by 4,543 miles, to Calcutta by 3,667 miles, and to Melbourne by 645 miles. The Canal therefore acquired increasing importance for British trade. Between the opening of the Canal and the outbreak of the First World War, India accounted for over hall of the Canal's traffic; trade with the Far East increased tenfold, and high volume exports from Australia became possible. By 1928, exports to Britain from India and Burma formed 35.1 per cent of south-north traffic while British flagged ships constituted the largest users of the Suez Canal. (1) As Anthony Eden noted in a speech to the House of Commons on 23 December 1929:
   If the Suez Canal is our back door to the East, it is the front
   door to the Europe of Australia, New Zealand and India. If you like
   to mix your metaphors it is, in fact, the swing door of the British
   Empire, which has got to keep continually revolving if our
   communications are to be what they should. (2)


Therefore, the heart of British policy within Egypt was the importance of maintaining control of the Suez Canal to safeguard imperial communications, trade and power. The First World War served only to underline this importance, when Britain was faced with a global threat to its dominance.

Although Egypt was largely tranquil during the First World War, it certainly did not escape the ravages of this cataclysm. During the course of the war, British thinking about the Middle East had to be revised as a result of wartime constraints imposed by Arab aspirations for independence. This fact, coupled with the heavy-handedness of British policies in fighting the war and President Woodrow Wilson's pronouncements in favour of national self-determination, contributed to uniting the country in demanding not only an end to martial law, but also the granting of complete independence. The immediate post-war period also witnessed the emergence of the nationalist Delegation, or Wafd Party, under Saad Zaghlul which made its presence felt with the riots of March 1919 directed against British rule. Egypt was indisputably a vital link in Britain's imperial network and, when British interests were directly threatened, Britain showed no hesitation in flexing its military muscle regardless of any imperial overstretch that was felt at home. As a result, extensive communication and co-ordination were required not only between the Cabinet, the Service Ministries, and the Foreign Office, but also between those men-on-the-spot whose assessments formed the basis of policy formulation. The triangle of communication between Khartoum, Cairo, and London was vital in ensuring a clear line of policy. However, the origins of the March 1919 riots brought into sharp relief not only how out of touch Whitehall had become with Egyptian affairs, but also the difference of opinion between the Residency in Cairo and the Foreign Office in London about how to deal with the situation. In the wider geostrategic concerns of the British Empire, the explosion in air, telegraph, and railway routes linking Africa, India, and the Far East, underlined the importance of Egypt to policy formulation, thereby making Egypt the "Clapham Junction" of imperial communications. (3)

Of course, Britain's Egyptian experience cannot be viewed in isolation and Egyptian policy formulation was influenced not only by departmental rivalries but also by the trials and tribulations of Empire elsewhere. The Irish War of Independence between 1919 and 1921, Afghanistan's war against the British Empire in May 1919, and the Kurdish and Shi'ite tribal insurrection against the British Army of occupation in Mesopotamia between 1919 and 1920, for example, played a role in influencing the Empire's development. (4) As a result, it is possible to perceive during 1920-21 a gradual comprehension that by becoming embroiled in Egyptian internal affairs, Britain provided a rallying call for the Egyptian nationalists to oust the colonial master and thereby weaken Britain's imperial strength. In 1922, therefore, the Cabinet, heavily pressured by Allenby, accepted that Britain's interests were best served through lessening the imperial burden by issuing the unilateral Declaration of Egypt's Independence on 28 February. However, four points were reserved for negotiation at a later date under which Britain's vital strategic interests were safeguarded. (5)

II. The Growth of Egyptian Political Violence

Ever since the turn of the twentieth century and as a direct result of Britain's occupation of Egypt, political violence played a growing and deadly role in Egyptian political life. As part of the Egyptian nationalist movement, a variety of secret societies targeted not only British officials, but also Egyptian politicians who were deemed to be in the pockets of their British overlords and failed to advance the nationalist calls of "Egypt for the Egyptians." The most significant of these attacks was the murder in November 1924 of Sir Lee Stack, Governor-General of the Sudan and Sirdar of the Egyptian Army. By examining the assassination of Stack several key themes will be explored. Using the motivations behind the secret societies and their violent activities as a backcloth, the primary aim of this article is to demonstrate how British officials stationed in Egypt seized the opportunity of Stack's assassination to secure from Egyptian nationalists a whole slate of advantages, which would have otherwise been impossible. This analysis also explores the tensions which existed between the Foreign Office and their man on the spot: the much vaunted and decorated Sir Edmund Allenby, conqueror of Palestine and High Commissioner of Egypt and the Sudan (1919-25). Equally important, it gives greater insight into the complex relationship between the Cairo Residency and Whitehall, demonstrating that London was continually out of step with its officials on the ground. Those officials were being forced to deal with a real and sustained nationalist threat in Egypt that had ambitions to expand its reach into neighbouring Sudan.

At the turn of the century no less than twenty-six secret societies existed within Egypt. (6) These societies extended their reach as a result of several factors: the deepening British occupation through the domination of the Sudan; the Dinshaway incident of 1906; (7) British preponderance in government positions coupled with the perceived failings of the Egyptian government, including the absence of a constitution; the Press law of 1881 that restricted freedom of speech; and, finally, the attempt in 1910 by the Suez Canal Company to extend their ninety-nine year concession from 1968 to 2008. The original aim of these organisations was to work for the interests of Egypt by creating strong political ties among Egyptians in order to demand a constitutional government for the country. (8)

Such sedition against British colonialism was not merely confined to Egypt. Noor-Aiman I Khan has demonstrated the growing connection between Indian and Egyptian nationalists at the beginning of the twentieth century. One such connection was that between the assassination of Sir William Curzon-Wylie (a political aide-de-camp to the Secretary of State for India) by Madanlal Dhingra in London in 1909 and that of Butros Pasha Ghali (the Egyptian Prime Minister) by Ibrahim Nassif al-Wardani in Cairo less than nine months later. Both assassins were from upper-middle class families and both had spent rime in Europe studying and possibly even meeting while in London during 1908. Through their experiences in Europe, where their personal and political freedom was much greater, they were exposed to debates in the press and among the students on imperial questions that could not be suppressed in the European metropoles. (9) The connection between the two assassinations was not lost on officials and the press at the time. The Egyptian Gazette, the organ of the British community in Egypt, complained:
   [O]f late the Anglophobe native journals have made a specialty
   of setting before their readers every detail they could get about
   the unrest in India ... when Sir Curzon-Wylie was murdered in
   London last summer, "al Liwa" the official organ of the Nationalist
   Party published a poem glorifying Dhingra, his murderer. (10)


For his part, Wardani, a pharmacist and graduate of the University of Lausanne, had joined the Nationalist Watani party on his return from Europe. (11) As Ghali exited the Ministry of Justice, Wardani shot the Prime Minister six rimes and made no effort to escape. He was apprehended immediately, confessed to the crime and, ultimately, sentenced to death. Wardani maintained he had acted alone and described his assassination of Ghali as a "patriotic act." (12) Nevertheless, the subsequent investigation into the assassination revealed that Wardani also belonged to a secret society, Jam 'iyyat al-Tadamun al-Akhawi the Society of Brotherly Solidarity. The society was composed of lawyers, engineers, and teachers and it was at the time of Wardani's joining, in 1907, that the society began to assume a political character. A company was established--the Brotherly Solidarity Company --so that the funds collected would be spent on promoting the various activities of the Society, including charitable works, such as helping orphans and educating the poor. (13) The members themselves were expected to make contributions. The Society had formally drawn up a programme of action and in 1909 these plans began to be executed with the establishment of branches of the Society in almost every school and ministry. (14)

With the murder of Ghali, political violence increasingly became a feature of Egyptian political life. Other attempts on the lives of Egyptian ministers included: Sultan Husayn Kamil in July 1915; Ibrahim Pasha Fathi, Minister of Waqfs, (15) who had encouraged the denunciation of the Society of Brotherly Solidarity, in 1916; and Yusuf Pasha Wahba, Finance Minister in Muhammad Sa'id's Cabinet and later Premier. (16) course, British officials did not escape this political violence. Attempts were carried out by a particular group of students and workmen, of whom the Enayat brothers were the most notorious. Their British victims included: Aldred Brown, Controller-General at the Central Administration in the Ministry of Education, on 18 February 1922; Bimbashi Cave, Deputy Commandant in the Cairo Police, in May 1922; Colonel Piggott, Paymaster-General of the British army, in July 1922; Thomas Brown, responsible for the horticultural section at the Ministry of Agriculture, in August 1922; and, W.N. Robson, professor at the School of Law, on 27 December 1922. (17)

Prior to the First World War, the Society of Brotherly Solidarity demonstrated a clearly organised and far-reaching urban association encompassing well-defined roles for its members prior to the First World War. Although the Foreign Office clearly grasped the intellectual composition of the Society, it fundamentally underestimated the level of organisation and capability at its disposal. While the Foreign Office was keen to emphasise the role the First World War and its aftermath played in pushing nationalism forward by promoting Egyptian political ideas, (18) it failed to account for the pre-war political violence and how the nationalist movement was gaining its own momentum even before the First World War. This was a fatal mistake considering the violent upheaval of the March 1919 revolution. (19)

III. The Assassination of Sir Lee Stack

Despite the establishment of the Special Section within the Public Security Department and the best efforts of the police, (20) Sir Lee Stack, Sirdar and Governor-General of the Sudan, was attacked on 19 November 1924. Stack was travelling to the Residency to attend a small luncheon party for the visiting former liberal Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith. The Sirdar was travelling with his aide-de-camp and chauffeur, when they were ambushed by several assailants--dressed as effendis and armed with revolvers--near the Ministry of Education at about 1:30 pm. According to reports, a bomb, which failed to detonate, was thrown at the car, followed by at least thirty shots fired at the car. Stack received three wounds in the hand, leg and abdomen and although his chauffeur was also hit in the leg and arm he managed to drive to the Residency. The assailants escaped by taxi. (21)

The Residency was first alerted when Archibald Clark Kerr, Counsellor to the Residency, preparing to leave for lunch at home, heard a commotion in the hallway. As he went out to investigate, the wounded Sirdar and his chauffeur confronted him. Clark Kerr saw to it that Stack was quickly made comfortable on the sofa in the drawing room and the guests alerted. However, Clark Kerr complained that "as seems inevitable on such occasions here, at the moment when important decisions had to be taken HC [Allenby] was emphatically under the influence of gin, [Sir Sheldon] Amos [Judicial Advisor], was still more alcoholic and [Sir Reginald] Patterson [Financial Adviser], was grumpy drunk." (22) Clark Kerr immediately realised the political significance this incident would have in Britain, Egypt, and the Sudan. "It is quite clear that we can hold our hand no longer. We shall be obliged to take vigorous action against Zaghlul, for morally be and his government are responsible and they cannot be allowed to escape responsibility." (23) Clark Kerr wanted to act immediately but certainly felt constrained by having to consult with the Foreign Office first. He believed that vigorous action would secure the greatest advantage for Britain.

About an hour after the crime, Saad Zaghlul, Premier and leader of the Nationalist Wafd Party, called at the Residency. According to Allenby "he had every appearance of being horror struck and seemed unable to express himself coherently." (24) The Grand Chamberlain, ministers, ex-ministers, notables, and officers of the Egyptian army quickly followed Zaghlul. London was immediately informed of the attack, but what is interesting to note is that before Stack died, Allenby had already telegraphed London a list of demands to be presented to the Egyptian government for Cabinet approval. These included: an apology; the apprehension and punishment of the assailants; the payment of a large indemnity; the withdrawal from the Sudan of all Egyptian officers and purely Egyptian units of the Egyptian army; the consent of the Egyptian government to the increase, as need arose, of the land to be irrigated under the Gezira irrigation scheme; (25) the revision, in accordance with British wishes, of the rules and conditions governing foreign officials within the Egyptian Government; and the maintenance of traditional powers and privileges of the Judicial and Financial Adviser posts. Allenby added that if the Egyptian Government failed to comply, Britain would "take appropriate action to safeguard their interests in Egypt and the Sudan." (26) Stack died of his wounds the following night.

To Allenby, the attack on Stack was the final straw in a period of increasing violence against the British community in spite of extra precautions and increased police patrols in Cairo. Allenby himself was coming under mounting pressure from the British community to reassert order and halt this violence. (27) As a result, Allenby believed that the demands should be made "without delay." (28) In Allenby's opinion, Zaghlul and the Wafd were the chief culprits of this upsurge in violence. "The spirit of indiscipline and hatred which the present Egyptian Government have incited by public speeches and through the activities of the Wafd cannot but be regarded as contributory to the crime." (29) Allenby wanted the consequences of this political violence to be brought home to Zaghlul's ministry. "I do not know whether Zaghlul will resign or not, but if he does he should be given by us grounds to do so, which will be in the eyes of the world a signal proof of his incapacity and failure to conduct the affairs of the country. My object has been to make demands consonant with the present and not with a future Ministry." (30) Stack's assassination therefore provided the incident for a suppression that was already in train and the genesis of Allenby's demands must be seen within the wider context of Britain's position both in Egypt and the Sudan.

Ever since Britain's declaration of a Protectorate over Egypt at the outset of the First World War both Sir Reginald Wingate, as Governor-General of the Sudan and Sirdar of the Egyptian Army between 1899-1916 and as High Commissioner in Egypt between 1917-19, and Stack as his successor in the Sudan, had advocated the termination of the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium agreement and the establishment of direct British rule in the Sudan. In fact, the growing nationalist movement at the end of the war made this option appear even more desirable. Since the Foreign Office refused to sanction a definite break between Egypt and the Sudan in 1919, a policy towards a political, financial, and military de-Egyptianisation of the Sudan was introduced. Viewed from both Cairo and Khartoum, Stack's assassination was seen as a culmination of intensive Egyptian-inspired, anti-British propaganda and subversion. As a result, Allenby's demands were not simply a knee-jerk reaction by an embattled High Commissioner, but the culmination of the imperial administrator's policies that had been under discussion since the early days of the First World War.

In London, after the installation of Stanley Baldwin's second administration in the same month as Stack's assassination, (31) the government moved swiftly, agreeing with Allenby's calls for decisive action and his assessment of the role played by Zaghlul. Austen Chamberlain, the Foreign Secretary, generally agreed with Allenby and emphasised Britain's object of "completely ... separat[ing] the military forces of Egypt from those of the Sudan." (32) The Cabinet instructed Allenby to prepare a communication along the lines of Chamberlain's response. Once approved by the Cabinet, Chamberlain would publish it in Britain simultaneously with its presentation to the Egyptian Government.

IV. A growing schism between London and Cairo

However, a divergence of opinion between Chamberlain and his High Commissioner began to emerge. Although Allenby saw the payment of an indemnity as an important part of the British demands, the Foreign Secretary was unconvinced. "Payment of an indemnity seems to be the least part of reparation to be expected." (33) Even after the Sirdar's death, Chamberlain instructed Allenby to omit anything relating to the cash indemnity. "The reparation required by HMG is the adoption of such measures as will protect our officers and interests for the future against the incitements and crimes of the past." (34) Allenby disagreed, however, stating that although it may seem undignified, a heavy fine should be imposed. "I have increased my proposed figure to half a million [sterling]. Even a million might be preferable. This is the sort of humiliation which is understood here." (35)

Allenby and Chamberlain also disagreed over the proposed increase in irrigation at Gezira. While Chamberlain proposed the appointment of an Egyptian member to a commission established to examine the possibility of extending the area of irrigation provided by the Nile, Allenby perceived it to be inadequate. "It secures the object but does not produce the moral effect." (36) Instead, Allenby recommended that the demand read: "Consent to the increase of the irrigated area in the Sudan as need may arise." (37) Allenby believed that "without the inclusion of these two demands the force of the communication would be vastly impaired." The High Commissioner continued:
   The reasons for our Egyptian policy have been so liable to
   misunderstandings by vain and ignorant minds, and we have during
   the last few months been so far obliged to hold our hand and
   apparently acquiesce in breaches of the status quo, that we must
   not fail to use fully this opportunity to bring Egypt to her
   senses, to assert our power to harm her, and to stigmatise the
   regime of the present Government. (38)


Allenby clearly felt that the failed treaty negotiations between Zaghlul and Ramsay MacDonald's Labour government between September and October 1924 had done much damage to the Residency's and, by extension, to Britain's prestige within Egypt. (39)

Whatever the disagreements over the wording of the communication, it was understood by all that time was of the essence. Indeed, Wasey Sterry, Acting Governor-General of the Sudan, emphasised that:
   the state of public feeling is such that nothing but immediate,
   firm and drastic action as regards the Sudan will be understood
   here. Any parlaying or delay would create an impression which time
   would never eradicate. The symbol of Egyptian part of control is
   [the] Egyptian flag which flies on all Army and Government
   buildings, and as long as it remains there native opinion
   --especially in the Provinces--will be doubtful of our
   determination to see this matter through in [the] only way that
   appears to be consonant with national dignity. (40)


Allenby expressed his wish to present the demands immediately after Stack's funeral. Thus, not only did Allenby fail to concur with the proposals made by the Foreign Office and approved by the Cabinet, but he also proceeded to send to Zaghlul on 22 November his list of demands prior to securing Cabinet approval as clearly instructed. In presenting these demands Allenby was accompanied by Clark Kerr and was escorted by a full regiment of cavalry through the streets of Cairo to the offices of the Council of Ministers to create a "striking spectacle." (41)

Chamberlain was understandably perturbed by Allenby's actions. All the more so when the Foreign Office had emphasised to Allenby that while the British government appreciated the local considerations that influenced his draft communication, it was felt that:
   the importance of taking into consideration public opinion abroad
   and at home was so great that it outweighed the considerations
   which you urged and led them to confine the demands upon the
   Egyptian Government to those which could be shown to be no more
   than adequate reparation to the Sudan for the injury inflicted upon
   that country by Egypt. (42)


Chamberlain, with the Prime Minister's support, demanded an explanation. (43) It was made clear to Allenby that while the Cabinet would support his action already taken it "may be necessary for them [the Cabinet] after the immediate crisis is over to restate their position." (44) In his defence, Allenby emphasised the importance of acting swiftly and decisively. "Three complete days had already elapsed after the commission of the outrage, without any public sign from His Majesty's Government.... Any delay after that [Sir Lee Stack's funeral] would inevitably be interpreted as indicating hesitation." (45) Furthermore, Allenby asserted that time was running out as:

1. It was necessary to act upon Zaghlul personally before he had had further time to consider his position, and possibly to resign;

2. Egyptian opinion was prepared for severe measures, but was likely very rapidly to become less so as the first shock of the murder passed off; and

3. the foreign colonies were very much excited, and were being increasingly worked up by the foreign press. There was reason to apprehend the possibility of European manifestations hostile both to Egyptians and to His Majesty's Government. The Italians had already organised an unofficial defence force. (46)

Allenby had the full support of Clark Kerr in the essence and timing of these demands: "we must do something that will strike the public mind in a signal way." (47) Allenby was also under increasing pressure to act from Acting Governor-General Sir Wasey Sterry in Khartoum. According to Sterry, a large representative delegation of sheikhs, merchants, kadis, and ulema insisted that the British must make a clean cut. "If we do not clear out the Egyptians and their flag the only possible inference is that we are not strong enough." (48)

While the exchange of opinions continued between the Residency and London, Zaghlul replied to Allenby's demands. Although expressing the Egyptian government's horror at the murder of the Sirdar, Zaghlul maintained the innocence of his government in encouraging political dissent "since it has, in claiming the rights of the country, always invoked and proclaimed the use of legal and peaceful methods and has never had any contact whatsoever with organisations which advocate the use of violence." (49) As an act of good faith the Egyptian Government accepted the first four demands. Zaghlul rejected the demand to evacuate the Sudan as it was perceived as a modification of the status quo and in direct conflict with Article 46 of the Egyptian Constitution, whereby the King occupied the position of Supreme Commander of the Army. Zaghlul maintained that any increase in the irrigation area at Gezira was premature and agreement could be reached by further discussion. Finally, it was emphasised that the last demand concerning the position of foreign officials was determined by diplomatic agreements, which could not be modified without the intervention of the Egyptian Parliament. (50)

Allenby's response was immediate and unequivocal. Without consulting his superiors, he informed Zaghlul that instructions were being sent to the Sudan to effect the withdrawal of Egyptian officers and units, and that the British were at liberty to increase the irrigated area at Gezira from 300,000 feddans to an unlimited size as the need arose. (51) On communicating Zaghlul's response to Chamberlain and the steps he had already taken to bring the Egyptian government to heel, Allenby proposed three further measures to gain Egyptian acquiescence concerning foreign officials and the protection of foreign interests. These were: a display of military might at Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, and Suez coupled with the seizure of tobacco customs to provide a source of revenue; the rupture of diplomatic relations; and, if another British. or foreign resident was murdered, hostages would be taken and shot if the violence continued. "This is repugnant but ... it is the only sure way of stopping murders.... If only to avoid the danger of the foreign colonies taking matters into their own hands." (52)

Allenby requested an urgent reply since he had learned that Zaghlul's resignation would be accepted by the King of Egypt and for "political reasons I am especially desirous to break offrelations before it is accepted and resume them with [the] new Government." (53) Without waiting for Chamberlain's response, Allenby ordered the immediate seizure and occupation of the Alexandria customs on 24 November. Zaghlul's resignation was accepted on the same day.

The Foreign Office was understandably alarmed at the steps that the High Commissioner proposed, which appeared as rash and hasty. Indeed, Chamberlain was disturbed by Allenby's disregard for protocol, especially after discovering from Reuters reports that the Alexandria customs had been occupied without giving Chamberlain the opportunity to reply: "I leave to you who are on the spot fullest discretion as to [the] measure required to preserve order ... but I must insist that political measures of grave import not affecting the internal situation of Egypt alone shall not be undertaken till I have approved them." (54) Chamberlain stated that he did not perceive any advantage in the rupture of diplomatic relations especially if they were to be immediately resumed with another ministry. The Foreign Secretary also rejected any plans for the taking of hostages warning that "it is a measure so repugnant to British traditions that only in the last extremity of all would public opinion here and in the British Dominions support you." (55) Indeed, Chamberlain reminded Allenby that the situation in Egypt was watched closely by foreign powers, a concern that was only heightened by the hostile outcry in some quarters of the French press against the "brutal Imperialism which recalls the worst days of Lord Curzon." (56) Both the Journal des Debats and Le Temps questioned the wisdom of coercion and argued that in the long run "nothing would be more dangerous than a permanent centre of discontent in Egypt, and that any over-hasty action should be avoided." (57)

Britain's actions had also roused the wrath of the Third International (Comintern) in Moscow, which issued a manifesto to all workers denouncing "the Conservative Government of England, which has begun its active career with a predatory attack on Egypt and the Sudan," (58) Moreover, it was reported that a "Hands off Egypt" movement had emerged in the Soviet Union with mass meetings of protest being organised, particularly in Muslim districts, such as the Crimean Republic. (59)

On the domestic front, the outgoing Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, sympathised with Chamberlain's position, but believed that the crisis could have been managed a little more carefully, thereby avoiding any lessening of British prestige in the eyes of the world. (60) "The democratic genius and experience of Labour would have led it to handle the situation so that an agreement would have been issued and not a successful ultimatum." (61) Moreover, he regretted the inclusion of the extension of the Gezira scheme within the ultimatum, believing it to be unnecessary, a point that the head of the Egyptian Department at the Foreign Office, John Murray, emphasised since Allenby had ignored British government instructions. Nevertheless, MacDonald condemned Zagblul's uncompromising attitude and admitted that Egypt was deliberately hampering the British government in the Sudan:
   Every Egyptian officer was tending to become a centre of propaganda
   for the destruction of law and administration in the Sudan. That
   could not go on. It was absolutely impossible for Britain to agree
   to Egypt treating the Sudan as though it was her own property,
   because it was not. If Egypt did not care to carry on the joint
   trusteeship, the time would have to come sooner or later when we
   should have had to say to Egypt: "Really, if you cannot help us,
   you must go." (62)


As a result of this position and as a way to place Britain's position in the Sudan on a firm footing in the eyes of the world, MacDonald suggested asking the League of Nations for a mandate over the Sudan and thereby Britain would remain responsible for the administration. This was not a new suggestion to the Foreign Office and contained much to recommend it. As Murray minuted:
   A mandate would exactly define our position as trustees which is
   the one which we profess to hold towards the Sudanese. It would be
   a solace to those politically minded elements in the Sudan who are
   already beginning to think, if not talk, about "the Sudan for the
   Sudanese." Though it would be a bitter disappointment to Egyptian
   imperialism, it would at least give the material guarantee of
   League supervision over the irrigation policy of the Sudan
   Government. (63)


However, the problem was how to square a British mandate with the continued existence of the 1899 Agreement. Sir William Tyrrell, Assistant Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, and Chamberlain both shared this concern, with the latter minuting: "I am not disposed to invite interference in any form." (64) This point was emphasised in Chamberlain's speech to the newly elected Non-Conformist Unionist League MPs on 3 December. (65)

The Cabinet itself echoed Chamberlain's misgivings and its lack of confidence in Allenby was illustrated in its authorisation of the High Commissioner to show Herbert Asquith, who was staying at the Cairo Residency, all communications and to keep him fully informed. More significantly, the Cabinet ordered the appointment of the diplomat Nevile Henderson, who was a friend of Austen Chamberlain's, to Allenby's staff. He would be able to explain the views of the British government, thereby overcoming the difficulty of keeping Allenby informed of the Cabinet's views on a day-to-day basis by telegram alone. (66)

Henderson's appointment was announced by the Foreign Office without any prior consultation over his role or the nature of his mission with Allenby. (67) Chamberlain declared that he had the fullest confidence in Henderson: "He is an official of exceptional experience, and I have explained to him verbally with a completeness which is not possible in telegraphic communication the objects at which His Majesty's Government are aiming and the difficulties which they wish to avoid." (68) In reality, this was far from the truth. Henderson had actually been "recalled hurriedly from holiday, had no prior knowledge or experience of Egypt, and had only had a mere half-hour briefing from Austen Chamberlain before being packed off to Egypt." (69) According to Walford Selby, Principal Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary, and writing retrospectively in 1950, it was Tyrrell's comment to Chamberlain that Allenby was being "badly advised" that precipitated the despatch of Henderson in order to "strengthen" Allenby's staff. Selby notes that both he and Murray were dismayed at Tyrrell's comment. "Neither Mr Murray nor I felt it was the moment to give any such warning to Sir Austen. I made this clear to Sir William with some vigour, but the damage had been done." (70) At Henderson's appointment Selby later commented that:
   Here I blundered: I should have resigned knowing all I did of
   Allenby's loyalty to those who served him. Instead I allowed myself
   to be party to sending out Mr Nevile Henderson over Mr Clark Kerr's
   head. It is an action I have ever regretted, since the decision of
   the Cabinet precipitated Lord Allenby's resignation which he
   refused to withdraw unless Sir Austen would agree to withdraw Mr
   Henderson. This Sir Austen, backed by [Eyre] Crowe and Tyrrell,
   refused to do, despite my subsequent entreaties. (71)


It was obviously hoped that Henderson's presence could be used to rein in the errant High Commissioner.

Initially, Allenby failed to grasp the significance of Henderson's imminent arrival. The appointment of Henderson as Minister Plenipotentiary meant that he ranked alongside Allenby as High Commissioner, effectively demoting Clark Kerr to number three at the Residency. Possibly at the prompting of Clark Kerr himself, Allenby sought reassurance from London that Henderson was "not intended to supersede my Counsellor, in whom, as in the other members of my staff, I have complete confidence." (72) However, upon further reflection on the ramifications of Henderson's appointment, coupled with Chamberlain's rather blunt reply, the unsettled Allenby began to appreciate the impact upon his own position. (73) Allenby complained that appointing Henderson as Minister Plenipotentiary had been perceived as "amounting to my practical supersession, [and] has seriously weakened my position." (74) Also mindful of how his own appointment as Special High Commissioner five years earlier had had the effect of ousting Sir Reginald Wingate, Allenby requested that a public announcement be made, without delay, stating that Henderson was coming solely for the purpose of discussing the situation and facilitating the exchange of views between Cairo and London and that he would leave within a week. (75)

Chamberlain's response was unequivocal. He assured Allenby of the "fullest measure of support," but he also stated that "I have my own responsibility which you must allow me to discharge. In no circumstances can I allow arrangements deliberately made after careful consideration to be questioned." (76) Thereafter a flurry of telegrams ensued between Allenby and Chamberlain. Allenby consistently complained that Chamberlain's ill-considered actions had "a deplorable effect" on his position within Egypt. (77) Since it was clear that he no longer enjoyed the confidence of the British government, Allenby made it clear that, as soon as circumstances permitted, he wished to resign. (78) In response, Chamberlain tried to explain that Henderson merely filled an existing vacancy at the Residency following the 1923 departure of Ernest Scott, Minister Plenipotentiary, and assured Allenby that "we have given and will continue to give you the fullest support in dealing with this critical situation." (79)

The Foreign Secretary's failure to grasp the unease created at the Residency and the effect Henderson's appointment would have upon Allenby's position in Egypt was either a gross misjudgement, or a firm reprimand for blatantly disobeying Foreign Office and Cabinet instructions. The furore certainly did not go unnoticed by Chamberlain's cabinet colleagues. Winston Churchill, Chancellor of the Exchequer, complained to Lord Birkenhead, Secretary of State for India, that "Austen ... has sent exactly the wrong answer and as usual is making the heaviest weather over a personal point." (80) In Egypt, Henderson's appointment was interpreted as showing that something was "going on behind the scenes in England and in Egypt." (81) Newspapers, such as al-Balagh, the chief organ of the Zaghlulist party, speculated that the appointment was either in preparation for official negotiations with the new ministry, which in reality had been created to conclude a secret treaty, or for mounting opposition to Allenby's policy in England with Henderson sent as a check on the High Commissioner's actions. (82)

Chamberlain repeatedly attempted to dissuade Allenby from resigning but his refusal to make a decision on the duration of Henderson's stay continued to frustrate Allenby:
   Either you have confidence in me or you have not. Since you have
   made a striking appointment to my staff in the midst of a crisis
   without consulting me, and published it without giving me an
   opportunity of expressing my opinion, I presume you have not. It is
   therefore my duty to resign. You must know that in a country like
   this the only.interpretation of such an appointment is infirmity of
   purpose and this at such a moment is disastrous. (83)


Allenby's position was clear. He even interpreted the Egyptian Cabinet's hesitation over the acceptance of Clause VII of the ultimatum as proof of the difficulties caused by Henderson's appointment. (84) Chamberlain, however, remained resolute:
   The ungrudging support given to you by His Majesty's Government,
   even when you had acted contrary to my instructions that the terms
   of the declaration must be approved by them before presentation to
   Zaghlul, does not justify your reiterated allegations that they
   have not given you their confidence. (85)


The uncompromising stance of both Chamberlain and Allenby left the Foreign Secretary no other alternative but to agree with regret, on 29 November 1924, to pass on Allenby's resignation to the Cabinet for consideration. According to Clark Kerr, "what happened was that HM Government lost their heads and panicked and discovered too late that we have had the situation well in hand and then they were too small minded to undo the foolish thing they have done." (86)

Upon Henderson's disembarkation at Alexandria and his arrival in Cairo in early December, he received a somewhat frosty reception. "Talk about the cook's hair in the consomme: If she had moulted entirely into the soup it would scarcely have been as unwelcome as my arrival in Cairo." (87) However, Chamberlain's hope that Henderson would impress the views of the Foreign Office upon the Residency was quickly scotched once Henderson and Allenby had cleared the air. Indeed, Henderson agreed that his appointment had created an "unfortunate impression and effect here.... Although that phase is already passing out of its acute form, its taint will remain for a long while and I much doubt if it will ever pass altogether, unless and until I once more fade off the stage here." (88) In fact, Henderson believed that three months would be sufficient as "Lord Allenby will persist in his resignation--unless I go [and] Lord Allenby is from certain points of view ... ideally suited to this post. Therefore it is in the public interest to keep him here." (89)

Despite Henderson's appointment, Allenby was once again forced to justify his actions and, once again, he used the issue of timing as his reason. With Zaghlul's resignation imminent, Allenby believed that it was of the "highest importance for the future position here that the fullest possible measure of odium should fall upon his Ministry." (90) Indeed, this tactic appeared to have had the desired effect as The Times' correspondent reported: "the promptness with which Great Britain has acted, together with the indications that the necessary force is at hand, has greatly impressed the Egyptians and is inducing the conviction that Britain now means business." (91)

Although the High Commissioner expressed regret that circumstances compelled him to take action before receiving Chamberlain's instructions, Allenby felt that Zaghlul "should have the least possible ground for claiming to have defied His Majesty's Government." (92) In support of Allenby's actions Lord Lloyd, who would ultimately succeed Allenby as High Commissioner, later commented that the High Commissioner was the only person who could accurately estimate the degree of urgency:
   The courage and capacity for swift decision which he displayed were
   beyond praise: and these are qualities which are apt to be
   undervalued by those in the safe and sequestered atmosphere of
   Whitehall, who have never experienced the heat and burden of
   Egyptian conditions, or felt the strain of desperate issues
   encountered daily face to face. (93)


Chamberlain upheld Allenby's action at Alexandria Customs, but he reminded his High Commissioner that Britain's policy was to make British authority secure in the Sudan and to interfere as little as possible in Egypt with the Egyptian government taking responsibility over measures required to meet the British government's demands. (94)

Zaghlul announced his resignation to the Chamber of Deputies on the evening of 24 November. The poisoned chalice was now handed to Ahmed Ziwar Pasha, who assured Allenby of his "intention to co-operate with us [Britain], and ... to take strenuously in hand public security and the students." (95) Allenby did not waste any time in pushing forward Britain's three remaining demands and proposed two alternatives. Firstly, he suggested that Britain should formulate its complete policy with regard to Egypt and the Sudan, which would be published simultaneously in Cairo and London. His second proposal suggested negotiation on each point. (96) Chamberlain favoured the latter option as it was least likely to arouse Zaghlulist opposition and "having at last secured a reasonably well-disposed Egyptian Government it is to our interest to make compliance by them as easy as possible." (97) It is interesting to note that while Chamberlain reminded Allenby to bear in mind the political situation at home and abroad, he also understood the value and sway that Allenby's opinion held: "I desire however to be guided by your advice in my choice of the course to be pursued, for you are in the best position to judge the probable effect of either on our prospects of succeeding in Cairo." (98) Thus, while Chamberlain probably had doubts over Allenby's abilities in undertaking delicate diplomatic manoeuvres, he still held confidence in the High Commissioner's ability to extract the best deal for Britain. Allenby presented the Egyptian government with the demands necessary to ensure the evacuation of the Alexandria Customs. (99) On the evening of 30 November 1924, the assent of the Egyptian government was secured. (100)

Once Henderson arrived in Cairo in December and had familiarised himself with all the facts, he fully supported Allenby's ultimatum to Zaghlul, stating that "Lord Allenby did the only thing possible." (101) This view was also shared by Asquith. Henderson even went so far as to say that the full urgency of handing the ultimatum to Zaghlul before he declared his resignation was not fully appreciated by the Cabinet, perhaps because the Residency had not been sufficiently clear in their telegrams. Although he was at pains to point out that "he need not have inserted some of clauses [sic] which he (or his staff) knew would be unwelcome to HMG." (102)

Henderson and Asquith differed with Allenby on only two points. Firstly, the text of Allenby's ultimatum in respect of the 500,000 [pounds sterling] fine and, secondly, the tendency to confuse the demands resulting directly from the crime and the demands which could not logically be regarded as satisfactory reparation for the crime. These were minor criticisms and, in fact, Henderson actually praised Allenby's wording of the Gezira irrigation clause, "since it has in it a menace which the Egyptian can understand as well as a basis for a useful concession." (103)

Henderson's praise of the Residency's handling of the assassination undoubtedly came as a surprise to the Foreign Office, especially Henderson's expression of confidence in Clark Kerr and the belief that "it is in the best interests of the public to keep him [Kerr] here ... [he] knows the situation inside out and is in close personal touch with all the actors on the Cairo stage." (104) However, this was all to no avail. Allenby stuck to his resignation and in March 1925, with Henderson still in post, Clark Kerr was informed that he would be moved to a new posting, a transfer that he had already anticipated in December 1924. (105)

V. The Search for the Assassins

Meanwhile, the search for Stack's assailants continued. The key to unlocking this case was Muhammad Najib al-Hilbawi. In an attempt to solve political crimes in the past, the Cairo police had used student informers. However, attracted only by the prospect of a reward, many would provide five per cent accurate information and ninety-five per cent lies. Thus, the police decided to seek out a student or other person that could be bought or brought over to the British side: "someone who had become completely disillusioned as to the heroism or utility of these murders." (106) In 'this vein, Major Alexander George Ingram, Commandant of the Alexandria City Police, attempted to win over Hilbawi, who had previously thrown a bomb at Sultan Hussein in 1915. Originally sentenced to death, the Sultan reduced this to penal servitude for life. Despite his initial reticence, Hilbawi decided to become an informer due to an amnesty on political prisoners in late 1924 coupled with his disillusionment at his treatment at the hands of the nationalist movement.

Thomas Russell Pasha, Commandant of the Cairo City Police, was convinced, along with Ingram, that the only way to crack the case was to obtain a confession from the weakest link within the group. Abdel Fattah Enayat was perceived to be this weak link and thus an elaborate plan involving Hilbawi was hatched to ensnare Enayat and then break him down. Russell remarked that "a drowning man does not refuse a piece of thin string held out to him from a boat: he'd rather trust to that than nothing. I [Russell] decided to do the same till it broke." (107) The police already possessed a certain amount of evidence that linked the conspirators with the murder from the type of bullet used and their associated markings. The type of gun that made these markings on the outer cartridge case was found in the possession of the Enayats. Moreover, the tools that adapted the bullets to expand upon impact, known as "dum dums" and extracted from victims including the Sirdar, were found in the house of one of the assailants. As had been suspected, Abdel Fattah Enayat did prove to be the weak link: believing that a member of the murder gang, Mahmoud Ismail, had already confessed, Abdel Fattah followed by his brother, Abdel Hamid, and Mahmoud Rashid admitted their role in the Sirdar's murder. (108)

At the subsequent trial, nine assailants were prosecuted. The trial naturally attracted much press attention with detailed daily reports appearing in the newspapers. (109) The trial concluded on 1 June 1925 and Abdel Hamid Enayat, Abdel Fattah Enayat, Ibrahim Moussa, Mahmoud Rashid, Aly Ibrahim Mohammed, Raghib Hassan, Shafik Mansur, and Mahmoud Ismail were all sentenced to death. The taxi driver, Mahmoud Hassan Saleh was sentenced, to three years imprisonment with penal servitude. (110) However, following further confessions, the sentences were reviewed. Hughes, Chief Inspector of the Parquet, recommended that Abdel Fattah Enayat's sentence be reduced to lifetime imprisonment with penal servitude since it was his confession, judged to be true, that led to the whole gang being apprehended. It was hoped that clemency extended to a criminal--whose avowals have been full and accurate--would encourage similar confessions in future crimes. (111) Hughes added that he did not think that the commutation of the death penalty in the case of Abdel Fattah would be looked upon by the Egyptian public as a sign of weakness but rather as indicating that "we are just and not vindictive." (112)

For the remaining seven condemned to death, the executions took place on Sunday 23 August 1925, a date that was kept secret to avoid inflaming nationalist opinion. With the exception of Mansur and Hassan, all were steady and calm. R Graves, Acting Director-General of the Ministry of the Interior, commented: "The spirit of Islam is well brought out by the fact that not one of them uttered a word of regret for killing a Christian." (113) It is also worth noting that the question of possible implication in anti-British violence hung over other prominent Wafdists for years, such as Mahmud Fahmi al-Nuqrashi who, despite protests from the British government, was included in Mustafa al-Nahas Pasha's Wafdist Cabinet of January 1930. Incidentally, this appointment did represent a compromise since Ahmed Maher, also linked to Stack's assassination, was kept out of Nahas's Cabinet.

VI. Conclusion

In a mere eleven days, Britain achieved its goal of supremacy in the Sudan, an objective of the British Government since 1919. (114) At first glance, Britain's demands following the attack upon Stack certainly appear as a pretext for tightening the imperial noose around Egypt. Stack's assassination allowed British officials in Egypt to seize the opportunity to square the circle of discrediting the Egyptian nationalist movement and their growing demands for full independence vis-a-vis protecting British vital strategic interests in an era of retrenchment. Not only was Egypt unceremoniously evicted from its aspirations to expand south with the evacuation of Egyptian troops from the Sudan, but Zaghlul's resignation and Ziwar's complete acceptance of Allenby's demands meant that Egyptian nationalism was momentarily checked by the reassertion of British authority. Furthermore, British dominance was assured, for the time being at least, because its one trump card was control over the irrigation at Gezira and the latent threat this posed to Egyptian water supplies further up the Nile.

However, Allenby's reaction to Stack's assassination may also be viewed as expressing his increasing frustration at his inability to halt attacks upon pro-British Egyptian officials and British personnel. As a result of these compelling motives, it does appear that Allenby was directing Egyptian policy regardless of the British Cabinet or Foreign Office. From the exchanges between Chamberlain and Allenby, it emerges that London was playing catch-up with the actions undertaken by Allenby, with Chamberlain complaining that he "did keep me very short of information." (115) Allenby certainly did blatantly disregard instructions from London regardless, it seems, of public opinion at home or abroad. This obviously became such a concern for his political masters that Nevile Henderson was despatched to Cairo undoubtedly to rein in the errant High Commissioner. Nonetheless, Allenby's actions must be viewed within a wider context. His motives were clear: to reassert British authority, and to place as much responsibility as possible on Zaghlul and his nationalist associates for Stack's death in order to discredit the nationalist movement. (116) Moreover, it must be remembered that Chamberlain's reaction to Allenby's demands was in marked contrast to what both the Foreign Office and the men-on-the-spot had been preparing for under MacDonald. So, perhaps rather than perceiving Allenby as a High Commissioner being "out-of-control," he should be seen as more failing to appreciate the change in tack ushered in by Chamberlain.

Britain's actions over the murder of Sir Lee Stack were called into question in a number of quarters, not least in the Houses of Parliament. In defending himself, Chamberlain emphasised that the assassination was not an isolated incident but rather the "natural outcome of that campaign of hatred of Great Britain which had been fomented by Egyptian politicians, and which Zaghlul Pasha had singularly failed to discourage." (117) Thus, the British government was guided by two considerations when formulating its demands. Firstly, it was necessary to bring to an end the subversive activities that threatened to jeopardise peaceful progress in the Sudan. This conveniently included removing the restriction over irrigation at Gezira, an action that was defended as being necessary to ensure the continued economic development of the Sudan. In other words, it shored up Britain's dominant position by providing a bulwark against any ideas of Egyptian nationalist expansionism within the Sudan. Secondly, the British government maintained that the demands took into consideration "the machinery devised in 1922 for the protection of foreign interests." (118) In practice, this meant that foreign officials in the Egyptian service "should be protected from acts of spite and vindictiveness ... [and] that the pensions of retired officials should be protected against confiscation by the manipulation of depreciation of the Egyptian currency." (119)

Cutting off the head of Egyptian nationalism and alienating those who had any nationalist credentials and the support of the people meant that Britain ensured continued Wafd popularity. It may also be reasonably argued that the British ultimatum of November 1924 that forced the resignation of the first popularly-elected Egyptian government was blatant interference in the newly-independent Egypt's political process. Such intervention arguably helped to delegitimise the parliamentary system in the eyes of many Egyptians and served only to embitter Egyptian politics thereafter. These factors, coupled with a lack of Wafd representation in the Egyptian government, compromised any chance of reaching a settlement on the reserved points of 1922 until 1936, and then also under a set of very different international circumstances. This was the last time that Britain could act with such impunity--the last roar of an enfeebled British lion. The next generation of Egyptian nationalists would be much more difficult to restrain.

Jayne L. Gifford, Phi). (2011) in History, University of the West of England, is a Lecturer in Humanities at the University of East Anglia. Her interests lie primarily in the British response to nationalism in the Middle East during the interwar period.

(1) S. Morewood, "Prelude to the Suez Crisis," in S. Smith (ed.), Reassessing Suez 1956. New Perspectives on the Crisis and its Aftermath (Hampshire, 2008), p. 14.

(2) K. Kyle, Suez (London, 1991), p. 7.

(3) See T.G. Otte and K. Neilson (eds), Railways and International Politics. Paths of Empire, 1848-1945 (Kings Lynn and Abingdon, 2006); R. Higham, Britain's Imperial Air Routes, 1918 to 1939: The Story of Britain's Overseas Airlines (London, 1960); and G. Pirie, Air Empire. British Imperial Civil Aviation 1919-1939 (Manchester, 2009).

(4) See K. Jeffery, The British Army and the Crisis of Empire (Manchester, 1984); R.J. Popplewell, Intelligence and Imperial Defence: British Intelligence and the Defence of the Indian Empire, 1904-1924 (London, 1995); C. Townshend, Britain's Civil Wars: Counterinsurgency in the Twentieth Century (London, 1986); M. Thomas, Empires of Intelligence: Security Services and Colonial Disorder after 1914 (London, 2008).

(5) The recognition of Egypt as an independent state was conceded unilaterally under these terms:

(1). The British Protectorate over Egypt is terminated, and Egypt is declared to be an independent sovereign state.

(2). So soon as the Government of His Highness shall pass an Act of Indemnity with application to all inhabitants of Egypt, Martial Law as proclaimed on 2 November 1914 shall be withdrawn.

(3). The following matters are absolutely reserved to the discretion of His Majesty's Government until such time as it may be possible by free discussion and friendly accommodation on both sides to conclude agreements in regard thereto between His Majesty's Government and the Government of Egypt:

(a) The security of the communications of the British Empire in Egypt.

(b) The defence of Egypt against all foreign aggression or interference direct or indirect.

(e) The protection of foreign interests in Egypt and the protection of minorities.

(d) The Sudan.

(6) The Society of Vengeance is one such example. It was established during the Arabi Revolt in 1881 and Saad Zaghlul was alleged to have belonged to this group. M. Badrawi, Political Holence in Egypt, 1910-1925: Secret Societies, Plots and Assassinations (Surrey, 2000), p. 69. During 1920 a large trial was conducted against the Society. Twenty-seven members were charged with: conspiracy in attempting to depose the Sultan and the government; disseminating sedition; inciting murder; distributing arms; and assassinating the Sultan, his ministers and others. Four of the accused were acquitted, seven were sentenced to death, including Abd al-Rahman Fahmi, eleven were sentenced to thirty lashes and the remainder to various terms of penal servitude, imprisonment, and tines. Ernest Scott, Minister Plenipotentiary, to Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Lord Curzon, 10 October 1920, The National Archives [hereafter cited as TNA], FO 371/4987/12447. While these trials obviously represented police successes, the Foreign Office was often, unsurprisingly, far more sensitive to their wider implications. For example, concern was raised that the death sentence on Fahmi was likely to have political consequences at a time when Britain was attempting to redefine the Anglo-Egyptian relationship. See minute by Sir John Tilley, Assistant Under Secretary at the Foreign Office, 11 October 1920. TNA, FO 371/4987/12447. The Foreign Office therefore focussed upon the amelioration of the Anglo-Egyptian relationship. For a study on assassinations in Egypt between 1910-54, see D.M. Reid, "Political Assassination in Egypt, 1910-1954," The International Journal of African Historical Studies, 15 (1982), pp. 625-51.

(7) The Dinshaway incident occurred in a small village near Tanta in the Nile Delta. This village raised pigeons and, following a dispute in 1905, the British army was told that no one should shoot pigeons without the consent of the omedh [headman of a town or group of villages]. On 13 June 1906 a party of five British officers, an Egyptian policeman and an interpreter returned to the village at the invitation of the local landowner. The omedh was absent bur his deputy informed the party that they would have to go away from the village in order to shoot. They retired a few hundred yards and began shooting bur, at the same time, a threshing floor in the village caught fire. Already angered by the pigeon-shooting, the villagers also assumed that the sportsmen were responsible. As a result the villagers attacked the British officers in an attempt to take away their guns. The senior officer, a Major Pine-Coffin, ordered the others to surrender their guns in the hope of calming the situation, but in the ensuing scuffle a gun went off and wounded three men and a woman. The villagers now attacked more strongly using sticks and stones. Another officer, Captain Bull, who had been severely beaten went for help bur died of concussion and heatstroke just short of the army camp. An Egyptian fellah [Egyptian peasant], who had attempted to help him, was found by a party of British soldiers, who assumed that be had murdered Captain Bull and therefore beat him to death. It was a tragedy that had been caused primarily by British insensitivity and by subsequent misunderstanding on both sides. However, Lord Cromer, Consul-General of Egypt, and the overwhelming majority of the European community perceived the incident to be "one more symptom of the dangerous xenophobic fanaticism, fanned by nationalists, that was sweeping the countryside." P. Mansfield, The British in Egypt (New York, 1971), p. 168.

(8) Written confession of Shafik Mansur, "History of Secret Societies in Egypt," 18 June 1925, TNA, FO 141/503/6, part 2. A covering letter from Nevile Henderson, Minister Plenipotentiary at Cairo, to Austen Chamberlain, British Foreign Secretary, stated that the "police are satisfied from the information already in their possession that the substance of Shafik Mansur's written confession--except in so far as be describes his personal share in the various crimes--is accurate."

(9) Noor-Aiman I Khan, Egyptian-Indian Nationalist Collaboration and the British Empire (New York, 2011), p. 33. For a detailed examination of the assassination of Curzon-Wylie see Khan, pp. 33-40.

(10) Ibid., p. 42.

(11) For an in-depth examination of Wardani, see Badrawi, Political Violence, chapters two and three.

(12) Wardani considered Ghali to be a traitor to Egyptian national interests for a number of reasons: he signed the 1899 Anglo-Egyptian Condominium agreement, which asserted British control over the Sudan; be presided as a Native judge over the Dinshaway trials in 1906, at which be passed sentences that were perceived as unjustifiably harsh; he supported the renewal of the 1881 Press law that limited the freedom of the Press; and, recently, he supported the extension of the Suez Canal concession for a further fifty years. Ibid., p. 22.

(13) Ibid., p. 56.

(14) Ibid. Every branch was composed often members, one of whom was elected as its representative to the "Delegate's Committee." The Delegate's Committee was then divided into groups, out of which one person was elected by each group as their representative on the Executive Committee. Alongside the Executive Committee existed the "Fida'i" Committee of which Wardani was President. This Committee was composed of three members and was entrusted with the commission of outrages and other acts of violence. Complete secrecy shrouded the membership of the Fida'i Committee and they were only acquainted with the President and not the Executive Committee. Ibid., p. 66 and n.81, p. 77.

(15) This refers to endowments, usually relating largely to land and buildings.

(16) Written confession of Shafik Mansur, FO 141/503/6, part 2. Two types of bombs were used in these assassination attempts. The Egyptian bombs were tubular in shape and contained a small bottle filled with Picric acid and surrounded with explosive substances. They were very dangerous and liable to explode if inclined one way or other. British bombs were made by workmen who previously manufactured bombs for the military authorities during the war, and Mahmud Ismail purchased some from the British Army or the Bedouin tribes. Ismail also purchased firearms from Alexandria that were concealed at his house or elsewhere. The unstable nature of the bombs was demonstrated by the untimely death of Mustafa Effendi Hamdi, while practising bomb throwing in the mountains near Helwan. The bomb exploded in his hand and, despite the best efforts of his partner, Ahmed Bey Maher, he died of his injuries.

(17) Ibid.

(18) On 7 November 1918 a joint Anglo-French declaration stated that the "Allied war aim in the East was to establish national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the initiative and free choice of the indigenous populations." T.J. Paris, "British Middle East Policy-Making after the First World War: The Lawrentian and Wilsonian Schools," Historical Journal, 41 (1998), p. 775. Woodrow Wilson's commitment to national self-determination, the above Anglo-French declaration, and the rise in prices during the war were seen as the primary factors in the development of nationalism.

(19) For a discussion of the rise of Egyptian nationalism see A.J. Toynbee, The World after the Peace Conference: Being an Epilogue to the "History of the Peace Conference of Paris" and a Prologue to the Survey of International Affairs, 1920-23 (London, 1925); E. Kedourie, The Chatham House Version and other Middle Eastern Studies (Hanover, New Hampshire, and London, 1984); E. Monroe, Britain's Moment in the Middle East, 1914-71 (London, 1981); J. Darwin, Britain, Egypt and the Middle East. Imperial Policy in the Aftermath of War (Hong Kong, 1981); J. Jankowski and I. Gershoni, Rethinking Nationalism in the Arab Middle East (New York, 1997) and J. Jankowski and I. Gershoni, Redefining the Egyptian Nation, 1930-45 (Cambridge, 1995).

(20) The continued attacks upon Egyptian ministers and members of the British community compelled the Cairo authorities to examine the organisation of intelligence gathering locally within Egypt and the wider Middle East. Prior to the First World War the two offices that were chiefly concerned with supplying the Residency with political information were the Ministry of the Interior, through the Department of Public Security, and the Director of Sudan Intelligence (also known as the Sudan Agent), whose headquarters were in Cairo. The Public Security Department largely relied on the two city police forces of Cairo and Alexandria, but it was admitted that the Department was probably never strong enough to co-ordinate the work of the police properly and to utilise effectively the other sources of information available. The Director of Sudan Intelligence concentrated to a greater degree on the countries bordering Egypt. Since the war, however, the headquarters had been moved to Khartoum, and the office of the Sudan Agent in Cairo was no longer an intelligence office. During the war, General Staff Intelligence had not only acted as a central controlling authority of the police and other civil authorities in Egypt for intelligence purposes, but it was also the control centre in this respect for the whole area covered by the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF). By war's end, and the subsequent retrenchment of staff within the General Staff Intelligence at General Headquarters, nothing had been put in its place and therefore no adequate central control organisation existed for gathering civilian intelligence. Allenby to Curzon, 26 February 1920, doc 29, in P. Woodward (ed.), British Documents of Foreign Affairs. Reports and Papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print, Part II, Series G Africa, 1914-1939 (Washington DC, 1995).

As a consequence, and to meet the immediate intelligence need within Egypt, Allenby established a temporary section within the Public Security Department, which would co-ordinate the work of those local authorities, who were charged with the collection of political information and to deal with the movements or activities of a subversive nature within Egypt itself. See C.F. Ryder, "Report on the Special Section," 22 March 1922. TNA, FO 141/7993/7.

(21) Account of evidence of Messrs. Wade and Long, 25 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1. Also, The Daily Mail, 20 November 1924, P.D. Mulholland Papers, Sudan Archive, University of Durham. For a detailed report on how the assailants were apprehended, see file on the murder of Sir Lee Stack, "Report of the Cairo Special Branch," February 1925, 1/6 Thomas Russell Papers, St Anthony's College, Middle East Centre Archive (MECA), Oxford University; and G.H. Hughes, Chief Inspector, to Henderson, "Murder of the Late Sirdar. Execution of Death Sentences," 12 August 1925, FO 141/503/6, part 2. For detailed daily reports of the trial, see "al-Mokattam," 1925, 1/8 Russell Papers, MECA.

(22) Clark Kerr to his mother, 19 November 1924, Lord Inverchapel Papers, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. Also, Frank C. Madden, "Medical Report on the Condition of His Excellency the Sirdar Sir Lee Stack," 20 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(23) Clark Kerr to his mother, 19 November 1924, Inverchapel Papers, Bodleian Library.

(24) Allenby to Chamberlain, 19 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(25) The Gezira Scheme was an agricultural project in the Sudan that sought to increase the area under irrigation and thereby allow greater cultivation of the cotton crop. Of course, any proposal which used Nile waters for vast agricultural projects in the Sudan was of direct concern to Egyptians. The issue of water rights and how it could be used as a nationalist lever amongst the fellaheen had proved such a concern that Allenby had pledged in late 1919 and early 1920 that the Gezira Scheme would not irrigate any more than 300,000 feddans. (A feddan is a unit of land measurement; one feddan = 1.028 acres or 0.420 hectares). As Martin Daly points out, this was a "tactical error that was later to hobble the Sudan Government." M. Daly, Empire on the Nile: The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1898-1934 (Cambridge, 1986), p. 299. By placing the expansion of the scheme on his list of demands, Allenby was firstly extricating himself from this earlier error and, secondly, reminding Egyptians that Britain could starve Egypt of water if necessary.

(26) Allenby to Chamberlain, 19 November 1924, TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1. Once Egyptian officers and units had been evacuated, a Sudanese Defence Force would be created at the expense of the Egyptian Treasury. Allenby to Chamberlain, 20 November 1924, ibid.

(27) The growing nervousness and indignation of the British community manifested itself in a mass meeting at the beginning of January 1923 at the Shepherds Hotel in Cairo. It was attended by 1500 British residents to protest against the continued killing of British subjects, and the failure to detect and punish the criminals. Badrawi, Political Violence, p. 183.

(28) Allenby to Chamberlain, 20 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(29) Ibid. The Times' Cairo correspondent, Arthur Sidney Merton, repeated this view office Wafd. "The Wafd is, of course, at the root of all the trouble and ought to be dissolved as being an organisation detrimental to society and public security. It was originally founded for the purpose of supporting the national cause, but has degenerated into nothing but an instrument for the advancement of the interests of the members of its Executive Committee and their friends, and its propagandists are dangerous advocates of a policy of action....Seeing that Zaghlul Pasha is the head of this organisation he cannot escape responsibility for its activities, the more so as among many questionable appointments to office and nominations for seats in Parliament he has favoured two men who served sentences, one for trying to murder the late Sultan Husayn Kamil, the other for attempting the life of a former Prime Minister." The limes (London), 27 November 1924.

(30) Allenby to Chamberlain, 19 November 1924, TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(31) Richard Grayson argues that the "Middle East and North Africa were important to Chamberlain and the Foreign Office chiefly in so far as they affected relations with other powers." R.S. Grayson, Austen Chamberlain and the Commitment to Europe. British Foreign Policy, 1924-1929 (London and Portland, Oregon, 1997), p. 241. It was believed that "giving more weight to relations with European than with local countries was the most effective way of securing vital British interests." Ibid., p. 241.

(32) Chamberlain to Allenby, 20 November 1924. TNA, CAB 23/49, CM 61 (24).

(33) Ibid.

(34) Chamberlain to Allenby, 21 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(35) Allenby to Chamberlain, 21 November 1924. TNA, FQ 141/502/2, part 1.

(36) Ibid.

(37) Allenby to Chamberlain, 21 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(38) Ibid.

(39) Within Egypt, MacDonald's administration largely followed existing Conservative policies. J. Shepherd, "A Gentleman at the Foreign Office: Influences shaping Ramsay MacDonald's Internationalism in 1924," in P. Copthorn and J. Davis (eds.), The British Labour Party and the Wider World. Domestic Problems, Internationalism and Foreign Policy (New York, 2008), p. 45. This view is echoed in J. Shepherd and K. Laybourn, Britain's First Labour Government (Basingstoke, 2006), pp. 152-53.

(40) Khartoum to Allenby, 21 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(41) The Times (London), 24 November 1924.

(42) Foreign Office to Allenby, 22 November 1924, TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(43) Chamberlain to Allenby, 22 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(44) Ibid. See also, Conference of Ministers, 22 November 1924. TNA, CAB 23/49. Indeed, the Colonial Office immediately communicated to the Dominions that Allenby's actions were unilateral: "the demand addressed by Lord Allenby to the Egyptian Government today [22 November] had not been previously authorised by the Cabinet." Leo Amery to the Dominion Governments, 24 November 1924. TNA. FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(45) Allenby to Foreign Office, 23 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(46) Ibid.

(47) Clark Kerr to his mother, 21 November 1924, Inverchapel Papers, Bodleian Library.

(48) Acting Governor-General Sir Wasey Sterry to Allenby, 22 November 1924, TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(49) Zaghlul to Allenby, 23 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(50) Ibid.

(51) Allenby to Zaghlul, 23 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2.

(52) Ibid.

(53) Ibid.

(54) Chamberlain to Allenby, 24 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2.

(55) Ibid.

(56) The Times (London), 24 November 1924.

(57) Ibid. The Italian newspapers Messagero and Nuovo Presse pointed out that Britain's action in Egypt was a blow to the League of Nations. Sir George Graham, British Ambassador at Rome, to Foreign Office, 26 November 1924. TNA, FO 371/10073/10378.

(58) The Times (London), 27 December 1924.

(59) Ibid.

(60) MacDonald's first Labour minority government had been ousted from office after just nine months in the General Election of 29 October 1924 following a complicated debacle involving Labour's Attorney-General and J.R. Campbell, editor of the Left wing Workers" Weekly. The publication of the Zinoviev letter by the Daily Mail has also been argued to have done much damage to Labour electoral fortunes. While in office, MacDonald held the portfolio of Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. See R. Vickers, The Labour Party and the World, volume 1: The Evolution of Labour's Foreign Policy 1900-1951 (Manchester, 2004), pp. 89-90.

(61) The Times (London), "Mr MacDonald on the Ultimatum," 29 November 1924.

(62) Ibid.

(63) Minute by Murray, 1 December 1924. TNA, FO 371/10046/10793.

(64) Minute by Chamberlain, 1 December 1924. TNA, FO 371/10046/10793. The emphasis is Chamberlain's.

(65) The Times (London), 4 December 1924.

(66) Cabinet meeting, 24 November 1924. TNA, CAB 23/49, CM 63 (24).

(67) The appointment was announced publicly in The Times on 26 November 1924, four days before Chamberlain was awarded his knighthood.

(68) Chamberlain to Allenby, 24 November 1924, Allenby papers, AP 2/3/1, Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives.

(69) D. Gillies, Radical Diplomat: The Life of Archibald Clark Kerr, Lord Inverchapel, 1882-1951 (London, 1999), p. 62.

(70) Diary letters, 28 November 1950, fols. 205-237, Ms Eng c. 6583, Sir Walford Selby papers, Bodleian Library.

(71) Ibid.

(72) Allenby to Chamberlain, 25 November 1924, Allenby papers, AP 2/3/2.

(73) On a telegram from Allenby to Chamberlain on 26 November 1924, Clark Kerr noted: "The second and the fight reaction. N. Henderson's arrival will be taken to be his supersession." Inverchapel papers, Bodleian Library.

(74) Allenby to Chamberlain, 26 November 1924, Allenby papers, AP 2/3/4.

(75) Ibid.

(76) Chamberlain to Allenby, 26 November 1924, Allenby papers, AP 2/3/5.

(77) Allenby to Chamberlain, 27 November 1924, Allenby papers, AP 2/3/9.

(78) Allenby to Chamberlain, 26 November 1924, Allenby papers, AP 2/3/7.

(79) Chamberlain to Allenby, 27 November 1924, Allenby papers, AP 2/3/8.

(80) Gillies, Radical Diplomat, p. 63.

(81) Allenby to Chamberlain, 28 November 1924, Allenby papers, AP 2/3/10.

(82) Ibid.

(83) Allenby to Chamberlain, 28 November 1924, Allenby papers, AP 2/3/12.

(84) Clause VII referred to the withdrawal of all opposition to the special wishes of the British government concerning the protection of foreign interests in Egypt.

(85) Chamberlain to Allenby, 1 December 1924, Allenby papers, AP 2/3/15.

(86) Clark Kerr to his mother, 3 December 1924, Inverchapel Papers.

(87) Henderson to Walford Selby, 6 December 1924. TNA, FO 800/264, file 21/41.

(88) Ibid.

(89) Ibid.

(90) Allenby to Foreign Office, 24 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(91) The Times (London), 25 November 1924.

(92) Ibid.

(93) Lord Lloyd, Egypt since Cromer, ii (Edinburgh, 1934), p. 99.

(94) Chamberlain to Allenby, 24 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(95) Allenby to Foreign Office, 24 November 1924. TNA, FO 141.502/2, part 1. The British Government did not feel that Ziwar was strong enough to hold the nationalist forces in check and both Tyrrell and Sir Eyre Crowe, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, believed that "there is an urgent necessity of installing a stronger and more capable High Commissioner at Cairo. Under the present regime we are not in safe hands, and a great crisis may face us any day." Minute by Crowe, 10 December 1924. TNA, FO 37 l/10059/11165.

(96) Allenby to Foreign Office, 27 November 1924, TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(97) Chamberlain to Allenby, 29 November 1924, ibid.

(98) Ibid.

(99) Allenby to Ziwar Pasha, 30 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(100) Allenby to Foreign Office, 30 November 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2, part 1.

(101) Ibid.

(102) Handwritten annotation on the letter by Henderson. Ibid.

(103) Ibid.

(104) Ibid.

(105) "We have incurred the severe censure of the Foreign Office for what we did and how we did it and we have met with a certain amount of outside criticism in ill informed quarters ... I do not wish in any way to escape full responsibility for any of these things. They may not improbably mean the disappearance of Lord A from Egypt and for me a long twilight at some port where thinking and acting and taking risks will be superfluous," Clark Kerr to his mother, 15 December 1924, Inverchapel Papers.

(106) Thomas Russell Papers, 1/6, Murder of Sir lee Stack, "Report of the Cairo Special Branch," February 1925, St Antony's College, Middle East Centre Archive, University of Oxford [hereafter cited as MECA].

(107) Ibid.

(108) G.H. Hughes, Chief Inspector, to Henderson, "Murder of the Late Sirdar: Execution of Death Sentences," 12 August 1925. FO 141/503/6.

(109) See El Mokattam (founded in 1889, the Arabic mouthpiece of the British Occupation), 1925, Russell Papers, 1/8 MECA.

(110) List of political crimes committed between 1910-1946, 1/10, Russell Papers, MECA.

(111) Henderson to Chamberlian, No. 294, 14 August 1925. FO 141/503/6 Part H.

(112) Report by Hughes, "Murder of the Late Sirdar," FO 141/503/6 Part II.

(113) Graves to Wiggin. Coveting note on execution of the Sirdar's murderers compiled by the Cairo City Police, 26 August 1925. FO 141/503/6 Part II.

(114) In a memorandum written by Sir Lee Stack and endorsed by Sir Reginald Wingate, Stack had raised the issue of "readjusting the relations between the Soudan and Egypt in lines whereby Great Britain will gradually take over the part in the Government of the Soudan now played by the Egyptian Government." Stack, "Note on the Growth of National Aspirations in the Soudan," 23 February 1919. TNA, CAB 1/44. Wingate perceived that "both Egypt and the Soudan--as well as the British Empire --will gain by loosening the tie which now binds the two countries together." Wingate to Curzon, 26 March 1919, ibid.

(115) Chamberlain to Allenby, 22 December 1924. Allenby papers, AP 2/3/17.

(116) Perhaps Allenby was fortified by the instructions he had received from Sir Eyre Crowe before setting out for Egypt! "We can't give you any instructions. Do what you think is best and we will back you up. You have a free hand." Clark Kerr to his mother, 15 December 1924, Inverchapel Papers.

(117) Draft statement on Egypt, 2 December 1924. TNA, FO 141/502/2.

(118) Ibid.

(119) Ibid.
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