John Crawford in Egypt

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2012    

As soon as the war started, John Crawford was posted to Cairo (see left). 
This, of course, was a Cairo very different to the one that we see today.

It was the 'jewel of the middle east' – an elegant and cultured city, ruled over by a half-Egyptian King, the infamous  فاروق الأول (Farouk Fuad) (see right), and a British Ambassador to Egypt and High Commissioner for the Sudan, Sir Miles Lampson, 1st Baron Killearn (see left).

While Farouk was ostensibly king, with wide ranging powers to appoint and dismiss prime-ministers and cabinets at will, it was undoubtedly Lampson who kept 'the boy', as he derisively called Farouk, in check. 

During the war Egypt was pivotal to Britain's strategy 'east of Suez', and it was essential for the war effort that the canal remained open, and available to the Allies, and that the Axis powers were prevented from gaining control of the oil reserves to the east of Egypt. 
And it was for this reason that Lampson had to keep tight control of Egypt, and 'keep the boy in check'. 

Farouk, who was the great-great-grandson of  محمد علي باشا‎, Muhammad Ali Pasha (see right), was Albanian through his father's line, but Egyptian through his mother's line, his mother being نزلي صبري / نازلى صبرى‎ (Nazli Sabri) (see left). 

He had come to the throne at the tender age of 16, while attending the , Royal Military Academy, Woolwich and Woolwich was where John had spent much of his time before the war.
If John and Prince Farouk ever met in Egypt there is no record of the fact - but it would have been quite possible - and they did, after all, meet in Cairo - when Farouk was king.

Generally neglected by his father, فؤاد الأول (Fuad I), for whom he appeared to have little respect, and little affection, Farouk, as a boy, was mainly brought up by the Italian servants favoured by the royal household. 
Because he had experienced a neglected, and possibly abusive childhood, when Farouk came to the throne, rather like the equally young Roman Emperor Caligula, he began with the best intentions, but very soon his lack of self control, and egocentricity, began his slow moral and physical decline, which eventually led to his downfall, and subsequent exile. 

Egypt, at the time was politically divided between three main 'power-blocs' – the King, the 'Residency', (the High Commissioner Lampson), and the Wafd – the Wafd being the main, native political party. 
Much of Farouk's time was spent trying to get control of the حزب الوفد (Wafd), - and Egypt's other political parties; Iskra, the Jewish dominated Communist Party, the 'Muslim Brotherhood' and the 'Hizb Misr El-Fatah'‎ (Young Egypt Party), (under the leadership of Ahmed Husayn – who were known as the Green Shirts, and were an extreme right wing party). 
Later, of course, Nasser's brutal dictatorship, and the dictatorships' of his two successors put a stop to all such political squabbling. 
With the outbreak of the war, however, Farouk saw the possibility of removing the British from the equation, - although the thought that the Fascists or the Nazi's would undoubtedly be more of a problem than the British had ever been, never seemed to enter his head – he didn't seem to realize that to the National Socialists an Egyptian was as much a non-Aryan Semite as a Jew, and so the gas chambers would have a vast new influx of clients. 
Undoubtedly Farouk was influenced by his Italian childhood mentors, and Farouk was in the habit, during the war, of sending Hitler little notes explaining how a German invasion would be welcome, and it was not until 1945, when the war was in its final throes, that Lampson finally persuaded Farouk to declare war on the, by then, defeated Axis powers. 
Of course John Crawford and his compatriots in the military intelligence were well aware of Farouk's little notes - and were far from impressed with his rather stupid and dishonest dealings with the 'Residency'.
Farouk was not the only one in Egypt eager for an Axis victory – the 'Green Shirts', many in the Wafd, and the  الإخوان المسلمون‎ (Muslim Brotherhood), and also many in the abysmally incompetent Egyptian Army, including Nasser and Sadat, who were at that time relatively junior officers, were also working, sometimes covertly and sometimes openly for Britain's enemies – who were also, paradoxically, Egypt's enemies. 
And it was not only in Egypt that supposedly good Muslims were working 'hand-in-glove' with the Nazis. 

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, محمد أمين الحسيني‎ (haj Amin Husseini) (see right), in British controlled Palestine, was busily creating anti-British feeling, while at the same time shuttling back and forth to Berlin, to take tea with Her Hitler and chat with Himmler (see left). 
So, when John Crawford arrived in Cairo, and took his tea in Shepherd's Hotel (see right), there was plenty of work waiting for him. 
In retrospect then, it seems that the recently described 'Islamic Fascism' is not such a new phenomenon after all, and that 'right-wing' extremism has had a long history in the Middle East. 
And for those who now still long for the 'jackboot', they may be comforted to know that Fascism – either of the Islamic kind – (bin Laden, Sayed Qutb etc.), or the Arab kind – (Nasser, Saddam Hussein, Assad etc. ), is alive and well in the Middle East, despite all the spurious talk of democracy ! 
Of the five infamous individuals pictured above, only two were of any interest to John Crawford. 

The first and undoubtedly most dangerous individual, Sayed Qutb (Kutb), was an effete, closet homosexual teacher, with a ridiculous moustache - giving him the appearance of a poor impersonator of Adolf Hitler, (with whom he shared many characteristics in common), or Charles Chaplin. 
Qutb, however, had not yet had his formative experiences in the USA at that time that John Crawford was in Egypt, and so he was not politically active, and had not yet been noticed by the intelligences services. 
Qutb was to be more of a problem after his death, when his seminal work, معالم في الطريق ('Milestones') (see right), became the inspiration for a whole generation of sexually, intellectually , economically and socially frustrated young Muslim men. 
جمال عبد الناصر حسين‎ (Gamel abd el Nasser) (see right), and his fellow conspirator, محمد أنور السادات‎ (Mohammed Anwar Sadat) (see right) were another matter. - Hardly 'frustrated', they had both risen far higher than they humble origins would have predicted – (thanks to the British). 
Both were junior officers in the Egyptian Army, and both men were suspected of supplying the Axis powers with militarily sensitive information which would be to the disadvantage of the Allies, and both were put under the surveillance of the British Military Intelligence. 
Sadat, half Egyptian and half Sudanese, had been brought up with stories of Egyptian resistance to British rule as a boy, and had been particularly affected by stories and songs about the Denshway incident.

In addition he idolised Kemal Ataturk, (see right) and admired what to him was the efficiency and modernity of the Nazis in Germany. 
For these reasons Sadat was more actively involved in attempting to undermine the Allied war effort than Nasser, who was far more 'dreamy' and idealistic – at least in those early days. 
The result of all this was an uncomfortable meeting between Sadat and John Crawford, when the latter was 'hauled in', and arrested by the British Military Intelligence. 
Having already met 'the boy' (Farouk), this was John Crawford's opportunity to meet one of 'the boy's' supposedly loyal officers. 
Actually John and Mohammed seemed to 'hit it off' – a surprising combination, to say the least – but this did not prevent Sadat from spending sometime in a British cell. 
And Nasser ? Well they met, but John Crawford was unable to fathom Nasser.
Nasser was too Siedee, too southern, and too idealistic, - rather like a somewhat aloof schoolmaster.

Eventually the War ended in nineteen-forty-five. John Stokes returned from Cyprus, after having served in Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria.
Life seemingly and slowly returned to normal, and a new decade dawned - the fifties.

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