The Egyptian Military in World War Ii
Before World War II, military service was compulsory for men between the ages of nineteen and twenty-seven, but because of the limited size of the army--about 23,000 in 1939--few were actually conscripted. During World War II, Egypt's army grew to about 100,000 troops. Britain maintained a strong influence in the military and provided it with equipment, instruction, and technicians. Under the terms of the 1936 treaty, British troops remained in the country to defend the Suez Canal. During the war, Egypt became the principal Allied base in the Middle East.
Egypt severed relations with the Axis powers soon after the outbreak of World War II but remained technically neutral until near the end of the war. The Italians first brought the war to Egypt in 1940 but were repelled by the British. In late 1941, the German Afrika Korps entered western Egypt and threatened the country and the canal. But the British Eighth Army defeated the German force at Al Alamayn in October 1942. Some Egyptians flew patrol duty in British planes with British pilots during the war, and Egypt inaugurated a naval service with a few patrol boats supplied by Britain. Egyptians were used primarily for guard duty and logistical tasks rather than for combat. Some Egyptian officers favored Germany as a way to end Britain's influence in the country. (The British had imprisoned Anwar as Sadat because of his pro-German activities.) Aware of such sentiments, the British command was reluctant to employ Egyptian units in combat even after King Faruk formally declared war against the Axis in February 1945.
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