Sunday, March 25, 2012

Secret Agent Searle

The first time I met Ronald Searle I had several key questions about his career that I hoped he would expand on.  Russell Davies' biography of Searle hints at an intriguing commission in the fifties which called upon Searle to contribute to a top secret 'psyop' military operation!
As I related in my report on that first meeting with Searle:

'Searle's reputation as a draughtsman also got him involved in an international political situation-the Suez Crisis of 1956. He was placed under the Official Secrets Act and 'requested' by the War Office to take part in a 'mission'. Stationed at Suez Operations HQ in Cyprus he was part of a five man team in the Department of Psychological Warfare.
Unable at the time to tell even his wife where he was going he 
still seemed reluctant to discuss details. Serving seven years in the army during & after World War II meant he was qualified as a military man but he refused to re-enlist & chuckled at the memory of being the sole artist in a group including an SAS commander & a pilot. These rare propaganda pamphlets are hard to find these days except probably in Egyptian flea markets!'
These pamphlets were written in Arabic (uncoded) but ultimately never desseminated.

Nasser said: "I am ready to fight until the last drop of blood for the freedom ... of Egypt and the Egyptian people" 1st November 1956

- Fight from one village to another and from one area to another

"On 26 July 1956, Nasser announced the nationalisation of the Suez Canal Company. This created an international diplomatic crisis that culminated in a disastrous military adventure by Britain and France in association with Israel. It ended in a humiliating ceasefire in response to widespread international condemnation.
During the Suez crisis in 1956, the cartoonist Ronald Searle was commissioned to do the art work for a set of leaflets that was to be dropped over Egypt in 1956 in support of the invasion by British and French troops. This leaflet shows Nasser cowering in his trench as the shells burst around him."

 NASSER November 1956

- But Jamal Abdul Nasser said that our Air Force controls Egypt's sky
Jamal Abdul Nassir said: Each one of us has to consider himself a soldier in the protect our honour, pride and freedom

In his appreciation of Searle's career and their friendship David Arkell wrote:

 "In the course of my delving into what is visible of the man I have known for (my God, can it be?) forty years, I find that there is in the archives of the Ministry of Defence, a copy of a letter written to Searle in January 1957, by General Sir Charles Keightley, GCB, KBE, DSO, Commander of Allied Forces, Port Saïd Operations (Suez War), which reads: 

Dear Searle, 

Now that the Allied operations in the Middle East are over, I would like to thank you most warmly and sincerely for the services which you rendered. I was especially grateful to you for coming out at such short notice and being ready to do so much to help us. 

The fact that the operations ended as quickly as they did does not detract from my personal gratefulness to you.  With my best thanks, and with all good wishes for the future. 

Yours sincerely, 

Charles Keightley.* 

Our Ronnie? Up there among the Suez brass? Are we seeing only the tip of the iceberg? 

*When I tackled Searle about this somewhat intriguing discovery, his reply was: that it was an extremely subtle move. That if Nasser came to hear that he (Searle) had joined Bernard Fergusson's staff in the Department of Psychological Warfare at HQ Cyprus, he would die laughing - which would of course, make it much easier to take the canal. I pass that on for what it is worth."

For Punch magazines' political cartoon Searle commented on India's reaction to the Suez Crisis

'Under Nehru's Foreign Policy, India's voice was heard by super-powers, on the global stage. Even though India was militarily and economically weak. This cartoon from a British magazine shows Nehru's position on Suez rankled in Britain. Kashmir was a part of India - and Suez was NOT a part of Britain, but a part of Egypt. (Nehru - on Kasmir - On Suez; artist: Ronald Searle. Published in Punch Magazine 23 January 1957. Cartoon source and courtesy -'

-India's Foreign Policy
PN Review 50, Volume 12 Number 6, July - August 1986.


merf said...


Stiven Yentzch said...

haha is fantastic, I love.
Stiv - juegos de vestir

Professor Pepper said...

I love the postage stamp!