East of Suez is used in British military and
political discussions in reference to imperial interests beyond the
European theatre (sometimes including, sometime excluding the
The origin of the phrase is a quotation from the poem Mandalay
, written by Rudyard Kipling
, which became a popular song
when a tune was added by Oley
Previously, the empire's military
infrastructure drew on sea lanes of communication through the
Sea via the Suez Canal, alternatively round the Cape of Good
Hope to India and on to
East Asia and Australia.
- Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the
- Where there aren't no Ten
Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst;
end of empire, which began with Indian independence (1947), there
was a gradual draw down of the military presence "east of Suez".
Prime Minister Harold Wilson and his
Denis Healey, announced that British
troops would be withdrawn in 1971 from major military bases in
South East Asia, primarily in Malaysia, Singapore and Aden, which is
when the phrase in that context entered the vernacular.
In June 1970, Edward Heath
came to power and retained a small political and military
commitment to South East Asia through the Five Power Defence
. Prior to the 1997 handover of Hong
Kong to China, Britain based several units in Hong Kong.
2007, Britain maintains the School of Jungle Warfare in Brunei and a
battalion of the Royal Gurkha
Rifles, in addition to some aircraft of the Army Air Corps, as part of
the British Military
Garrison Brunei. There is also a small British military
presence remaining on Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean Territory.