and found this short poem, by Adrian Mitchell, in the section "From neutral tone to angry: the fifties".
England, unlike junior nations,
Wears officers' long combinations,
So no embarrassment was felt
By the Church, the Government or the Crown.
But I saw the Thames like a grubby old belt
And England's trousers falling down.
On first reading it made little sense, all that Suez stuff, from the distance of half an already-forgotten century (too new to be proper history? as a child I'd read the headlines in the newspaper, understanding as little then as I do now).
But the book, the page, held an explanatory footnote:
When the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal in 1956, Britain, France and Israel undertook a joint operation to wrest it from Egyptian control. The operation was halted after threats from both Russia and America. The episode marked the end of British independent action in the world.