The Cartoonist

A soldier, labelled Britain, is standing on one side of a very small Suez canal. Harold Holt is on the other side, near a signpost labelled East of Suez. Holt has grabbed the soldier’s leg and is stretching it as far as it will go over the canal.
Don’t take your foot away—yet.

Operation Stretch

The Herald, 1 June 1966

The Labour government in the UK had published a Defence White Paper which recommended a drastic change in defence policy. Prior to this, British policy had been based on the east of Suez concept—focusing on British interests in Asia, such as Singapore, Malaysia and the Middle East, east of the Suez Canal in Egypt.
The change to a policy of withdrawing from these areas affected Australian defence policy, and Harold Holt, Australia’s new Prime Minister, was less than enthusiastic about the plan. From 1971, the British defence forces withdrew from most of their bases in South East Asia and the Middle East.