Friday, July 16, 2010

Did He Deserve the Medal?

There's a new UK heroism medal.

The Elizabeth Cross.

And there's a connection with the Irgun.

From the story:-

Families' pride as fallen servicemen are honoured 14 July 2010

...Introduced last year, the silver medal is a new form of recognition for the
next of kin of British Service personnel killed while serving their country since 1948.

Eight local families applied for and received the medals at an emotional ceremony in the historic D-Day Room at Southwick Park.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Patrick McCarthy served during the Second World War after enlisting with the British Army in Portsmouth aged just 14.

He served with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in North Africa and Palestine. WO McCarthy continued his army career after the Second World War, and in
1947 he was deployed to Palestine.

Sadly, the 26-year-old died from gun shot wounds on May 5, 1948, along with five other soldiers when they were murdered by the Irgun paramilitary on the main road near Nathanya, during guerilla activity.

He was awarded the General Service Medal with Clasp Palestine and The War Medal 1939-1945.

His niece Karen Piepe, of Stanley Street, Southsea, said of receiving the Elizabeth Cross: 'It's incredibly moving. Although he was killed before I was born, he is remembered very much as part of the family.'

There's a problem, though.

I can't locate an Irgun action on that day in Netanya. Or even around that date. I even checked 1947 and 1946.

I even checked "Cordon and Search", written by Major General R. Dare Wilson, Commander 6th Airborne Division in Mandate Palestine. And he includes operations by the Lechi as well.


Odd, that.

I presume he died. I presume he was killed. But, it seems, not in the circumstances described in the newspaper report.

Since at that time, the War of Independence was almost at its hieght, maybe they were ambushed by maruading Arabs?

I'll write to the reporter and perhaps I'll receive a clarification. Perhaps there's an official copy of the description of the incident.



Thanks to Morey, we now a confirmation of the incident:

But I tend to agree, this wasn't a normal Irgun op.

And I am not sure it wasn't Arabs but I am digging.

- - -


Anonymous said...

Did you check in Ya'akov Banai's list of Lechi actions? Is it possible he was wounded earlier and later on died of his wounds?

YMedad said...

Actually, I did. Did you? And a half-dozen other books but nothing. Not around that date nor in a previous year near Netanya.

Morey Altman said...

The Palestine Post or May 6, 1948 reports the incident as follows:

"A British Army Major and five soldiers, including two N.C.O.'s were found dead, shot through the head, in a R.E.M.F. breakdown wagon two miles from Nathanya yesterday, according to official reports.

The wagon was found with bullet-riddled tyres, blocked by an abandoned Army vehicle across the road. The vehicle has been stolen a few hours earlier in Tel Aviv.

When the British party reached the spot it was forced to stop, and fire was directed at it from orange groves on both sides of the road.

The attack is believed to have been carried out by the Stern Group."

The style of the attack certainly sounds more like Stern Gang than Irgun. And it wouldn't surprise me that British officials and media would today accuse Irgun: it's an easy, and unlikely to be contested, besmirching of Menachem Begin, who anti-Zionists continue to deride as the "terrorist" that became an Israeli PM (while they conveniently forget dozens of other world leaders who were/are accused of terrorism by their political opponents.)

YMedad said...

I checked here: but didn't find anything. Where'd you look?

Morey Altman said...

Same place. Front page of the May 6, 1948 paper, bottom left side:


I didn't find anything doing a search, as he's not listed by name, but you can 'browse' by date.

Morey Altman said...

I tend to dismiss the likelihood that the attack was perpetrated by Arabs for the simple reason that by May 1948, Arab forces (both within and foreign) were going out of their way to avoid conflict with the British. Indeed, some have suggested that the British were so well informed of Arab troop deployment that they must have been working together, or were at least openly sharing information. The Fortnightly Intelligence Newsletter No. 62, Hq. Palestine, dated February 27, 1948, says:

"The Arab leaders are anxious not to aggravate the British in any way but the question is whether so many men, possibly ten thousand of them at present in this country, with their bitter hatred of the Jews and their excitable character, whose sole raison d'etre is the killing of Jews, can hold themselves in check until the British forces have quitted."

A further report, the Fortnightly Intelligence Newsletter No. 63 dated March 12, by the Hq. British Troops in Palestine, confirms Arab concerns:

"18. On three different occasions, the GOC's car and escort were attacked in the vicinity of Bab el Wad on the Jerusalem-Jaffa road... Doctor Hussein Khalidi of the Arab Higher Executive told an officer of this Headquarters that in his opinion the car had not been attacked by Arabs as they had been instructed to avoid conflict with the security forces. A phone call received by this Headquarters from a person who claimed to be Abdul Kadir el Husseini, denied that Arabs had fired at the GOC's car. Arabs held great respect for the British and especially the GOC, the speaker claimed."

It's possible, I suppose, that the attack was meant to look like a Stern Gang ambush. And the Arab Irregulars weren't exactly known for discipline and following orders. Only the British (who I presume did autopsies to identify the bullets) know for sure.

YMedad said...

Point taken but...

your example shows the weakness of the supposition. No Jews were stationed at Bab El-Wad as the road was virtually closed down there by Arabs to prevent Jewish traffic to and from the capital. So it was 90% chance Arabs anyway.

Morey Altman said...

Your point is also well taken. Bab El-Wad was, in fact, so well controlled by Arab snipers that a denial of responsibility for shots fired against British vehicles is almost laughable.

The region around Netanya, on the other hand, was primarily Jewish, and the British had been struck by Irgun (eg. the kidnapping and execution of Sergeants Clifford Martin and Mervyn Paice, whose bodies were found near Even Yehuda) and Stern Gang in the area before. And the Netanya incident was no simple case of a few shots fired by hidden snipers; it was a well-planned and executed ambush.

I was hoping I might find some details in "The British Army and Jewish insurgency in Palestine, 1945-1947" by David A. Charters but as you can see by the title, his research ends a year early. There's a few of those old Revisionists still kicking around. I say we ask them if they remember the incident ;)

D. Higham said...

My father, E. Higham, now 84, lost his friend L/cpl Richard Rigby-Jones in this attack. My father's recollection of the incident seems to be that convoys of REME vehicles had standing orders to stop at the nearest army camp at nightfall. The officer in command had disregarded that order and the convoy was ordered by him to push on to get to the next British base. They were then ambushed in darkness by jewish "terrorists". I will question him again in the hope of clarifying his account of the event.

D. Higham. UK

Anonymous said...

I can, very belatedly, solve the mystery having consulted "Israel, Israel..." by Nathan Yalin Mor. He writes that he LEHI had announced a resumption of operations against the British after the British defended the Arabs in Jaffa in late April 1948, and this specific attack was carried out by the LEHI according to Yalin Mor to send a message to the British that just as they had fought for a Jewish state, they would fight for what he calls a "free Hebrew port". (This was in reference to the British plans to put part of Haifa under martial law while they evacuated).

I wonder why Banai and others don't list it...