Sunday, July 22, 2018

'There Was A Warning" - King David Hotel UPDATED

'There was a warning' at King David Hotel, July 22, 1946



HL Deb 22 May 1979 vol 400 cc233-432233

Lord Carrington
My Lords, I think we ought to face up to the fact that no country in the world faces Israel's security problems or has so much at stake. Since independence in 1948 her population has increased fivefold. In an area of development, few countries can show Israel's record in agriculture, health conditions, education and industrial development. It is practically the only country in the world that has emerged to independence since the war that has faced these problems at once and has tackled them in a system of democracy.
There is one thing I should like to add. I think it should be said. There is an attempt made to defame the present Prime Minister of the State of Israel—who, incidentally, is here to talk to many 282important people in this country; and I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I leave the Chamber for a few hours later on in order to hear what he has to say. He is speaking in Central Hall, Westminster. As your Lordships know, I am against terrorism of any kind and for any purpose. But I think we must be fair. I was informed that on a radio interview Mr. Begin a few days ago explained the line that his friends took when he said that under no circumstances did they plan attacks on women, children or civilians.

I think the House is entitled to know some facts that I came across in the course of some professional inquiries I have been making in respect of what happened at the time of the King David Hotel incident. I came across them not very long ago; I am saying this with the consent both of the people who have been in touch with me and also of the doctor concerned. I want to wipe away the suggestion that no warning was given. I propose to read a letter from a Dr. Crawford in Bournemouth. I quote: It was very kind of you to phone me today and I sat down at once to write to you". I met Dr. Crawford at another venture of Israel which is well known to many people—the Magem David, which is the Shield of David Ambulance and Health Services. I happened to meet him at a conference held in Bournemouth. Casually he told me that he knew something about this. He says in his letter: "Further to our recent conversation in Bournemouth, I am writing to confirm that the officer"— he spoke about an officer whose name, I am sure, is known to those who were in Palestine— "who wrote to me in 1946 concerning the King David Hotel 'incident' was Major-General Dudley Sheridan Skelton, CB, DSO, FRCS, formerly DGMS in India, Hon Physician to HM The King and to HE the Viceroy of India. He retired from the forces about 1937"— I think that it is of great importance that this attack should be properly and effectively met— "when he was given the rank of Brigadier and was ADMS in the SE Command. It was in this area that I met him in the course of my duties as Assistant Medical Director of the Emergency Medical Services Hospital at Preston Hall Sanatorium, Maidstone, and I worked with him until my transfer to Bournemouth as Medical Superintendent of Douglas House Sanatorium in 1943, but we remained in contact with each other for some years. 

In 1946, he was head of a hospital in Palestine near Jerusalem and was a frequent visitor to the King David Hotel; apparently he was there on the very day of the explosion and he wrote me that 'a warning' was passed on to the officers in the bar in rather jocular terms, implying it was 'Jewish terrorist bluff'. But despite advice to 'ignore the bluff' he decided to leave and thus was out of the hotel when the explosion took place. I kept his letter for many years, but unfortunately, after the death of my wife in 1970 and my own severe illness in 1971, I sold my house and went into a flat and because of limited space I unwisely threw away a lot of my accumulated papers and correspondence, so the letter is no longer available; and Brigadier Skelton has long since died. I hope these facts will be of some help to you. Many of my friends knew this story at the time but few have survived; my sister-in-law will remember it clearly as she was friendly with the Brigadier and lived with us at the time. If you think it worth-while, I could contact her"— I did ask him to contact her and she wrote a letter confirming what Dr. Crawford said.

As your Lordships are well aware, I do not approve of terrorists of any kind. The Prime Minister of Israel explained a few days ago what happened and I hope that the letter I have read out now will, in all fairness, answer the accusation that has been made about this incident. I am very grateful for the attention the House has given me.

And remarks by Menachem Begin as published in Benjamin Netanyahu, ed., "International Terrorism: Challenge And Response," Proceedings of the Jerusalem Conference on International Terrorism, July 2­5, 1979, (Jerusalem: The Jonathan Institute, 1980), p. 45 (thanks to DaledAmos)

And see here in 2006.

From a personal reminisce:

"I was having a coffee with a friend when the first minor bomb went off. "I didn’t think much of it at the time because this sort of thing was happening every day...I was sitting by the window when the second bomb went off. It blew the window out completely and threw me across the room."