NAVY NEWS – PALESTINE PATROL, MAY 2008 iii
Birth, death and the
was key to train up
creation of Israel
THE Palestine Patrol came as an
unpleasant shock for ships which
had settled into a welcome low-key
JOHN Evans was serving both at
John Roche was serving in
sea and ashore during the period
HMS Whitesand Bay, and was one
of the Palestine Mandate.
of around 30 detailed as boarding
“In 1946 I was serving
ITH the war over
party and sent to train for a week
on HMS Stormcloud, a
and the extent with the Royal Marines in Malta.
minesweeper, when we were
of the Holocaust
“On arrival at their camp we
patrolling the Palestinian
revealed, pressure to
soon found out that it was no
coast to intercept ships which
allow displaced Jews to
skylark,” said Ron.
may be carrying illegal Jewish
“We had to parade at 0800 with
immigrants,” said Mr Evans.
enter Palestine increased. all our equipment for inspection
“After a few months I
and spent the rest of the day on
was drafted ashore to join
President Truman, with one
the assault course.
Commodore Palestine’s signal
eye on his electorate, called
staff, based in what was a
for 100,000 to be admitted
“If you failed the inspection you
lighthouse on the top of Mount immediately, a move which
got a remuster at 1700.
Carmel, near Haifa. delighted Jews, enraged Arab
“Our equipment included a
“The small Naval contingent
pack with a pistol, Lanchester
states and prompted the threat
lived under canvas with an
[sub machine gun], ammunition,
of armed confl ict.
Army unit under the walls of the
gas mask, lifebelt, boots, gaiters,
Britain was by now seeking to
shin pads, cricket boxes (the ladies
pass on the thankless Mandate.
“From the information we
were not averse to giving you a
America would not take it
received from various sources we
good prod with a knitting needle),
on, and some Britons believed a
knew when and where ships were
tin hat, and truncheon.
continued presence in such an oil-
being bought for the purpose of
“We spent many weary hours
rich region would be prudent.
trailing these migrant ships along
In the interim the quota of
“We could then trace their
the Mediterranean coast to Haifa.
1,500 immigrants per month was
routes from port to port until
“Our No 1 took great pleasure
reinstated, agreed by Arabs but
they were loaded with would-be
in exercising the boarding party at
challenged by Jews as insuffi cient.
immigrants, and then follow their
any time of the day or night, and
Meanwhile, with Europe
perilous voyage to Palestine.
even had us jumping over the side
struggling to rebuild, Jewish
“The ships were generally in
to simulate being chucked over
underground organisations were
bad condition, often unseaworthy
the side of one of these ships.
setting up a well-funded, effi cient
and vastly overloaded, and the
“Our ship went into Malta
network of transit bases and
conditions were appalling.
Dockyard to have wire netting
transport routes to aid illegal
“Nevertheless, survivors of the
fitted over the fo’c’sle to stop our
immigration, even providing
● The sails of a caique are picked out by the searchlight of a Royal Navy warship during a patrol off
horror that had been Europe came
crew being hit with tins of corned
forgers to prepare travel papers.
Palestine Picture supplied by John Evans
in their thousands, risking all to
beef, tomatoes, fruit or any other
The Navy was to the fore simply
follow the Star of David and the
The no-win nature of the British Once opposition had died down on May 15 1948 and withdraw
missiles – including unsavoury
because the sea route, dangerous
hope of a new life in what they
position in Palestine was hardened in a boarding, relationships could completely by August 1.
ones – being thrown at us.”
though it was, represented the
believed was the Promised Land.
at the start of 1946. be quite cordial. The volatile situation – requiring
best chance of reaching Palestine,
“We also received secret
Quotas had been agreed by the
When the Lochita was Naval parties to restore order in
whose land borders were shared
information about the activities
Arabs only until the end of 1945,
intercepted in November 1946, places such as Aden – could have
‘I’m here –
with sympathetic Arab nations.
of the three Jewish terrorist
The fi rst months of peace saw
so the British decision to continue
an immigrant was found to have been made so much worse by the
organisations, among them
an upsurge in immigration, while
to allow 1,500 immigrants a month
fallen overboard; HMS Brissenden arrival of 15,000 immigrants on
Haganah and the Stern Gang.
incensed them, while still not
went back to search for the man, the fruit freighters Pan York and
“It is interesting to recall
Arabs and Jews waited to see what
satisfying the Jews, who were keen
who was found having swum for Pan Crescent, but in a triumph of
DES Amor arrived in Palestine
that chief among those on our
Britain proposed for their future.
on Truman’s fi gure of 100,000.
an hour in the hope of rescue. high seas diplomacy and common
just after New Year 1947 and
most-wanted list were men who
Navy patrols on the Palestinian
Bigger ships were now regularly
On another occasion, a baby sense the two ships – regarded as
remained until November – but
later formed the new Israeli
coast were set up by the Admiralty’s
appearing on the horizon and
girl was successfully delivered virtually unboardable by the Navy
on arrival he had no idea what his
Palestine Force, the offi cial starting
the immigrant camp in Palestine
on the Merica by a gunner’s because of their size and build
duties were to be, only that he was
“There were many acts of terror
date being September 27 1945,
mate and leading stoker from – were diverted to Cyprus.
with the RAF providing vital long-
was becoming swamped and
assigned to HMS Stag.
committed against British forces
the appropriately-named HMS With American opposition to
vulnerable, so onward shipment
That turned out to be the Naval
who were, not for the first or last
Welfare, taking directions from clandestine voyages hardening,
At that time the Force consisted
of refugees to camps in Cyprus
HQ in Haifa, but his first thoughts
time, there only to keep the peace.
medical manuals scanned by the stream of ships began to falter,
of a cruiser, five destroyers and
became the policy.
were: “No ship, no establishment
“There were shootings and
the leading sick berth attendant and Jews and Arabs became more
a sloop, with minesweepers also
Though Cyprus was not ideal,
– so where was I going?
bombings – our road down to
and relayed to the impromptu concerned with gun-running in
taking part at later stages.
the alternative – of returning
“Into a truck we were packed,
town was mined on occasions.
midwives by Aldis lamp. preparations for the end of the
The coast was divided into 20-
immigrants to their points of
off down the road about a mile
“Late in March 1947 I left
mile patrol zones, each named after
departure (‘refoulement’) – was Severe winter weather
Mandate than immigration.
and a half and into the barracks of
Haifa to join HMS Chaplet on
an alcoholic drink, such as Scotch
tried just once, with the President prevented further sailings
Boardings in 1948 tended to be
the Airborne, where two huts were
Whisky (the names were changed
Warfi eld (see pages iv-v). until early 1947.
quieter affairs, and there was even
time for health and safety issues to
made available to us.
“The captain was Lt Cdr
in May 1946 on the orders of a
Interceptions came thick and
The Guardian, with 2,622 on be raised – Lt Gill was concerned at
“So there we were at HMS
Gerry Forsberg. He was a great
teetotal CINC Mediterranean).
fast in August; one, the Avanti,
board, offered stiff resistance in the passengers of the Abdul Hamid
Stag – 50 ratings, 15 POs and
captain and ran a happy ship.
At fi rst the emphasis was on
had apparently run out of water
April 1947, with four immigrants crowding along the deck to watch
“When out of sight of land
preventing ships leaving European
and was in a fi lthy state.
being fatally shot, but then a a boarding from HMS Childers
“Next morning it was back to
whilst on patrol on a calm day
ports (which were obliged to
When boarders found a secret
masterful piece of seamanship by when some received minor injuries,
the docks where we found we were
he would stop the ship, turn it
block the departure of unsafe or
supply for the crew, there was a
the CO of HMS Octavia prevented and he suggested a verbal warning
replacements for the boats crews.
broadside to the wind, launch
unsanitary ships, but rarely did),
rush of passengers, with women
the Guardian being driven ashore in future about the dangers of
“We patrolled inside the
the whaler and it was ‘Hands to
and the expectation was that runs
and children being shoved aside.
in a gale, saving many lives. standing too close to the action be
harbour at all times, day and night,
Bathe over the port side.’
would be made by small vessels.
According to Ninian Stewart,
At this time attempts to mediate
watching out for people who could
“I did not know until I read his
Lt Hicks-Beach, of HMS Volage,
issued to immigrants before the
cause damage to ships.”
obituary in 2000 that he was a Such ships could not be
between Arabs and Jews had
saw a pregnant woman being
warships went alongside.
renowned swimmer.” intercepted and boarded
stalled, so the matter was referred
kicked aside, so he intervened by
Bizarrely, the last of almost 50
Mr Evans said the policy of until they were within the
to the fledgling United Nations. vessels intercepted between 1945 Even-handed
thumping the assailant.
shifting immigrants to Cyprus Palestinian three-mile limit.
Potential overcrowding of and 1948 (the Borea with 243
As other passengers squared up,
the camp in Cyprus led to the immigrants) was stopped by HMS
AS A signalman in HMS Liverpool,
aroused sympathy: “It seemed
Intelligence of ship departures
the officer’s bodyguard, a rugged
President Warfield incident, but Chieftain on May 13, and was
Mr E Murray remembers RN
very hard for those poor people
was usually effective, and such
sailor, shouted “Lie down when
with the UN report on September advised that if she hung about for
platoons helping Army units deal
who had endured so much to get
vessels were generally spotted well
the officer hits you!” and struck
1 came the recommendation that a couple of days just outside the
with the regular outbreaks of
there, and one could not but feel
out to sea by the RAF, who homed
the assailant with his rifle butt,
the Mandate be terminated and Palestinian limit, she could then
violence in town – and a rare perk.
sympathy for them.
“However, the volume of
RN ships in on their prey to
knocking the man into the hold.
Palestine be partitioned yet remain please herself what she did.
“The British were unpopular
would-be immigrants was far
shadow them towards the coast.
With the introduction of
an economic union. But the master chose to sail in equal measure with both the
too great at that time to be
If they continued into
transport to Cyprus came the end
This was greeted with dismay to Cyprus, so that the ship was Arabs and Jews,” said Mr Murray.
manageable, and I think our
Palestinian territorial waters, they
of token resistance, and boarding
by all parties – and as the British heading in the wrong direction The perk was a plentiful supply
government had no solution to
would be challenged by a warship,
parties had to be better trained
regarded it as unenforceable there as the state of Israel came into of Jaffa oranges “escaping from
the problem, so ultimately the
sometimes with a burst of 20mm
(by Royal Marines in Malta) and
was a decision to end the Mandate being.
wagons in the railway yard.”
State of Israel was declared and
or 40mm gunfire across the bow.
better equipped, wielding 2ft
the British withdrew in 1948.
The Smyrna gave British sailors
batons for defence or attack.
“The wisdom of this policy
a taste of things to come.
Boarders wore white helmets,
can be judged by the state of the
The 760-ton caique with 1,700
for easier identification, hoses
Middle East today…”
refugees on board was stopped by were used where possible to clear
HMS Jervis, her report telling of people from decks, and the cricket
“incredible overcrowding”, “very box became man’s best friend as
primitive sanitary arrangements” hat-pins were wielded in anger.
and that water and food had run Kedge anchors, fired from
Run like hell!
out days before. depth-charge throwers, were found
As ships were stopped, and to be effective grappling hooks to
emotions ashore rose, so it became secure ships, but guns were strictly
HUGH Logan remembers necessary for the Navy to protect to be used in self-defence.
arriving in Haifa: “A petty officer against sabotage in Haifa. The number of deaths among
handed over hammocks and kit The water around ships was immigrants is virtually impossible
– and told us to run like hell, illuminated at night, explosive to estimate with accuracy; some
there’s a gun fight going on.” charges were dropped into propagandists put it in the
Hugh and his shipmates were the harbour to deter frogmen, thousands, shot or drowned, but
first billeted ashore, but were soon propellers were turned so to wash the majority of deaths were likely to
heading for Cyprus in a troopship. away swimmers, and armed guards have resulted from misadventure,
Back in Haifa, a terrorist group prowled the decks. such as sinkings, rather than action
threatened to bomb the ship, Sailors were also trained to act by RN boarders, who were praised
causing a night of constant patrols, as divers, searching hulls for limpet for their forebearance by crews of
but it proved to be a false alarm. mines or explosives; the highly- illegal ships at reunions in Israel
Alf Booker, in HMS Peacock, successful training programme was in the 1990s.
also remembers the threats delivered by the talented maverick On the Royal Navy side, three
– particularly unwelcome to the Lt Cdr Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb, who men died during the 1945-
battle-fatigued. also led many diving parties. 48 period, none as a direct
“The war had not long finished Reprisal attacks on infrastructure consequence of fighting; an officer
and we were lumbered, along and assets, such as coastal watch and two ratings from HMS St
with many others, to do this stations and harbour patrol Brides Bay drowned when their
● HMS Childers (R91) approaches an unidentifi ed Jewish immigrant ship in order to send a boarding
awful work,” said Alf. launches, became commonplace. whaler overturned.
party across Picture supplied by Bill Atkinson
002-003_Palestine_may.indd 2 22/4/08 11:02:47
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