Attack on the Cairo to Haifa train at Rehovoth, 22nd April 1947

I was posted to Jerusalem, By Major OG Plowman, RAPC

"I was on the Cairo-Haifa train which was mined and wrecked by Jews on the morning of Tuesday, 22nd April, 1947. I had entrained at Ismailia the previous evening, was due at Lydda at 8.40 next morning, and from Lydda was to continue the journey to Jerusalem by road. The first five coaches of the train had been reserved for military personnel, the remainder being available for public passengers.

At 8.30am the train was travelling at reduced speed along an embankment with orange groves on either side. I was standing in the vestibule between the third and fourth coaches. Suddenly, there was a terrific explosion. The air became dense from smoke; there were sounds of shattering glass and of woodwork being reduced to splinters and debris was flying in all directions. The coach in which I was travelling was blown off the rails by the force of the explosion and was lurching from side to side and bumping over the sleepers. A moment later it was slithering down the embankment coming to rest in the gravel at an angle of forty-five degrees. Passengers were thrown in all directions, and it was with the greatest difficulty that I managed to remain on my feet. My head seemed as if it would burst and my jaw was acheing. I realised what had happened and, as soon as I could, started clambering up the floor of the coach, which was nearly perpendicular and crawled along the corridor. Those of us able to do so helped other officers to extricate themselves from the baggage which had fallen from racks. Spasmodic sniping was being directed at the train but this did not last for long. When we had sorted ourselves out we climbed down from the train.

The scene along the track was an unforgettable sight. The last two compartments of the third coach had received the full force of the explosion and had been blown to bits, five soldiers being killed and a number injured, some seriously; the fourth coach was nearly on its side down the embankment; the fifth car was undamaged, except that it had been telescoped by the sixth car, in which more casualties had occurred, including three killed. For some distance the track had been torn up, rails were buckled and twisted into odd shapes, the water-tank at the end of the third car had been blown through the roof and was lying intact on the ground.

Troops were moving the bodies to the side of the track and covering them with blankets, the injured were being given first-aid treatment, passengers pinned in the wreckage were being released with the aid of crowbars, pick-axes and sleepers, and articles of clothing strewn about were being collected and placed in piles.

A relief train was sent for but this did not arrive until two hours later. Military passengers, with their baggage, were packed into the goods van, at about noon — in the interval there were several distributions of oranges picked from the hundreds of trees all around, so if the shortage of this luscious fruit at home continues one reason may not be hard to find — we continued our journey to Lydda. There we were met by the RTO who sorted us out according to our destinations, and arranged convoys of road transport to take us to our units.

I arrived at the Pay Office in the Syrian Orphanage about 6 pm and was given a warm welcome by the CP, Colonel C Holmes, MC, and other officers, which I very much appreciated.

cover of Pay Corps Journal, Summer 1947

It was a very narrow escape for me, but, except for a severe shaking, I am none the worse for the experience."

Royal Army Pay Corps Journal, Summer 1947

Those killed in this attack:

  • Cole, Roland J (20) from Berhamsted; Signalman 7 HQ Signals
  • Hunter, Cecil S (23) from Beverley; Signalman 7 HQ Signals
  • Hutchinson, Peter HS (21); Signalman 7 HQ Signals
  • Watkinson, Arthur (35) from Totteridge; Staff Sergeant 13 Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery
  • Wells, Thomas (19) from Great Yarmouth; Signalman 7 HQ Signals