Attack on army vehicles in Jerusalem

1st March 1947, St David's Day

"The bomb was reserved for Andrew Gibson-Watt, our escort and myself: we were returning to Brigade Headquarters, whence as staff officers and members of the Regiment, we had been invited, making the five-mile journey by jeep. In practice our bomb was unflatteringly futile and incomparably ineffective to the one which had blown up the Goldsmith Officers' club on the same day, killing in its barbarous fashion thirteen and injuring sixteen. The terrorist gang responsible - Irgun Zvai Leumi - had also simultaneously perpetrated sixteen other acts of mayhem and violence.

Although we were unaware of these incidents, the fact Brigade had sent two vehicles to escort us indicated an alert. It was early evening. The moon was in its first quarter. The night sky was clear. I was sitting next to the driver with a loaded and cocked Tommy gun on my lap: a most effective automatic weapon in its day. A 15-cwt truck was ahead and another jeep behind.

I was aware, as we approached Headquarters and a particularly notorious stretch of road, that there was nothing to be done but to wait, first to see if an attack materialized, and secondly to judge the form after the event, if we were alive. Meanwhile, I reflected, as the origin of words interested me, that David was derived from the Hebrew and meant beloved.

There was, however, nothing beloved about the roadside bomb - or mine - which we later learnt was unique among such incidents in that it failed to kill or main. Either greed, in this case a desire to kill the occupants of two vehicles instead of one, saved us, or the would-be murderer, relying upon his dexterity to thrust down the plunger of a manually operated bomb - or, if electrical, creating a circuit - mistimed. There might, too, have been other factors.

This meant that his inhospitable device exploded just in front of the jeep carrying my companions and myself, and barely behind the escort vehicle ahead. I immediately gave orders to extinguish lights, take cover and fire into the orange grove. As a fire order this was imprecise, but it had a purpose: a demoralizing tactic, after the failure of the attack, before pursuit. The Headquarter's searchlight, however, was beamed upon us, and this put paid to any action on our part. We returned to camp."

'A Captain's Mandate', Philip Brutton.

Andrew Gibson-Watt also gives an account of this incident in 'The Jewish War' episode of 'Empire Warriors', a dvd published by the BBC.

(Most victims were not nearly so lucky.)