Eric Farthing, Light Dragoon Guards, talks about illicit trading


"The other thing that happened at Ramat David, again something which is not very creditable to the British Army, firstly, there was, obviously as you can imagine, there was wholesale trafficking in arms and ammunition. Both sides, Arabs and the Jews, were desperate to get hold of any arms and ammunition they possibly could.

One night two NCOs from our regiment deserted and took two Cromwell tanks with them. They got away with it in view of the fact we had pulled back into a small area around Haifa. Once they got clear of that area there was nothing to stop them and we understood subsequently that they got all the way to Tel Aviv which must at least have been twenty or thirty miles from where they actually stole the tanks. But, stealing and dealing in weapons was not confined to NCOs.

One of the most famous, diabolical traitors, if you wish, was two British officers, Colonel Gore and Major Newman, who were both trafficking in arms to Jewish terrorists on a wholesale scale. Subsequently they were both court martialled. Gore was a DSO and OBE and earned his spurs in the siege of Tobruk and however he got into this sort of market I don't know. He was sentenced to six years, was stripped of his decorations and lost his pension rights. Newman was sentenced to two years in prison. I have always thought it was lucky for them that technically we were not at war. Because the crime of which they were guilty was virtually treason and if it had happened in war time they would have faced the death penalty.

What was happening, what made it so easy there were literally stacks and stacks of weapons there and they had to be got rid of. It was uneconomic to ship them back to England or Egypt or wherever and they were being dumped in the sea and I should imagine the temptation must have been great. For both of these two officers I have mentioned were Ordnance officers and so they had access to hardware. It must have been the easiest thing in the world for them to have got in touch with Jews — who were desperate for weapons as I said earlier. What annoyed me I think was that they were lining their pockets for the sake of money for weapons that were subsequently being used to kill British servicemen. And like the murder of the two sergeants, that sticks in my throat.

Gore and Newman were the only two I know of who were court martialled. Military Police were very thick on the ground in our latter days in Palestine. And I think very many people were up to the same thing though not on the same scale as Gore and Newman.

Incidentally, as an aside, going back to the two NCOs from my regiment who stole the tanks, I always imagined that the Jewish terrorists would have executed them as soon as the tanks were handed over. Apparently, I am completely wrong in that. They stayed, married Jewish wives, and served in the Israeli army. And we subsequently discovered they were paid £28,000 for the tanks."

Interview 4th November 2010