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Awards for Gallantry

citation text
Military Medal Citation

"In May 1946 the Battalion (2nd Surreys) moved to a site at Qiryat Hayim, a Jewish settlement between Haifa and Acre. Here the Battalion was concentrated except for D Company which was on detachment. On the night of 17th June 1946 the terrorists blew up the railway workshops which were guarded by Arab Militia. The Battalion had been on the alert and immediately road blocks were set up on roads leading from the workshops. A very heavy lorry loaded with over 30 terrorists went down a side road where a temporary road block of two carriers had been set up by D Company. The terrorists' lorry charged the road block with all guns blazing. They were of course met by a hail of bullets. Private King most bravely stuck to his position in the carrier. He was awarded the British Empire Medal." Surreys Newsletter, thanks to Ove Nielsen, Danish Veteran.

There were many opportunities to get a medal in Palestine, bomb disposal being one of them as terrorists scattered bombs and mines about the place regardless. Many awards were made after particular events such as the King David atrocity and the final departure from Haifa which was difficult and dangerous.

The Royal Navy too had plenty of opportunities to be brave: for the arrest of Empire Warfield: Lt MacPherson, bar to DSC; Lt Shallow, DSC. Commanding Officers of Charity, Chieftain, Childers: Mentioned in Despatches and received awards including the Distinguished Service Medal (a Royal Navy award) for ratings.

To get an award you had to be Recommended so someone had to know about your bravery and then do something about it. However, all service personnel in Palestine were entitled to the Palestine GSM and clasp which is, I'm told, the only GSM to have the holder's details engraved around the edge. The basic qualification is:

"All officers (including women officers) and other ranks and auxiliaries of the British, Commonwealth and Colonial Military Forces, who entered into operations in Palestine (i.e. service of one day or more) while on the posted strength of a unit." Source: North East Medals

The Naval GSM with clasp required 1 day ashore or 28 days afloat in Palestine and its waters

Since you only had to be 24 hours in Palestine unkind people suggested that there were those in Cairo who arranged quick and safe trips just to get a medal. Surely not. The GSM Palestine was not automatically awarded, you had to apply, and many, particularly colonial service personnel, missed out though it can still be obtained

The Elizabeth Cross
two armed soldiers
Elizabeth Cross presentation
Photo: Mary Randle

The Elizabeth Cross is awarded to next of kin of HM Forces killed on active service or as a result of terrorism. Apply to MOD Medal Office.

All awards are published (gazetted) in the London Gazette (searchable). Finding details of a particular action leading to an award isn't so easy. The London Gazette itself does sometimes provide information though generally it just says "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Palestine", or similar. Finding the original citation describing the action resulting in an award is not very easy. Recommendations for an award, not always successful, also provide details. Images of all the medals, together with some reasons for award can be found on Mandate medals

Criteria for the awards, and the awards themselves, have changed over time and it's a complicated business beyond the scope of this site. Below are just a few of the many awards for service in Palestine. They will be added to but please contact me if there are any mistakes or you can give details of a particular recipient.

The Palestine Police were always in the line of fire:

Denis Joseph Flanagan, ASP. KPFSM:

"On Friday 27th December, 1946 a large number of Jewish terrorists armed with automatic weapons made an attack on Police HQ in Russian Compound, Jaffa Road, Jerusalem. In the course of the attack they destroyed an electricity distribution centre plunging the district around Police HQ into darkness. An enormous exchange of gunfire then occurred between police and the terrorists as they planted several bombs for the purpose of destroying the Police HQ building and killing as many police personnel as possible. BC Noel Nicholson, whilst engaging the attacking terrorists was killed in one of the resultant explosions.
       ASP DJ Flanagan who was on his way to hospital in answer to an emergency call for a blood donor, hastened to the scene of action and armed with two revolvers entered the small lanes through which the attackers were likely to escape. After engaging a party of the terrorists he expended all ammunition from both revolvers and he was then shot and killed. As the terrorists escaped some ran into Zion Square located about 300 yards from the Police HQ. There BC Edward Hyde, who was off duty at the time, courageously engaged a group but was killed by overwhelming firepower of the offenders. Both British Constables were also posthumously awarded the King's Police Medal for Gallantry." LG 05Feb1946, No 37457, pg 817; Palestine Gazette 08Feb1946, No 1474.

The George Cross (GC)

The GC, second only to the Victoria Cross, is for civilians and military personnel in actions which are not in the face of the enemy. It was introduced in 1940 as an award was required for the many acts of heroism by civilians during the blitz and elsewhere. It is superior to the GM (see below).

RAF Sgt John Beckett:

"On the night of 28 March 1947 at Ein Shemer Air Headquarters in the Levant, Sergeant Beckett was the driver of a refuelling vehicle which was refuelling a Lancaster of No. 38 Sqdn. Suddenly, a violent fire broke out in the vehicle's pumping compartment; flames enveloped Sergeant Beckett and set alight the front of the Lancaster's fuselage. Another airman beat out the flames on Sergeant Beckett but not before the latter had sustained very severe burns on the hands and face.
      There was a grave danger that the main tank of the refuelling vehicle would explode, killing or seriously injuring personnel who were working in the vicinity and destroying the twenty or more aircraft in the park. Mindful of this danger and in considerable pain, Beckett got into the driver's seat of the blazing vehicle and drove it a distance of about four hundred yards to a point where it could do no further damage.
      At this point Beckett collapsed and he was taken by ambulance to the Station's Sick Quarters in a dangerously ill condition. The fires in the Lancaster and in the vehicle were eventually brought under control and extinguished with no further damage to persons or property." John Beckett died of his injuries on 12 April 1947. Source: Wikipedia

George Medal (GM)

Lt James Masson HLI/Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders: for bravery in bomb disposal (on the Scotland at War, Pull up a Sandbag site, with many photos and other information).

You could be recommended for a medal but not necessarily get it, however.

PP Sgt Smith (who was with James Masson) who, though outside his duties, became an expert in finding and dismantling bombs and booby traps:

"One day there was a report from Jerusalem Railway Station that a suspicious suitcase had been left in the waiting room. Messrs Smith and Masson were soon there, and discovered that it was rather more than suspicious - there was a steel lining inside the leather. Together they removed the suitcase from the station building, carried it out into the car park, and considered what should be done. At least if it went up the station would be undamaged. Smith then did a very remarkable and courageous thing. He ordered everyone out of harm's way, saying that he would tackle it himself, and that there was no sense in anyone else getting hurt if things went wrong. He would shout out what he was doing, and one of his constables under cover in a ditch would take notes. When Jimmy Masson protested, Smith said that though he might be the senior, Jimmy had dealt with the last booby trap, and now it was his turn. Sadly something went wrong, and the suitcase blew up with tremendous force. Smith was killed instantly; all the others - and the station - were safe.
       When I had the full report I decided that I would put in Smith for a George Cross. This is not an easy process. As for the Victoria Cross you need three independent witnesses to submit statements but these we had. I submitted the dossier through Nicol Gray, the Head of the Palestine police, and a highly decorated Royal Marine Commando in his day. Perhaps I am not much good at writing citations; Smith got a posthumous King's Police Medal for gallantry, in the Colonial Police Services the next highest award; Jimmy Masson received the George Medal, which was nearly unique among the Argylls. it can sometimes be easy to be brave when the blood is up and battle is on, but the cold-blooded courage of dealing alone with booby traps and high explosive is something very special. It was a privilege to have known such men." The Sum of Things, David Wilson MBE

Smith, Edward Alfred, 1316, B/Sgt Palestine Police who "At the King David Hotel outrage tunnelled his way beneath the wreckage and saved the lives of three badly injured soldiers. He spent six hours in the debris at great risk to his own life. It is reported that the only thing that bothered young Edward at the time was the thought that he was actually off duty and could have been in the Vienna Café. George Medal, London Gazette 17th January 1947. PPOCA Newsletter, March 1979.

Robert Davies, Palestine Railways:

"On 17th April, 1948, when a military ammunition train had been sabotaged by terrorists, Davies drove a locomotive to the scene. He did this in the knowledge that the area around the sabotaged train was picketed by armed gangs of terrorists and that the track approaching the site was probably mined. Two mines exploded under the locomotive, fortunately without derailing it. Undeterred, Davies took it as close as possible to the wrecked train and was thus able to rescue some wounded military personnel. Davies showed great courage without regard for his personal safety." London Gazette, 1.6.48

The Military Cross and Military Medal

newThe MC and MM were awarded for bravery in action on land; the MC to officers; the MM to ORs, though since 1993 the Military Cross only is awarded, regardless of rank. The medals on the left were awarded to William Richardson, Royal Irish Fusiliers, who was decorated for bravery in Jaffa in 1948. (Left to right: MM, World War II medal, GSM Palestine).

The fighting for Jaffa was very bitter as Zionist forces tried to capture it and drive the inhabitants from their homes and properties. On 25th April 1948 the town was attacked by a strong Jewish force and Maj Cooper, 2 i/c Life Guards, was awarded the Military Cross for his courage when, together with tanks of the 17/21 Lancers, he tried to stop them:

"...It was street and house fighting and therefore slow, going on for several days. The shelling and mortaring was heavy on both sides, the Jewish defence was strong and determined, we were taking casualties and so were they. I had a Palestine Policeman on the back of my armoured car acting as runner and contact with the Iraqi irregulars. He spoke good English and was a brave man as he was exposed to small arms and grenade attack which did not seem to affect him. ... It was obvious now that the Jews would take Jaffa as soon as the British withdrew. Most of the civilian population had by now left, but to make sure loudspeakers from the Jewish side announced 'get out with the British, remember Deir Yassin'." For Love of Justice, John Baynes

British Empire Medal (BEM)

This award was for meritorious service and was given to both civilian and military personnel.

Pte A McCormack and Pte CG Thorne of 1st Para Bttn: for their initiative and courage in dealing with some of the Acre Gaol terrorists:

"...who (McCormack and Thorne) with several others had been exchanging fire with the gangsters, saw the second vehicle escaping from the beach and chased after it. On the road which ran close by they commandeered an Arab car, pursued the truck and eventually caught up with it in some cornfields. The Jews, who had dismounted from the vehicle, engaged the two soldiers with a Bren gun; but the latter closed with the Bren gunner, and after killing him turned the weapon on the remainder of the party. There followed another brisk fight which ended with McCormack marching off five wounded gangsters to the police station, while Thorne, together with an officer, recaptured three escaped Arab prisoners who were seen making off for the open country. The Bren gunner they had killed was dressed as a British RASC Captain and was later thought to have been in command of the operation." Cordon & Search, Maj Gen R Dare Wilson

CPO Frank Plane, PO William Reading and PO Stoker Mechanic Arthur Turner: "For valuable services rendered under the arduous and dangerous conditions prevailing in the Port of Haifa up to the date of the withdrawal of British forces from Palestine." LG 38504


Major Cowtan MC and Bar who had been in charge of the King David Hotel rescue was awarded the MBE.

Major EAD Liddle of Divisional HQ, for his actions in an attack on the Astoria Restaurant, 28/29th June 1947, Haifa:

"Two young Jews in a taxi drew up opposite the restaurant, and after dismounting, fired tommy-guns through the windows at the officers inside. Captain MC Kissane of 9th Parachute Battalion was killed and two other officers were wounded. The remaining officers, who escaped injury took up the fight and forced the gangsters to withdraw. The taxi was hit repeatedly as it drove off and before it had gone far was abandoned by the Jews who escaped down a side street after at least one of them had been wounded. The offensive action of Major EAD Liddle of Divisional Headquarters was particularly prominent throughout this engagement, and he was later decorated with the MBE." Cordon and Search, Maj Gen R Dare Wilson.

Mention in Despatches (MID)

Recipients received a certificate: "By the KING'S Order the name of name, Regiment, was published in the London Gazette on date, as mentioned in a Despatch for distinguished service, I am charged to record His Majesty's high appreciation. E Shinwell Secretary of State for War."

There were a huge number of MIDs and they can all be found in the London Gazette.

"Tom Thaxter was serving as a Bren Gunner with the 1st Battalion Duke of Cornwalls. The Battalion were taking part in a live firing exercise and although he was signed off as being sick, Tom was asked to supervise a young 19 year old soldier who was learning the ropes with the Bren Gun. A miscommunication meant that 4.2" mortars that were laying down fire traversed 20 degrees left instead of right and Tom's position was hit by a round. Tom was seriously hit in the arm and the 19 year old was hit in the leg. Tom picked him up but whilst trying to get to safety, they were hit by another mortar round which blinded Tom in one eye and killed his comrade."Pal Vets newsletter No.8 Sept 2006.


This site focuses on the last years of the Mandate but it mustn't be forgotten that there were many earlier courageous acts such as RSM Peacock: Nablus 1938; awarded the Military Medal.

The Royal Humane Society pre-war awards awards to Palestine Police Officers gives an idea of some of the unexpected actions that policemen found themselves performing.

All other medals are issued by the MOD Medals Officecomplete list of medals. The Medal Office can provide replacements but there is a charge.

British Legion list of post war medals

medal for Palestine service
GSM Palestine with clasp
Photo: Drummer Wragg of the
Lincolnshire Regt
Naval GSM
badly damaged aircraft
Terrorist attack, Lydda
Photo: Bill Dutton
two armed soldiers
Soldiers on duty
Photo: Eric Farthing
fire trucks and much black smoke
Trucks attending oil fire
Photo: Charlie Powell
One of many road blocks
Photo: Fred Wragg, Lincs Rgt
fire trucks and much black smoke
More bowsers and trucks
Photo: Charlie Powell
people in street
Riot in Tel Aviv
Photo: Daphne Mawby
litter-strew street
Messy aftermath of riot
Photo: Daphne Mawby
list of awards
40 Commando awards
assembling sandbags in jaffa
Jaffa, collecting sandbags
armoured cars in stony wadi
A wadi near Rehovath
Photo: Edwin Jack
tank in street
Irish Fusiliers, Jaffa
palm trees on a  bay