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Dennis and Gerald Skinner, Haifa

Photo: Dennis Skinner (on left) and his twin brother, Gerald, both stationed in Haifa. It was mainly Dennis who went to the docks to escort the illegal immigrants either to another vessel for Cyprus - he made three journeys - or to a camp in Palestine. Gerald was mostly in an office but occasionally went down to the docks. The people were often in a terrible state and part of Dennis and Gerald's duties was to check immigrants for illness and to get them cleaned up and deloused.

They were shocked by the cages on the Royal Navy ships but these were to stop immigrants throwing anything they could find at troops or jumping over the side either in despair or to swim ashore.

This badge was given to Dennis by one of the women taken off a ship. I am told that it is probably from Hashomer Hatzair which was a Marxist/Zionist youth organization very much involved with bringing Jews to Palestine.

Transcript

"Occasionally we would be called out at any time of the day or night to attend to the ships that came into Haifa bringing illegal immigrants in. We would all go down there, and the navy would be there and other regiments would be there, beside the 6th Airborne Division and our job was to supervise and escort them down the gangplanks from the ships that came in on to the naval corvettes which is what I was doing. They put them in cages on the naval corvettes. Why in cages? God knows why in cages! As if they were criminals or something well they were not criminals at all and we would close the door and kept guard until we set sail for Cyprus.

Then we'd off-load them at Cyprus and down the gangplank and that's the last I would see of them. Now on one particular occasion when I was on the ship an elderly lady that was in the cage gave me a little brooch which I have here and it happens to be the Star of David and she said to me, 'take this and remember what you are doing'. So I took it, I put it in my wallet and I've carried it about in my wallet for God knows how many years. It must be at least thirty years I carried it about in my wallet and I've still got it to this very day and I still do not understand really what it was all about."

Recorded 14th July 2010