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In Memoriam - the 784 (at least) left behind

Pte Aubrey Woodward,
d. 25.10.47
Photo: Natalie Fairlie
Sgt Coleman, d. 18.5.42
Photo: Wilfrid Pain

"Between November 29th 1947 and June 1948, 214 British servicemen lost their lives, including the 28 killed when the Stern Gang blew up the Khantara to Haifa Express at Rehovoth on February 29th 1948." Last to Leave section on Britains Small Wars.

In 2001, thanks to the efforts of individuals, a Palestine memorial was finally erected at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas. The media generally ignore the Palestine Mandate, and BBC commentators are most unlikely to interview or focus on Palestine Veterans during the Remembrance Day Parade at the Cenotaph.

"At the going down of the sun
and in the morning,
We will remember them."
(But please, don't mention those
killed in Palestine.)

Hundreds of service personnel died in Palestine; some from accident, particularly vehicle, and some from disease, but a large number were killed by terrorists. Many of those killed had fought and survived the Western Desert and Europe. There was no question of their bodies being brought home unless the family paid but the war had not long ended, many families were homeless; everyone was trying to get back to some kind of normality. Young men and women were no longer needed for war service and many were unemployed; few families could afford to bring home a son or husband. The dead were left in Khayat Beach, Ramleh, Mount Zion or other cemeteries. Some of those who died were sons of men who died in the Great War.

I lost good friends, too many
And still recall their names
Among them Darkie Batsman
And Bombardier Horace James
from Gerry Burr's poem

Official casualty figures don't seem to exist but George Webb, a Royal Artillery Palestine Veteran, worked hard to get the sacrifices of those who served in Palestine properly recognized. His book Epitaph for an Army of Peacekeepers lists the names of those killed by the enemy. Many more were injured, and many died later from their wounds such as the husband of Vicky McKenzie, a doctor who was shot while tending wounded men after an ambush. He never fully recovered and died a few years later.

Ramleh Cemetery
Photo: Wilfrid Pain

The Parachute Regiment has a website listing those members of the Regiment who died in Palestine.

Many Commonwealth service personnel lost their lives fighting with British forces but there were also others, the Danish volunteers for instance, some of whom died in Palestine.

Casualty information on this site comes from various sources including George Webb's book above, The General Service Medal 'Palestine 1945-48' compiled by David Buxton, and the links below.

Khayat Beach Cemetery
Ramleh Cemetery

Rev Pointon's photos
Palestine Police Roll of Honour
British Legion and MOD searchable
Roll of Honour
three stone graves with wreaths.
The Palestine Police graves

Some victims, particularly Palestine Police, were buried in other cemeteries such as the Jerusalem Protestant Cemetery, the British Civil Cemetery in Haifa or that in the village of Beit Jala — since desecrated by Muslims in 2001 and Settlers in 2008. Cemeteries in the Occupied Territories are regularly attacked by settlers; no one is charged with vandalism. Some Palestine Policemen were also buried in the Jaffa Road Cemetery and Diego Mesia who lives in the area is developing a website detailing the graves.

Sgt Anthony Rae in Nazareth

Local historian, Mr Michael Gottschalk, a Haifa resident, recently discovered the graves of the first Palestine Policemen to be killed and in October 2012 new headstones were unveiled in Nazareth. Retired Lancashire Police Sergeant Antony Rae represented both the British Police and the Palestine Police Old Comrades Association at the ceremony which was attended by Nazareth Mayor, Ramiz Jaraisy, a local group of history buffs, and representatives of the British Embassy and of the Israel Police. (Thanks to Michael Robson in Israel for text and photos.)

It is all the more poignant that many of the service men and women were killed by a people they had helped liberate from Nazi Germany.

In Gaza there is a British War Cemetery for the fallen of the Great War which Grafton Maggs visited in 1946 to take photos of graves for families in Wales. There is also a Canadian activist's blog entry with many photos and details about the Gaza cemetery.

A visit to Khayat Beach Cemetery

In 1994 Gerald Green visited Khayat Beach where he searched for the graves of comrades:

"I am afraid to say that the graves of my Palestine Police colleagues were in a deplorable state, and in fact I could not find the graves of some of them. I was particularly looking for ex-British Constable Norman Winsor who was blown up driving the Haifa CID car in 1947. I attended his funeral and I knew exactly where he was buried, but his headstone had completely disappeared as had some others. At that time the main road had been widened and there was a wide grass verge of some 150 feet when we were out there. This had now been reduced and the actual wall of the cemetery was up tight to the main road. What was nice, that the grave of ex-British Constable Anton Bowen, a friend of mine, had a nice wreath of flowers on it. When talking to his sister who lives in Lewes, Sussex, she told me that they had paid a florist in Haifa every year to put a wreath on it and she was delighted when I gave her a picture of the wreath which this Jewish florist had faithfully put on the grave every September since Anton was killed by terrorists. His sister of course had never visited the grave.

With regard to the graves I visited in Jerusalem at Mount Zion Cemetery (not known to myself), this was not much better than Khayat Beach as many of the headstones had been damaged. On looking for the headstone of my friend Arthur Sitch, I found part of the headstone only, this was leaning up against the wall, the other half was nowhere to be seen. Another cemetery that has been very much neglected.

The Cemetery at Ramleh is in first class order and very well maintained, and the graves of ex-Sergeants Martin and Paice I was able to find straight away. This cemetery is beautifully kept." Gunners in Palestine Newsletter, September 2006.

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Colours on parade
Sgt Clifford Martin's funeral
Palestine cemetery
Pte Woodward was one of
many killed in road accidents.
RTR Memorial
stone graves and memorials and cypress trees.
Jerusalem Protestant Cemetery
Nov 2006. Photo: Reg Quelch
Memorial card
PP graves before the ceremony
"I recall counting up to 20 coffins, all of Palestine Policemen, being carried to the cemetery on Mount Zion." Cpl Dot Foster, ATS, Jerusalem.
ex PP Sgt Tom Quelch