Bombardier Sydney Smart - train attack

seated elderly man gesturing with hands


"Well, I'm Bombardier Smart. I served in Egypt for twelve months before going up to Palestine for a further twelve months in '47/48. I travelled by plane from Egypt, Tel el Kebir, across to Suez, picked up the train from Cairo up to Haifa and about 10 o'clock in the morning we passed a big hoarding saying, 'Welcome to Palestine, the Land of Fruit and Sunshine'.

Moments later there was the most enormous explosion and we were all on the floor. There was screaming and crying, machine gun bullets, and it was total mayhem. It calmed down eventually and we were ordered off the train and tried to help along the back of the train. There were various bodies laid out on the side covered with white sheets and between two carriages which had telescoped, there was an Egyptian railway employee who had been squashed. And he was standing perfectly straight, wearing a fez and navy blue uniform.

We had to wade about helping and doing what we could until we were ordered up the front of the train to wait for another train to come down from Haifa. We waited about an hour. Our destination basically was Tulkarm on the lower region of the West Bank and eventually the train came along. It took us along to Tulkarm where we waited in the Waiting Room. The senior chap in the Waiting Room rang the Regiment to say we were here. An hour later they sent a lorry along. We eventually arrived, shaken but still alive. And that was our introduction to Palestine.

It's always stuck with me, that bomb. Because unless you have experienced it you can't describe it. It just hits you, you know. Then we were all on the floor, everybody shouting and screaming. Bullets flying. And, of course, in the army it's a crime to lose your rifle and we were snatching any rifle so long as you got one. But when we got back and we finally made it to the camp they checked who'd got what and you had to hand the correct one in or renew it."

Recorded: June 2010