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Jewish Coys/Sections with Regts/Corps


Guest Ian Bowbrick

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Guest Ian Bowbrick

With the exception of the Royal Fusiliers which had Jewish Battalions, has anyone come across Jewish Coys or sections within Regiments or Corps they have been researching, whether deliberate or made up randomly?

I am particularly interested in information on the Essex Regt, which then took in areas like Forest Gate, South Woodford and Epping.

Ian

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Ian,

Sorry that I cannot help with your specific request re the Essex Regt.,

However for general info, the ranks of the Zion Mule Corps (1915-1916) which served at Gallipoli were made up of Jewish exiles from Ottoman Palestine who were expelled from there when they refused to drop their 'enemy alien' Russian nationality and become naturalised Turks.

There is also a single documentary record (WO 329/2359) of a Jewish Labour Corps. Apart from the Medal Roll mentioned, nothing else seems to be known about these 189 men.

Incidentally, the three battalions of the Royal Fusiliers which you mention had the following nicknames: 38th the "Tailors," 39th the "Americans" and 40th the "Palestinians."

Regards

Michael D.R.

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David_Bluestein

This is a subject that is of particular interest to me. I wish I could provide some further evidence of organized companies etc. serving in certain regiments. I have heard this before, but never able to determine anything concrete. I have been left to understand other then the more famous groups, there were no organized companies.

What I do know is there were many soldiers of Jewish decent serving in Commonwealth regiments during the Great War; contributing many thousands of men, from all class structures, and from every corner of the Empire, to serve in the Great War. Here are a few that I have been studying:

(My Uncle:) Pte. Samuel Bluestein 1st Bn. London Regt. (RF) Killed at Courcelette Sept. 15, 1916

(Bluestein's half brother, my second serving uncle:) Pte. Samuel Eizenberg 39th RF

A/Lcpl. Issy Smith VC, 1st Bn. Manchester Regt.

Lieut. Myer T. Cohen MC 42nd Battalion RHC. (Known as 'McCohen' to this men). Killed at Passhcendaele on November 3, 1917. I have attached a very good article about Cohen:

Wish I could have answered the question better, but hope this info is of interest...

post-1-1065541118.jpg

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Guest Ian Bowbrick

David,

Thanks for that. I have come across groups of Jewish Soldiers in the MGC, Labour Corps and the Essex Regt. However it appears that there was no deliberate policy to do this, it just happened. Like many things I suspect there is no simple answer and somewhere in a file at the PRO there looks a sheet of paper with the answer on.

Cheers - Ian

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Paul,

I think that the book you're thinking of is the "British Jewry Book of Honour"

Ian & David,

If you wish to take subject further then a good man to contact would be Martin Sugarman who is the Archivist of the Assoc. of Jewish Ex-Servicemen & Women

(AJEX) in London.

Regards

Michael D.R.

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Ian

The Russian Companies of the Labour Corps had a high proportion of Jewish men in them. This was particularly the case for 1001, 1002, 1021 and 1022 Companies. In the case of these Companies it was a policy decision taken early in 1918.

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There is an article entitled "11th Tower Hamlets Volunteers: The First Jewish Unit in the British Army" available online at

http://www.eclipse.co.uk/exeshul/susser/twrhamlets.htm

This unit was formed in 1860! However, at the end of the article is a bit about Jews in the 1914- 1918 War. I will paste it in at the end of this post.

There has been someone writing on Jews in the British Army in the Military Historical Society bulletin of late. He was writing about Jews who fought at Arnhem in WW2. I have a feeling that his name was Sugarman, so it could be the AJEX official mentioned above.

I have also read other Jewish military articles in the past by a man from Brighton. I can't remember the name, but it could be the same person again.

Later in the century one finds references to Jews serving in other East End Volunteer units &emdash; in the Tower Hamlets Engineers and in the 2nd Tower Hamlets Rifles.[28] The appropriate East End Territorial units, after 1908, were part of the London Regiment: the 17th (County of London) Battalion (Poplar & Stepney Rifles) and the 4th (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers).[29] As a Territorial unit the 4th Battalion was sent out at the start of the Great War to Malta to enable regular Army troops to be returned to France. The JC, reporting this [30], noted that there were 32 Jews in the unit. Later it served in France.[31] The first reported death was that of Pte William Alfred Andrade on 15th March 1915. [ibid., Vol 48. No. 192, May 1998, p.169, footnote.] The 17th Battalion was also in action. In October 1915 the Jewish Chronicle, reporting that five Jews had been killed so far in that Battalion, noted that it was from East London and included "a large body of Jewish soldiers."[32] The Nominal Roll of the London Regiment in the British Jewry Book of Honour lists the names of about 200 Jews who served in the 17th Bn and 180 in the 4th Bn in the course of the war.[33]

During 1915 there was in fact a Jewish unit of the British Army, the Zion Mule Corps, composed of Palestinian Jews ejected by the Turks from Palestine. It was serving in Gallipoli.[34] Two years later the Judeans were formed, the 38th-40th battalions of the Royal Fusiliers, with a Jewish rank and file but with some non-Jewish officers and at first some non-Jewish NCOs.[35]

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You may be interested to know that there is Jewish War Memorial in King's Park, Perth, WA and from what I remember it's a WW1 Memorial.

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Guest Ian Bowbrick
Paul,

I think that the book you're thinking of is the "British Jewry Book of Honour"

There is a copy of the British Jewry Book of Honour in the Library at the PRO. They also appear from time to time on eBay. However it is like the National Roll series in its coverage ie not comprehensive and you had to pay to be included & according to a neighbour of ours when I was a nipper it wasn't cheap!

The same old fella had been in the KRRC before being transferred to a Unit he referred to as the 'Israelites'. I remember this title being used by other of our neighbours at that time who were veterans. I don't know or can't remember any further details but they were definitely in France.

Ivor - Interesting about those Units, we seem to have come around to Vashkunis again, who interestingly was a tailor. Was that a role of any of these Coys?

All very interesting & food for thought - Ian

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Ian

The 'Russian' Companies were general companies used for the usual labouring tasks.

It was the Employment Companies that had men working as tailors. Mind you as the Employment Companies generally had men of poorer medical category and as, apparently, many of the Jewish men in the LC were physically poor a fair number of them ended up in Employment Companies.

In fact the Russian Companies had to have extra PT in order to build up their stamina etc.

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Guest Ian Bowbrick

Ivor,

Re: The 'Russian' Labour Coys - bearing in mind not all immigrants could speak English, were there translators or native speakers amongst the NCOs?

Thanks - Ian

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Ian

An interesting question! So far every man, including the NCOs, I have come across in one of these companies were of immigrant stock.

Many of the men would have been first generation British and speak English even if this was not their first language at home.

Although I have no evidence to support this, I suspect that Yiddish would have been used as well as English by the NCOs to give orders etc.

Ivor

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charlesmessenger

I would add that when the 40th Royal Fusiliers were formed an ACI was published calling for Russian and/or Yiddish speaking NCOs.

Another unit which had a high proportion of Jews were the Buckinghamshire Bns TF of the Ox and Bucks LI. Another was the 20th Reserve Bn London Regt. Vladimir Jabotinsky, the driving force behind the formation of the Jewish bns of the Royal Fusiliers, enlisted in the latter.

Charles M

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Ivor,

Re: The 'Russian' Labour Coys - bearing in mind not all immigrants could speak English, were there translators or native speakers amongst the NCOs?

Thanks - Ian

Ian,

to broaden your question just a little, I am pretty sure that Capt. Joseph Trumpeldor of the ZMC had to use an English translator on Gallipoli and there are several references in the literature to surprised Tommies (usually ex-Londoners ) hearing Yiddish spoken by these men on the peninsula. This unit had its fair share of discipline problems and these were probably not helped by the language difficulties

Charles,

Jabotinsky had been working for some time on the idea of Jewish involvement on the allied side. In early 1915 he was with Trumpeldor in Egypt trying to persuade the British to accept their help, however he withdrew from the scheme when he found that a 'mule corps' serving on Gallipoli was all that was to be offered. Trumpeldor's experience serving in the Russo-Japanese War helped to persuaded him that even such a transport unit could make a useful contribution.

Regarding the battalions of the Royal Fusiliers mentioned earlier, the 39th can boast that two prime ministers and one state president rose from its ranks; respectively David Ben-Gurion, Levi Eshkol and Izhak Ben-Zvi

Regards

Michael D.R.

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The Jewish Cemetry at Plashet Grove off High St North London E6 has many Jewish Graves of the First World War, believe it or not (and this is something i've never seen in this country) it even has several German war graves there.

I have a copy of British Jewry 1914 - 18 and am happy to do look ups.

Marc

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Marc

I'm not sure whether you mean that you've never seen German graves with Jewish, or whether you've never seen German graves in this country. If it is the latter, I know of one other location.

The cemetary at the site of the (now demolished) Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley Hampshire, has the graves of the dead laid one after the other in order of death so you will find German next to French next to British. As far as I remember, they each have their national gravestone and commemoration.

The views over Southampton Water are spectacular and the old hospital chapel is well worth a visit.

Nigel Deacon

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