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Remembered Today:

American Jews for Palestine


centurion

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In March 1918 some 250 to 400 Jewish men, recruited by the British and Canadian Recruitment Committee from New York and surrounding towns were paraded in New York prior to shipping out. The newspapers of the time reported that they would be going to 'British Army Jewish units in Palestine'. Did the British Army in fact have distinctly Jewish units operating in Palestine? If so what did they do? Was this in any way connected with the Balfour declaration? I recognise that there is a danger, even today, of touching some raw nerves with such a question but it's asked as a genuine, non value loaded historical enquiry.

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I think they were organised - together with recruits from Britain as well as some already in situ in Palestine - as a battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. Could be wrong, though. That's a vague memory from something I read ages ago.

Allie

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The following is from the website palestinefacts dot org, a pro-Israeli site:

The British Govemment was pressed to permit the formation of a Jewish unit that would participate in the liberation of Palestine. Before the war ended five battalions of Jewish volunteers of several nationalities were raised for the British Army, the 38th through 42nd (Service) Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). Together they were known as the "Jewish Legion." The 39th Battalion was made up almost entirely of Jews who were resident in the United States and Canada.

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Centurion,

quote: Did the British Army in fact have distinctly Jewish units operating in Palestine? If so what did they do?

Yes they did. For details see 'With the Judeans in the Palestine Campaign' by Lt-Col J. H. Patterson DSO (recently republished by N & M)

quote: Was this in any way connected with the Balfour declaration?

Not really, as the formation took place earlier in 1917 [balfour's letter to Rothschild was dated 2nd November 1917]. On 27th July 1917 Lt-Col J. H. Patterson DSO was ordered from the Curragh to London, to commence the formation of a Jewish Regiment and on 23rd August 1917 his command and the formation were gazetted. Shortly after this it was decided to change the name of the unit which then became the 38th Royal Fusiliers.

Recruitment went well and it was very soon decided to form two further battalions. One of these later formations was recruited mainly from the Americas. The first two Jewish battalions, the 38th & the 39th Royal Fusiliers were with Chaytor's Force in 1918. Thought not certain at this moment, I seem to recollect that the mainly American battalion had only got as far as a training base in Egypt by the end of the war.

regards

Michael

ps: re the latter; I now see from the OH [page 420] that the 38th arrived in Egypt 1st March 1918, the 39th arrived there at the end of April and "the 40th arrived subsequently, but was retained by the Force in Egypt." This subesquent arrival seems to tie in with their being at a parade in NY, USA, in March 1918

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Just to round off the story

Patterson's book mainly concerns itself with his own battalion, the 38th RF, but he does have refs. to the 40th

eg; 'Early in December (1918) I received another large draft of raw Jewish recruits from the 40th Battalion Royal Fusiliers - all American citizens... ... ...

It was a thousand pities that these enthusiastic American volunteers did not get a fair chance to show their mettle. I well remember how favourably I was impressed with their physique and general appearance when I inspected them on their arrival at Rafa. They were miles ahead, physically, of the men who joined the battalion in England - in fact I do not believe that there was a unit in the whole of the E.E.F. that held such a fine-looking body of men. Because they were untrained and had no idea of discipline, these hefty youths were constantly in trouble for breaches of military rules and regulations. They simply did not understand soldiering or what it meant... ... ... Their military offences were not grave, just the delinquencies that must be expected of recruits, because they are recruits.'

The 40th Battalion RF was merged with the 38th in December 1919.

regards

Michael

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Pete,

regarding the movements of the 40th Battalion

quote from TLLT - April 1918 left England, arriving Egypt.

I have no idea where Chris got his info from,

but it is at variance with that which Patterson gives in his book

on page 121 Patterson refers to a review held by Allenby 'towards the end of August' 1918

at this review Patterson had the opportunity of speaking with Allenby,

and during that conversation told his CiC that

"I had just had a letter from the officer commanding the 40th Battalion at Plymouth, informing me that he was about to embark with his battalion..."

Their departure from the UK was confirmed a few days later (30th Aug '18) by Gen. Chaytor, when he told Patterson

"... your information about the coming of another Jewish Battalion was better than the Chief's after all, for one of my officers has just come from England, and he tells me a strong Jewish Battalion came out with him in the same ship and landed in Egypt a couple of days ago."

Regards

Michael

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I now see that a little further on in his RF page of TLLT Chris has added the following

quote: 38th to 42nd (Labour) Battalions:

38th formed at Plymouth in September 1917; 39th formed at Plymouth on 21 Jan 1918;

40th was retitled from 42nd (Reserve) on 12 July 1918 and went to Egypt on 16 Aug 1918, where it supplied drafts for 38 and 39th RF; 41st Bn was never formed. 42nd (Reserve) Bn was formed from the Reserve Coy of 38 the Battalion on its departure for Egypt and was retitled 40th (S) Battalion as shown above. Those remaining at Plymouth became the Jewish Depot RF.

There seems to be the need for some tidying-up of these two entries

As well as the 40th's entry, also note

'38th formed at Plymouth in September 1917' is correct per the Patterson & the LG

whereas the earlier TLLT ref to '38th (Service) Battalion: Formed at Plymouth on 20 January 1918' is not

As it stands at the present, TLLT is a little confusing on this matter

regards

Michael

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Michael

I think that Chris's originalentry was based on James British Regiments 1914-1918. The amendment was as a result of reserach that I did on the Jewish Legion for my book Call to Arms. Interstingly, not all of the Americans Jews arrived in Egypt. A few apparently turned up in the 7th Royal Fusileirs speaking only Yiddish. How they got through their basic training without this being discovered cuases the mind to boggle!

Charles M

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Thanks Charles,

Your research has no doubt been helpful in correcting the errors in James shown here,

but at the moment it looks as though Chris forgot for edit one when adding the other:

thus, confusion to the uninitiated

It is interesting that you mention the Yiddish speaking members of the 7th RF; I had not come across that.

Jabotinsky, had been in Cairo with Trumpeldor, trying to persuade the Empire to take on Jewish recruits, when the British counter proposed the Zion Mule Corps in stead.

Trumpeldor, the one-armed veteran of Port Arthur, agreed to this, while Jabotinsky, the writer and journalist, thought a mule train beneath his dignity and so did not join the ZMC.

He did however make his way to London, and after the disbanding of the ZMC in 1916 gathered around him a group of Gallipoli veterans in the 20th Battalion. Patterson credits this as the germ of the idea of a Jewish Regiment, stating that Jabotinsky bombarded everyone in Europe and America with letters on the subject.

best regards

Michael

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Michael

Yes, I have read Jabotinsky's letters to Lloyd George while he was with the 20th Londons, which had a totally Jewish platoon. It is a fascinating story.

Charles M

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post-20901-1213468890.jpg

Centurion
This gives a rounded picture from Israel's point of view.

Harry


post-20901-1213469025.jpg


post-20901-1213469075.jpg


post-20901-1213469129.jpg
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Many thanks for posting those scans Harry,

I have been to the museum a few times, but have not seen that info sheet before.

Regarding page 3

There was a recruitment drive in the country once the EEF had reached the Jaffa - Jerusalem line, and this work was, I think, led by Major James de Rothschild

As the original members of the 40th Battalion were used up in successive drafts from Egypt to the 38th and 39th (eg; see post #6 above)

then eventually the local recruits became the majority in it, and I imagine that it was at this quite late stage that it became known as The Palestinian Battalion (but I have no info as to exactly when this name was first applied)

regards

Michael

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