Soldiers from New York: Jewish Soldiers in The New York Times, in World War Two: Second Lieutenant Arthur Chasen and Sergeant Alfred R. Friedlander

Sometimes, a coincidence is only apparent in retrospect.

On February 27 and March 6, 1945, the Times published obituaries for two members of the Army Air Force – Second Lieutenant Arthur M. Chasen, and Sergeant Alfred Robert Friedlander – respectively, who were both described as having been killed in action in Yugoslavia on December 23, 1944, during their second combat mission.  At the time, it might only have been realized by the most astute reader that Chasen and Friedlander were members of the same aircrew.  Both were lost – along with their seven fellow crewmen – in the same aircraft, on the same combat mission: A sortie to parachute two B.A.F. (Balkan Air Force) agents into the area of Banja Luka, Yugoslavia. 

Chasen and Friedlander were assigned to the 15th Air Force’s 885th Bomb Squadron, based at Brindisi, Italy, and were crew members of the B-24L Liberator 44-49336, “Lady Mary”, piloted by Second Lieutenant Arthur B. Legath.  As recorded in the Missing Air Crew Report (#10934) covering the plane’s loss, the aircraft, which departed at 1024, was contacted twice during the mission: once at 1202 hours, and later at 1545 hours.  Each message was acknowledged shortly after its receipt, with the plane’s last response being received by the 885th at 1549. 

No further communication was received from the aircraft. 

By the time the Missing Air Crew Report was compiled (on either the 28th or 30th of December) unofficial word was received that the aircraft had crashed on the Yugoslavian coast.  News about the crew’s loss presumably reached the United States not longer after.     

According to information compiled by Enrico Barbina at his superb The Solomon Crew website, the mission of December 23, 1944 was also the second combat flight for Lieutenant Legath.  The flight was the 13th combat mission of Lady Mary

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Lieutenant Chasen’s obituary was published in the Times on February 27, and in the Brooklyn Eagle on February 28, 1945.  His name appeared in a Casualty List on March 27.  He is presumably buried in a private cemetery in the United States. 

Brooklyn Flier Casualty on Yugoslav Mission

Lieut. Arthur M. Chasen, navigator in the crew of a bomber that was lost over Yugoslavia Dec. 23, was reported as killed in action on that date, in a telegram received by his parents from the War Department Thursday.  He lived at 727 East Third Street, Brooklyn.  It was his second mission from a base in Italy.

Prior to enlisting while a senior at St. John’s University in Brooklyn in 1942, Lieutenant Chasen had attended Erasmus Hall High School in that borough.  He was commissioned at San Marcos, Texas, in July, 1944.  In addition to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Isidor Chasen, the young navigator is survived by two sisters, Mrs. Betty Lebowitz and Mrs. Gladys Hyman, both of Brooklyn.

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Sergeant Friedlander’s obituary was published in the Times on March 6, and appeared in a Casualty List on March 27, 1945.  His name also appeared in the “In Memoriam” section of the Times in October of 1945, and, in 1946 and 1947.   

Initially a member of the 721st Bomb Squadron of the 450th “Cottontails” Bomb Group, he was also mentioned in The Herald Statesman (Yonkers) on January 6, 1944.  He is buried at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, in Nettuno, Italy.  (Plot I, Row 3, Grave 69) 

Killed on Second Mission From Italy Bomber Base

Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Friedlander of 461 Riverdale Avenue, Yonkers, have received word from the War Department of the death of their son, Sgt. A. Robert Friedlander, radio-gunner in the crew of a B-24 bomber that was lost over Yugoslavia on Dec. 23.  Sergeant Friedlander, who was reported killed on that date, was on his second mission from a base in Italy.

He was in his second year at the University of Illinois when he enlisted as an aviation cadet in September, 1942.  He was a member of the Sons of the American Legion, Post 935.

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Here is a 2013 Google Street view of the wartime residence of the Friedlander family: 461 Riverdale Avenue, Yonkers. 

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Here are pages from Missing Air Crew Report 10934 for “Lady Mary”.  Although specific mention is made of the two B.A.F. agents, neither their names nor information about their fate are presented.

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Some other Jewish military casualties on Saturday, December 23, 1944 are listed below.  (The names of casualties for army ground forces on this date are presented in the post covering Private Alfred A. Berg)

Killed in Action
– .ת.נ.צ.ב.ה. –

Cummings, Benjamin B., F/O, T-005736, Bombardier, Purple Heart (Killed on his very first combat mission)
United States Army Air Force, 9th Air Force, 397th Bomb Group, 599th Bomb Squadron
Mrs. Dorit (“Little”) Cummings (wife); Benjamin Cummings, Jr. (son), 4400 Pacific Ave., Wildwood, N.J.
Mr. and Mrs. Samuel and Celia Cummings (parents), Henry, Dr. Martin M., and Reuben M. Cummings (brothers), 301 West High St., Glassboro, N.J. / 11 Clementon Road, Camden, N.J.
Born at Blenheim, N.J., 1/16/24; Graduate of Glassboro State Teachers College
MACR 11897, B-26G 43-34159, “Hun Conscious II”, “6B * J”, Pilot – 1 Lt. Philip C. Dryden, 6 crew – 2 survivors
Buried at Crescent Burial Park, Pennsauken, N.J.
American Jews in World War II – 230 (See full biography at DVRBS.com)

 

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Korn, Abraham J., PFC, 12029144, Togglier, Purple Heart
United States Army Air Force,  9th Air Force, 397th Bomb Group, 596th Bomb Squadron
Mrs. Nellie Korn (mother), 354 Fabyan Place, Newark, N.J.
Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, Mo. – Section 84, Grave 156-158; Buried 6/9/50
American Jews in World War II – 242

Lewis, Craig E., 1 Lt., 0-417548, Bombardier, Air Medal, Purple Heart
United States Army Air Force,  9th Air Force, 397th Bomb Group, 596th Bomb Squadron
Mr. Benjamin F. Lewis (father), 5486 Blackstone Ave., Chicago, Il.
Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupre, Belgium – Plot C, Row 9, Grave 22
Casualty List 11/7/45
American Jews in World War II – 108

PFC Korn and Lt. Lewis were crewmen in B-26B Mauarder 42-96144, “Bank Nite Betty”, “X2 * C”, piloted by 1 Lt. Charles W. Estes.  (MACR #11483)  None of the plane’s seven crewmen survived the mission.

Excellent and highly evocative photographs of Bank Nite Betty and her crew can be found at the website of the American Air Museum in Britain.  As mentioned in the photo’s the caption, the plane received a direct flak hit and crashed northeast of Saint Vith.  As captioned at the website, the men are as follows:  “Crew: Pilot 1st Lt Charles W Estes (Mo.) [standing at far left], Co-pilot 1st Lt William D Collins (Ia.), Bomb 1st Lt Craig E Lewis (Il.), Eng S/Sgt James P Negri (N.Y.), Radio T/Sgt William E Epps (Ar.), Arm Sgt Bruno T Daszkiewicz (I.) X Gun Pfc Abraham J Korn (N.J.).”

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Mendelsohn, Jerome H., Sgt., 32538446, Radio Operator, Air Medal, 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart, 12 to 14 missions
United States Army Air Force, 9th Air Force, 394th Bomb Group, 584th Bomb Squadron
Mr. Irving Mendelsohn (father), 1432 Harrod Ave., New York, N.Y.
MACR 11402, B-26B 42-96061, “Heavens Above”, “K5 * P”, Pilot – 2 Lt. Fred E. Riegner, 6 crewmen – 2 survivors
Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France – Plot J, Row 50, Grave 19
Casualty List 12/7/45
American Jews in World War II – 391

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Sampson, William Gilbert (“Sonny”) (וועלוויל נעציל בן מענדיל – Velvel Getzel ben Mendil), Cpl., 36589011, Radio Operator, Air Medal, Purple Heart, 8 missions
United States Army Air Force, 9th Air Force, 391st Bomb Group, 574th Bomb Squadron
Mr. and Mrs. Max [2/22/00-12/13/51] and Debby (Levine) Sampson [1905-11/22/58] (parents), 11818 14th St., Detroit, Mi. [only child]
Born 12/2/24
MACR 11671, B-26B 42-95841, “Powerful Katrinka”, “4L * S”, Pilot – 2 Lt. Edward F. Donnelly, 6 crewmen – no survivors
Machpelah Cemetery, Ferndale, Mi. – Buried 1/2/49; Unveiling 6/12/49
Detroit Jewish Chronicle 12/31/48, 6/9/49
Jewish News (Detroit) 12/14/45, 12/31/48, 6/10/49, 6/14/49
American Jews in World War II – 430

This excellent in-flight image of Powerful Katrinka is from the website of the American Air Museum in Britain.

This image of Corporal Sampson appeared in the Jewish News (Detroit) on December 31, 1948. 

The following two images show the matzevot of Corporal Sampson, and, his father, Max, at the Machpelah Cemetery, in Ferndale, Michigan. The upper image was photographed in 2013 by FindAGrave contributor KChaffeeB., while the lower image was photographed in 2009 by FindAGrave contributor Denise.  I assume (?) that William Sampson’s mother, Debby, is also buried at Machpelah Cemetery.

The similarity of symbols on these two matzevot is more than coincidental.   

Apparently, William was an only child. 

Both of his parents passed away in the 1950s.  They were quite young, even by demographics of that decade:  His father Max was only fifty-one, and his mother Debby only fifty-three.

William’s matzevot bears a pair of wings, centered upon the symbol “9th AF”. 

Max’s mazevot also bears pair of wings, centered upon the symbol of a shield (representing the United States armed forces) surmounted by a resting dove.  

Alas, the Second World War did not “end” in 1945…

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Scherer, Norman S., 1 Lt., 0-887158, Navigator, Air Medal, 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart, 2 Oak Leaf Clusters
United States Army Air Force, 9th Air Force, 397th Bomb Group, 598th Bomb Squadron
Mr. Arthur Scherer (father), Monument Square, Southampton, Long Island, N.Y.
Casualty List 4/12/45; Nassau Daily Review-Star 10/22/45
MACR 11549, B-26G 43-34221, “Lil’ Jan”, “U2 * L”,  Pilot – Capt. Donald H. Stangle, 8 crewmen – no survivors
Luxembourg American Cemetery, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg – Plot C, Row 1, Grave 15
American Jews in World War II – 430

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Shweder, Howard, Cpl., 12219444, Tail Gunner, Purple Heart
United States Army Air Force, 9th Air Force, 387th Bomb Group, 559th Bomb Squadron
Mr. Herman Shweder (father), 1957 74th St., Brooklyn, N.Y.
MACR 11482, B-26B 42-95869, “The Front Burner II”, “TQ * F”, Pilot – 2 Lt. Matthew J. Pusateri, 7 crewmen – no survivors
Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, Mo. – Section 82, Grave 48; Buried 9/22/49
American Jews in World War II – 441

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Wolf, Edward, 2 Lt., 0-761272, Bombardier-Navigator
United States Army Air Force, 9th Air Force, 391st Bomb Group, 575th Bomb Squadron
Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin and Tillie Wolf (parents); Abraham, Anna, and Ruth (brother and sisters), Chicago, Il.
Mrs. A.S. Wolf (sister in law), 412 South Wells St., Chicago, Il.
Born Connecticut, 1920
(Parents’ and sister’s name from 1940 Census – uncertain if this is correct!)
MACR 11670, B-26B 42-95844, “MISS Behavin”, “O8 * D”, Pilot – 2 Lt. William A. Kloepfer, 7 crewmen – 1 survivor
Place of burial – Unknown
American Jews in World War II – Not Listed

This photograph of Miss Behavin is (also) from the American Air Museum in Britain website.  The identities of the men standing before the aircraft are unknown. 

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Schuster, Bernard, F/O, T-123627, Navigator, Air Medal, 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart
United States Army Air Force, 9th Air Force, 9th Troop Carrier Group, 3rd Troop Carrier Squadron
Mrs. Lucille (Rothman) Schuster (wife), 2877 N. Grand Blvd. (or) 2821 Frederick Ave., Milwaukee, Wi.
Mr. Jacob Schuster (father), 2039 N. 9th St., Milwaukee, Wi.
University of Wisconsin Class of 1942
MACR 11025, C-47A 43-48056, Pilot – 1 Lt. Hildren Tyson, 6 crewmen – no survivors
Agudas Achim Cemetery, Milwaukee, Wi. – SB,L3,G3
American Jews in World War II – 586

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Spear, James Dreyfuss, F/O, T-223175, Pilot (Reconnaissance), Air Medal, 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart
United States Army Air Force, 8th Air Force, 25th Bomb Group, 654th Bomb Squadron
Mrs. Marjorie D. (Stern) Spear (wife), Adrian Apartments, 601 Kirtland St., Pittsburgh, Pa.
Mr. and Mrs. Alexander and Lillian (Newman) Dreyfuss (parents), 6306 Beacon St., Pittsburgh, Pa.
Born Cleveland, Oh., 6/7/17
Enlisted in RCAF 9/25/41, with service number R131216; Enlisted in US forces 6/28/44
No MACR, aircraft was Mosquito XVI, NS638; Navigator was 2 Lt. Carroll B. Bryan, of Sevier County, Tennessee – also killed;  Aircraft crashed 2 miles west of Dursley, Gloucestershire, England, on test flight. 
West View Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Jewish Criterion (Pittsburgh) 9/7/45 (Name only – no other information)
American Jews in World War II – 554

Wounded in Action

Haas, Alvin Hugo 2 Lt., 0-744129, Navigator, Air Medal, 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart, 56 missions
United States Army Air Force, 5th Air Force, 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron
Wounded by bomb fragments during Japanese air raid
On 10/26/44, he was a crew member of an OA-10A seaplane that crash-landed in the open sea 30 minutes north by northwest of Morotai at 1920 hours.  He was rescued (along with co-pilot 2 Lt. Richard F. Finn) by a PT boat at 2345 hours; aircraft 44-33877; Pilot – 1 Lt. Fredric F. Hoss, Jr.; 8 crewmen – 6 fatalities
Mr. and Mrs. Hugo (“Hugh”) and Minnie Haas (parents), 28-35 34th St., Astoria, N.Y.
Born New York, N.Y., 10/7/22; Died September 21, 2009
Long Island Star Journal 3/14/45, 3/20/45
American Jews in World War II – Not listed

This image of Lt. Haas is from Jim Bob Teegarden’s excellent PBY Rescue website, which covers the history of the Second Emergency Rescue Squadron.

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Prisoners of War

Lander, Marvin B., 1 Lt., 0-825204, Pilot (Bomber)
United States Army Air Force, 8th Air Force, 94th Bomb Group, 331st Bomb Squadron
Mr. Philip Lander (father), 170 Sherman Ave., Teaneck, N.J.
Born 11/14/23
POW, Stalag Luft I (North Compound I)
MACR 11346, B-17G 44-6619, “Darling Dot“, crash-landed near Woltingen, Germany; 9 crewmen – 8 survivors; Luftgaukommando Report KU 1171A
Teaneck Newspaper 11/30/43, 11/10/44, 12/20/44, 1/18/45, 1/28/45, 3/8/45, 6/1/45
American Jews in World War II – Not listed

Ovis
, Harold, 2 Lt., 0-722655, Radar Operator, Air Medal, Bronze Star Medal

United States Army Air Force, 9th Air Force, 387th Bomb Group, 559th Bomb Squadron
POW, Stalag Luft I (North Compound I)
Mr. Nat Ovis (brother), 1497 Carroll St. / 1113 Avenue O, Brooklyn, N.Y.
MACR 11464, B-26C 42-107598, “Miss Kam”, “TQ * G”, Pilot – 1 Lt. William I. Pile, 9 crewmen – 6 survivors; Luftgaukommando Report KU 1191A
American Jews in World War II – 402

References

Book

Dublin, Louis I., and Kohs, Samuel C., American Jews in World War II – The Story of 550,000 Fighters for Freedom, The Dial Press, New York, N.Y., 1947.

People

Alvin Hugo Haas, at PBY Rescue

          Biography: http://www.pbyrescue.com/Crewmembers/haas.htm

          Mission of October 26, 1944: http://www.pbyrescue.com/Rescues/26oct44.htm

Corporal William G. Sampson (at FindAGrave.com)

Max Sampson (at FindAGrave.com)

The Solomon Crew, at https://thesolomoncrew.com/

Aircraft

B-26B 42-96144, “Bank Nite Betty”, at American Air Museum in Britain, at http://www.americanairmuseum.com/aircraft/10132

B-26B 42-95844, “Miss Behavin“, at American Air Museum in Britain, at

http://www.americanairmuseum.com/media/25748

B-26B 42-95841, “Powerful Katrinka”, at American Air Museum in Britain, at http://www.americanairmuseum.com/aircraft/10064

B-17G 44-6619, “Darling Dot“, at

http://www.americanairmuseum.com/aircraft/15755

Mosquito XVI NS638, at Aviation Safety Net, at

http://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=139104

Military Units

Second Emergency Rescue Squadron

http://www.pbyrescue.com/Photos/2ERS0000/817.htm

Soldiers of The Great War: Jewish Military Service in WW I, as Reported in The Jewish Chronicle – “Jews Respond”, August 14, 1914

The prior blog post presented an interview with Reverend Michael Adler, concerning military service by British Jewry on the outbreak of the First World War, which appeared in The Jewish Chronicle of 14 August, 1914.

This post presents the lead editorial that appeared in the same issue of the Chronicle, which in spirit, idealism, and patriotism, is very much a companion piece to the above-mentioned article.  This is evident by the quote appearing at the editorial’s end – “England has been all she could be to Jews – Jews will be all they can be to England,” which appeared in the Chronicle on August 7, a few days after Britain’s entry into the war.

As seen in the image below (from the August 19 issue of the Chronicle’s sister publication, The Jewish World), this quote was prominently affixed to the exterior of the Chronicle’s offices by mid-August.

London Jewish Chronicle 1914 08 19Akin to the interview of Reverend Adler, the editorial is available in PDF format via the link at the end of this post. – Michael G. Moskow

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Jews Respond

The Jewish Chronicle

August 14, 1914

The free spirit of determination to resist and overcome the enemies of this country, which has been manifested by all classes throughout the land is no small consolation for the affliction of war that has been cast upon it.  The calm, and implacable sentiment which from the highest to the most humble throughout the country has impelled all classes is one of the finest assets of victory that England possesses.  That sentiment, that spirit, Jews of all ranks are sharing to the full.  All thought except a desire to serve this country has been banished from the minds of our people.  The fact that the war is likely to bear, both from the economical and the sentimental standpoint, more heavily upon them than upon any other of the races or peoples that are involved, as must necessarily be the case with a people positioned as are Jews in the world, has not been given a moment’s consideration.  The supreme law of loyalty to the country of which Jews are citizens has over-ridden every other impulse.  When we find that even the Jews in Russia have declared themselves determined to fight with Russia, for Russia’s cause, side by side with those who have for generations been their bitter persecutors, it is no wonder that the Jews of England have thrown themselves into the duties involved by war upon the English citizen with an ardour and an enthusiasm matched perhaps by other classes in the country, but exceeded by none.

At the call of duty a considerable army of Jews from England have responded.  Countless instances of the remarkable sacrifice and self-abnegation involved in this prompt answer are pouring in upon us as we write.  Jewish mothers, who of all creatures on God’s earth have a tender heart for their offspring, have urged their sons – the apple of their eye – to go forth and serve for the King and the country.  Jewish fathers who had fondly pictured for their sons careers of advancement in commerce or profession have set their lips stiff and bid their sons wrench themselves away from the vocations designed for them, and go help to overcome the enemies of England.  In the day of trial, in the stress of battle, these sons of Israel will not be found wanting.  The pluck and the spirit of old these Jews have not lost.  The rely upon God for His protection, and upon their own strong arm for shielding the country which so nobly had sheltered their people.  This spirit is no mere frothy and ebullient martial ardour.  England is face to face with a test and a trial such as she has never been put to, and our sons have leapt gladly to the supreme opportunity of doing their share as English citizens.

Not again has the spirit and sentiment of duty at this anxious time animated only those who have hurried to the colors for active service in the field.  It has seized the whole community.  Everyone, man and woman, is anxious to find some means whereby, if not in the field then at home actively, or at least passively, they may help this country to victory.  The energetic loyal co-operation in a hundred ways which Jews are now undertaking can be judged from such records as we are able to provide in another column.  These do not by any means constitute all.  They are, at most, typical.  Yet they are remarkable.  For Jews are naturally a peace loving people, to whom war is hateful, to who, the shedding of human blood is detestable, who traditionally and historically have magnified peace as an ideal, who turn day by day in their prayers to the city named of Peace.  We Jews are conscious that to day, more than ever, Peace is Jewry’s most faithful ally.  But we see this great country gone forth to a war which was forced upon it by a haughty and intolerable systems of militarism.  We see this country with a clear conscience and clean hands going forth to do battle for freedom, for freedom from an overbearing Empire of “blood and iron”.  We see this country defending with all its vast resources the rights of the smaller nationalities and the existence on earth of the smaller States free from the engulfing greed of the brute force of armaments.  In such a cause we feel we have a cause for which to fight.  In such a cause we feel we have a cause for which to suffer, and to sacrifice, in such a cause it can be no matter for surprise that to a unit we are responding with a spirit worthy of the highest conceptions of our race.  In such an hour it is but natural that we in this country should recollect and be inspired by the thought that, “England has been all she could be to Jews,” and should determine that, “Jews will be all they can be to England.”

The Jewish Chronicle, August 14, 1914: Jews Respond

 

Soldiers of The Great War: Jewish Military Service in WW I, as Reported in The Jewish Chronicle – “Jews and The War”, August 14, 1914

As part of an effort to learn about Jewish military service in the First World War – “The Great War” as the conflict was known at the time due to its unprecedented, staggering scope and scale – I’ve done extensive research within periodicals published during that era by the Jewish and general press.  This effort has been focused upon locating articles and news items covering Jewish military service, military awards received by Jewish servicemen, the experiences of Jewish civilians in various battlefronts (particularly Eastern Europe), casualty lists, and, more.

The periodicals I’ve researched in this endeavor are many and varied.  Some can be accessed on the Internet, while others – to the best of my knowledge – have not been digitized, existing only as 35mm microfilm (remember film?!…) thus necessitating visits to the libraries or institutions having such resources in their  holdings.

Prominent among the periodicals I’ve researched have been The Jewish Chronicle (London, England), its companion publication The Jewish World, and, The Jewish Exponent (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).

Both the Chronicle and Exponent are still “going strong” in this year of 2017, over a century after the end of the Great War.

The Chronicle presents an invaluable picture of military service by Jews of the British Empire, presented in the wider context of British Jewry as a whole, set within the even larger scope of news about world Jewry.

The following article – based on an interview with Chaplain Michael Adler – appeared in the August 14 issue of The Jewish Chronicle, ten days after Britain’s entry in the war on August 4.  In tone and spirit, the closing and opening paragraphs are reflective of and consistent with the patriotic ardor and enthusiasm permeating much of Europe – among both the Allies and Central powers – at the war’s very beginning.  Reverend Adler, who passed away in 1944, was also responsible for the creation of the memorial / commemorative volume British Jewry Book of Honour, in 1922.  More information about him can be found at Sarah Hurst’s blog post, A Chaplain in the Trenches.

The article is also available in PDF format via the link at the end of this post.

I hope to present further material relating to the Jewish military experience in WW I from later issues of the Chronicle, and other periodicals, in future posts.

– Michael G. Moskow

Jews and the War

INTERVIEW FOR THE JEWISH CHRONICLE

WITH THE CHAPLAIN TO THE JEWISH TROOPS (the Rev. M. ADLER)

The Jewish Chronicle

August 14, 1914

THE Jewish manhood is responding with alacrity and enthusiasm to the call of England.  Even the glowing fervor at the time of the Boer War is thrown into eclipse by the ardour that is being shown in these momentous days.  There is not a Jew in this country who cannot tell of friends enlisted, of relatives enrolled in one or other of the British legions, of youthful zeal that will not be denied, of love of the Motherland exquisite in its tenderness, boundless in strength, unsurpassed in all the wonderful annals even of British loyalty and British enthusiasm.

These are early times to estimate the true muster of English Jews in this campaign.  British born and foreign born, rich and poor, have answered with equal swiftness the summons to the colours.  But, if ever the total is ascertained, it will form another unforgettable testimony to the spirit which wise and just government evokes in all the children of the realm.

The Chaplain to the Jewish troops, the Rev. Michael Adler, B.A., who has always thrown himself with enthusiasm into his work, is to-day a sort of human focus for the waves of patriotic eagerness that are sweeping the community, and to him many of the Jews under arms, from Hindustan to Aldershot, look for religious sustenance and moral inspiration.  Mr. Adler is himself a captain in the Territorial Force (London and Eastern Command).  He was at Deal with the Jewish Lads’ Brigade, and was about to go to the Territorial Camp at Wareham when the present storm broke over Europe.  He now holds himself at the disposal of the General Officer commanding, to be attached to any military station where London Territorials are assembled, and will be heading as soon as the latter are at their respective stations – which will be very soon.  It is possible that he will have to arrange for deputy chaplains in various parts of the country – probably in Lancashire and Yorkshire to begin with.

Jewish Lads’ Brigade Enlistments

In conversation with a representative of the JEWISH CHRONICLE, Mr. Adler commented on what he described as the very strong feeling of loyalty among English Jews.  One pointed illustration of this which he gave is the fact that a number of officers and senior boys of the Jewish Lads brigade volunteered for service immediately on the Brigade returning to town last Tuesday week.  Practically all were accepted.

But it is, of course, to the normally constituted forces of the Crown that we have to look for some more adequate representation of the numbers of Jews who are bearing arms in the present crisis, and of the Jewish elements in these.  Mr. Adler gave an interesting account.

Jews in the Navy

“There are,” he said, “a dozen Jewish officers in the Navy.  In regard to the men, the last official return gave the numbers of the Jews at about fifty.  But if you multiply that figure by four or five you will get the more correct number, for I constantly hear of Jews entering themselves as of another creed.  One interesting fact about the Navy is that it contains quite a considerable number of Jewish petty officers, including a warrant officer in the Marines.  There is a Jewish warrant officer – M.M. Bright – who was originally a pupil of the Jews’ Free School, and was, at one time, in the Jewish Lads’ Brigade.  He has been raised to commissioned rank, and it is worth noting that he is one of the ten in the entire Navy recently selected for promotion.  He is now probably on active service.  One Jewish warrant officer, named Pash, is warrant officer of signals on one of the super-Dreadnoughts.  There are a Jewish major and captain of Marines and several Commandants, and others who may be mentioned here are Midshipman Charles Marsden (“St. Vincent”), and Claude Telfer (son of Mr. W.T. Leviansky), and F. Lowy (grandson of the late Dr. A. Lowy), of the Royal Naval Reserve.

“By the way, the medical officer of the Jewish Lads’ Brigade, Dr. L. Mandel, joined the Royal Navy as a doctor the day after the camp broke up.”

Jewish “Regulars”

What about the Jews in the regular army?

“I know of fifty-two Jewish ‘regular’ officers. They include among their number members of the Sassoon, Mocatta, Beddington, Halford, Solomon, Henriques, Sebag Montefiore, Seligman, De Pass, and other well-known Jewish families.  Many of them will be in the Expeditionary Force.

“In regard to Jewish non-commissioned officer and men, the last official return dated October, 1913, put the number as 236.  This figure, however, should be multiplied by three at least to arrive at the true total.

Jews in the Cavalry

“Since March last a system has been instituted at the military recruiting stations of notifying to the chaplain every professing Jew who enlists, and over fifty names have been sent in to me.  In one week alone four Jews joined the 4th Hussars.  There has, indeed, been a great tendency on the part of the Jews to enlist in cavalry regiments – a new feature in Jewish enlistment.

“Of course, in addition, a very large number of Jews in the Reserves have now returned to the Colours, but how many it is impossible to say.

Jewish Guardsmen

Do Jews figure to any extent in the Guards regiments?

“Well, there are Sergt. Instructor J.H. Levey of the Scots Guards; Sergt. M.J. Marks, of the 3rd Coldstreams; Sergt. Lewis, in Coldstreams, and Sergt. Rosenberg, of the 2nd Scots Guards, besides a large number of Jewish privates.

“It may truly be said that there is hardly a regiment in the Regular Army in which Jews are not represented, a number of the recruits of recent date having come from Leeds and Manchester.

“Jews are also represented in the Artillery.  There are, for instance, Sergt.-Major Shapeere and Quartermaster-Sergt. F.J. Wooley, of the Royal Horse Artillery, to say nothing of a number of privates in that branch, as well as in the Royal Field Artillery and Royal Garrison Artillery.  One Jews, a Canadian by birth, is one of the principal gun-layers of his battery.

Rothschilds in the Trenches

“There are seventeen Jewish reserve officers.  And in addition I have ten names of Jewish Special Reserve officers.  One of these, Lieutenant W. Stanford Samuel, 4th King’s Liverpool Regiment, has already written me to say that he has been ordered to the front.  The last official return gave sixty-nine Jewish privates in the Special Reserve.  For that too, must be considerably increased to give the true figure.”

There are, of course, many Jews in the Territorial ranks.

“I have the names of ninety-four officers, with ranks ranging from colonel to second lieutenant.  Among these are the three sons of Mr. Leopold de Rothschild, viz, Mr. Lionel de Rothschild, M.P., Major in the Royal Bucks Yeomanry, and Mr. Evelyn and Mr. Anthony de Rothschild, who are lieutenants in the same regiment.  Among other Jewish Territorial officers are Major F. Goldsmith, M.P. (Suffolk Yeomanry), Col. Claude Beddington (Westmoreland Yeomanry), Lieut. Sir Philip Sassoon, M.P. (Royal East Kent Yeomanry), and Mr. Robert M. Sebag-Montefiore, a captain in the last-cited regiment; other Jewish Yeomanry officers are Major H. Weinberg (City of London Yeomanry), and Lieuts. Reginald and Desmond Tuck (3rd City of London Yeomanry).  The latter are the sons of Sir Adolph Tuck.

“In the Artillery, there are Col. H.D. Behrend; Major E.G. Heilbron, and a number of other officers; and, in the Engineers, Col. De Lara Cohen, on reserve.  Major R.Q. Henriques, and Capts. R.H. Joseph and G.C. Kennard, Col. H.M. Jessel, M.P., is Hon. Commander of the 1st Royal Fusiliers, Major J. Waley Cohen belongs to the 16th Queen’s Westminsters, Major F.D. Samuel to the 3rd Royal Fusiliers, and Major S.S.G. Cohen to the 5th Liverpool Regiment.

Well Known Names

“Among others that may be mentioned are Lieut. Lionel L. Cohen, son of Mr. Leonard Cohen, and Lieut. Leonard G. Montefiore, son of Mr. Claude G. Montefiore.  In the 6th Regiment City of London are five Jewish officers – Capts. G.A. Myer, M.H. Schwersee, and E.L. Phillips, Lieut. H.D. Myer, and Second Lieut. J.E. Lowy (grandson of the late Dr. Lowy).  In the 4th Royal West Kent Regiment are two sons of the late Sir B.L. Cohen – Capt. Sir Herbert Cohen, Bart., and Capt. A.M. Cohen.  In the 7th London Regiment are Capt. C.D. Enoch and Lieut. F.M. Davis (son of Mr. Felix Davis).  In the 16th Queen’s Westminsters, besides Major Alfred Waley Cohen, are Capt. J. Henriques, and Lieut. E.G. Waley (son of Mr. Alfred Waley).  In the 19th County of London there are four Jewish officers – Capt. Edgar J. Davis, and Lieuts. L.J. Davis, J. de Meza, and J. Lumley Frank.

In the Provinces

“The Provinces are further represented by Lieut. Col. S.L. Mandelberg (Manchester), Capt. J.M. Heilbron (Glasgow), Lieut. J.M. Goldberg (6th Welsh Regiment), Lieut. L.G. Harris (7th West Riding), Lieut. J.B. Brunel Cohen, son-in-law of Sir Stuart Samuel, M.P. (5th Liverpool Regiment), and Capt. N.J. Laski (6th Lancashire Fusiliers).

Jewish “Terriers”

What of the Jewish privates in the Territorial ranks?

“As regards the men, it is impossible to estimate the exact total of Jews.  But of London men alone I receive official returns for the last military service of some 400 names, representing practically every unit in the London command.  In the 4th Fusiliers there were 36 Jews, and many of the other regiments had long lists.  In the country, too, there are a very large number of Jewish Terriers.  At the last Territorial camp of the London regiments held on Salisbury plain in August of last year, 90 Jewish officers and men attended parade for service.

“Then there is one specifically Jewish voluntary aid detachment, under the charge of Dr. Myer Dutch, the duty of which is to act as nurses to the Territorial Force.”  An appeal, in this connection, appears in another column.

Volunteers

A great many Jews are volunteering for service in the present emergency.

“I have reason to believe that a very large number of Jews have been accepted.  I have received a number of communications from coreligionists who are anxious to join, whether as officers or privates.  There is also soon to be a great number of Jews in the Colonial contingents.

“In short,” added the Chaplain, in conclusion, “there has been a great outburst of enthusiasm among Jewish young men everywhere.”

It is a tribute to the wisdom of Britain – and the fortitude of a people which, whatever its faults, does not number among them ingratitude to its friends.

The Jewish Chronicle, August 14, 1914: Jews and the War

 

 

Soldiers of the Erinpura – VIII: Thoughts

BROTHER MEETS BROTHER

 February 19, 1943

     First let me tell you about our trip.  In our convoy we had some African Negro soldiers.  At each stop they would spill out of the trucks and in a few moments the ground would be dotted with small tents.  Each two soldiers had a little tent.  They used to look at us, the drivers, with envy, for living inside our trucks and being able to use electric-light while they had to crawl into their tiny tents.  The rain that poured down on us for the first few days of our trip, caused them great discomfort.  They dug themselves in under the cars and often the car would be stuck in the holes and pits that they had dug under it.  The trip was difficult and tiring.  For the most part the road was blocked by big trucks transporting tanks.  On either side of the road strips of the highway were still sown with mines.  Often you could see a cross stuck into the middle of the road, to mark a driver who had swerved to one side and been blown up.  It was impossible to bury him in the fields which were full of mines and so he was buried on the road, close to the cement strip.  A big sign was stuck over his grave reading: “Blown up by mines; attention; drive carefully.”

 ***

     One night we stopped in an area that was free of mines.  It was a fragrant spring evening.  Not far from where we were was a barbed-wire fence with cans marked with skulls and crossbones, a warning that this field was sown with mines.  The space that we camped in was ploughed and trodden by the wheels of cars and trucks and the flowers in it were all trampled.  On the other hand, the field surrounded by barbed wire, untouched by a man’s foot or a wheel, was full of fragrant spring-blossoms.  We stood near the fence with our eyes skimming over the beautiful field and our nostrils drinking in the wonderful scents of the flowers.  The mines had been sown there before the rains and the flowers had just begun to bloom.  Among the flowers you could see the yellow metal of the German mines gleaming here and there.  The heart was filled with the desire to stretch out on the field and to roll among the flowers, as children love to do.

***

      That same night I witnessed a wonderful scene.  The Negroes had gathered together and we were there too.  We began to sing some of our songs and they became very enthusiastic about them.  We asked them to sing us some of their songs.  They settled themselves in a half-circle and began to sing a song in several voices.  It was wonderful singing.  This was a solo sung with an occasional chorus.  Then they began to dance.  We clapped hands in time to it and they continued to sing in response to our admiration.  We sat there until midnight, as if we had been enchanted, listening to their strange and wonderful singing.  Finally one of them got up and said in English, “Before we go to sleep we would like to sing our hymn.  We ask you to rise and to uncover your heads.”  We rose and heard their concluding song standing.  Their hymn is not sung in the usual way.  One of them chants something and the others repeat his words in song.  He reads something out of their prayers and the others shade their eyes with their hands and sing.  Their hymn is like a chanted prayer – quite wonderful.

      Yes, I forgot to say that while the chorus was singing one of our boys, B.Y., who has a very good voice, came close to them and caught the melody they were singing.  They tiptoed up to him silently to listen to him humming, for he had caught on.  At the end of one verse they raised him up on their shoulders in enthusiasm.  Ever since we have called B. a Negro name – Mephuta.

      After the singing of the hymn we scattered to sleep in the different trucks.  But I think that not one of us slept that night: the scent of the flowers, the singing of the Negroes and, above all, the spring night.  These Negroes are simple people, and the relations between them are very fine.  Some of them are socialists and know a great deal more than we can tell from a single hurried meeting.  Some of them have visited Palestine and know something of our problems.  Many strange and different worlds touch in the life of an army.

 Moshe Mosenson

Letters From the Desert (pp. 168-170)

      There is a heavy storm outside and I feel very depressed.  When I feel depressed I try to escape from it by writing to you.  Yesterday we received the list of names of our friends who were drowned.  They were good and close friends.  It was in vain, then, that we wove a web of hopes and illusions for their sakes, hoping that perhaps they had been saved or picked up by other ships…

      We have been bereaved of many dear comrades and among them friends to whom I was attached by very close ties.  The thought that they are gone forever fills me with a kind of horror.  We went through so much together and shared so many burdens.  We experienced the bitterness of the retreat and the joys of victory together and we shared our pangs of distress at the weakening of our ties with home. 

      Where is my dear friend, H.C. [Chayim Caspi or Chaim Cikanowski – MGM], with his deep feeling and his delightful sense of humor and gift of expression?  You probably will remember his name from the pages of “The Jewish Soldier”.  We had grown to love each other.  And P., from Degania Beit, the good, honest heart whom I learned to love in my first days in the army – and tens of others.  One hundred and forty of our boys were drowned that night.  Many of them had wives and children, families and parents.  Cursed war!  But something else oppresses me: we were supposed to embark on that same night.  The whirligigs of fate.

      Forgive me for being so sad and for writing you this way.  What can I do?  This evening I sat down in a corner of our newspaper office.  On the table in front of me lay the list of names surrounded by a black border.  The boys came in, one after the other, quiet and stunned.  One comes in, and when I give him the list silently, he sits down, and is silent – and so with a second and a third.  There were many of us and all of us silent.

      A young boy came in and looked through the list for the name of his friend.  He himself escaped death by a miracle on several occasions.  The list dropped out of his hands and he whispered, “B’s gone.  I once gave him my girl’s address – so that he would write her if I should be missing.  And now he…”

      Another one came in with a hidden fear in his face.  I knew why.  He had a brother on that list.  I looked at him steadily and he looked back and understood.  He took my hand that was lying on the table and pressed it, his eyes full of tears.  I pushed the list away as I gave it to him, saying, “I know.  I could see it in your eyes.” …  And he, too, sat down among the silent mourners. 

      Forgive me.  It is true that we are members of a movement in which death has been our constant companion.  Why should we cultivate these feelings?  But when we lose comrades like these, we realize how few we have who are fully ready for the trials of the present and the future.  How few.  And when you lose so many out of a few – a dread of the future comes over you, and weighs on your heart…

 Moshe Mosenson

Letters From the Desert (pp. 194-195)

letters-from-the-desert-moshe-mosensonCover of Moshe Mosenson’s Letters from the Desert, published in 1945.

img_6809Placing flowers around the periphery of the memorial.  An image from the Oneg Shabbat blogspot. 

img_1180Some names.

Upper row, left to right:

Yechye Cohen, PAL/630

Hans Yaacobson, PAL/1206

Moshe (Max) Cohen (Moses Kahan, PAL/556?)

Josef Yashim, PAL/30347

Lower row, left to right:

Josef (Ernest) Kahane (Yosef Cahana, PAL/1048?)

Shlomo (Zoltan) Yaget (Zoltan Jaget), PAL/30018)

Uri (Peter) Cohen (Peter Stefan Kahn, PAL/1161?)

– Michael G. Moskow

Soldiers of the Erinpura – VII: The Survivors: How many?  Who?

The Survivors: How Many?

Based on numbers given in Norman Clothier’s (primarily) and Henry Morris’ accounts, and Volume 2 of Jewish Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War, it has been possible to derive reliable (I hope) totals for the number of the survivors of the Erinpura.

The original compliment of soldiers in the 462nd is given as 334.  Given 138 fatalities, 196 Jewish soldiers survived the ship’s sinking.

The 1919th, 1924th, and 1927th Basuto Companies lost – respectively – 303, 1, and 320 soldiers.  Norman Clothier reported that there were 25 survivors of the 1919th, and 75 of the 1927th.  This suggests that the original compliment of 1919th and 1924th soldiers were 328 and 395 men, respectively.  Including Private Malefetsane Manuel Mohale of the 1924th therefore brings the total number of Basotho soldiers to 724 men.

Norman Clothier reports that the ship’s crew comprised 179, with 11 DEMS gunners also aboard, of the latter 5 surviving.  Given that 55 Indian Merchant Navy and 5 Merchant Navy personnel were lost (60 men), this brings the total surviving crew to 119 sailors.

“Running the numbers” – never forgetting that human beings by definition are not reducible to numbers – therefore brings the total number of men aboard the Erinpura, passengers and crew both, to 1,248 souls.

Of these, four hundred and twenty – one in three – survived.

The Survivors: Who?

I am certain that the original crew manifest of the Erinpura during her May voyage exists – somewhere – but I do not know its location.  A possibility would be The National Archives, in Kew.

In terms of lists of the members of the Basuto Companies aboard ship, Norman Clothier stated that the Lesotho Archives had “been handed over to the National University for re-organisation,” but were unavailable to researchers.  Similarly, he was unable “to trace in England any records of the African Auxiliary Pioneer Corps.”

Regarding a list of the members of the 462nd General Transport Company (and the ship’s company), I am certain that relevant documents exist “some-where”, either in The National Archives, or, in Israel.  But, where is the where in that some-“where”?

Still, the names of at least a few survivors are known.

462nd General Transport Company

At YNet News, Roi Mandel lists the following:

Major Harry Yoffe (also mentioned by Henry Morris and Yoav Gelber), commander of the 462nd.

Chaim Ast (mentioned earlier, in Yishuv Volunteers For the Biritsh Army During the Second World War 1939-45).

Mordechai Barkai (Berkowitz)

Jacob Bichovsky (possibly “Bijovsky”, in Henry Morris’ account)

A video of a commemoration ceremony for the fallen of the 462nd, uploaded by Amikikaro on May 7, 2011, includes interviews with (among other individuals) survivors Haim Ast and Aleks Rabinovitz.

Chaim Ast can also be seen being interviewed about his experiences, in a YouTube video uploaded by TheJwmww2 on April 17, 2011.

Here is another interview, uploaded in April of 2013, of survivors of the 462nd.

At Boaz Tsibon’s Dvar Dea Blog, his post on the Erinpura, dated December 27, 2011, elicited three responses.  On December 19 of 2012, a commentator mentioned that his father, Alfred “Yakov” Wajcman-Rachman, was a survivor of the sinking.

Two other survivors include Ben Ami Melamed, and Eli Zeiler, also mentioned in Yishuv Volunteers For the Biritsh Army During the Second World War 1939-45.  Their recollections appeared in an earlier post.

Amiram Ben-Zvi (“Ben-Zion“?), whose handwritten letter – composed shortly after the sinking of the Erinpura – appears in the (earlier) post, covering the ship’s sinking.

Wartime photographs of Ast, Melamed, and Zeiler, from the above publication, are shown below:

chaim-atasChaim Ast

ben-ami-melamedBen Ami Melamed

eli-zeilerEli Zeiler

Norman Clothier’s article lists the following men as survivors:

Erinpura Crewmen

Captain R.V. Cotter, the commander of the ship.

Motiur Rahman, an Indian seaman.  He rescued Captain Cotter after the latter had been knocked unconscious on the ship’s bridge by a column of water.

Gun Layer Albert Whittle, who, with the ship’s other DEMS gunners, maintained fire against the German planes until the Erinpura slipped into the depths.

Members of the Basotho Companies

1919th Company

Private Mokhethi Leluma

1927th Company

Captain (later Major) Bill Westrop, second-in-command

Chief Serjeant Major Gabriel Lehlabaphiri

Private (later Serjeant) Dyke Sebata

– Michael G. Moskow

 

Soldiers of the Erinpura – VI: The Fallen – Merchant Navy and Indian Merchant Navy Sailors

The Erinpura’s Crew

Commanded by Captain R.V. Cotter, sixty members of the Erinpura’s crew were lost in the sinking:  Fifty-five members of the Indian Merchant Navy, and, five members of the Merchant Navy.

The fifty-five Indian Merchant Navy personnel comprised such ratings as Baker, Boy, Butler, Cook, Donkeyman (an engine room rating who attended to the Donkey boiler), Fireman, General Servant, Oiler, Pantryman, Scullion (lowest job level in Merchant Navy), Seaman, Serang (skipper of a small boat), Topass (sanitary hygeine), and Trimmer (stoker).

Genealogical information is present for twenty-one of the fifty-five men, while ages are given for fifty-four.

Of the twenty-one, sixteen were married, all residing in Goa, a state along the southwestern coast of India.  Ten of the twenty-one were from South Goa, one of the two districts of Goa, the other being (as shown in the map below) North Goa.

Southern India

goa-india-regionalGoa

goa-indiaThe Districts of Goa

administrative_map_of_goaThe twenty-one are listed as having been from:

Agramoda (Agarwada?), Goa (North Goa) – 1 man

Assolna, Goa // Assolna / Assoulua, South Goa – 3 men

Baga, South Goa – 1 man

Carosetta / Carsetty, South Goa – 2 men

Cavelsin (Cavelossim?), Carmone, Goa (South Goa) – 1 man

Chinchin, South Goa – 1 man

Dharmpur, South Goa – 1 man

Jeewado, South Goa – 1 man

Karsetti, South Goa – 1 man

Kolsewada (Kolsewadi?), Goa – 1 man

Mapuca, Goa (North Goa) – 1 man

Navelim, South Goa – 1 man

Nobai, Saipe (Saipem?), Goa (North Goa) – 1 man

Quepen, Laldamwadi, Goa / Quepen, Servia, Goa (Quepem, South Goa) – 2 men

Sukalda, South Goa – 1 man

Wado, South Goa – 1 man

At age sixty-three, the oldest crewman of the fifty-five was Francis F. D’Souza (General Servant), while the youngest was Main Mazhar (Boy), who was nineteen.  The average age of the twenty-one was thirty-nine, probably reflective of career service in the Indian Merchant Navy.

All these men are commemorated at the Bombay / Chittagong 1939-1945 War Memorial.  The Bombay 1939-1945 Memorial Roll of Honour is, “held at the Indian Sailor’s Home, Bombay,” and lists the names of 6,467 WW II casualties.  This total comprises, “over 400 sailors of the former Indian Navy and over 6,000 sailors of the former Indian Merchant Navy who were lost at sea during the war years.”

The Merchant Navy casualties comprised the ship’s First and Third Radio Officers (Ernest W. Erbach – age forty-nine, and Brian Rostron Marsden – age twenty-one), two Junior Engineering Officers (Charles McGill and Ernest Richard Smith), and Carpenter Tham Yout.  These five men are commemorated at the Tower Hill Memorial (Panel 48) in London.  Akin to the members of the Indian Merchant Navy, genealogical information is almost completely absent for them.  However, the father of First Radio Officer Ernest William Erbach is listed as Philip Cort.

Ten Other Casualties – Circumstances Unknown

Searching the CWGC database for deaths on May 1, 1943, in the Mediterranean and European Theaters yields records for nine other men.  Two were Pioneer Corps soldiers from Swaziland, and eight were members of the British Army.  Though it is unknown if there were passengers on the Erinpura or British Trust, or lost in some other circumstance, I have appended their names to the list of Erinpura crew casualties.

The Swaziland soldiers were Privates Shamile Lulane and Msomane Tabede, both of whom are memorialized at the Swaziland 1938-1945 War Memorial, in Bethany, Swaziland.

The British soldiers, all of whose names are commemorated at the Brookwood Memorial in Surrey, England, are:

Pioneer Corps

Warrant Officer 2nd Class Albert E. Clayton, from Shropshire

Serjeant William Nicol

Lieutenant Percey G. Tredwell, from Hampshire

Serjeant Colin Wilde, from Jersey (Channel Islands)

Royal Army Medical Corps

Private Alfred E. Perrett, from Lymington, Hampshire

Corps of Military Police

Corporal William R. Gillett, from Buckinghamshire

Serjeant John Mills, from Liverpool

Indian Merchant Navy, and Merchant Navy, Casualties on the Erinpura

– Michael G. Moskow

Soldiers of the Erinpura – V: The Fallen – Basotho Soldiers

The majority of troops aboard the Erinpura were members of the Basotho people, an ethnic group of the Bantu people who primarily live in South Africa, and to a lesser extent in the countries of Lesotho and Botswana, and, the South African state of Swaziland. 

The men were members of the African Pioneer Corps H.C.T. (High Commission Territories) and were assigned to the 1919th and 1927th Basuto Companies.  One soldier (Private Malefetsane Manuel Mohale, AS/6946) – going by his CWGC record – was a member of the 1924th Basuto Company.

botswana-lesotho-swaziland_edited-1Lesotho

lesothoBotswana

botswanaSwaziland

swazilandThe CWGC database shows casualty records for 303 members of the 1919th Company, and, 320 members of the 1927th Company.

While genealogical information exists for forty per-cent of the Jewish casualties and one-third of the Erinpura’s crewmen (see below), such information is present for only a sole individual among the Basotho casualties:  Private T. Japheta, AS/9273, born in 1901.  He is buried at the Benghazi War Cemetery, in Benghazi.  The CWGC database lists his father as Bupoe Machaba, but no other information is given in terms of his age or the location of his home.

In terms of military service, the overwhelming number of Basotho soldiers were Privates and Corporals.  The remainder comprised twenty-one sergeants and one warrant-officer.  One man – Jan Poulo (AS/12128) of the 1919th, listed in the CWGC database as a Captain, which information may be incorrect.

With the exception of Private Japheta, all the Basotho soldiers are commemorated at the Lesotho Memorial, which is located in Makoayane Square, in the center of Maseru, the capital of Lesotho.

Soldiers of the 1919th Basuto Company

A Soldier of the 1924th Basuto Company

Soldiers of the 1927th Basuto Company

– Michael G. Moskow

Soldiers of the Erinpura – IV: The Fallen – Soldiers of the 462nd General Transport Company – II (Biographical Information)

As a part of this study, I’ve made an effort to compile biographical information – at least, what little exists; what little I can find – about the soldiers of the 462nd General Transport Company.  Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of such information available on the Internet – with the exception of the CWGC records – is in Hebrew.  I’ve created a document giving nominal information about the men for whom information could be found; found, that is, in web-based sources.

This document includes photographic portraits of these soldiers, and, URLs for relevant websites.

The document is presented below:

Casualties of the 462nd General Transport Company – Photographs and Biographies

Soldiers of the Erinpura – IV: The Fallen – Soldiers of the 462nd General Transport Company – I

Soldiers of the 462nd General Transport Company

4253-workingThe above image, posted at the website of the Kedem Auction House Ltd., shows the cover of a Passover Haggadah printed by the 462nd General Transport Unit in Italy, in 1944.  The stylized Magen David, with a winged camel in the center, was the unit’s emblem.

462nd-insignia-from-jwmww2_edited-1Another emblem of the 462nd, more clearly showing the design of a winged camel inside a Magen David, from information about Jewish units in the British Army in WW II, at the website of the Jewish Soldier in WW II. 

While the total number of 462nd casualties is reported as 148 (Henry Morris) or 140 (numerous web references) news articles from the South African Jewish Times and The Jewish Chronicle give the number of fallen as 138, which is identical with my findings.

For a few (only a few) names, such as that of Chaim Cikanowski (PAL /410) and Wilhelm Scharf (PAL/30940), the soldier’s name is not present in either volume of WWRT, but it does appear in Volume 4 of Jewish-Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War.

For some servicemen, like Israel Platzman (PAL/522) and Michael Schlesinger (PAL/32377) the “match” between the name as given in WWRT and CWGC is exact.

For many soldiers (seen in the attached files) there is notable variation in the spelling of the names among We Will Remember Them, Volume 4 of Jewish-Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War, and, records in the CWGC.

In such cases, I list every name variant for every soldier, and I have “unified” these variants under a single name that appears to be the best “fit” for these variants.  The following are such examples:

The name “Yaakov Schmerling” (PAL/1272) is derived from “Yaakov (Shneur) Schmerling” and “Yacob Shmerling”.

For “Pinchas Kuflik” (PAL/30343), WWRT 1 gives his name as “Pinchas Kopelik” and “Paul Koplik”, while CWGC gives his name as “Pinkas Kuflik”.

There are two possible names for “Isak Chaim Nussbaum” (PAL/1266).  WWRT 1 gives his name as “Yigal Nussbaum” and CWGC gives his name as “Isak Chaim Nussbaum”.

But…  A man’s name is not merely a string of letters; mere “information”.

It is his identity.

It is him, in senses both symbolic and real.

Who were these men?

Most CWGC records for casualties of the 462nd General Transport Company list only the man’s name, rank, serial number, date of casualty, and place of commemoration.  However, using a combination of CGWC data, and, a variety of genealogical information available at various websites (such as year and place of birth, place of citizenship or residence of next-of-kin, and names of next-of-kin) it has been possible to “reconstruct” – to a limited extent – biographical information for eighty-six men; information which may indirectly be representative of the background of the other 52 soldiers for whom such information is currently unavailable.

How old were they?

The average age of the eighty-six was twenty-eight.  The oldest of the eighty-six was Ahron Ben Shalom Qarawani, whose mother lived in Peta Tikva, and who, born in 1886, was fifty-seven years old.  The youngest were Ouri Baks, from Netanya; Moshe Alter Kaplan from Peta Tikva; and, Pesach Yaacobson, from Ramat Gan.  Born in 1925, they were all eighteen years old.

Where were their families from?

Of those of the 86 for whom a place of residence of next-of-kin (rather than the men themselves) is listed, the following locations are given, with the soldier’s surname listed adjacent.

Afikim – 1 man (Gurevtich)

Bet Hanan – 1 man (Tadjer)

Degania (Kibbutz) – 1 (Tanfilov)

Brooklyn, N.Y., USA – 1 man (Scharf)

Hotin, Bessarabia, Rumania – 1 man (Guterman)

Givat Samuel – 1 man (Spinzel)

Giwatayim / Givatayinu (Givatayim?) – 2 men (Fogel, Milkain)

Haifa – 3 men (Altgenug, Veiner, Zyto)

Jerusalem – 1 man (Rosenzweig)

Kfar Gibton – 1 man (Ben Yisrael)

Kfar Mallal – 1 man (Nadav)

“Kinereth” (Kinneret) – 1 man (Pesach Maimon)

Kiriat Bialik – 1 man (Jashuvi)

“Meia Sharim” (Mea Shearim) – 1 man (Gruber)

Nahalal – 1 man (Betzer)

“Nanthaya” / Netanya – 2 men (Baks, Terbas)

“Peta Tiqva” / “Petak Tikvat” (Peta Tikva) – 3 men (Kaplan, Raphael Maimon, Qarawani)

Post Karkur – 1 man (Simon)

Ramat-Gan – 2 men (Heydermann, Pesach Yaacobson)

Ramat-Gan Bet – 1 man (Stern)

Rehovoth – 1 man (Gotlib)

Rishon-le-Zion – 1 man (Aharon Segal)

Tel-Adashim – 1 man (Steinberg)

Tel-Aviv – 6 men (Bachrach, Busany, Yechye Cohen, Greenberg, Schiefer, Schmerling, Israel Segal)

Two of the eighty-six were born in Latvia.  They were Johoshua Adari, who was born in Zilupe under the name of Truskanovski, and, Itzhak Ben Yeshayahn (Yeshayahu?) Lotz, a member of Hashomer Hatzair, who was born in Rezekne in 1912 under the name of Itzkhak Kisayevitch Lots.

Where were they born?

Along with Adari and Lotz, the countries of birth for some of the eighty-six are:

Austria – 9 men

Bulgaria – 1 man

Israel (Yishuv) – 7 men

Germany – 5 men

Hungary – 1 man

Latvia – 1 man

Libya – 2 men

Lithuania – 1 man

Poland – 14 men

Romania – 4 men

Russia – 1 man

Some were born in Germany or Austria

As listed above, five of the casualties are known to have been born in Germany, and nine in Austria.  Among those men for whom genealogical information is absent, twelve have names with a Germanic “sound”, suggesting birth in either of those countries.  They are:

Hans Carl Altgenug, whose uncle Zwi Alvin was from Haifa

Erich Bachrach, whose parents were Rudolf and Rudoleine, and whose step-father Henry was from Tel-Aviv

Leopold Baumgarten

Fritz Deutsch

Gustav Gavriel Gruber (listed above)

Paul Heiman, whose parents were Berthold and Martha

Gerhard Heydemann, whose mother Ruth lived in Ramat-Gan

Ludwig Levite

Hans Gerd Rosin

Michael Schlesinger

Gunter Schwartzer

Werner Sally Trauman

Hans Yaacobson

Married Men

The married men, and their wives, were:

Yaakov Ben Israel, from Kfar Gibton – Hemda

Gustav Gavriel Gruber, from “Meia Sharim” (Mea Shearim) – Batia

Moshe Greenberg, from Tel Aviv – Bella

Baruch Gurevitch, from Afikim – “Jaffa” [Sheina Peleg]

Pesach Maimon, from “Kinereth Israel” (Kinnererth Israel) – Naomi

Raphael Maimon, from “Petka Tikvah” (Peta Tikva) – Rachel

Aharon Segal, from Rishon le Zion – Jocheved

Shlomo Stern, from Ramat-Gan-Bet – Gnesa

Gershon Haim Tadjer, from Bet Hanan – Victoria

Moshe Terbas, from Netanya – Shoshana [Treves]

Where are their names memorialized?

The names of every man – but one – are commemorated on Panels 15, 16, and 17 at the Brookwood Memorial, in Surrey, England.  That “one” man is Hans Carl Altgenug, whose name is commemorated at the Athens Memorial, in Athens, Greece.

The Hebrew Wikipedia article about the Erinpura states that two casualties of the 462nd are buried in Libya; one in Tripoli and the other in Benghazi.  However, based on information available thus far, I believe that every Jewish soldier lost in the sinking of the Erinpura was genuinely “lost at sea”, as was true for all but one of the other casualties on the ship.

Other casualties of the 462nd General Transport Company

The 462nd incurred the loss of four other soldiers during the war.  Driver Abraham Reznik died on July 6, 1942 and is buried at El Alamein.  L/Cpl. Alfred Freddy Schwartz, whose parents lived at Shepherd’s Bush, in London, died in Italy on October 24, 1944, and is buried at the Caserta War Cemetery.  Private Shlomo Halun and Driver Moshe Zack also died in Italy (on December 11, 1944 and February 15, 1945, respectively), and are buried at the Rome War Cemetery, and, Florence War Cemetery.

462nd General Transport Company – Surnames beginning A through E

462nd General Transport Company – Surnames beginning F through J

462nd General Transport Company – Surnames beginning K through O

462nd General Transport Company – Surnames beginning P through T

462nd General Transport Company – Surnames beginning U through Z

462nd General Transport Company – Other Casualties in the Second World War

– Michael G. Moskow

Soldiers of the Erinpura – III: The Sky Above / The Sea Below

The Germans (The Luftwaffe)

The identity of the Luftwaffe unit that sank the Erinpura is revealed in Norman Clothier’s excellent account as Kampfgeschwader (“Bomber Wing”) 26.  The sinking of the ship is described thusly:

“In the late afternoon of 1 May 1943 the convoy was in six columns on a westerly course not far from the North African coast.  The first warning of air attack came at 18:43 [6:43 P.M.] when a single aircraft approached the convoy out of the sun.  Flying at about 50 feet (15 m) above the sea it flew between the starboard line of escorts and the convoy, so that only two ships were able to engage it.  Apparently no hits were made.  Reports differ as to whether it released a torpedo or jettisoned something, but no ship was hit.  This aircraft retired to the north-east pursued by shore-based fighters who claimed to have destroyed it.  It would have been able to report the convoy’s position by radio before it was shot down.

“Shortly after 19:10 [7:10] another plane attempted to repeat the same tactics, but it was driven off by fire from the escorts.  Retreating to the north-west it, too, was pursued and destroyed by fighters.

“Finally the main attack commenced at 19:50.  [7:50]  A German source (“Dr. Phil Ernst Thomsen who took over the command of III / KG 26 in 1944.”) says that it was made by two Gruppen (equivalent squadrons), III / KG 26 under Major Nocken and II / KG 26 led by Major Werner Klumper, who also commanded the attack as acting wing commander.  British estimates of the number of attackers vary from 18 to 36.  The lower figure seems to be more probable.  The attack was synchronised by two groups so as to confuse the defence.  British reports differ.  Apparently the first attack was made by bombers.  Ships in the convoy twisted and turned to avoid the falling bombs and no hits were made.  All vessels were firing their anti-aircraft weapons.  At the same time a Heinkel 111 was seen to drop a torpedo about a mile from the convoy, later a flash was seen and an explosion heard.  The tanker British Trust was hit, her port side was opened for a third of her length and her cargo of oil caught fire.  She listed heavily and sank in about three minutes.  No boats could be lowered and difficulty was experienced in getting rafts clear, but her crew, mainly Indian lascars, behaved very well and many survived to be picked up.

“The action intensified at about 20:10 [8:10] with many bombers overhead, the guns of the convoy and escorts firing furiously and the scene partly lighted by the burning oil from the British Trust.  At this time fighters were probably overhead attacking the bombers, as shore command claimed that it had three Spitfires, eleven Hurricanes and a Beaufighter airborne very quickly.”

There is a plethora of material covering the history of KG 26, attributable to its lengthy (1939 through 1945) service, and, participation in combat on every European front.

The Kampfgeschwader was equipped with He-111, Ju-88, and eventually Ju-188 aircraft, all these aircraft being twin-engine medium bombers which were decorated with the Geschwader’s emblem of a stylized lion beneath the motto “Vestigium Leonis” (“Winged Lion”).  During its service, KG 26 incurred the loss of 341 aircraft (271 He-111s, 12 Ju-188s, 1 Ju-52, 56 Ju-88s, and 1 Bf-108).  II / KG 26 and III / KG 26, the specific units which sank the Erinpura and British Trust, are abbreviations for II Gruppe and III Gruppe (2nd and 3rd Groups) of the Kampfgeschwader.

2_19_b2-szeremataColor profile of a desert camouflaged He-111H, bearing the insignia of KG 26, from the Wings Pallette website, by Zygmunt Szeremeta.  The alpha-numeric code “1H” identified the Geschwader’s aircraft. 

heinkel-he-111h-kg26-north-africa-01The nose of a Heinkel He-111H of KG 26 in North Africa, from the Asisbiz website. The aircraft is finished in the Luftwaffe camouflage color “RLM [Reichs Luftfahrt Ministerium – “Ministry of Aviation”] 79 Sandgelb”.

heinkel-he-111h-kg26-north-africa-02Another He-111H of KG 26, also in North Africa, from the waralbum.ru website.  Notable in this view is the aircraft’s nose-mounted 7.9 mm machine gun.  

During the time of the sinking of the two ships, II / KG 26 was based at Villacidro, Sardinia, and equipped with He-111H-4/6 torpedo bombers, while III / KG 26 was based at Grosseto, Italy, and equipped with Ju-88A-4 dive bombers.  KG 26 was then commanded by Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) Werner Klümper.  The commander of II Gruppe was Major George Teske, while III Gruppe was commanded by Hauptmann (Captain) Klaus Nocken, who, according to Norman Clothier’s references, was killed in Prague in 1945.

Though the above report mentions that shore-based RAF fighters destroyed two of KG 26’s bombers during the strike on the convoy, and possibly the aircraft that initially spotted the convoy, the list of KG 26 losses implies that this was not so. 

Unfortunately, the Kampfgeschwader lost no aircraft that day.

The entry on the Erinpura at Hebrew Wikipedia states that the convoy was identified by a German Storch (“Stork”) type aircraft, most likely an allusion to the Fieseler Fi-156 light observation and army cooperation plane.  However, performance figures for the very lightly armed Fi-156 state that the aircraft’s range was 240 miles, vastly short of the distance between the Erinpura’s convoy and German air bases in Sardinia and Italy.  Thus, the convoy was more almost certainly spotted by a He-111 or Ju-88.  This is also consistent with the accounts given by Norman Clothier and Henry Morris.

Curiously, the accounts given by Henry Morris and Norman Clothier differ by exactly one hour in terms of the timing of the bombing of the Erinpura.  Henry Morris gives the start of the main attack as 20.50 (8:50 P.M.), with the ship being struck by a bomb at 21.05 (9:05 P.M.).  Norman Clothier gives the start of the main attack as 19.50 (7:50 P.M.).  In any event, KG 26’s strike was obviously timed to coincide with sunset, which – on May 1, 1943, near Benghazi – occurred at 21:19 (7:19 P.M.).

Aboard the Erinpura

The Palyam and Aliyah Bet Website provides a document in Hebrew entitled (English Translation) “Yishuv Volunteers For the British Army During the Second World War 1939-1945, which specifically focuses on the sinking of the Erinpura, and includes eyewitness accounts of this event and its aftermath, by three survivors:  Chaim Ast, Ben Ami Melamed, and Eli Zeiler.  The translated document (a somewhat approximate translation) is presented below:

Chaim Ast was sailing for three days on the Erinpura without knowing where he was going.  The sun rose and fell over the Mediterranean waters.  The waves surged and subsided frequently, but Ast and members of the 462nd were only able to guess where they were going.  Since leaving the port of Alexandria, the company commander, Major Yoffe, would say nothing.  Members of the company had lost the sense of time and place.  Only the celebrations on the first of May involving a prescribed routine hinted at something on the calendar.

“That day at dusk, with Prof. Eisenberg and one of our officers, we gathered on the upper deck,” recalls Ast, with wandering eyes.  “Until then we sailed without knowing where we were going, and, there was an air of uncertainty.  Eisenberg called us; told all of us first of the 1st of May and its meaning, and then the purpose of our cruise – to embark in Malta for the invasion of southern Europe.  Below the deck, the socialists were celebrating, and while he was talking, a plane passed overhead.  After that I went down.  We had long tables with benches and sat and talked.  Suddenly came the bombing.”

…south to Al Alamein:

When the 462nd Company was established, way back in 1942, Eli Zeiler was a young teenager who wondered around the open spaces surrounding Degania Alef.  While he was walking in the fields, the British were training a group of Israeli soldiers that were designated to act alongside her majesty’s army, in battles that were beginning throughout the world at that time, as one of the four Hebrew transport platoons.  For Zeiler it was a golden opportunity for closure.

“I was born in Austria, and in 1938 my high school classroom teacher ordered all Jews to leave.  So I left,” he recalls. “I moved here straight to the kibbutz and soon after that I decided to join.  The Histadrut wanted to send me a commanders’ course of ‘defense’ and refused to enlist me in the British army, so I bypassed them and applied directly through the Army recruiting office.  I received a pound and a half, and I took a bus to Sarafand, the “Zerifin” of today”.

 Among the people he met in the company, were Ben Ami Melamed and Chaim Ast; old friends ever since elementary school, and decided to join the same company.  More than 60 years have passed, but when the three of them met this week in Ast’s apartment, the memories of those early days as fighters returned quickly.  “The atmosphere was such that anyone who joined the British was an evader”, was Ast’s opening line.  “I left everything, I recruited five more fighters with me and we went together to enlist in the British Army.  I went straight to the front, to El Alamein”.

The transport company received full infantry training and learned to drive on primitive roads.  Thereafter, recruits from the battle of El Alamein joined the expanding front where Italian-German forces commanded by Rommel were quickly advancing.  “The Germans arrived, and it was a real threat.  We felt it would be a shame for the Germans do to us what they did to all the Jews,” recalls Melamed.  “The feeling was not easy when we got to the front.  We knew that if the Germans would break the El Alamein line, they would conquer Egypt and then will come our way to Israel.

I don’t remember who said this but we decided that in case of a retreat, we would abandon the British army and go to Israel by trucks.  While preparing for battle, the transport platoons were busy paving roads.  During the battle days, Aset, Melamed, Zeisler and their friends would go into the lines of the infantry squads.

While preparing for battle, there were detachments of transports especially in road construction.  On the days of battles Ast, Melamed, Zeiler and friends would go into lines classed as infantry.  On other days they would transfer equipment to one point and come back with prisoners to another point.  This situation often gave rise to complex situations. “When the distances became longer, one day wasn’t enough to transfer the prisoners so we had to spend the night with them”, Zeisler says.  “The problem was that one driver and one infantry soldier can’t really guard 30 prisoners of war, so we invented a game – Find the shoes.  We had them take off their pants and shoes, and walk them 200 meters into the desert, and that way we could ensure ourselves that no one would escape without their belongings.  For some fun, we would make a big pile of all the shoes – for them to search.”

In October 1942, the winds began to warm at El Alamein.  The British Eighth Army, under the command of Montgomery, began to chase Rommel’s forces and lead what is considered by many as the turning point of World War II.  “When we were chasing the Germans, we were moving forward so quickly that we couldn’t stop,” recalls Ast.  “The trip had become dangerous.  Ben-Ami, who was the co-driver of mine, was observing out of the truck, dismantling plugs from abandoned German trucks and replacing them while we were driving.  That’s how we moved forward.  At last when the enemy lines were finally breached, we entered the most terrible battle area.  The bodies of soldiers were strewn everywhere.  I remember this image like it was yesterday, but most of all – I can not forget the smell.”

Idiots, jump into the sea!

After the battle in North Africa ended the transport platoon together with other British army forces went towards Alexandria.  Scenting the smell of victory, Melamed, Zeisler and Aset embarked with the rest of their friends on the British ship the “SS Erinpura”.  On the 29th of April of that year, at the end of Passover, the first convoy left with as a naval force of 27 ships carrying soldiers, supplies and equipment for the British army.

The goal of the journey was to reach Malta and join the forces that were meant to participate in the allies invasion of Sicily.  However the Germans had other plans.  “On the 1st of May at dusk, while the convoy was making it’s way by sea, about 50 kilometers north of Benghazi, Libya, a German reconnaissance plane came from the west was flew over our heads”, describes Zeisler.  It came right out of the sun so we couldn’t see it approaching, and passed between the ships at the same height of the decks.  So it was impossible to open fire on him, so as not to hit the other ships.  After it flew away, it was very clear that an attack would begin”.

And of course around 20:00, 12 German warplanes came over the convoy of ships, focus on the lead ship in the convoy – the Erinpura.  “They hit our ship in 2 places – one straight in the hold and the other from the side,” Ast mentioned.  

“This is a moment that I do not remember.  I ran towards to the stairs but did not find them.  I somehow got to the upper deck, and as I came up, I met a friend there.  He saw the water getting closer and started to cry.  I did not have too much experience in water, but I heard that when something is sinking it causes a whirlpool.  I said, ‘You are not a woman on the beach in Tel Aviv, jump!  He did not want to, so I pushed him and jumped after him.  I saw that the bottom floor collapsed, and the stairs collapsed.  The ship began to descend like an elevator,” says Zeiler.  “She started to tilt angle of 45 degrees.  When I managed to stay away some ten meters by swimming, I saw the propeller rise, and there was a huge explosion, apparently in the engine room.”

Melamed himself was secluded in a room at the back of the ship and rushed up to the top deck.  “I saw two guys standing and throwing rafts,” he says.  “I came to help them and I saw the side of four guys sitting and praying.  I saw that the ship was going to sink and I realized there was no choice and had to jump into the sea.  Suddenly the rear of the ship rose into the air and the water was already upon us.  I called to them, ‘Idiots, jump into the sea!’  And they continued to pray.  I jumped and started to swim with all my strength to stay away from the ship.  Her horn blared very long, and then I turned around and I saw her descend with them into the water.  It was a picture of horror: the bow turned forward and on the aft hung dozens, if not hundreds of soldiers.  Terrible screams.  I threw my belt I minded and I swam with all my might.  I turned back again – no vessel, no people, everything was gone, and the Germans firing at us with bursts of gunfire.”

The Erinpura sank in less than four minutes.  Melamed, Zeiler and Ast found themselves in the icy darkness of the Mediterranean.  Time passed, and more.  Gunfire was replaced by a soft throbbing sound.  Greek naval forces in the occasional darkness trying to find the survivors.  “I saw two rafts and began to gather more and more people, of all nations, on them” says Melamed quietly.  “South Africans, British and Indians.  Most of the people who lived, were on the raft floating in the water.  We decided all together, without knowing the languages, that only the wounded will remain on the rafts.  A Greek destroyer approached, and when I grabbed the ladder I saw that I could not continue because four hours in the water had weakened me.  Suddenly a pair of strong hands caught me and pulled me up.  I do not remember what was happening through the night, but in the morning we saw a difficult scene.  The captain of the ship stood and said a prayer, and beside him were several bodies bound with weights.  A shot in the air and the bodies were thrown into the sea.”

 A Greek sailor rubbed me:

 Most of the soldiers and the crew that remained on Erinpura died that night.  Of the 300 members of the Company there only 160 survivors who were transferred to safety.  “I woke up in the ship’s hold as a Greek sailor rubbed me with a towel and another poured rum for me” says Zeiler.

“After that we went to Tripoli and we got some clothes.  We were there for a week or ten days, and then they took us back to Alexandria and later to Israel.  We got two weeks off, that the British Army has customarily given for a unit sending two-thirds of its troops home on leave.   Ast states: “Freedom of survivors.”

 The exit from hell back to the outside world, they suggest, was not easy.  “There was a terrible shock.  We did not know who was living and who was not, and I was especially worried about those I met, those whose families I knew,” says Melamed, on the first days of return.  “When we arrived in Tripoli I wrote letters home.  We should not have to clearly write things on what happened, but my letter hinted that something happened to me and I was alive.  The censors cut almost everything.  You could just understand that I was alive after the date of May 1”.

 “My mother did not know whether I was alive or dead,” says Ast.  “Several days after the incident there was published in the newspaper Davar a list of 138 soldiers from Eretz Israel who drowned in the sea.  Our families had found everything through the paper.  When I came to Israel, I got on a bus headed home.  I sat not far away from the driver and in front of me sat a man in uniform and he told the driver he was on the ship and he was saved.  I heard the story, watching and listening, and knew that here there was one that pretended.  When we reached the destination, I approached him and said: ‘I had a very pleasant time hearing your story, but I wanted to ask you if recognize a friend of mine who was on the ship.’  He asked me, ‘Who was your friend?’ I told him: ‘Chaim Ast.’   ‘Ah, Chaim Ast, poor guy, he drowned.’  A minute later I took out my notebook and said to him, at least I have the honor to know of whom you spoke…”

 “You have to understand that by then there was no event of this magnitude,” adds Zeiler.  “We had far more casualties than the Jewish Brigade.  When I came back they told me: ‘What are you doing here? After all that had drowned.’”

 After home leave the three were called back to the front.  The company had been rebuilt, and in September 1943 was attached to the Allied forces that invaded Italy via Salerno, south of Naples.  There they were busy unloading docks and transport equipment, fuel and ammunition to the front, the first confrontation with the horrors of the Holocaust.  “So we met with the survivors,” says Ast.  “When we went to the British Army, the goal was to save the land of Israel; we had no idea that of all this story.  They came to us as refugees and we could not believe them at all.  Little by little, like drops of water upon the rock, came more and more.”

 The three moved on – built homes, developed careers, and have designed their own memorial event.  After Salerno took place the first memorial event booklet about the difficult situation of the sinking, exactly a year after that occurred.  Since they are conscientious in participating every year at the memorial to the 140 names, at a unique monument erected in their memory at Mount Herzl.

…”We should not write clearly on things that happened, but my letter hinted that something happened to me and I’m alive.  The censors cut almost everything” … Ben Ami Melamed.

* * * * * * * * * *

The document below is an account of the sinking of the Erinpura by (I think…?) Major Yoffe, commander of the 462nd General Transport Company.  The document is from Volume 2 of Dr. Yoav Gelber’s Jewish-Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War.

report-w_edited-1The following 2-page letter, from Volume 2 of Jewish-Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War, also (I believe) describes the sinking of the Erinpura.  (Translation would be appreciated!) 

This is the first page…

letter-2-w_edited-1 …and this is the second page.

letter-1-w_edited-1* * * * * * * * * *

The following letter, written on May 4, 1943 by Corporal Amiram Ben Zvi (or, “Ben Zion”?), PAL/551, a survivor of the sinking, is reproduced in Volume 2 of Jewish Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War, Roi Mandel’s article about the 462nd General Transport Company, and also on page 23 of Yishuv volunteers to the Biritsh Army during the Second World War 1939-45.

letter-3-w_edited-1The Yishuv Volunteers booklet also includes this Hebrew-character transcript of the letter:

letter-from-amiram-ben-zvi-pal-551An approximate English-language translation of this text (generated via Google.translate) follows:

“Greetings to you my dear!

I am alive, not writing for a time.  I would especially like to tell you that I am safe and sound, after hardships, and that I am in the same place as a month ago with a large number of friends. 

How are you all?  For several weeks I have not received any information from you and hope I receive everything all at once.

I said goodbye to all families and friends, and do not believe the false rumors.  Maybe I’ll see you soon.

Next time I’ll be here longer.

Farewell,

Forever Yours

Amiram”

The Location

Wikipedia’s list of shipwrecks gives the position of the Erinpura’s sinking as 32-40N, 19-53 E, while the British Trust was lost, “30 nautical miles (56 km) north northwest of Benghazi, Libya”.  The website notes that this location is derived from Norman Clothier’s article, but oddly, no such reference can actually be found in that article.  Regardless, maps – at successively larger scales, created via Google Maps – showing the location of the Erinpura’s sinking are presented below:

map-4_edited-1

map-1_edited-1 map-3_edited-1

map-2_edited-1Based on the above-illustrated location, a bathymetric map of the Mediterranean Sea created by Ikonact shows that the ship – forever the final resting place for several hundred men – lies at a depth of approximately 500 meters, approximately 30 miles north-northwest of Benghazi, Libya.

mediterranean_sea_bathymetry_map-svg– Michael G. Moskow