THE conflict that raged in Palestine between 1945 and 1948 resulted in an unbelievable loss of British lives – a total of 784 died.
We were pleased to be allocated seven minutes in BBC1’s remembrance week programmes. The producer chose the very moving story of one veteran – a survivor of the mining of the overnight train to Haifa on February 29 1948.
The explosion, which killed 28 British servicemen and injured 31 more, was the responsibility of Menachem Begin’s Stern gang.
A survivor, Aircraftsman Charles Speight, who arrived in Palestine at the start of the Arab-Israeli war, escaped death in that incident by an amazing stroke of luck.
That was in the morning. In the afternoon, he was ambushed by armed Arabs, who took their weapons and rendered their vehicles immobile.
That was typical of the conflict at that stage. Begin wanted to kill Britons, the Arabs wanted our weapons.
Charles is a member of The Palestine Veterans Association and we are building an archive and constantly looking for more members.
If you were in Palestine during those turbulent years and would like more information, please make contact.
ERIC LOWE, 20 Treloar Road, Hayling Island, Hants. PO11 9SE. 02392 467181.
This comment was left there:
a) the attack of the troop train was an operation of the Lechi (or Stern Group). Menachem Begin commanded the Irgun.
b) the train was attacked near Rechovot, south of Tel Aviv, not near Haifa as could be implied from the wording.
c) Begin did not want to randomnly "kill Britons" and always warned of attacks as in the case of the King David attack and dozens of others, in a war waged for the liberation of the Jewish national home from what turned into an oppressive British Mandatory regime and I am specifically referring to the blockade on Jewish immigrants during and after the Holocaust.
d) the immediate reason for the attack was the car-bombing in Jerusalem's Ben-Yehuda Street by two British army troopers who had gone over to the Arabs for either pay or out of identification. Their bomb killed over 50 Jews and destroyed a building in downtown Jerusalem.
Here's the first page report from the Palestine Post of March 1: