Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Memoir of the 1946 Cordon-and-Seatch

James Knaggs recalls "the big curfew and search of Tel Aviv in 1946":-

...The curfew and search followed the King David Hotel bombing and was aimed at picking up as many terrorist suspects as possible. We were all roped in for the operation and as usually happened I was attached to CID screening. I was bag-carrier to Sgt Martin of Jewish Affairs. He was murdered in Haifa just a few weeks later, shot by the Irgun outside his flat one lunchtime as he turned to wave goodbye to his wife.

Our top-screening unit was set-up in the quadrangle of a secondary school - can't remember which. The army provided the cordons and the searching was done by police assisted by the Airborne Division and other units. Arrested suspects were sent by army transport from field-screening to the top-screening unit where they were held in temporary barbed-wire cages. After screening, they were either detained or sent back home under escort - most were sent home...

My little part in the operation was to wade through the long CID terrorist suspect lists while Sgt Martin did the questioning.

One of the terrorists we were after was Menechem Begin. CID had information on where he was supposed to be hiding but drew a blank. I remember they went back again that night and had another unsuccessful search. Years later, I read Begin's book and learned that he had been bricked in inside a false wall and almost suffocated.

On the final day of the curfew, while we were packing our equipment, one of the Airborne sergeants had a potter round a cellar, right below where out four screening tables had been standing. He noticed one of the walls seemed to have a very new coat of whitewash. He gave it a good thump, it collapsed and revealed a large room that was full of explosives and was being used as a hand-grenade and bomb factory. It took us a couple of hours to move everything out. On reflection , I can't help thinking they should have taken that sergeant round to Begin's suspected hiding place.

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