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Palestine 1945-1946

As part of the 66th Infantry Brigade, the 1st Battalion had been training in Syria and Palestine since relieved from combat in Italy in January 1945. They were soon put to work in Palestine combating the terrorist threat from Zionist paramilitary groups. This included patrolling the coastline to prevent illegal immigration and protecting the coastal Cairo-Haifa railway, which was a prime target for either the Irgun Zvai Leumi or the Stern Gang (Zionist paramilitary groups) who would occasionally put bombs on the line to try and blow the trains up. The 66th Infantry Brigade was officially disbanded and in September 1945, the Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Peters MC DSO, was replaced by Major A. Andrews. That November, the Battalion came under the command of the 6th Airborne Division and command was taken by Lt. Col. H. Hose DSO.

In July 1946, Irgun bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, home of the British administration, and the Battalion were central to the rescue of any survivors, recovery of the dead and debris clearance. Ninety-one people were killed by the explosion and forty-six injured.

1st Hertfordshire Regiment, rescuing survivors of the KIng David Hotel terrorist attack, Jerusalem 1946.

In the aftermath of the explosion, the Battalion were involved in Operation Shark, where Tel Aviv was cordoned, and every house searched. Residents not classed as elderly, infirm or children were all screened and large dumps of arms were recovered. The operation received a mixed global response, with General Sir Evelyn Barker of the British Mandate saying: “The operation has temporarily cost us what friends amongst the Jews we still had.” Former insurgent Samuel Katz, however, admitted that the operation had arrested “almost all the leaders and staff of the Irgun and Lehi (the Stern Gang) and the Tel Aviv manpower of both organisations.”

In October 1946, the 1st Battalion The Hertfordshire Regiment was ordered to disband and the men returned to their civilian lives. You can discover more about the experience of the Regiment in Palestine in Corporal Douglas Milton’s story

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