LIFE in Israel in 1948 – Part 2
by Ben Atlas on July 2, 2009
King Abdullah (fore CL) and his party standing in front of the Dome of the Rock. Jerusalem, Israel. John Phillips
Frank Adam comments: In the seventh picture – of the Israeli troops in a back area – note the two styles of British helmet. Two on the viewer’s left are in the “battle bowler” from the trench war of 1914-18, and most of the others are in the style that appeared from ‘43-’44 till the end of the steel helmet era. The Mark II (dor bet) with its bell curve silhouette and more sweep to the rear was designed to protect the nape and neck when crawling or lying on the ground because it could not be worn forward with the strap behind the head. There was also a brimless type for airborne trops only visible in the quayside picture in the first set of pictures.
Jewish soldiers lying injured in hospital after surrender of city. Jerusalem, Israel. June 1948. John Phillips
Bodies of dead Jews lie in the rubble along Tel Aviv waterfront after Arab raid. May 1948. Frank Scherschel
Frank Adam comments: The Polish trouble makers were probably deserters or demob from when the Anders Army which Stalin released to Churchill via Teheran. Anders’ Army passed through the British 8th Army back area that was Palestine and Egypt to train and then went on to win Cassino.
Mayor of Jewish quarter “Muhktar” Weingarten being escorted to Arab Legion headquarters by Arab soldiers. Jerusalem. June 1948. John Phillips
An explosion blasting a path in Jewish-held old city after Arabs carefully crept through gunfire to plant dynamite under walls during attack by Arab Legion. Jerusalem. June 1948. John Phillips
Frank Adam comments: There are at least three Haganah Sten guns in this series of pictures – all probably home made – a cheap and nasty blow back weapon of barrel, breech block and spring that could go off if you dropped it butt end first, that the British first designed in 1940 when they lost all their equipment at Dunkirk. They quickly smoothed the design and eventually made 2.5 million of the Mark II, nicknamed “the Woolworths gun” at allegedly 5 shillings – one dollar then. One story being to use up 9mm pistol ammo captured in the fall of Tunis, but in the second half of the war it equipped all who might need close quarter defence of the “burp gun” as Cold War Americans called the genre, but did not need to fire accurately to a distance: drivers, gunners, NCO’s, signallers, tankees logistics troops – about a 1/3 to half the divisional personnnel.
About 1942 Haganah obtained a specimen and realised the jackpot as they had a lot of disparate rifles in their caches with little ammunition, some being 19th century single shots. These were now dismantled for the barrels to saw up to make four Stems with garage mmachinery to make the butts and bodies. Ammunition was stolen or made from bulk imports of lipstick cases for cartridge cases. You can see the original underground factory near the new Rehovot Station and in Haganah Museum in Rothschild Avenue TA are several paired specimens used in settlement defence.
Frank Adam comments: The wall in front of a shop front is a blast shelter wall typical of air raid shelters 40’s technology. Evidently by the painted lettering which spells “shelter” this wall enables people to be safer in the concrete building’s front lobby should bombs or shells start falling in the street. This technique is complementary to the picture of the people sheltering in a school corridor.
Frank Adam comments: There are two interesting technical details here. First the Arab Legion photos show them with the British World War I rifles with the snubbed muzzle cap.
The photo of the arab troops packed into requisitioned civilian lorries with extempore wooden safety grills – in that they are not a standard British or US issue (and do not have French Citroen or Renault trademarks either?) – are carying rifles with muzzles projecting well over the forestock furniture. These are probably French Lebels and so a Syrian unit in spite of the British pattern ‘37 braces they are wearing. From 1940 to ‘46 French units in Syria and elsewhere would have used replacement clothing from British or US stocks. By 1948 Syria & Lebanon were independent at British (1945?) insistence which was the French gripe that led to French support of Haganah Aliyah Bet and the independence of Israel in 1948.
Pablo de Azcarate (R) of the United Nations Truce Commission talking to doctors and a nurse. Jerusalem, Israel. June 1948. John Phillip
View of Jewish outpost near Egyptian border, showing trenches, gun emplacements and barded wire. 1948. Dmitri Kessel