Maori moko tattooing, Huia
feathers and greenstone Tiki
- A colonial British Bulldog
stands his ground in this patriotic
founding figure of the Jewish Legion.
Seen here wearing the collar badge
of the Fusiliers
C in C Cairo
As the once mighty Empires of the world headed for the global conflict of World War One, the opportunity for minority ethnic groups within these Empires saw an opportunity to assert claims for legal rights and political freedoms previously denied.
The racial persecution of Jews in Russia had bought about generations of hardships and discrimination. Unable to buy land their lot was a continual cycle of serfdom to Czarist masters.
Soon to be British Prime Minister Lloyd George commented in April 1915:
As usual in Russia when failure is due to an incompetent and corrupt system the blame was attributed to other causes. The Jews always come in handy...in a letter of communication between General Yanushkevitch to General Sukhomlinoff he bemoaned the condition of the Russian Army.
(quote)“…in some places they are already blowing up bridges, stores. This is all done for money; probably the Jews are doing it. There is no one else to do it. (end quote) ("War Memoirs of David Lloyd George, volume I p265)
The Jewish peoples of Russia and other states of Europe saw the war as an opportunity to re-establish a homeland in the 600-year-old occupied lands of Turkish Palestine.
Such forward thinkers as Chaim Weizmann and others of the new Zionist movements had since the 1890’s been purchasing tracks of territory from the nearly bankrupt Ottoman Turkish Empire. The Zionist were hoping to join the thousands of Palestinian Jews living in servitude of their Turkish masters by purchasing their freedom and becoming an autonomous territory.
Like the Jews the various other races within the Imperial Empires looked to improve their lot. In the British Empire the Blacks of Africa and the Caribbean, the Asians of Indian, Malaya and Hong Kong. In the Turkish Empire the Serbs, Armenians, Arabs, Greeks and Slavs all contemplated new homelands in a new world order.
The Jewish move to support British aspirations was virtually forced upon them when the Ottoman Ruler, Sultan Hamid II, expelled the Jews from Turkish Palestine. Most fled to Cairo in Egypt.
Djemal Pasha, commander of the Ottoman army in Syria, later stated:
“I know your aim. You intend to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. I decreed that you were to leave the country and my decision is unalterable".
The Sultan had feared that the Jews would have become a partisan force within his Empire. He feared also the Christian Armenians within his borders and set about their extermination in horrible acts of genocide.
For two men the pool of so many thousand Palestinian Jews residing in Cairo was an opportunity not to be lost. Joseph Trumpledor the first Jewish commissioned officer in the Czarist army had emigrated to Palestine in 1911 he met writer and linguist Vladimir Jabotinsky. Together they approached the British in Cairo and offered a large Jewish force to fight on their side. The delegation met with General Maxwell, commander of the British forces in Egypt. He responded:
I have heard nothing of an offensive in Palestine, and I doubt whether such an offensive will be launched at all. I am prohibited by regulations from admitting foreign soldiers in the British Army. I can make only one suggestion—that your young men form themselves into a detachment for mule transport, to be made use of on some other sector of the Turkish front. I cannot do more than that.
Jabotinsky was disappointed but considered that the collapse of the Ottoman Empire was crucial for the establishment of a Jewish State, and the “Zion Mule Corps” was born.
These men like the Anzacs saw themselves as creating a national identity as they landed on the Gallipoli Peninsular on the 25th April 1915. Many allied soldiers owed their lives to these unarmed men who brought up supplies from the beachheads and carried the wounded back to the aid stations on their donkeys. 562 men served and fifteen muleteers died in action at Gallipoli.
In July 1915, General Sir Ian Hamilton, wrote to a New York newspaper that “These troops are officially known as ‘The Zion Mule Corps,’ and their officers, like the soldiers, have displayed great courage, carrying water, food and arms to the front line under heavy fire.”
After a disastrous eight months fighting on the Turkish coast the British commanders conceded the invasion was an un-winable fiasco. Retreating from the Dardenelles back to Cairo the British disbanded the Zion Mule Corps. However, the idea to form a Jewish armed fighting force was not forgotten by Jabotinsky or Trumpledor.
By 1917 the British European forces were bleeding to death on the fields of France and Belgium not to mention troops active in the Sinai and Mesopotamia. This time the English Generals conceded their fighting men were disappearing in a war of attrition. Now they looked favorably on arming ethnic minorities. West Indians arrived by the boatload to register for the “British West Indies Regiment” and London and other foreign Jews volunteered to join the three English Fusilier Regiments that would become the “Jewish Legion”.
These forces were destined to join the ANZAC's and become known as "Chaytor Force", led by New Zealand Mounted Rifles Major-General Chaytor, who was already in command of various racial forces from across the globe. Indian Lancers and mountain Gun batteries manned by Chinese and Malay troops of Asia. The New Zealanders themselves were made up of troops of various Polynesian backgrounds, including Maori and Cook Islanders.
The short history of European occupation and settlement in New Zealand had been a vicious sixty years of turbulent adjustment that included forty years of bloody civil war. Amazingly through the continual conflicts European and Maori had readily inter-married. In the field of battle Maori gained immediate respect and by the time the first New Zealand Troops were formed to fight for Empire during the Boer War of 1899-02 many Maori were among the fighting men, including officers. Elsewhere in the British, German and French Empires only Europeans were deemed suitable to lead Imperial troops.
Perhaps because of this factor the West Indians and Jews were detailed to the ANZAC's of "Chaytor Force".
Punch - London
The Kaiser, Ferdinand and Hamid II stand over the corpse of Armenia
"When I went to Bulgaria I resolved that if there were to be any assassinations I would be on the side of the assassins." STATEMENT BY FERDINAND.
The river crossing at Jisr Ed Damieh
Auckland Mounted Rifles secure the position with the
aid of Jewish and West Indian Troops.
Not to be outdone by "Lord Kitchener" or "Uncle Sam"
finger pointing Posters: the "Daughter of Zion" calls young
Jewish Americans to the cause to fight against the
Ottoman Turks in Palestine.
Exploits of Jewish combatants during the advance through Turkish Palestine has been recorded and well preserved. Unfortunately, except for a few war diaries of the B.W.I. Battalions, very few records of the history and actions of the men of the West Indies has survived. During World War II most records of the West Indian Regiment were destroyed during the bombing Blitz of London. However an account held in the Auckland Mounted Rifles records when the black soldiers of the Carribean went into action for the first time.
Below is the record from the Auckland Mounted Rifles (AMR) official history recorded by Sergeant C.G. Nichol:
The bridge crossing at Jisr Ed Damieh.
The Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division (often called the Anzac Division) was to remain on the right flank as part of "Chaytor’s Force,” which included an Indian infantry brigade, two battalions of Jewish troops and two battalions of infantry of British West Indians. It was not for them to take part in the great ride to Damascus, but their work on the Jordan and then over the hills to Amman was to be none the less important .
Elsewhere has been related how at dawn on September 19 the Turkish line was broken on the coast and how the cavalry poured through like a tidal wave which nothing could stay, how they penetrated to the Jordan behind two Turkish armies, and how they swept on to Damascus. Chaytor’s Force was the pivot on which the advance swung. This force had to hold the line of the Jordan River from the Dead Sea, and also to move north with the 53rd Infantry Division as it advanced on its left. To the New Zealand Brigade fell the task of moving up the valley.
On the night of September 21, the A.M.R. left Musallabeh, with the 4th squadron as advance guard, and occupied without opposition Kh Fusail and Tel EsEd Dhiab, some 10 miles north of the Wadi Auja. Patrols were sent forward, but soon they encountered the enemy, who was holding a strong line covering the bridge at Mafid Jozeleh. A small force was found between the left flank of the Regiment and the right flank of the infantry on the hills, and was promptly dealt with, 20 prisoners and two machine-guns being taken. A large quantity of war material was secured during the day. That night the rest of the brigade, with the two battalions of West Indians and the 29th Indian Mountain Battery and the Ayrshire Battery, came up and joined the A.M.R.The B.W.I’s. were sent to guard the right to the river and the right rear, while the Mounted Rifles Brigade continued north to secure the important bridge and crossing of Jisr Ed Damieh, and to cut the road leading from the bridge to Nablus, along which retreating Turks were expected. The march started at midnight, the A.M.R. with one section of machine-guns being the advance guard. Moving cautiously along the Jericho - Beisan road, the Regiment secured without opposition the bridgehead at Mafid Jozeleh.
Thence it went forward and got astride the Nablus-Damieh road. It was found that a large force of Turks had just passed towards the bridge, and the 3rd squadron was sent after them. The11th squadron remained on the road facing west to intercept prisoners, while the 4th squadron occupied El Makhruk to the north-east. The 11th squadron had the pleasure of capturing some enemy transport, which had no idea that the British were in the vicinity until they were in the trap. The 3rd squadron soon caught up with the force moving towards the bridge and captured a number of prisoners .A cavalry outpost line attempted to hold the squadron off, but it was soon driven down to the river flat from the high ground above the bridge. The squadron held the high ground over looking the bridge until dawn, when the enemy counter attacked and forced the right of the squadron to retire to a strong position under artillery support.
As the enemy were digging in and receiving reinforcements, the commander of the Auckland's recommended an immediate attack, at the same time asking for some assistance. This course was agreed to, and one squadron of the C.M.R. and one company of the B.W.I. were sent to reinforce the regiment. Meantime the artillery was doing some good shooting. The position held by the Turks was in the shape of a crescent with a flat top, the British line running round it at a distance of500 yards. No weak spot being found in the enemy line it was decided that the whole line should advance, and so close in on the bridge.
Lieutenant-Colonel McCarroll distributed his men as follows :—On the left, overlooking the bridge and road, one squadron and a half with one machine-gun (these troops were not to advance, but to inflict punishment on the enemy when driven in), then came the rest of the A.M.R., less two troops,then the West Indians with one troop of the A.M.R., and then the C.M.R. squadron. The remaining troop of the A.M.R.was held in reserve. At the given time the whole line advanced, the bayonets flashing in the morning sun. Splendid covering fire was put over by the artillery, and the long range overhead machine-gun fire was also most effectual.
The Turk could not face that irresistible line of steel. Some surrended as soon as they could, while others fled, only to be overtaken by the line on the right. The flat footed West Indians, who had not been in action before, did splendidly. They chased the Turks down the hill and caught many of them. The C.M.R. closed in rapidly from the right. One of their troops came forward mounted, but it was stopped by a cliff. It at once wheeled to the right and made down a wadi to the river, and was very useful in rounding up the prisoners. The surviving Turks poured over the bridge in disorder, and they made no attempt to destroy the bridge, which was rushed by the reserve troops and secured intact. It was a very smart operation. A total of 350 Turks were captured, besides seven machine-guns. The killed and wounded made a considerable total. The only losses on our side were: A.M.R: 3 killed, 1 died of wounds and 1 wounded; B.W.I.: 1 wounded. The A.M.R. remained for the rest of the day on the high ground above the bridge, but a C.M.R. squadron went across the bridge and cleared the surrounding country.
Left: Major Walter Haeata (mentioned twice in dispatches) wrestles with a playful puppy while sitting next to his commanding officer Lieutenant- Colonel James McCarroll (center) and Lieutenant W. Stewart of the AMR. Major Haeata was among many Maori who fought alongside fellow EnZeds - also Black soldiers from the British West Indies and Jewish Volunteers.
The above photograph records the only three remaining officers of the original Main Body of the AMR at wars end.
New Zealander Major-General Chaytor with his Anzac mounted riflemen and light horsemen drew together various additional units to form Chaytor's Force, which was tasked by Allenby to attack Amman from the Jordan Valley while the main attack was launched up the coast. . Among them, men that because of political or racial prejudice had not fought under arms before.
Black troops from the Caribbean fought as "The British West Indies Regiment", and the Jews who had first appeared as non-combatants on Gallipoli as the "Jewish Mule Corps" finally went into action as part of the "Royal Fusiliers" and later adopted the Menorah as their symbol and fought as the "Jewish Legion".
above: Some of the Jewish Light Horsemen of the ANZAC Divison.
Not all Jewish troops were enlisted with the English Fusiliers. Jewish men, nationals of Australia and New Zealand, served with ANZAC forces in both the Middle East and Europe.
Winston Churchill Millington was born in Barbados in 1893. In 1897 he moved to Trinidad with his father, who was a teacher. In 1911 Winston started working at a secondary school in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad. He was one of the first to volunteer for B Company in Trinidad. In December 1916 the regiment sailed from England to Alexandria, in Egypt, on their way to fight in the Palestine Campaign.
It was not long before the machine-gun crews of the West Indian regiment were tested out. They were sent into action with the Anzac "Chaytor Force" against a large body of Turkish soldiers and showed great coolness and self-discipline under fire. The commanding officer of 162 Machine-gun Company praised the work of the West Indian gunners: "The men (the machine-guners) worked exceedingly well ... showing keen interest in their work, cheerfulness, coolness under fire and the ability to carry it out under difficulties."
General Allenby also highlighted the machine-gun crews’ outstanding achievements. He wrote to the Governors of Jamaica and the other British West Indian colonies:
"I have great pleasure in informing you of the excellent conduct of the machine-gun section of the BWIR during two successful raids on the Turkish trenches. All ranks behaved with great gallantry under heavy rifle fire, and contributed in no small measure to the success of the operation."
In the attacks in the Jericho Valley towards Amman a number of B.W.I. soldiers distinguished themselves through their bravery. One of them was Winston Millington. When the Turks attacked, the rest of his gun crew were killed by enemy fire, but Winston continued to fire his gun for several minutes. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his gallantry and coolness in action.
Winston Churchill Millington
Awarded the DCM for his actions in battle.
Winston conceded, “the Turks were ferocious fighters.”
The Commander of "Chaytor Force", New Zealander, Major General Sir E.W.C.Chaytor, pins on a decoration for gallantry under arms to an unidentified Corpaoral of the British West Indies Regiment - 1918.
Dr.Richard Smith, researcher of the BWIR and author of the book:
"Jamacian Voluteers in the First World War"
comments that he belives the soldier pictured is:
"661 Lance Corporal McCollin Leekam of Trinidad. He was gazetted in the London Gazette of 29 March 1919 as Leekham, an error which was subsequently corrected. His Lance Corporal's stripe is clearly visible and no other BWIR L/C received a medal during this period."
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A RARE FIND FROM A MOUNTED RIFLEMAN'S CAMERA
Sometime in 1918, New Zealand Trooper Charles Broomfield took this photograph of Arab traders selling goods to a group of British soldiers - fairly mundane scene you might say - However on closer inspection we can see a number of interesting pointers that make this photograph quite remarkable and unique.
Obviously the two men on the right are Black soldiers, a very rare occurrence in World War One, as only a few photographs exist of these combat troops. France had some Negroid soldiers as combatants at Kum Kale and Gallipoli during the Dardenelles Campaign, but most other Black troops from Allied forces were non combatants usually restricted to Labour Battalions.
Not so these men, they are members of the British West Indies Regiment (B.W.I.) that served as Infantry under New Zealand General Edward Chaytor in his attacks out of Jerusalem to Jericho, across the Jordan to Es Salt and to wars end in Amman.
The army group was known as "Chaytor Force", and besides the New Zealand and Australian mounted Anzac troops, the force contained horse drawn artillery and Infantry units from the West Indies and England.
However to say these additional Infantrymen were "Englishmen" would be a disservice to the gallant Jewish volunteers who flocked to England in their thousands to join the fight against the Central Powers. The British government detailed the Jewish volunteers into the "Fusilier Regiments". The distinctive flaming bomb hat and collar badges of the Fusiliers readily identifies the men on the left of the photograph above as Jewish Troops. Initially local Jews of London and Jews who arrived from Russia and ex-members of the disbanded "Zoinist Mule Cops" were to become the 38th Fusiliers. Later American Jews made up half the manpower of the 39th and men from all points of the globe the 40th Fusiliers - before the war concluded these combined regiments were given the honour of being renamed the "Jewish Legion". Many of these men would go on to establish the state of Israel and indeed the IDF through the creation of the Palmach.
Photograph - Trooper 43185 Charles Thomas Broomfield of the 26th Reinforcements NZMR
|The subject of the Jewish troops becoming involved as combat soldiers in action in Turkish Palestine, and the background politically and socially, in getting those men there is an interesting and much wider subject than we as NZMR historians are able to reproduce here.
However there are countless books and reference papers available. Items to read should include:
|Ben-Gurion, David. Memoirs. Compiled by Thomas R. Bransten. New York: The World Publishing Company, 1970.
Jabotinsky, Vladimir. The Story of the Jewish Legion.New York: Bernard Ackerman, Inc., 1945.
Friedman, Isaiah (ed.). The Rise of Israel: The Post-Herzlian Period, 1904-1914. New York: Garland, 1987.
Ben-Zvi, Izhak. The Hebrew Battalion.Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi, 1969.
Patterson, J. H. The Man-Eaters of Tsavo. New York:The Macmillan Company, 1927
With the Zionists in Gallipoli.London: Hutchinson & Co., 1916.
With the Judeans in the Palestine Campaign.New York:Macmillan, 1922.
Weizmann, Chaim. Trial and Error.New York: Schocken Books, 1966.
Sarner, Harvey. The Jews of Gallipoli. Cathedral City, CA: Brunswick Press, 2000.
Katz, Shmuel.Lone Wolf: A Biography of Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky.New York: Barricade Books, 1996.
Watts, Martin. The Jewish Legion and the First World War. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.