Terror in 1938

The Daily Telegraph, on 4th September, printed the obituary of Colonel Desmond Woods. While a young officer, just graduated from Sandhurst, Woods was posted to Palestine as a platoon commander in the Royal Ulster Rifles. His unit was ordered to restore law and order after Arab terrorist raids in the Galilee had increased following the Munich crisis. Woods' obituary describes Arab armed bands ro

Contributing Author,

Writing on the wall: Death to Jews
Writing on the wall: Death to Jews
photo
The Daily Telegraph, on 4th September, printed the obituary of Colonel Desmond Woods. While a young officer, just graduated from Sandhurst, Woods was posted to Palestine as a platoon commander in the Royal Ulster Rifles. His unit was ordered to restore law and order after Arab terrorist raids in the Galilee had increased following the Munich crisis. Woods' obituary describes Arab armed bands roaming from village to village in 1938, swooping on lonely police outposts, isolated Jewish settlements, railway stations or anything else offering a tempting target. After the Tiberias massacre, Woods' unit left Safed to search Bedouin encampments between Al Mughar and the Kinneret and to, if need be, take punitive measures. The obituary describes how Arab terrorists shouting ?Death to the English? ambushed Woods? unit. Only the arrival of two British fighter aircraft, which strafed the Arab with machinegun fire, and dropping a number of small bombs, saved the British soldiers. Woods was decorated with the Military Cross. Note the use of punitive measures where necessary, and the contribution of fighter aircraft in attacking and bombing Arab terrorist concentrations.

After Palestine, Colonel Woods fought in Italy in the battle for Monte Cassino. The portion of Colonel Woods' obituary, describing his service in Palestine, is reproduced below. It is well worth reading.
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OBITUARY OF COLONEL DESMOND WOODS (Officer who withstood heavy fire in Palestine and Italy, and acted as ADC to Montgomery). From Daily Telegraph 4th September, 2002.

?Lt-Col Desmond Woods, who died, aged 85, on August 17th 2002, won the Military Cross in Palestine in l938, while serving with the Royal Ulster Rifles, and was awarded a Bar for it in Italy in l944; at the age of 2l, he was the youngest British Army officer to hold the decoration. In November l937, the 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles disembarked at Haifa, having been given the role of restoring law and order in an area of central Palestine shaken by conflict between the Jews and the Arabs. Confrontation between the two took many forms; sniping and bombing; saboteurs whose specialty was damaging road, rail or telegraphic communications and terrorist gunmen who operated chiefly in the towns.

It was the armed bands, however, which gave the battalion most trouble. These were anything from 30 to 300 strong, armed mostly with British .303 rifles or German Mausers, and roamed from village to village in the wild hill country. Often concealing themselves in almost inaccessible caves, they would swoop down on lonely police outposts, isolated Jewish settlements, railway stations or anything else that offered a tempting target.

After the Munich crisis in l938, many British troops were withdrawn and Arab terrorist raids increased. At the beginning of October, the Jewish population of Tiberias was attacked and many civilians, including children, were killed. Suspicion fell on the Bedouin and, on October 5, four platoons of the Royal Ulster Rifles left Safad at first light to search the Bedouin encampments between Al Mughar and Lake Tiberias and, if appropriate, take punitive measures.

By midday, Wood's platoon had accomplished its task and was coming down a track in the hills behind Galilee with a number of prisoners when, suddenly, they were confronted by an Arab riding a magnificent white horse. The man reined in his horse at the sight of them and disappeared down a sidetrack.

A few minutes later the platoon came under fire from a large band of Arabs that had been following them and could now be seen lining the whole of the hillside behind them. The Arabs were running around, waving their rifles in the air and shouting, "Death to the English!"

Mounted Arabs appeared at this moment and galloped round their flanks with the aim of surrounding the platoon, waiting until their ammunition was exhausted and then finishing them off. Woods, who was just out from Sandhurst, recalled a line from a military textbook which touched on his predicament, "Remember to keep the last bullet for yourself". It seemed like good advice.

As the gang was creeping down the wadis towards them and the mounted Arabs started to close in, Woods fired a red Verey light. By remarkable good fortune, the signal was seen by his commanding officer several miles away at base camp. Two aircraft were dispatched in support and arrived very quickly.

Diving down into the wadis, the fighters strafed the enemy with machinegun fire and dropped a number of small bombs. After an action lasting two hours, Woods just managed to get back to his trucks before the Arabs closed the only escape route. For his gallant conduct in extricating his platoon without loss, he was awarded an immediate MC.

Adam Desmond Woods was born at Malahide, near Dublin, on June l4 l9l7 and educated at Sedbergh and Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the Royal Ulster Rifles and joined the 2nd Battalion in l938. He returned from Palestine to the RUR Depot at Omagh just before the Second World War................"



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