Friday, May 28, 2010

Trouble at sea

For James' Weekend Reflections -- a quiet corner of Israel's national military cemetery on Mount Herzl reflected in the water.

On May 1, 1943 the British troopship Erinpura, en route from Egypt to Malta, was sunk by a German air attack with the loss of 943 lives.

Aboard were 334 Palestinian Jewish soldiers who had volunteered and were serving in the 462nd transport company of the British army.

This memorial is for the 140 Jewish young men who went down with the ship to their death.
Most of the men were below decks when the Erinpura was hit.
She sank in just four minutes.
Up until the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and the accompanying birth of Israel's own navy, Jews knew nothing about sailing or fighting at sea. The prophet Jonah was the only famous sea-faring man in our history.
As I write, a new confrontation at sea is brewing. A so-called Freedom Flotilla of 8 or 9 ships from Europe is approaching Gaza and will try to land and unload 10,000 tons of supplies and thus break the Israeli closure which began when Hamas took over in the Gaza Strip several years ago.
Israel's navy will intercept them and "invite" them to dock in our port of Ashdod instead.
Let us hope and pray that no one is hurt.
It will be a big "media event" for the pro-Palestinian activists on the boats for sure.
Please remember that tons of food and fuel and supplies cross from Israel overland through the checkpoints into Gaza every day, but not by sea.


Pam said...

So tragic, scarey too. I always find the black and white, also sepia photos, eerie when the tale is so tragic. Thank you for remembering such brave servicemen who gave up their lives.The memorial centre you have featured looks calm and beautiful.

Leif Hagen said...

It's important to remember them - such a tragic story! Interesting watery memorial!

Sara said...

I'll be watching the news here...this is the first we've heard of it. It will probably be on BBC. With you, I hope and pray that no one is hurt.

Louis la Vache said...

A timely post in several respects, Dina.

Although Memorial Day is an American holiday, it is fitting that you posted this memorial of those who perished on board that ship in 1943 on Memorial Day weekend.

«Louis» doesn't understand why these pro-Palestinian agitators won't look at what Israel tries to do to help the Palestinians. As Golda Meir wrote about Islam: "There will be no peace until they love their children more than they hate us."

Rob and Mandy said...

Read about the flotilla, and we sincerely hope they get through, and not to Ashdod!
We lived in Cyprus for a while, and if you look closely, you can still see remains of the british camps where they kept so many people wanting to find a home.

bennie and patsy said...

I am so hoping all will come out well and with no trouble.keeping a watch on the new here.

Reader Wil said...

Thank you for your information, Dina! It is still a very unpleasant situation for all the innocent people on both sides, who want nothing but peace and a quiet life.
What a very impressive memorial for the 943 men who died on board the Erinpura. My father sailed all through the war. And his stories were very distressing too.
Thank you Dina for again entering my name on the ABC list!

Anonymous said...

Being of German origin, still owe an excuse. May you have a peacefull weekend.

daily athens

Cloudia said...

Who needs facts where Israel is concerned? Sorry....but myopic activists make my head hurt...

Shabbat Shalom with Aloha from Hawaii, cousin
Comfort Spiral

VP said...

I visited the cemetery but can't remember this place and I am very sorry, because I really like it.
I don't know much about the Erinpura, another sad war story indeed, thanks for reminding us.
You probably can imegine what I think of this flotilla, so I'll better skip a very harsh comment about it...

Hels said...

I know the story of many sunken ships, by military action or otherwise, yet I don't remember the name Erinpura.

Were the bodies of the 140 Jewish young men who drowned actually found and returned to Israel? What happened to the other lads who survived? Did they join the British army as planned?

Dina said...

Helen, the 140 Jews from Eretz Yisrael who died at sea have no graves at Mt. Herzl, only the markers with their names, half in the water, at the memorial. So this means their bodies were not recovered, I assume.

As I understand, the other Jews from Palestine/Israel were already soldiers in the British army when they were being transported on the Erinpura. I could not find anything on the Web about where the surviving ones were assigned after the sinking.

There is info on the history of many troopships at

A detailed story of the Erinpura's sinking is at .
Inter alia, it says,
"Of the ship's total complement of 1 215, only 273 survived. Four ships' officers and 110 ratings, mostly Indian, were lost. Only(6) five of the eleven gunners survived, of the 1 025 troops only 203 were saved. Six hundred and thirty-three Basotho lost their lives, along with sixty-one Batswana. . . .
The bedraggled survivors were landed at Benghazi next morning. Westrop made the long hot walk down the pier in bare feet. He and others were billeted in a large building with many small rooms which they believed must have been a convent. Later they learned that it had been an Italian military brothel! They were issued with new kit and equipment and in due course transported to camps near Cairo. From there they were given two weeks leave to Jerusalem."

Dina said...

Pam, good point about the historic photos. Yes, when there are no funerals going on, Mt. Herzl military cemetery is very peaceful. It is like a history book of the State of Israel.
Everyone should visit there.

Leif, yes, it is unique.

Sara, really? I thought it would be big news already.

Louis, yes, sigh.

Rob and Mandy, a friend, about my age, his parents survived the Holocaust and were trying to get to Palestine from Europe after the war. The British caught these "illegal" immigrants and put them in the detention camps in Cyprus. The friend was born there, behind the barbed wire of the British.

Patsy, glad you are following it.

Wil, it must have been so hard, waiting for your father to come home from the dangers at sea.

ρομπερτ, will this feeling ever go away?

Cloudia shalom, short, crisp, and to the point.

VP, next time you will find it. Mt. Herzl is a big place.
I knew you would like this memorial with the marine theme.

James said...

A solemn but beautiful refeflection. I agree with Louis la Vache.

Joyce said...

I found this so interesting and so sad. The memorial is interesting with the water. I read your comments too and I just finished reading a book about Jewish women who were held by the British in camps until they could go to Isreal. Very interesting read but I am not at home as I write this so I can't give you the name of the book right now????

Kay said...

This is such a sad story. I'm glad you're sharing this tragedy with us so we might know another piece of history of this turbulent time.

I'm hoping for peace for you all.

Jew Wishes said...

The ongoing situation is not looking so wonderful.

Thank you for the information regarding those who perished on the ship....