Jewish Legion

Jewish Legion

Overview
The Jewish Legion was the name for five battalions of Jewish volunteers established as the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

's 38th through 42nd (Service) Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers. The initial unit, known as the Zion Mule Corps, was formed in 1914-1915 during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, when Britain
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 was at war against the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, as Zionists
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

 around the world saw an opportunity to promote the idea of a Jewish National Homeland.

In December 1914, Zeev Jabotinsky and Joseph Trumpeldor
Joseph Trumpeldor
Joseph Trumpeldor , was an early Zionist activist. He helped organize the Zion Mule Corps and bring Jewish immigrants to the Land of Israel. Trumpeldor died defending the settlement of Tel Hai in 1920 and subsequently became a Zionist national hero...

 raised the idea of the formation of a Jewish unit that would participate in the British military effort to conquer Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 from the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, and by the end of March 1915, 500 Jewish volunteers from the Jews in Egypt who had been deported there by the Ottomans had started training.
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Encyclopedia
The Jewish Legion was the name for five battalions of Jewish volunteers established as the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

's 38th through 42nd (Service) Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers. The initial unit, known as the Zion Mule Corps, was formed in 1914-1915 during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, when Britain
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 was at war against the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, as Zionists
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

 around the world saw an opportunity to promote the idea of a Jewish National Homeland.
Jabotinsky (L) and Trumpeldor in uniform.

In December 1914, Zeev Jabotinsky and Joseph Trumpeldor
Joseph Trumpeldor
Joseph Trumpeldor , was an early Zionist activist. He helped organize the Zion Mule Corps and bring Jewish immigrants to the Land of Israel. Trumpeldor died defending the settlement of Tel Hai in 1920 and subsequently became a Zionist national hero...

 raised the idea of the formation of a Jewish unit that would participate in the British military effort to conquer Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 from the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, and by the end of March 1915, 500 Jewish volunteers from the Jews in Egypt who had been deported there by the Ottomans had started training. The Zion Mule Corps served on the Gallipoli
Gallipoli
The Gallipoli peninsula is located in Turkish Thrace , the European part of Turkey, with the Aegean Sea to the west and the Dardanelles straits to the east. Gallipoli derives its name from the Greek "Καλλίπολις" , meaning "Beautiful City"...

 front, as for political reasons the British opposed the participation of Jewish volunteers on the Palestinian front, but ultimately, in August 1917, the formation of a Jewish regiment was officially announced. The soldiers of the 38th and 39th Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers, made up almost entirely of Jews from Britain, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, and later the 40th Battalion composed of Jews from the Ottoman provinces of Palestine and other areas, served in the Jordan Valley
Jordan Valley (Middle East)
The Jordan Valley forms part of the larger Jordan Rift Valley. It is 120 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide, where it runs from Lake Tiberias in the north to northern Dead Sea in the south. It runs for an additional 155 kilometer south of the Dead Sea to Aqaba, an area also known as Wadi...

 and fought the Ottomans some 20 miles north of Jerusalem.

Background


The British opposed the participation of Jewish volunteers on the Palestinian front and they were put to serve as a detachment for mule transport on another sector of the Ottoman front. Trumpeldor formed the 650-strong Zion Mule Corps, of whom 562 were sent to the Gallipoli front.

Gallipoli Front



On April 25, 1915, together with the first British, Australian, New Zealand and French troops, the Jewish Legion landed on Gallipoli peninsula. Its Commanding Officer was Lt. Colonel John Henry Patterson
John Henry Patterson (author)
Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson, DSO , known as J.H. Patterson, was an Anglo-Irish soldier, hunter, author and Zionist, best known for his book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo , which details his experiences while building a railway in Kenyain 1898-99...

, DSO, an Irish Protestant, and was met with heavy shelling and machine gun fire at the shore of Cape Helles. Trumpeldor was Second-in-command; Jabotinsky served as an officer. There, a Distinguished Conduct Medal was awarded to Private M. Groushkowsky, who prevented his mules from stampeding under heavy bombardment and despite being wounded in both arms, delivered the ammunition. Trumpeldor was shot through the shoulder but refused to leave the battlefield. Patterson later wrote: "Many of the Zionists whom I thought somewhat lacking in courage showed themselves fearless to a degree when under heavy fire, while Captain Trumpeldor actually revelled in it, and the hotter it became the more he liked it..."[1]

Official formation of the Jewish regiment


Between the dissolution of the Zion Mule Corps and the formation of the Jewish Legion, Jabotinsky and Trumpeldor and 120 Zion Mule Corps Veterans served together in Platoon 16 of the 20th Battalion of the London Regiment
London Regiment
The London Regiment is a Territorial Army regiment in the British Army. It was first formed in 1908 in order to regiment the various Volunteer Force battalions in the newly formed County of London, each battalion having a distinctive uniform. The Volunteer Force was merged with the Yeomanry in 1908...

.

Finally, in August 1917, the formation of a Jewish regiment was officially announced. The unit was designated as the 38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers and included British volunteers, as well as members of the former Zion Mule Corps and a large number of Russian Jews. On April 1918, it was joined by the 39th Battalion, made up almost entirely of Jews who were resident in the United States and Canada.

Thousands of Palestinian Jews also applied to join the Legion and in 1918, more than 1,000 were enlisted. 92 Ottoman Jews who had been captured in the fighting earlier were also permitted to enlist. This group was organized as the 40th Battalion. The 41st and 42nd Battalions were Depot Battalions
Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

 stationed in Plymouth
Plymouth
Plymouth is a city and unitary authority area on the coast of Devon, England, about south-west of London. It is built between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound...

, England. In his memoirs about the Legion Jabotinsky described the composition of the 5000-member Legion as: "34 per cent from the United States, 30 per cent from Palestine, 28 per cent from England, 6 per cent from Canada, 1 per cent Ottoman war prisoners, 1 per cent from Argentina."

Action in the Jordan Valley, 1918


In June 1918, the volunteers of the 38th Battalion began engaging the Ottomans some 20 miles north of Jerusalem. In the fighting in the Jordan Valley, more than 20 Legionnaires were killed, wounded, or captured, the rest came down with malaria, and 30 of this group later died. The Legion then came under the command of Major General E.W.C. Chaytor
Edward Chaytor
Major General Sir Edward Walter Clervaux Chaytor KCMG, KCVO, CB was a farmer, and a military commander of New Zealand troops in the Boer War and World War I....

, who commanded the Anzac Mounted Division
Anzac Mounted Division
The ANZAC Mounted Division was a mounted infantry and mounted rifles division formed in March 1916 in Egypt during World War I following the Battle of Gallipoli when the Australian and New Zealand regiments returned from fighting dismounted as infantry...

.

Besides various skirmishes, the Legion also participated in the Battle of Megiddo
Battle of Megiddo (1918)
The Battle of Megiddo took place between 19 September and 1 October 1918, in what was then the northern part of Ottoman Palestine and parts of present-day Syria and Jordan...

 in mid-September, 1918, widely considered to have been one of the final and decisive victories of the Ottoman front.

The Legion's mission was to cross the Jordan River. Jabotinsky led the effort. Later, he was decorated and General Chaytor told the Jewish troops: "By forcing the Jordan fords, you helped in no small measure to win the great victory gained at Damascus."

Legacy



The Legion casualties in World War I
Battalion Fatalities
38th 43
39th 23
40th 12
42nd 3
38th/40th 9
Transferred from
Jewish Legion
1


Almost all the members of the Jewish regiments were discharged immediately after the end of World War I in November 1918. Some of them returned to their respective countries, others settled in Palestine to realize their Zionist aspirations. In late 1919, the Jewish Legion was reduced to one battalion titled First Judeans, and awarded a distinctive cap badge, a menorah with the Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 word קדימה Kadima (forward) at the base.

Post World War I Palestine and the Legion


Former members of the Legion took part in the defense of Jewish communities during the Riots in Palestine of 1920, which resulted in the arrest of Jabotinsky. Two former members of the Legion were killed with Captain Trumpeldor at Tel Hai
Tel Hai
Tel Hai is the modern name of a settlement in northern Israel, the site of an early battle in the Arab–Israeli conflict, and of a noted monument, tourist attraction, and a college...

.
One former member of the Legion was killed in Tel Aviv-Jaffa
Jaffa
Jaffa is an ancient port city believed to be one of the oldest in the world. Jaffa was incorporated with Tel Aviv creating the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical story of the prophet Jonah.-Etymology:...

 during the Jaffa riots
Jaffa riots
The Jaffa riots were a series of violent riots in Palestine on May 1–7, 1921, which began as a fight between two Jewish groups but developed into an attack by Arabs on Jews during which many were killed...

 of 1921. Some members of the Jewish Legion settled in moshav Avihayil
Avihayil
Avihayil is a moshav in central Israel. Located to the north-east of Netanya, it falls under the jurisdiction of Hefer Valley Regional Council. In 2007 it had a population of 1,200....

. Another former member died in service in World War II,

Members of Jewish Legion

  • Gershon Agron
    Gershon Agron
    Gershon Agron was an Israeli newspaper editor and mayor of Jerusalem in 1955-1959.-Biography:Gershon Agron was born in the Ukraine and emigrated with his family to the United States at the age of five. He grew up in Philadelphia. During World War I, he fought with the Jewish Legion in Palestine...

    , Mayor of Jerusalem.
  • Nathan Ausubel
    Nathan Ausubel
    Nathan Ausubel was an American historian, folklorist and humorist.-Biography:Ausubel was born in Leżajsk, Galicia, the sixth of eight children, and immigrated with his family to New York City in 1907, where he later attended Columbia University...

    , Jewish-American author.
  • Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
    Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
    Yitzhak Ben-Zvi was a historian, Labor Zionist leader, the second and longest-serving President of Israel.-Biography:...

    , second Israeli President.
  • Yaakov Dori
    Yaakov Dori
    Yaakov Dori was the first Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces .Born in the present day Ukraine as Yakov Dostrovsky , son of Tzvi and Myriam, his family emigrated to Ottoman Palestine following the anti-Jewish pogrom in Odessa in 1905...

    , Haganah
    Haganah
    Haganah was a Jewish paramilitary organization in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948, which later became the core of the Israel Defense Forces.- Origins :...

     leader; first Chief of Staff
    Ramatkal
    The Chief of the General Staff, also known as the Commander-in-Chief of the Israel Defense Forces is the supreme commander and Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces. At any given time, the Chief of Staff is the only active officer holding the IDF's highest rank, Rav Aluf , which is usually...

     of the Israel Defense Forces
    Israel Defense Forces
    The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

    .
  • Sir Jacob Epstein
    Jacob Epstein
    Sir Jacob Epstein KBE was an American-born British sculptor who helped pioneer modern sculpture. He was born in the United States, and moved to Europe in 1902, becoming a British citizen in 1911. He often produced controversial works which challenged taboos on what was appropriate subject matter...

    , British sculptor.
  • Levi Eshkol
    Levi Eshkol
    ' served as the third Prime Minister of Israel from 1963 until his death from a heart attack in 1969. He was the first Israeli Prime Minister to die in office.-Biography:...

    , third Israeli Prime Minister
    Prime Minister of Israel
    The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of the Israeli government and the most powerful political figure in Israel . The prime minister is the country's chief executive. The official residence of the prime minister, Beit Rosh Hamemshala is in Jerusalem...

    .
  • Louis Fischer
    Louis Fischer
    Louis Fischer was a Jewish-American journalist. Among his works were a contribution to the ex-Communist treatise The God that Failed, The Life of Lenin, which won a 1965 National Book Award, as well as a biography of Mahatma Gandhi entitled The Life of Mahatma Gandhi...

    , Jewish-American journalist and author.
  • Eliyahu Golomb
    Eliyahu Golomb
    Eliyahu Golomb was the leader of the Jewish defense effort in Mandate Palestine and chief architect of the Haganah, the underground military organization for defense of the Yishuv between 1920 and 1948.-Early life:...

    , founding member of the Haganah.
  • David Grün, later Ben-Gurion
    David Ben-Gurion
    ' was the first Prime Minister of Israel.Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946...

    , first Israeli Prime Minister.
  • Nachum Gutman, Israeli Painter
  • Dov Hoz
    Dov Hoz
    Dov Hoz was a leader of the Labor Zionism movement, one of the founders of the Haganah organization, and a pioneer of Israeli aviation.-Biography:...

    , Zionist activist, Haganah fighter.
  • Bernard Joseph, later Dov Yosef
    Dov Yosef
    Dov Yosef was an Israeli politician and statesman. Yosef served in a variety of ministerial positions during the first two Knessets and was the country's second Minister of Justice, serving twice .-Background:...

    , Governor of Jewish Jerusalem during the 1948 siege; longtime Labor MK.
  • Berl Katznelson
    Berl Katznelson
    Berl Katznelson was one the intellectual founders of Labor Zionism, instrumental to the establishment of the modern State of Israel, and the editor of Davar, the first daily newspaper of the workers' movement.-Biography:...

    , Zionist philosopher and activist.
  • Reuven Katzenelson-Sgt under Joesph Trumpeldor at Battle of Gallipoli
    Battle of Gallipoli
    The Gallipoli Campaign, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign or the Battle of Gallipoli, took place at the peninsula of Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916, during the First World War...

     and father of Shmuel Tamir
    Shmuel Tamir
    Shmuel M. Tamir was a prominent Israeli independence fighter, lawyer, Knesset member from 1965 to 1980, and Minister of Justice in the government of Menachem Begin from 1977 until 1980-Irgun:...

  • Bert "Yank" Levy Internationalist in Spain and Military instructor for the British Home Guard
    British Home Guard
    The Home Guard was a defence organisation of the British Army during the Second World War...

    .
  • Gideon Mer
    Gideon Mer
    Gideon Mer was an Israeli scientist whose work was mostly concerned with the eradication of malaria.Gideon Mer was born in Lithuania, then part of Imperial Russia. He studied medicine in Russia and France where he also graduated....

    , physician, veteran of Zion Mule Corps, Jewish Legion and British Army in World War II. Served as medic in Israeli War of Independence; later worked in the Israeli Ministry of Health. {Note: he is the unnamed Officer during World War II in charge of anti-Malaria program mentioned in Martin Sugarman's article on the Zion Mule Corps}.
  • John Henry Patterson (author)
    John Henry Patterson (author)
    Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson, DSO , known as J.H. Patterson, was an Anglo-Irish soldier, hunter, author and Zionist, best known for his book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo , which details his experiences while building a railway in Kenyain 1898-99...

    -Commander of Zion Mule Corps and 38th Battalion Royal Fusiliers {Jewish legion}
  • James Armand de Rothschild
    James Armand de Rothschild
    James Armand Edmond de Rothschild, DCM, DL, was a French-born British politician and philanthropist, from the wealthy Rothschild international banking dynasty....

    , D.C.M.
    Distinguished Conduct Medal
    The Distinguished Conduct Medal was an extremely high level award for bravery. It was a second level military decoration awarded to other ranks of the British Army and formerly also to non-commissioned personnel of other Commonwealth countries.The medal was instituted in 1854, during the Crimean...

     Major, 39th Royal Fusiliers Battalion; Captain Royal Canadian Dragoons; a member of the Rothschild family
    Rothschild family
    The Rothschild family , known as The House of Rothschild, or more simply as the Rothschilds, is a Jewish-German family that established European banking and finance houses starting in the late 18th century...

    .
  • Edward Sperling
    Edward Sperling
    Edward J Sperling , born Ezra Sperling, was a 20th century writer, humourist, and Zionist.-Early life:Ezra Sperling was born in 1889 in a Jewish community in Slutzk, Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire...

     - humorist and later director-general
    Director-general
    The term director-general is a title given the highest executive officer within a governmental, statutory, NGO, third sector or not-for-profit institution.-European Union:...

     of the Ministry of Trade and Industry under the British Mandate of Palestine
  • Edwin Herbert Samuel, 2nd Viscount Samuel; CMG son of Herbert Samuel, 1st Viscount Samuel
    Herbert Samuel, 1st Viscount Samuel
    Herbert Louis Samuel, 1st Viscount Samuel GCB OM GBE PC was a British politician and diplomat.-Early years:...

    .
  • Eliezer Sukenik
    Eliezer Sukenik
    Eleazar Lipa Sukenik was an Israeli archaeologist and professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.Having arrived in Palestine in 1911 he worked as a school teacher and tour guide...

    , Israeli archaeologist; father of Yigael Yadin
    Yigael Yadin
    Yigael Yadin on 21 March 1917, died 28 June 1984) was an Israeli archeologist, politician, and the second Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.-Early life and military career:...


See also

  • Jewish Brigade
    Jewish Brigade
    The Jewish Infantry Brigade Group was a military formation of the British Army that served in Europe during the Second World War. The brigade was formed in late 1944, and its personnel fought the Germans in Italy...

    , a similar military formation of volunteer Jews that fought in the Second World War.
  • Tilhas Tizig Gesheften
    Tilhas Tizig Gesheften
    Tilhas Teezee Gesheften was the name of a group of Jewish Brigade members formed immediately following World War II...

    , organization which grew out of the Jewish Brigade

Further reading

  • Patterson, John H. With the Judeans in the Palestine campaign. Uckfield : Naval & Military Press, [2004 reprint] ISBN 1-8434-2829-6
  • Jabotinsky, Valdimir. The story of the Jewish Legion. New York: Bernard Ackerman, 1945. ISBN B0007DE88U
  • Freulich, Roman. Soldiers in Judea;: Stories and vignettes of the Jewish Legion. Herzl Press, 1965. ISBN B0007-EN0G-K
  • Gilner, Elias. Fighting dreamers; a history of the Jewish Legion in World War One,: With a glimpse at other Jewish fighting groups of the period. 1968. ASIN B0006BT7KM
  • Gilner, Elias. War and Hope. A History of the Jewish Legion. New York; Herzl Press: 1969. ISBN B0006C2O2E
  • Kraines, Oscar. The soldiers of Zion: The Jewish Legion, 1915-1921. 1985. ASIN B0006YWX5U
  • Marrion, R.J. "The Jewish Legion," 39th (service) battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), 1918-1919. 1987. ASIN B000719GOS
  • Watts, Martin. The Jewish Legion and the First World War. 2004. ISBN 1-4039-3921-7
  • "When the spirit of Judah Maccabee hovered over Whitechapel Road - The march of the 38th Royal Fusiliers" by Martin Sugarman, Western Front Association Journal, Jan 2010. Also google on virtual Jewish Library using title

External links