Last to leave ?
At about 0400 hrs, on the 30th of June 1948, Z Day, the first of the rearguard units began to withdraw from Haifa dockyard, 2 company, 1st Coldstream Guards, through the No 10 gate, 2 company, Grenadier Guards, from No 1 gate, tanks of the 4/7 Dragoon Guards were covering No 3 and 4 gates, and all embarked at about 0700 hrs. Sub units of 42 RM. Commando entered the dockyard, and embarked at about 0900 hrs. 40 Royal Marine Commando (Palestine)
Headquarters of 40 Commando moved into the dockyard, and formed a small perimeter around the LST H.M.S. Striker, at about 1000hrs, the command of, all British troops ashore, was handed to Lt. Col. Houghton RM., and then with the exception of H.M.S. Striker, all British ships put to sea. Lt. Col. Houghton signaled for the withdrawal of the forward troops of 40 Commando, when they had embarked the 4inch mortar section, took up a position on the forecastle of H.M.S. Striker. Lt. Col. Houghton reported to the GOC, Lt. Gen. Mc Millan, that the withdrawal of all British troops was complete, 40 Commando Royal Marines, being the last unit to leave.
However, other sources state that Lieutenant General MacMillan GOC British Troops Palestine was the last British soldier to leave Palestine on the 30th of June. While some other sources state that 40 Commando left on the 27th May. Other reference books state the date of 40 Commandos departure as the 27th of June.
Eric ( Pony ) Moore ex 45 Commando tells a different story.
" 45 Commando was the last to leave on the 15th May 1948 from the docks at Haifa. I remember the date well because it was my fathers Birthday. All the other units had gone. We were the outer road block on Mt Carmal. We moved inward to the Haifa docks when all of the other units with drew . I was the commanding Officers Signal man of 45 Cdo RM. , Colonel Palmer. We two were the last British service men to stand on Israeli's soil. We then both boarded the landing craft LST HMT Empire Test and sailed for Benghazi in Libya".
I was a Sapper in B Troop of 1st Para Sqn RE and confirm the withdrawal scenario given by the ex 45 Cdo RM.we were in the docks with the Cdos and were embarked on a ship called The Ocean Vigour [ex illegal immigrant] and thence to Port Said whence we embarked for UK. We left Haifa on or about the 15th May ( "thereabouts" )leaving only 45 Cdo behind as final rearguard- the Guards Regiments resplendent in their "short longs" were long gone before this date - the Coldstreams who were billeted with us in the old Palestine Police Barracks in Kingsway Haifa had played their "Change Quarters " ceremony watched by us who were staying behind.
Walter Crowe writes:
We were in the last troopship to leave Haifa. This was the Empress of Australia, and departed June 21, 1948. I think the bulk of the passengers were Engineers.
I was a sgt with the 317 (Airborne) Field Security, of the Intelligence Corps, and had been stationed on Mount Carmel. I had my 20th birthday somewhere off Gibraltar probably.
Our section consisted of about six of us, and I have photos of the ship and the docks in Haifa on the day we left; and I have a photo I took of my five buddies on Uckfield Station on our arrival from ?Liverpool, suitcases, rifles and all. We arrived at Maresfield HQ that day, and I awaited demob a few days later.
Dennis Alderson writes:
e1261 port operating sqadron royal engineers carried out the evacuation and were among the last units to leave on h.m.t. orduna ex sapper dennis alderson i operated one of the only large cranes capable of doing this.
Brian Brenchley has provided a page from Henry Hanning’s Book, The British Grenadiers, which says on page 271:
In April 1948 the 3rd Battalion returned to Windsor. It was succeeded by the 1st Battalion who went first to Nathanya and then to Haifa. The final withdrawal was under way, but it was turbulent and violent. L/Sgt P.R. Clarke and Gdsn Fred Howlett were killed and five others wounded in various actions. No further attempt was made to prevent inter-communal fighting and 1st Guards Brigade concentrated instead on keeping the camps protected and roads open. This sometimes meant smashing road blocks with tank fire.
The Brigade was the last to leave the country, still harassed by snipers and machine-gunners. They drove to the docks on flat tyres, shot out by the Jews. It was the end of a thankless task. In the light of subsequent history, it is all too clear how impossible it had been to succeed.
Samuel Josovic points us to this story by the BBC:
A Briton's view of Israel's creation
Laura Burns writes:
My uncle thinks it was The Georgeic, as that was the ship he was on in 1948. He thinks it left in June. His name is Tommy Burns and he was stationed in Haifa. He was a royal engineer and his army number was 14072013. he was stationed of Mount Carmel, and worked RTO office in Haifa docks.
The officer in charge was Captain Fenemore (Fenimore?) Bell.
Some people he remembers who were in his camp are:
Sapper Perret from Norwood in London
Sapper Bradley from Cheltenham
Sapper Thrower possibly from Hull
So WHO was the last to leave and when ? There does seem to be some confusion about this. If you were at Haifa when the last British troops departed, we would very much like to hear from you so we can put this matter to bed.
Betwen November 29th 1947 and June 1948, 214 British servicemen lost their lives, including the 28 killed when the Stern Gang blew up the Khantara to Haifa Express at Rheovoth on February 29th 1948.
A Total of 784 British men and women, soldiers and civilians were killed in Palestine between the year of 1945 and 1948. Numerous officers and Men had died of all the HM Forces in Palestine since 1945 in the attempt to bring peace and stability to Palestine, its obvious they died in vain. RIP.