THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: British troops wounded and Arab leaders’ defiant declaration

From the News Letter, June 23, 1936

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 6:00 am
A view of the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, some of the holiest sites for for Jews and Muslims, is seen in Jerusalem's Old City, from December 2017. Picture: AP Photo/Oded Balilty
A view of the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, some of the holiest sites for for Jews and Muslims, is seen in Jerusalem's Old City, from December 2017. Picture: AP Photo/Oded Balilty

There had been further casualties among British troops in Palestine the previous day in skirmishes with Arabs following fighting near Tulkarem.

A sergeant and a private of the Cheshire Regiment were slightly wounded in beating off an Arab attack on a train, and a officer was slightly injured in the foot when a military trolley was derailed.

British police has captured alive two Arabs suspected of being involved in the shooting dead of Sergeant Sills of the Seaforth Highlanders, during the Tulkarem clash. Sills had been looking into a disused well when someone inside shot him, and his body fell into the well.

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The police dynamited the mouth of cave in which the Arabs had taken refuge.

Both men were knocked unconscious and the police entered and captured them together with their arms.

The cave led from the well and Sill’s body was recovered.

Meanwhile the Arab High Committee Palestine had issued a defiant declaration appealing to the Arab population to “continue the strike”.

The people were urged not to be impressed by the grave words of Mr Ormsby-Gore in the House of Commons, but to rely only “on Almighty God and yourselves”.

The Arab Committee’s lawyers were understood to be preparing a detailed document in reply to Mr Ormsby-Gore’s statement.

At least five Arabs were believed to have been killed in the engagement between the men of the Cheshire Regiment and Arabs who had attacked a train travelling from Jerusalem to the coast.

It was in this engagement that the sergeant and private were slightly wounded.

The attack happened “some 13 miles from Jerusalem just before the point where the track leaves the hills for the plain, the train was stopped by heavy boulders placed across the rails”.

As the train slowed down the ambushers on both sides of the line opened heavy fire with rifles and shot guns, while a number of bombs were also thrown.

Under cover this fire a party of insurgents rolled boulders on to the line behind the train.

Having thus trapped their quarry, the Arabs made a determined attempt to rush the train.

The escort met the attack with a well-aimed burst of rapid fire which killed four of the insurgents and sent the rest scurrying to the hills.

After the boulders had been removed the train proceeded on its way.

The Cheshires had driven off an earlier attack on the same train, “some three miles outside Jerusalem”.

The report detailed: “Shots were fired by snipers, but the escort replied promptly, killing one Arab and compelling the rest to scatter for cover behind rocks.”

Meanwhile, the derailment of a railway trolley, as a result of which the British officer was slightly injured, had occurred near Khanyunis. Arab snipers had also fired on the patrol.

Among the more serious incidents reported was an attack on Kinereth. overlooking the Sea of Galilee, during which the marauders fired some 40 rounds.

The Transjordan Frontier Patrol were reinforced by police who replied to the fire, and drove off the attackers.

While a bomb had been thrown, “but exploded harmlessly”, soon after a police patrol had passed through the Jewish quarters of the Old City.

A military lorry was fired on near Jenin and shots were also fired on Nablus. There were casualties in either case.