Saturday, December 17, 2011

Israeli military history, the Erinpura disaster, May 1, 1943

On the left, the Israeli memorial at Mt. Herztl.
 On the right, the Erinpura when it served as a medical ship during WW1.

During the Second World War the Erinpura was one of many transport ships carrying supplies and troops to the frontlines. On May 1st 1943, heading to Malta from Alexandria, it was attacked and sunk by German warplanes north of Benghazi Libya.
In that attack approximately 943 allied soldiers were killed. Among them there were 300 Jewish volunteers from British Mandatory Palestine, Israelis. This Israeli list of casualties included all 140 members of Transport Company 462.
In the Annals of WW2 this was one of many maritime disasters. But in Israeli history this is most likely the biggest lose of life from an enemy’s fire in a single incursion. But I will leave that determination to military historians expert in this field.
The tragedy and carnage of this event are powerful demonstrations of a fact usually sidelined. That during that horrific war Israel was an integral part of the allies’ military effort.
At the time we had no official name but we fought and died like everybody else. We took part in victories as well as defeats. We called ourselves Yeshuv, a general term for any form of organized residences. And hosted in our Yeshuv allied soldiers from many nations.

And on the Erinpura Israeli soldiers died alongside soldiers from India, South Africa and elsewhere.
May all their souls be interwoven forever in the wreath of life”.
To the fallen from all the nations that stood for liberty.
Then and now.

A wikipedia link.
A link to the South African side of the story, a nation that lost more lives on that terrible day.