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Within a year 10,000 had signed up, including Lieutenant Frank De Pass, who was to become the first Jewish soldier awarded the Victoria Cross – and the very first soldier in the Indian Army to be awarded a VC.By the end of the First World War many of those Jews who had fled the pogroms in Russia and those serving from across the British Empire had helped swell the number who had served in the armed forces to somewhere around 50,000. These tens of thousands included the members of the Zion Mule Corps in Egypt, made up of 700 Jews whose job was to move supplies to British troops, usually in the face of heavy Turkish machine gun fire.Along with the 39th battalion recruited in the US and the 40th from Palestine, the 5000 Jewish soldiers were known as “The Judeans”.The 38th were pivotal to the defeat of the Turks in the Jordan Valley that led to the final defeat of the Ottoman Empire.But whatever you call it, don’t call folks late for supper in August.That is because it is the annual August Copenhagen Cooking and Food Festival! After two years and some scanal (someone did not plan well and the bridge ends did not meet each other!!As for the Second World War – by VE Day in 1945 around 60,000 Jews had served in campaigns across the globe, and that does not include those from the Dominions or those who enlisted in the British Forces in Palestine, where 30,000 Jews volunteered.Some were members of the Special Operations Executive, parachuting behind enemy lines.
It is true that, seventy years after Bergen-Belsen was liberated, the recent murders mean that another generation of Jews are now experiencing the fear that they, too, will be killed for their religion. A shoddy internet questionnaire published after the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris reported that nearly half of all British Jews had thought of leaving. A proper poll published at the same time found that less than 11 per cent had given it even a moment’s thought. As our proud and honourable history of military service shows, we are British, with all that means.
But for British Jews it will be an even more poignant moment.
Among the troops who arrived in Bergen-Belsen in April 1945 was Norman Turgel, a young sergeant in the 53 Field Security section of British Intelligence.
The corps was disbanded after being decimated at Gallipoli.
Then in 1917, 38th battalion of the Royal Fusiliers became the first Jewish battalion, whose members were recruited from London’s East End – and included two future leaders of Israel, David Ben Gurion and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, as well as the sculptor Jacob Epstein.
During the Boer War from 1898-1902, 3000 Jews served in the British army; 150 died in battle.