Official Military Blog Posts

Major John Campbell – obituary

Major John Campbell, who has died aged 93, was awarded two Military Crosses while serving with Popski s Private Army (PPA) and subsequently worked in the Colonial Service and as a diplomat. In 1944, he joined No 1 Demolition Squadron in Italy. This irregular unit, better known as Popski s Private Army, was commanded by Major Vladimir Peniakoff, born in Belgium to Russian parents. PPA had become operational two years earlier in the Western Desert when it undertook raiding and reconnaissance missions behind enemy lines. It was equipped with heavily armed jeeps and was trained in parachuting, mountain warfare, demolition and intelligence gathering. Patrol members carried a tommy gun or a rifle, a semi-automatic pistol and a fighting knife. Peniakoff had misgivings about recruiting Campbell and set him a test of finding his way across 60 miles of rough, mountainous country carrying 40 lbs of equipment and getting back in record time. Campbell passed the test and, having been made adjutant, impressed Popski with his ability to scrounge kit, equipment and stores from niggardly quartermasters. In September 1944, as the Eighth Army pushed up the Adriatic Coast to try to liberate Ravenna before the winter set in, Campbell took command of S Patrol. By winter, British and Canadian forces, much reduced in strength by losses suffered on their push northwards, were overstretched. Campbell s small force drove up and down the pine forests on the Adriatic coast leaving tracks in the hope that enemy spotter planes would report that there was a much larger formation there than was the case. One night in November it was Campbell s 23rd birthday he had only driven a few yards from the farmhouse where they were based when the wheel of his jeep was blown off by a mine. After an hour spent putting on a spare, he travelled only another 100 yards before the vehicle struck another mine. Campbell went back to the farmhouse on foot. The following day, when he returned to repair the damage, he saw his footprint just one inch away from a third anti-personnel mine. The patrol moved to another house but they were soon spotted. A German 88 mm gun opened fire and one of the shells came in through an upper window, flew down the stairs, burst through a door and smashed into Campbell s jeep at the back of the building. After being blown up three times within 24 hours and emerging unscathed, he acquired the nickname Bulldozer . A few days later, an order was given to attack and capture an enemy outpost in a farmhouse near Ravenna which was holding up the Allied advance. It was reported that there might be as many as 10 Germans in the house, but the operation had to take place without weapons being fired in order to conceal from the enemy the fact that they had lost an important strong-point. Campbell s patrol crept into an empty house behind the outpost during the night and waited for daybreak. Then, as soon as they saw smoke rising from the chimney, which meant that the Germans were preparing their breakfast, they rushed the farmhouse. Four terrified Germans were on the bottom floor. They cried out, Don t shoot! Don t shoot! before being captured. Bill O Leary, Campbell s troop sergeant, led the onslaught up the stairs. He met a soldier with an automatic weapon in his hand, charged him and knocked it from his grasp. He then ran into a room in which there were four more Germans. Three were in bed, but the other reached for an automatic weapon. O Leary overcame him and the remainder surrendered. Early in December, Campbell was ordered to capture a German unit based in a fortified tower and customs house at the mouth of the Fiume Uniti, south of Ravenna. During a six-mile night reconnaissance, wading across a marsh, he stepped into a swamp and sank until he was up to his neck in water. The following night, he and six men set out along the canal in two rubber boats. Shortly after midnight, they disembarked and hid until a German patrol had passed. At three o clock in the morning, they set off again, treading in the footprints left by the patrol because the area was mined. They crawled the last 100 yards until they reached a cowshed which was about 25 yards from the fort. They climbed in through a window but no sooner had they concealed themselves and were preparing their attack than all of them had a fit of coughing. Campbell said afterwards that he was terrified that the Germans would hear them and that, for him, it was probably the most frightening moment that he had experienced during the whole war. At dawn, a door in the fort opened and an Alsatian was let out. When it started to take an interest in the cowshed, Campbell threw out a tin of bully beef but its suspicions were not wholly allayed and it was a great relief when, 10 minutes later, its master whistled for it and it ran back inside. They watched for the smoke to appear from the chimney and then formed up outside the front door. They broke down the door, rushed in with tommy guns and, without a shot being fired, captured 11 enemy soldiers with all their equipment which included three machine guns. Campbell then evacuated his prisoners without attracting the attention of the enemy, who were in another strongpoint nearby. On the way back to his base, he ambushed two parties which were bringing up reinforcements, killing six and capturing four others. After another of PPA s patrols took over the fort, a succession of German soldiers, numbering about 50, arrived to find out what had happened to their comrades. They, too, were taken prisoner. Campbell was awarded the first of his MCs. The citation stated that his feat of arms was one of the best examples of courage, leadership and self-control. John Davies Campbell, the son of Hastings Campbell and Eugenie Campbell, daughter of the 14th Baron Louth, was born at Monasterevin, County Kildare, on November 11 1921 and was educated at Cheltenham College. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was studying at St Andrews University but was called up in 1940. Commissioned into the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders the following year, he was posted to the 7th Battalion. Arriving at the Allied front line, the Eighth Army s perimeter at El Alamein, in autumn 1942, he saw action as a platoon commander in the Western Desert. After the action in which he was awarded his first MC, Campbell s patrol pushed northwards. In April 1945, he learnt that about 40 Germans, equipped with machine guns and panzerfausts, were dug in at a farm at Massa Fiscaglia, north-east of Bologna. Fearing that a frontal attack with his whole patrol would result in many casualties, he decided to use only two jeeps. The two vehicles charged up the road, and the speed and ferocity of the assault overwhelmed the enemy who were taken completely by surprise. A few days afterwards, the same all-out tactic resulted in the capture of guns, crews, ammunition and three truck loads of petrol. Campbell was awarded an immediate Bar to his Military Cross. PPA was disbanded in September and Campbell was demobilised in 1946. In 1949, he emigrated to Kenya. He joined the Colonial Service and, in 1953, volunteered to serve as a District Officer during the Mau Mau emergency. Fluent in Kikuyu and Swahili, in 1956 he enlisted as a territorial officer in the Kenya Regiment and received a Mention in Despatches the following year. In 1961, he joined the Foreign Office (subsequently the Foreign & Commonwealth Office) as one of four candidates selected by open competition out of a large entry. Two postings to the delegation to the United Nations in New York were interspersed with a spell at the FO in London, during which time he lived on a Thames sailing barge . Campbell added Serbo-Croat to his languages while serving as First Secretary at the British Embassy, Belgrade, Yugoslavia. This was followed by a move to the British Embassy in Bonn, again as First Secretary, and, in 1972, he was seconded to the Olympic Games at Munich as the British adviser. He was Counsellor at the British High Commission, Ottawa, from 1972 to 1977 before returning to Italy, where he was British Consul-General at Naples. After the earthquake in Southern Italy in November 1980, he played a prominent part in the British government s relief operation. He was made a Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic. After retiring from the FCO, he lived in Herefordshire and built up a business treating potentially dangerous surfaces on roads, airfields and the hard-standings in farmyards to prevent skidding. Settled at Leominster, he enjoyed travel, listening to music and going to the theatre. He was appointed MBE in 1957, CVO in 1980 and was advanced to CBE in 1981. John Campbell married, in 1959, Shirley Bouch who survives him with their son and two daughters. Major John Campbell, born November 11 1921, died July 30 2015 telegraph.co.uk [1] Follow @telegraphnews [2] How we moderate [3] References ^ telegraph.co.uk (www.facebook.com) ^ Follow @telegraphnews (twitter.com) ^ How we moderate (my.telegraph.co.uk) Continue reading

Fallen Stone soldier's photo found in Cornwall shop

Last May, we posted a request for information regarding the soldiers of Stone commemorated on memorials in the town. Since then we ve heard from Dr David Walsh, who told us while he was on a camping holiday in Cornwall, he visited a bric-a- brac shop in Newlyn, where he purchased a framed photograph of a First World War soldier. While the frame is admittedly the worse for wear, David carried out some investigations, and has since discovered it s a picture of 2nd Lieutenant Nigel Fyfe Watson Bishop from Stone, who died in Loos. David informed us the picture has been published elsewhere, and may well be known to Stone Historical Society. After browsing the web, David was able to identify the insignia on the uniform in the photo, and the evidence was confirmed when he found a reprint of the same photo in Memorial of Rugbeians who fell in the Great War Volume 2 . This is what it says SECOND LIEUTENANT N.F.W. BISHOP 5TH BATTALION THE PRINCE OF WALES S (NORTH STAFFORDSHIRE REGIMENT) T.F. School House NIGEL FYFE WATSON BISHOP was the youngest son of James Watson and Adelaide Mary Bishop, of Oulton House, Stone, Staffordshire. He entered the school in 1906, and left in 1909. He learned farming for three years, and then entered the business of Bishop and Stonier, of Hanley. He had been just two years in business, working very hard, when war broke out, and he enlisted in the 5th Battalion of the North Staffordshire Regiment early in September 1914, and received his Commission in the following November. He went to France in July 1915, and was moved up to the front at the end of August. The Battalion suffered a heavy bombardment on September 17th, after which his Colonel wrote home, saying Nigel Bishop did splendidly . He fell in the charge of the North Midland Division on the Hohen-zollern Redoubt, when the 5th North Staffords gallantly led the attack, on October 13th, 1915, aged 23. His Captain wrote that he had the fullest confidence that anything he asked him to do would be faithfully carried out and his brother Officers affirmed that they could not have loved him more had he been their own brother . David informed us Nigel s father was significant in the pottery industry. David has since had the frame reassembled, and it now hangs pride of place in his cottage. The question that remains unanswered is how did the picture end up in deepest Cornwall? Can any readers enlighten David? Continue reading

In Jerusalem’s Romema, the Turks surrendered to a British cook… four times

No doubt you have heard, perhaps more than once, how the Turks surrendered Jerusalem to a British army cook in 1917. But did you know that there were actually four surrenders? Three of these historic events took place on more or less the exact spot, at the time an open field on the highest hill in Jerusalem. Called Allenby Square, it is situated in the heart of what would soon become Romema, established in 1921 as the first Jerusalem neighborhood founded during the British Mandate in Palestine. Intended as a classy neighborhood of 24 houses, Romema was far from the noise of the town and situated between the Arab villages of Lifta and Sheikh Bader. Unlike many other Jerusalem neighborhoods, it was built with private funding. It also differed in a distinct dearth of planning, so it lacks parks and any kind of homogeneity. In the end and apparently for lack of money, just over a dozen grandiose buildings were constructed. The initiator of the project was Turkish-born attorney Yom Tov Hamon, a district court judge and an expert in Ottoman law and issues concerning land ownership. He was often called in to arbitrate in disputes between Arab landowners in the region. When there was a disagreement about ownership of the land on this hill, Hamon decreed that the plot should be sold and it was thus made available for a Jewish neighborhood. The home built by Romema s founder, Yom Tov Hamon (Shmuel Bar-Am) The name Romema was taken from the Psalms: The Lord s right hand is lifted high (romem) Indeed, at the time this was the highest hill in Jerusalem somewhere between 810 and 830 meters above sea level. Most of the original streets were named for the Hebrew newspapers in print at the time: they included Eliezer Ben Yehuda s Hatzvi, and HaOr, and renowned Rabbi Ben Zion Koainkh s HaMeasef. Most of the houses in Romema that were built after the establishment of the State of Israel are drab and lacking in character. But a few of the elegant original buildings still stand and often have been artfully preserved. The Allenby guest house (Shmuel Bar-Am) Allenby 2 is both an address and the name of the establishment across from the Square. Two floors added in the 1950s destroyed much of the original house s charm, but it still boasts lovely window frames and a magnificent entrance. For the past 20 years or so, it has served as a guesthouse conveniently located near the Central Bus Station. Across from the Central Bus Station on HaTzvi Street stands a house built by Hebron-born lawyer Aharon Mani, scion to a long line of famous Iraqi rabbis. Built in 1925, the ambiance has been disturbed by later additions. But the porch and staircase are magnificent, and fit charmingly onto the corner of the street. The Mani house (Shmuel Bar-Am) Its nearest neighbor is an elegant domain built by pioneer hotelier Yehiel Amdurski. Absolutely gorgeous, the house was constructed out of red stone brought from quarries in Hebron. Twin porches are held up by Doric pillars, and their inner ceilings are covered by large paintings. The Amdurski house (Shmuel Bar-Am) Next door to the Amdurski house stands a dwelling that belonged to the Hefetz family from Bukhara. Less grandiose than some of the others, it has one unique feature: a lintel whose decorative blue and white tiles with a windmill design were brought home by family members after a trip to Holland. Windmills at HaTzvi 6 (Shmuel Bar-Am) Parallel to HaTzvi Street, Ariel Street has several magnificent structures of its own. One of them boasts four Tuscan (smooth) columns, and a gable above the entrance. The date of construction 1923 and the name of architect A. Balog are engraved in large letters (and numbers) on the wall. A tiny synagogue for Jews from Kurdistan is found at the front of the edifice next door. Four families live in the building, enough, we were told, to meet the minimal requirements for daily worship. Apparently because the synagogue is so small, the women sit out on the porch during prayers. Romema s Kurdistani synagogue and apartments (Shmuel Bar-Am) Adorable people-shaped shutter holders on the windows of this building and several others on the street are collectors items today. Brought to this country by German Templers, the iron holders are known by their Yiddish name of menchelach . One of many menshelach on Ariel Street, Romema (Shmuel Bar-Am) Moldova-born Rabbi Fishman-Maimon erected the unusual house across the street. One of the first to appear in Romema, it boasts a unique fa ade, with a Star of David engraved in stone above the entrance. The date 1922 and the rabbi s first name Yehuda are written inside and around the Star of David. Rabbi Fishman-Maimon was one of the founders of the religious-Zionist movement Mizrahi . It was at his urging that David Ben-Gurion established a Ministry of Religious Affairs during his first term as prime minister. The home built by Moldova-born Rabbi Fishman-Maimon (Shmuel Bar-Am) Following the fall of the both First and Second Temples, sages declared that every new building must carry a reminder of that destruction. That reminder was to be an unpainted area one cubit by one cubit (46 centimeters by 46 centimeters) in size. Many observant Jews take this edict literally and leave an unplastered black square on their walls. Rivers of Babylon tiles at the Romema home built by Moldova-born Rabbi Fishman-Maimon (Shmuel Bar-Am) Inside this building and at the top of the stairs, a picture is embedded into the walls on a black background measuring one cubit by one cubit. Its ceramic tiles depict the River of Babylon, weeping willow, harp and all and the text reads: In Memory of the Destruction: If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget (from Psalms 137). Romema s HaAdrichal (the architect) Street refers to German-born Ricard Kaufmann, who designed over 150 of Israel s towns, farming communities and garden neighborhoods, but not a single building in Romema. Some say that residents hoped the sign would tempt Kaufmann into developing their neighborhood. One of the street s residences was recently demolished and replaced by an ultra-modern structure. The original house was built by Altar Levine, a pioneer in the insurance business who wrote poems under the pseudonym of Asaf HaLevy. Altar Levine was found hanging on a palm tree in the yard of his home in 1933, with nary a word of explanation. A solution to the mystery of his sudden demise may have been found in 1991, where a forgotten journal in an Istanbul library contends that Levine was a spy. According to the journal, written by a Turkish commander in Jerusalem, Levine assisted the British during World War I and helped bring about the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Possibly, say some, Levine s death was an act of revenge carried out long after the war s end. Romema s founder, Yom Tov Hamon, built the fabulous house on the corner of HaAdrichal and Hamon Streets. Recently renovated, the exterior exterior is a feast for the eyes and features ornamental balconies, a pyramid-shaped metal top, and a roof lined with little pillars. The Romema water tower (Shmuel Bar-Am) The tallest structure in Romema is a water tower erected by the British at the beginning of their mandate in Palestine. This was the highest point in the city at the time, and gravitational forces sent water from the adjacent pool into pipes all over the city. But over the years, Jerusalem developed so quickly that the city required far more water than it had available. From 1934-1936 the British prepared an extensive water system that tapped a few of the Yarkon River s springs and pumped this life source to Jerusalem. Water was thrust upward to Jerusalem s main reservoir through a number of pumping stations a total distance of 62.5 kilometers. Arabs blew up one of the pumping stations during Israel s War of Independence in 1948, and the pipeline was effectively taken out of action. Under Arab siege for months, Jerusalem was without access to water and returned to the system used for hundreds of years: collecting water in barrels on their rooftops. - Aviva Bar-Am is the author of seven English-language guides to Israel [1] . Shmuel Bar-Am is a licensed, tour guide who provides private, customized tours in Israel for individuals, families and small groups [2] . References ^ seven English-language guides to Israel (www.israeltravels.com) ^ private, customized tours in Israel for individuals, families and small groups (www.israeltravels.com) Continue reading