Military Review

As the Irish and the Scotsman hijacked the first tanks for the Israel Defense Forces

If the first combat aircraft that were at the disposal of the Israeli army, Messerschmitt steel Czech post-war assembly (S-199) then their first tanks became the English "Cromwell." At the same time, the first two Cromwell medium tanks were literally stolen directly from under the nose of the British. In this detective stories Two sergeants were involved: the Irish mechanic Michael Flanagan and the Scot Harry MacDonald. One of the tanks hijacked by them can still be seen in Laturn, where the Israeli Museum of Armored Forces Yad le Shirion is located.

In 1947, Great Britain decided to give up its colonial mandate to rule Palestine. The British are frankly tired of looking for any solution to the Arab-Jewish conflict, so they decided to get rid of this problem. Officially, the end of their mandate was to be 14 May 1948. On the same day, the creation of an independent state of Israel was announced, after which the second phase of the Arab-Israeli war 1947 – 49 began, which in the Jewish state itself, as in most countries of the world, is called the “War of Independence” (at that time as states that sympathized with the anti-Israeli coalition, they call it differently - “Nakba”, that is, “disaster”).

In fact, the war in Palestine began even before representatives of the British administration left it. However, at the first stage of this conflict, the fighting was exclusively positional in nature, and the parties to the conflict were mainly engaged in the extraction of weapons, the construction of fortifications and the strengthening of their positions. At the same time, by the beginning of the war, the Jews had time to create two large military organizations of a semi-underground plan - the Hagan and the Irgun. Both organizations were dissolved in 1948, joining the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) formed in May of the same year.

At the same time, the Israel Defense Forces were armed with the most diverse origins. weapons. The collection of various weapons began long before May 1948. The arsenals collected by the Jews were incredibly variegated by model, caliber, origin and age. For example, even before the start of World War II, Haganah had submachine guns that had been smuggled in, these were Finnish Suomi and American Thompsons, which were very convenient for fighting in the city and settlements. The flow of arms smuggling continued even after the end of the great war in Europe. From 1946 to 1948, more than 1300 various submachine guns were transferred to Israel, and approximately 870 submachine guns, mainly British Stan, were produced during the 1941-1947 period directly on the spot. They were abducted from British warehouses, bought from Arab smugglers, etc. Shop rifles and even light mortars were mined in the same way.

As a result, the territory of Palestine was literally packed with weapons. Lasts have been found throughout the country. So in 1946, in Tel Aviv, only in one building of the Tachemoni school, representatives of the British administration found more than 50 mortars, 50 rifles and several thousand cartridges and mines to them. And in Kibbutz Dorot two dozen sub-machine guns and light machine guns were found. Weapons were even bought from the British themselves. At the same time, it was explained quite simply: discipline among the troops, who had already counted the days before their departure from Palestine, was, to put it mildly, lame. For example, already in 1951, in the UK, an officer was convicted, who in 1948, sold a batch of weapons to Jews. Initially, he was going to sell the entire batch to the Arabs for 25 000 pounds sterling, but Hagan’s representatives offered 30 thousands for it and won. As a result of this transaction, they received an armored car, a jeep-type vehicle, Browning machine guns 180, rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition for them. At the same time, the Hagan bought weapons not only from the British, but also from the Arabs themselves on the territory of Palestine, as well as neighboring Egypt and Syria.

There was a hunt for serial armored vehicles, it was mined from the same British. In some cases, armored cars just hijacked. The Jews acted according to all the rules: they took an armored vehicle under their supervision and waited until the crew went for a swim or a snack. However, it was not about tanks. The first tanks, which became the ancestors of the Israeli tank forces, were hijacked from the British contingent by the British troops of the Hussars, located in Haifa. They were two medium Cromwell tanks armed with 75-mm cannons.

Before the cancellation of the British Mandate in Palestine, Hagan managed to get the two Cromwell tanks listed above, one Daimler armored car, two disarmed Sherman tanks (purchased) and the GMS Otter reconnaissance vehicle. Already in May, the formation of the Israeli armored service began on 1948, but on May 15 only one of all the tanks of the newly proclaimed Israeli state was on the move. In June of the same year, 10 H-39 light tanks, which at that time were hopelessly outdated, arrived in Israel and were bought in France. And in July, Hotchkies, Kromveli and Shermans already took part in fights with Arabs as part of the 82 Tank Battalion of the Israel Defense Forces. In this case, from 30 defective tanks "Sherman", which were hastily acquired in Italy, during the war managed to put into operation only two cars.

Returning to the British medium tank "Cromwell", which, in English terminology, was a cruising tank, it can be noted that during World War II this tank was rightfully considered one of the best British combat vehicles. This tank was created in the UK during the war years and, thanks to its relatively light armor and the powerful Rolls-Royce engine, it was notable for its high speed of movement. Armed with a 75-mm cannon tank found a worthy use during the Second World War, fighting against the German troops. The story of the appearance of these tanks in the IDF begins with the idea that came to mind Isaac Sade - the founder of the first tank brigade of the Jewish state. In the spring of 1948 of the year, he decided to use the evacuation of his army by the British in order to simply steal several such vehicles, attaching them to the Hagani forces.

The first attempt to steal the tanks from the British during their transfer from the collapsing military base in the Jezreel Valley to Haifa was planned for the end of May 1948. Previously, the procurement department, specially created at Hagan, was able to negotiate with several British soldiers that during the move the last tanks would be left behind the convoy and turned off to a side road where the organization’s men would wait for them. For each of the stolen tanks, the soldiers were promised to hand over thousands of pounds sterling to 3. However, this plan failed, as the convoy's security was strengthened, which scared the soldiers who took part in the deal. But Yitzhak Sadeh did not intend to give up and ordered to search for new opportunities in order to take possession of the tanks. So in the early summer of the same year, Hagan was able to reach two British sergeants - Irish mechanic Michael Flanagan and Scottish Harry Macdonald, who served as commander of one of the tanks.

As the Irish and the Scotsman hijacked the first tanks for the Israel Defense Forces

An armored vehicle theft operation was scheduled for the night of 29 on 30 on June 1948 of the year, on the eve of the departure of the last units of the British army from Palestine. The four remaining Cromwell tanks were planned to be hijacked from a base located at the Haifa airfield, with the help of the two aforementioned sergeants and a pair of Jewish fighters who managed to complete an accelerated course in controlling a Cromwell tank. In the absence of other possibilities for this, British sergeants trained their partners in controlling the combat vehicle, conducting only theoretical classes in one of the cafes of Haifa - with the help of drawings and drawings.

In the evening before “Day X”, the trained Hagan fighters infiltrated a British airfield, where they hid inside a light aircraft, which belonged to one of the wealthy Jews. At the appointed night hour, all four hijackers took their places in tanks prepared in advance by the sergeants, which were loaded with spare parts and ammunition. However, the first problems started here. One of the newly minted Israeli driver mechanics was unable to start a tank and, having abandoned the combat vehicle, fled from the base. Three other tanks, having broken through the gates of the base, rushed towards the kibbutz Yaghur, located in the Jezreel Valley, a few dozen kilometers east of Haifa. It finally became clear that the theoretical training that was received in the cafe is not enough to control the tanks. Another Cromwell, driven by a Jewish driver, got off the road and was literally stuck in the sand. Trying to free the tank from the trap, an inexperienced driver only disabled the gearbox. As a result, the combat vehicle had to quit. Subsequently, it became clear that the two tanks left behind helped the others to escape. In an atmosphere of terrible confusion that arose on a British base after daring theft, the officers spent at least 30 minutes to clarify the situation and inspect two abandoned tanks, which allowed the two other Cromwells to successfully break away from the chase.

Directly in the kibbutz Yagur, tanks were supposed to meet trailers designed for their transportation, but there were no trucks in place. It was dangerous to wait for their arrival, as the British had taken to the air by that time. Aviation, which was to find and destroy the fugitives. Therefore, the "Kromveli" rushed to Tel Aviv, but under its own power. Ahead, pointing the way for the tankmen, the Hagani jeep followed. And the old trucks pre-bought in preparation for the operation, loaded with gravel and with punctured tires, blocked the intersection after the tanks past the junction, cutting them off from potential pursuers. The fighting vehicles that reached Tel Aviv were hidden directly in the courtyard of a residential building in one of the eastern suburbs of the city - Givatayim.

Tank hijacked by Mike Flanagen

Upon learning of the successful hijacking of tanks, the British command was furious. The officers refused to participate in the farewell banquet organized by the Haifa mayor and, hoping to somehow hush up this shameful history for the British army, unofficially offered to exchange, giving Hagan in exchange for two hijacked Cromwell, three tanks of another type. Apparently, the proposal was not so interesting and British officers were refused.

A week later, both of the stolen Cromwell tanks were located in the 82 Tank Battalion of the 8 Tank Brigade of Yitzhak Sade. Actually, they, together with the Sherman tank, which at that time did not have a gun, made up the first and only heavy tank company of the Israeli army at that time. In addition to them, the tank brigade had only a few light French tanks, which were repulsed from the Syrians during the fighting in May 1948.

In July of the same year, an Israeli tank unit took part in a daring and successful operation “Dani”, which resulted in the subsequent seizure of Lydda airport (today it is Ben Gurion airport) and other strategic positions located in the center of the country. In October 1948, the brigade was redeployed to the southern front, where during the operation "Joab" was able to capture the police fort Iraq-Suweidan. And during the winter operation "Horev" Israeli tanks were able to defeat parts of the Egyptians and reached the border with Sinai.

The memory of the first Israeli "Cromwell" lives to this day, the silhouette of this tank was decorated with an emblem that can be found on the berets of Israeli tank crews. The tanks themselves were able to get into the Museum of Tank Forces, located on the site of the British Fort Latrun, which was never captured during the War of Independence (the Israelis captured the fort only during the Six Day War). British sergeants Harry MacDonald and Michael Flanagan stayed in Israel, joining the Sade brigade. Over time, MacDonald left the service and left Israel, and Flanagan went through the giyur, married Ruth Levy, who served in the same unit, and settled with her in kibbutz Sha'ar Hamakim.

It is still quite difficult to judge exactly what forced the two sergeants of the British army in the summer of 1948 to desert, taking tanks with them. Over time, this story, as is often the case, is overgrown with a large number of legends — both about the girls with whom Hagana seduced the sergeants, and about the huge monetary reward, and about the fact that the soldiers of the Israeli underground threatened the sergeant with weapons. Perhaps, the role played by the fact that both hijackers by nationality were Irish and Scotsman and in the British army felt not quite comfortable.

However, Amnon Doumani, who was personally acquainted with Flangan for many years, while he lived in Kibbutz Shaar HaAkim, was convinced that the Irish were hurt by non-lyrical and commercial reasons to steal a tank. His choice was influenced by something quite different. Michael Flangan graduated from military school in 16 years, and at the age of 19 took part in the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Europe. In a concentration camp, he saw something that had shocked him and changed his life forever. At the same time, he never spoke in detail about what he had seen, trying to get away from these conversations. During his service in Palestine after the end of the Second World War, he began to openly sympathize with the Jews, having decided to stay in the country in the end in order to help the young state to stand in the struggle against the Arabs. Sergeant Harry MacDonald was his supporter, supporting his choice.

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  1. corporal
    corporal 4 November 2015 06: 58
    Cunning guys good
    What we don’t buy is to communize.
    It is interesting to learn something new, an article +
    1. Taagad
      Taagad 4 November 2015 07: 27
      It is interesting that at the first stage of the formation of tank forces in the Israel Defense Forces there were 2 companies: "Russian" and "Anglo-Saxon". Since the newly arrived tankers with military experience did not know Hebrew, the commands in the companies were given respectively in Russian and English.
      1. moskowit
        moskowit 4 November 2015 08: 37
        Advise where it is possible to read about it?
        1. Taagad
          Taagad 4 November 2015 13: 06
          I read about this in Hebrew, I don’t know if there is a corresponding literature in Russian.
        2. Pimply
          Pimply 4 November 2015 16: 36

          Here. Although the article is so-so

          And here is a little more about the armored forces of Israel
  2. svp67
    svp67 4 November 2015 07: 21
    The Irishman and the Scotsman are representatives of two "oppressed" peoples ... that's all.
    1. voyaka uh
      voyaka uh 4 November 2015 11: 41
      If funny Irish can still be attributed to this category, then
      the Scots are once the backbone of the British army. Gloomy-looking types,
      able to not talk with anyone for days, even with loved ones
      friends, ascetics. Than they are placed in more unbearable conditions of service -
      the more they "stick out". But God forbid hitting this ... or just
      look into his eyes for more than 10 seconds am .
      1. Mooh
        Mooh 4 November 2015 12: 30
        Yes of course. Highlanders, what do you take from them? And in Israel, suppliers usually sell weapons and ammunition to soldiers, but Russians lose their morale when they lose a battle, and go into the forest to drink bear vodka fellow
      2. The comment was deleted.
      3. creak
        creak 4 November 2015 12: 43
        Quote: voyaka uh
        the Toshots are once again the backbone of the British army

        I would like to add to the above that, along with the Scots, the most stable in the British army were always considered units equipped with guards from Nepal (there are mountains there, by the way, too) ...
  3. ovod84
    ovod84 4 November 2015 08: 07
    Jews are good warriors, unlike Arabs. I always argue on this issue with Muslim brothers
  4. moskowit
    moskowit 4 November 2015 08: 39
    So they deserted, stole the military equipment entrusted to them, committed a military crime for ideological reasons? And what, they were not tried in absentia?
    1. anip
      anip 4 November 2015 12: 33
      I think that strengthening the Jewish army was beneficial to the British. No wonder the article says:
      The British frankly tired of looking for any solution to the Arab-Jewish conflict, so they decided to get rid of this problem.

      Hence the unspoken loyalty to numerous cases of theft of weapons, theft of armored personnel carriers, and now tanks.
      1. Pimply
        Pimply 4 November 2015 16: 42
        Quote: anip
        I think that strengthening the Jewish army was beneficial to the British. No wonder the article says:

        Unprofitable. The British were just actively building relations with Arab countries and Jews were pressed as much as possible. For example, the Jordanian Arab Legion in the War of Independence was led by the Englishman John Baggot Glabb (Glabb Pasha), and the backbone was made up of British officers.
        Read a bit of fun here
    2. Pimply
      Pimply 4 November 2015 16: 43
      Most likely yes, judged
  5. evgenymap
    evgenymap 4 November 2015 11: 29
    At the beginning of the 20 century, the Sytin Military Encyclopedia was published. There is a very interesting article - Jews in the army. After reading it, you understand that Jews and in Africa are Jews. Those. ready to fight, but only for their own. :-)
    1. anip
      anip 4 November 2015 12: 34
      Quote: evgenymap
      After reading it, you understand that Jews and in Africa are Jews. Those. ready to fight, but only for their own. :-)

      Is it really bad to fight only for your own? If you think sensibly a little bit, then that's just the way it is.
    2. Pushkar
      Pushkar 4 November 2015 12: 35
      Quote: evgenymap
      At the beginning of the 20 century, the Sytin Military Encyclopedia was published. There is a very interesting article - Jews in the army. After reading it, you understand that Jews and in Africa are Jews. Those. ready to fight, but only for their own. :-)
      How to understand? Jews - Heroes of the Soviet Union for what they fought?
    3. Pimply
      Pimply 4 November 2015 17: 04
      Quote: evgenymap
      At the beginning of the 20 century, the Sytin Military Encyclopedia was published. There is a very interesting article - Jews in the army. After reading it, you understand that Jews and in Africa are Jews. Those. ready to fight, but only for their own. :-)

      It is interesting what Sytin wrote there. From the realities: Emperor Nicholas I in 1827 extended the conscription to Jews who were called up in 12 years (Christians in 18 years) with a quota of ten recruits per thousand men (for Christians - seven per thousand).

      The service of Jews in the tsarist army is fraught with a huge variety of restrictions: in 1829 it is forbidden to appoint Jews as orderlies, in 1832 it is allowed to produce Jews as non-commissioned officers "only for differences in battles against the enemy", in 1856 it is forbidden to appoint Jews to the fleet, in 1882 the number is limited Jews - military doctors. The reforms of Alexander II are accompanied by some relaxation of such restrictions: in 1858 it is allowed to award Jews with orders "for non-Christians established", in 1860 it is allowed to recruit Jews to ordinary posts in the guard, in 1861 it is allowed to produce Jews as non-commissioned officers on a common basis. Prior to 1912, all these restrictions were not national, but religious, and did not apply to baptized Jews, but with 1912 they began to be subject to restrictions.

      Continue further - with a percentage?
      1. evgenymap
        evgenymap 5 November 2015 22: 39
        Don't go on. Look - Sytin gives statistics of restrictions, not their reason! I don't think the reasons were "far-fetched".
        I wrote to show the contrast of the attitude to the Jewish warrior in a foreign state (as well as the attitude of this warrior to the service in this state) and the attitude of the Jewish warrior to his own state. Now even the aunts (deffks) serve in the Israeli army of Proudly ;-)
  6. mi ah
    mi ah 4 November 2015 12: 50
    In Israel, Latrun (Domaine de Latroun) is a geographical area in Israel, 15 km west of Jerusalem.
    And Latourne - dry cleaning in Cheboksary
    Something like this
    1. padded jacket
      padded jacket 4 November 2015 13: 09
      Most likely, all these cases with the abductions of armored vehicles are another "fairy tale" from a series of our "great and brilliant" scouts stole the Mirage blueprints in Switzerland or hijacked boats from France smile
      But in fact, there was simply an agreement that the British troops would transfer armored vehicles and weapons to the Jews for the subsequent war in the region. That's all.
      By the way, I came across a "prototype" of the Jewish "Merkava" smile
      German experimental light tank Leichttraktor, developed in 1928 by Rheinmetall

  7. Mountain shooter
    Mountain shooter 4 November 2015 13: 14
    This is the story - detective straight! But it turned out. And these tanks played a role. After the Yom Kippur War, I had a lot of respect for Israeli tank crews. They did not flinch and did not retreat before superior forces. They stood to death, in tank battles, more abruptly than the Kursk Bulge. When you start reading about it, you are taken aback. But some of them were reservists!
  8. Urri
    Urri 4 November 2015 15: 39
    Quote: quilted jacket
    But in fact, there was simply an agreement that the British troops would transfer armored vehicles and weapons to the Jews for the subsequent war in the region. That's all.

    Well, the merits of the current officer of the tank division Ruth Levy should not be underestimated, IMHO
  9. MMX
    MMX 4 November 2015 18: 51
    But if the scene of action, as well as the national and civil affiliation of the characters (primarily the authors of the special operation) were changed to a page in the history of the country of the Soviets, then all this would be called a cheap propaganda propaganda "scoop". And so, the heroic "true story".

    So it goes...
  10. Raider
    Raider 4 November 2015 19: 12
    Of course, the articles are very interesting. In recent years, VO has begun to lose its military-technical relevance. Some mostly political shouts, probably they are also needed, but the proportions must be respected. To the author (+) !!! I look forward to continuing your work. Interesting, informative, read with pleasure. Such materials are interesting to discuss. Thanks. We added strength to our Israeli subscribers, they were somewhat depressed after the action of the Aerospace Forces in Syria! Now they can remember the heroic deeds of their grandfathers and grandmothers! Please take it with a grain of humor! And according to the article, the material is not overwritten, like the previous one about Messer-109. Looking forward to new announcements! Good luck to the author!
  11. Bayonet
    Bayonet 4 November 2015 21: 39
    Interesting article! A logical continuation would be an article about the hijacking of missile boats from France. Also an interesting operation, they did not let the French do the "kidalovo"! smile
  12. Riv
    Riv 5 November 2015 08: 08
    Few people pay attention to a curious detail: the state, which was bought by tanks for a year. Let outdated, disarmed, malfunctioning, but buying. And what kind of shisha? Who unfastened the dough? England has already left the game. She, together with France, will harness for Israel later, during the Suez crisis. The USSR restored the economy and could not allocate significant funds. Who is staying? And there is only one option. Star-striped ears stick out of all the holes. Then the States will begin mass deliveries of weapons. There will be armored vehicles and airplanes (still flying on American ones), and Israel also didn’t acquire nuclear weapons. They have nothing to enrich uranium on.

    In general, from birth and throughout his life, the Jewish state walked in the sixes with its overseas boss.
    1. voyaka uh
      voyaka uh 5 November 2015 10: 27
      "And there is only one option. Stars and stripes protrude from
      all holes. "////

      Do not guess. US started helping Israel on
      state level since the late 60s. With the death of Kennedy.

      Prior to this, the sponsors were private. Rich Jews from different countries
      or whole swag communities transferred money to Israel
      (even before his official education).
      We bought weapons with this money.
      1. corporal
        corporal 5 November 2015 16: 02
        Quote: voyaka uh
        Prior to this, the sponsors were private. ..................................................
        We bought weapons with this money.

        It your left belay What kind of sponsor is this - arm the country?
        Warrior, with all due respect hi however you are cunning.
        1. Riv
          Riv 5 November 2015 17: 53
          They say: when a crest was born, a Jew cried. In the opposite direction it was.
          But it seems to me the warrior is kidding. A person cannot be so naive.
        2. would
          would 7 November 2015 05: 47
          There were different sponsors, even there are traces of the Jewish mafia from the USA like Meyer Lansky
      2. NIKNN
        NIKNN 7 November 2015 18: 34
        And let me ask in what "different" countries in the 2nd world, such wealth could be acquired?
  13. Volga Cossack
    Volga Cossack 6 November 2015 06: 58
    article plus !!! thank!!!! a lot of new!