Jewish Legion

Jewish Legion

:"This article is about the British Army battalions known as the Jewish Legion or Zion Mule Corps, which fought in World War I against the Ottoman Empire. For other Jewish legions, see Jewish legion (disambiguation)."The Jewish Legion was the name for five battalions of Jewish volunteers established as the British Army's 38th through 42nd (Service) Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers. The initial unit, known as the Zion Mule Corps, was formed in 1914-1915 during World War I, when Britain was at war against the Ottoman Turks, as Zionists around the world saw an opportunity to promote the idea of a Jewish National Homeland.

In December 1914, Zeev Jabotinsky and Joseph Trumpeldor raised the idea of the formation of a Jewish unit that would participate in the British military effort to conquer Palestine from the Ottoman Empire, and by the end of March 1915, 500 Jewish volunteers from the Jews in Egypt who had been deported there by the Turks had started training. The Zion Mule Corps served on the Gallipoli front, as for political reasons the British opposed the participation of Jewish volunteers on the Palestinian front, but ultimately, in August 1917, the formation of a Jewish regiment was officially announced. The soldiers of the 38th and 39th Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers, made up almost entirely of Jews from Britain, Russia, the United States and Canada and later, the 40th Battalion, composed of Jews from the Ottoman provinces of Palestine and other areas, served in the Jordan Valley and fought the Turks some 20 miles north of Jerusalem.


The British opposed the participation of Jewish volunteers on the Palestinian front and they were put to serve as a detachment for mule transport on another sector of the Turkish front. Trumpeldor formed the 650-strong Zion Mule Corps, of whom 562 were sent to the Gallipoli front.

The Gallipoli front

On April 25, 1915, together with the first British, Australian, New Zealand and French troops, the Jewish Legion landed on Gallipoli peninsula. It was led by the Commander Lt. Colonel John Henry Patterson, DSO (of Irish Protestant origin) and was met with heavy shelling and machine gun fire at the shore of Cape Helles. Trumpeldor was the deputy commander; Jabotinsky served as an officer. There, a Distinguished Conduct Medal was awarded to Private M. Groushkowsky, who prevented his mules from stampeding under heavy bombardment and despite being wounded in both arms, delivered the ammunition. Trumpeldor was shot through the shoulder but refused to leave the battlefield. Patterson later wrote: "Many of the Zionists whom I thought somewhat lacking in courage showed themselves fearless to a degree when under heavy fire, while Captain Trumpeldor actually revelled in it, and the hotter it became the more he liked it..." [Martin Gilbert. "The Jews in the Twentieth Century. An Illustrated History" (Schocken Books, 2001) ISBN 0-8052-4190-6 p.85]

Official formation of the Jewish regiment

Between the dissolution of the Zion Mule Corps and the formation of the Jewish Legion, Jabotinsky and Trumpeldor and 120 Zion Mule Corps Veterans served together in Platoon 16 of the 20th Battalion of the London Regiment.

Finally, in August 1917, the formation of a Jewish regiment was officially announced. The unit was designated as the 38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers and included British volunteers, as well as members of the former Zion Mule Corps and a large number of Russian Jews. On April 1918, it was joined by the 39th Battalion, made up almost entirely of Jews who were resident in the United States and Canada.

Thousands of Palestinian Jews also applied to join the Legion and in 1918, more than 1,000 were enlisted. 92 Turkish Jews who had been captured in the fighting earlier were also permitted to enlist. This group was organized as the 40th Battalion. The 41st and 42nd Battalions were Depot Battalions stationed in Plymouth, England. In his memoirs about the Legion Jabotinsky described the composition of the 5000-member Legion as: "34 per cent from the United States, 30 per cent from Palestine, 28 per cent from England, 6 per cent from Canada, 1 per cent Turkish war prisoners, 1 per cent from Argentina."

Action in the Jordan Valley, 1918

In June 1918, the volunteers of the 38th Battalion began engaging the Turks some 20 miles north of Jerusalem. In the fighting in the Jordan Valley, more than 20 Legionnaires were killed, wounded, or captured, the rest came down with malaria, and 30 of this group later died. The Legion then came under the command of Major General E.W.C. Chaytor, [ [ Bio of E.W.C. Chaytor] (] who commanded the Anzac Mounted Division.

Besides various skirmishes, the Legion also participated in the Battle of Megiddo in mid-September, 1918, widely considered to have been one of the final and decisive victories of the Ottoman front.

The Legion's mission was to cross the Jordan River. Jabotinsky led the effort. Later, he was decorated and General Chaytor told the Jewish troops: "By forcing the Jordan fords, you helped in no small measure to win the great victory gained at Damascus."


Almost all the members of the Jewish regiments were discharged immediately after the end of World War I in November 1918. Some of them returned to their respective countries, others settled in Palestine to realize their Zionist aspirations. In late 1919, the Jewish Legion was reduced to one battalion titled "First Judeans", and awarded a distinctive cap badge, a menorah with the Hebrew word קדימה "Kadima" (forward) at the base.

=Post World War I Palestine and the Legion=

Former members of the Legion took part in the defense of Jewish communities during the Riots in Palestine of 1920, which resulted in the arrest of Jabotinsky. Two former members of the Legion were killed with Captain Trumpeldor at Tel Hai. One former member of the Legion was killed in Tel Aviv-Jaffa during the Jaffa riots of 1921. Some members of the Jewish Legion settled in moshav Avihayil.

Notable Legion members

*Gershon Agron, Mayor of Jerusalem.
*Nathan Ausubel, Jewish-American author.
*Yaacov (Jacques) Behar, Zionist Activist in Brazil and Argentina.
*Joseph Benyamini - a leader of Avihayil. Murdered by Arabs Feb 24, 1933.
*Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, second Israeli President.
*Morris Chaim Blake, Jewish Legion volunteer - died on July 16, 1997 age 98.
*Yaakov Dori, Haganah leader; first Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.
*Sir Jacob Epstein, British sculptor.
*Levi Eshkol, third Israeli Prime Minister.
*Louis Fischer, Jewish-American journalist and author.
*Shlomo Friedlander, later Shlomo Dror, former mayor of Avihayil; prominent Israeli artist; founder of Netanya Art School.
*Roman Freulich, Hollywood photographer and author.
*Elias Ginsberg (pen name Elias Gilner), co-founder of the Haganah; national commander of the American Palestine Jewish Legion veterans association; prominent author and Jewish Legion historian.
*Abraham Goldberg, Jewish-American Zionist activist and author.
*Eliyahu Golomb, founding member of the Haganah.
*Dr Hirsch Loeb Gordon-served in US Navy in World War II.
*David Grün, later Ben-Gurion, first Israeli Prime Minister.
*Nahum Gutman, Israeli Painter
*Dr. Bernard Hausner, former Chief Rabbi of Lviv; father of Gideon Hausner. Served as chaplain to the Legion.
*Dov Hoz, Zionist activist, Haganah fighter.
*Julius Jacobs, Zionist Executive Secretary; killed in King David Hotel Bombing of 1946.
*Bernard Joseph, later Dov Yosef, Governor of Jewish Jerusalem during the 1948 siege; longtime Labor MK.
*Eliyahu Kaminetsky, Haganah and HaShomer fighter; father of Rafael Eitan.
*Berl Katznelson, Zionist philosopher and activist.
*Reuven Katzenelson father of Shmuel Tamir
*Samuel Charles Kernerman, R.E. & Jewish Legion Veteran - died 2000 - age 101 {See List of Veterans of the First World War who died in 2000}.
*Bert "Yank" Levy Internationalist in Spain and Military instructor for the British Home Guard.
*Arieh Lubin, [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Arieh Lublin| work = Israeli Art Center| publisher = The Israel Museum| date = | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-03-12 ] Israeli artist.
*Eliezer Lazar Margolin, [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Russian Jews in the Gallipoli Battle| work = | publisher = | date = | url = |format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-03-12] DSO, served in Australian Forces and was then Lt. Colonel of the 39th Battalion & Colonel of "The Judeans" 1919-1921.
*Abraham Melnikoff, [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Abraham Melnikoff| work = Israeli Art Center| publisher = The Israel Museum| date = | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-03-12] Israeli sculptor.
*Gideon Mer, [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Mer, Professor Gideon| work = | publisher = Israel War Veterans League | date = | url =| format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-03-12] physician, veteran of Zion Mule Corps, Jewish Legion and British Army in WWII. Served as medic in Israeli War of Independence; later worked in the Israeli Ministry of Health. {Note: he is the unnamed Officer during World War II in charge of anti-Malaria program mentioned in Martin Sugarman's article on the Zion Mule Corps}.
*Joshua Myron - Jewish Legion Veteran - died 2000 age 102. {See list of Veterans of the First World War who died in 2000}.
*John Henry Patterson (author)-Commander of Zion Mule Corps and 38th Battalion Royal Fusiliers {Jewish legion}
*Nehemiah Rabin, father of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
*Alex Rose, president of the Hat, Cap and Millinery Workers Union of America; co-founder of the Liberal Party of New York.
* Harry Rosenblatt of New York-Jewish Legion Veteran-died 31 August 1994 age 101.
*James Armand de Rothschild, D.C.M. Major, 39th Royal Fusiliers Battalion; Captain Royal Canadian Dragoons; a member of the Rothschild family.
*Edwin Herbert Samuel, 2nd Viscount Samuel; CMG son of Herbert Samuel 1st Viscount Samuel.
*Zeev Shefer (born Feinstein), high-ranking Haganah leader, Knesset Deputy Speaker. (see section "Public Activities"). [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Zeev Shefer| work = | publisher = Official Website of the Knesset| date = | url =| format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-03-12]
*Moshe Smilansky, Israeli journalist and author; great uncle of S. Yizhar. [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Moshe Smilansky| work = | publisher = The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature | date = | url =| format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-03-12]
*Eliezer Strich, Israeli painter. [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Elizer Strich| work = Israeli Art Center| publisher = The Israel Museum| date = | url =| format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-03-12]
*Eliezer Sukenik, Israeli archaeologist; father of Yigael Yadin
*David Tidhar, Israeli author. [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = David Tidhar | work = Jewish Virtual Library| publisher = | date = | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-03-12]
*Dr. Zvi H. Wachsman, Jewish-American author and journalist.
*Samuel Zirlin, Delegate to American Jewish Congress


External links

* [ The Zion Muleteers of Gallipoli (March 1915 - May 1916)] by Martin Sugarman (JVL). Accessed June 21, 2006.
* [ Jewish Role in WWI at]

Further reading

* Patterson, John H. "With the Judeans in the Palestine campaign." Uckfield : Naval & Military Press, [2004 reprint] ISBN 1-8434-2829-6
* Jabotinsky, Valdimir. "The story of the Jewish Legion." New York: Bernard Ackerman, 1945. ISBN B0007DE88U
* Freulich, Roman. "Soldiers in Judea;: Stories and vignettes of the Jewish Legion." Herzl Press, 1965. ISBN B0007-EN0G-K
* Gilner, Elias. "Fighting dreamers; a history of the Jewish Legion in World War One,: With a glimpse at other Jewish fighting groups of the period." 1968. ASIN B0006BT7KM
* Gilner, Elias. "War and Hope. A History of the Jewish Legion." New York; Herzl Press: 1969. ISBN B0006C2O2E
* Kraines, Oscar. "The soldiers of Zion: The Jewish Legion, 1915-1921." 1985. ASIN B0006YWX5U
* Marrion, R.J. "The Jewish Legion," 39th (service) battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), 1918-1919." 1987. ASIN B000719GOS
* Watts, Martin. "The Jewish Legion and the First World War." 2004. ISBN 1-4039-3921-7

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • JEWISH LEGION — JEWISH LEGION, military formation of Jewish volunteers in World War I who fought in the British army for the liberation of Ereẓ Israel from Turkish rule. When Turkey entered the war on the side of the Central Powers (Oct. 30, 1914), two different …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Jewish Legion —    Military units formed by Jewish volunteers in World War I to fight alongside British troops for the liberation of Palestine from the Turks.    See also Ben Gurion, David (formerly Gruen; 1886 1973); Jabotinsky, Vladimir Ze ev (1880 1940) …   Historical Dictionary of Israel

  • Jewish legion (disambiguation) — The term Jewish legion was used in different historical contexts:*The Jewish cavalry regiment (1792 ndash;1794), commanded by Berek Joselewicz participated in the Kościuszko Uprising in Poland *The Jewish Legion (1917 ndash;1919) was a volunteer… …   Wikipedia

  • Jewish military history — focuses on the military history aspect of the Jewish people in Jewish history from ancient times until the modern age.Ancient IsraelitesWhile complete details in the Biblical account of a system of fighting forms are not extant, the Midrashic,… …   Wikipedia

  • JEWISH CHRONICLE — JEWISH CHRONICLE, English newspaper and the oldest Jewish periodical in existence. It first appeared on Nov. 12. 1841 under the editorship of D. meldola and M. Angel and was issued subsequently as a weekly, until publication was suspended in May… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Jewish Brigade — For other Jewish regiments, see Jewish legion (disambiguation) . Infobox Military Unit unit name=Jewish Brigade caption=Insignia and sleeve patch of the Jewish Brigade country=United Kingdom type=Infantry branch=Army dates=1944 1946 command… …   Wikipedia

  • Legion (Marvel Comics) — Legion Cover to X Men, vol. 2 #40 (1995). Art by Andy Kubert. Publication information Publisher …   Wikipedia

  • Legion (demon) — See Legion (disambiguation) for other concepts with this name. Legion, also known as the Gerasene demon, or translated as Lots, is a demon found in the Christian Bible in Mark 5:9 and Luke 8:30. A parallel version of the story can be found in… …   Wikipedia

  • Jewish Quarter — For the article on Jewish Quarters throughout the Jewish diaspora, see Jewish Quarter (diaspora) The Jewish Quarter ( he. הרובע היהודי, HaRova HaYehudi or the Rova ) is one of the four traditional quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem. The 45,000 …   Wikipedia

  • Jüdische Legion — Jabotinsky in der Uniform der Jüdischen Legion …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.