Photo - Palestine 1937-39

Discussion in 'Prewar' started by SMLE, Aug 11, 2014.

  1. SMLE

    SMLE Junior Member

    Hello all,

    My grandfather, Edward Byrne was in the Royal Ulster Rifles between 1933 and 1946. He was in Palestine before the war, with the BEF in France in 1940, then with the London Irish Rifles through North Africa and Italy.

    I have several photgraphs I have inherited and I know some are pre-war, I assumed one showing an artillery piece and Australian troops was during WWII.

    However having spoken recently with Richard via his excellent site on the Irish Brigade it seems that there were no Australian troops with the 1st Army and by the time the London Irish Rifles arrived in North Africa none with the 8th Army either. He also pointed out the RUR cap badge rather than LIR which I thought may be down to them being attached personnel but adding it all together it does now look as if this photo too is pre-war.

    The problem I have is that I can't find records of Australians in Palestine during the Arab Revolt, though I have photos of them in WW1 and WW2. Also the photos of British troops I can find show them wearing peaked SD caps, steel or pith helmets.

    So can anybody positively ID this photo as being taken in Palestine by the background or uniforms and confirm the presence of Australian troops?

    I have also attached another very fuzzy picture showing him wearing a slouch hat. Again this would not have been standard wear for any of his wartime service and I know that some Palestinian police units did adopt the slouch hat for it's comfort and idea if British infantry in Palestine did so?

    Many thanks.

    Attached Files:

  2. Bernard85

    Bernard85 WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    good day,1937-1939.great photo's,greater shorts.they certainly had style in those days.regards bernard85, :cowboy_125:
  3. SMLE

    SMLE Junior Member

    Thanks Bernard. The shorts are pretty good aren't they! I think the whole answer to this lies in the uniforms. I know British Forces as well as Australian wore the slouch hat so perhaps these men are not Australian. I also know that the side cap was introduced in 1937 but don't know if troops in Palestine pre war wore it. These men look like older pre war regulars to me and the Royal Ulster Rifles, see the cap badge, didn't serve in the Middle east or North Africa during the war only between 1937-39 in Palestine. My grandfather served with the RUR pre war and with the BEF in France and then the London Irish Rifles in North Africa/Italy who generally wore the Caubeen rather than the side cap and not with the RUR badge. Is there a sub forum specialising in uniforms that I can post this to and hopefully a uniform expert might see it? Many thanks. Carl.
  4. SMLE

    SMLE Junior Member

    Hello again. Looks like I have managed to solve this mystery. While searching for photos of the Royal Ulster Rifles in Palestine I came across the photos attached on a BBC website dedicated to WOII Billy Martin RUR and his wife Nellie, . Billy served in the RUR from the end of WWI through to the end of WWII. In the 1930s he was in Palestine where the photos were taken. The captions are "Billy Martin circa 1938, went to France in WWII and came out via Dunkirk" and "General Wavell's Guard - at Mount Canaan, Billy Martin far left. Who are the others?" So it looks as if the RUR were wearing side caps with service dress in the 30s and given that the uniforms with slouch hats in my photo are exactly the same as the RUR members of Gen Wavell's Guard it seems that all of the troops with the gun are British, possibly even all RUR. To be honest it was staring me in the face as in the smaller picture of my grandfather he is wearing the exact uniform of the "Australians" in the other photo and now of Wavell's Guard, I just couldn't get past the fact that they must be "Australian". It looks as if the other troops in the larger photo are wearing overalls over their service dress with side caps, so perhaps they were on some sort of working party hence the difference in dress? I suppose I will never know all the details but I'm happy now the photos are from Palestine 1937-39. Makes them even more interesting! So the next question is can anyone identify the gun, 25 Pdr? And would an infantry unit have something like this or would some of the men likely be artillery? Thanks again!

    Attached Files:

  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive


    Give me a shout if you'd like any of his unit war diaries copying from the National Archives. I have at least one (BEF) and you can have those for free if you match the free ones with ordered ones (buy one get one free).

  6. Bernard85

    Bernard85 WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    good day smle,m,12th palestine.#3.thank you for your reply.glad you found what you were looking for,regards bernard85 :cowboy_125:
  7. SMLE

    SMLE Junior Member

    Thanks Andy. I've got copies of the later war diaries from his time in North Africa and Italy. The only ones I haven't got are the BEF ones. I'm waiting for his service records just to absolutely confirm the units then I'll be in touch.
  8. SMLE

    SMLE Junior Member

    Thanks for you thanks Bernard, took quite a bit of googling and even proper reading the old copy of the unit history I have!
  9. SMLE

    SMLE Junior Member

    And just for those of you "really" interested in what the British Forces in Palestine wore between the wars here are a couple more pieces of corroborating evidence. The History of the RUR Vol III has the following to say about their columns into the desert after the Arab "armed gangs": "Hard tack rations were carried on the man, who was dressed in canvas overalls, with cardigan and waterproof sheet for use in cold or wet weather." That seems to tie in nicely with the dress of the men in side caps. Also please see the article attached from the Nottingham Evening Post of April 12th 1939 for more about the slouch hats. As for the gun, it seems to be too small for a 25 Pdr. More like the size of the 18 Pdr from WW1. It looks new in the photo, perhaps an updated version? I presume this sort of gun wouldn't normally be integral to an infantry battalion?

    Attached Files:

    bexley84 likes this.
  10. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    nice find - I'm ignorant no more or slightly less ignorant...or something or other..

  11. SMLE

    SMLE Junior Member


    Thanks to you for pointing out that there were no Australian troops with 1st Army and putting me onto the track that the photo was probably pre war Palestine.

  12. SMLE

    SMLE Junior Member

    And just to answer my own question again; looks like the gun is a 3.7 inch QF Howitzer. They seem to have been used quite a lot in Palestine. Another a quote from the RUR history: "The work of patrolling the frontier was made very much easier by the timely arrival of "A" Squadron, 11th Hussars, and the Royal Navy in the form of three 3.7in. Howitzers, manned by personnel of H.M.S. "Repulse", H.M.S. "Malaya", and for a very short while by H.M.S. "Penelope"." I also attach a picture of some howitzers in action in Palestine. Interestingly it looks as if the barrel finishes just after the edge of my picture. Amazing what I have learnt from just one small photo that I have had for years but have obviously never looked closely enough at! Thanks all. Carl.

    Attached Files:

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