Reg Baker Interview – The British Army in Palestine 1946 to 1948

My father, Reg Baker, was a dispatch rider for the British Army’s Royal Army Ordinance Corps, in Palestine, between 1946 and 1948.

This was a period of growing violence between elements from within the local Jewish community and British soldiers. These events were part of 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine which evolved into the into the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

Two years ago, I blogged a letter I wrote on his behalf concerning a bomb planted at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem by a terrorist organisation called Irgun, which killed 91 people.

The piece led to a number of people contacting us, including Sue King, a lady who runs a website recording the experiences of British Soldiers in Palestine during that period:

Ms King conducted a formal interview with my father shortly afterwards, which is now publicly available on YouTube, thus far in six parts:



Some photos of Reg Baker’s time in Palestine can be found here:



A note on the Arab-Israeli conflict

We appreciate that the events discussed during the interview relate to one of the most highly charged and politically divisive issues of the modern era (a fact evidenced by some of the reactions we received to the blog).

These videos are not intended to act as a tool for any party involved in that conflict to advance any particular narrative. Instead, they are intended to act as a first-hand historical source for the period, and to help all better understand the political and social processes in play at that time.

With regards the situation in Israel, we believe the way forward is clear: there must be a peace settlement; all extant communities in the region must buy-into said peace settlement and move beyond mutual enmity and cycles of revenge, and collectively work towards societies that respect civil rights and the rule of law, and enjoy democratically accountable governments, and free and open economies.

This is the only solution that will ever be stable or sustainable, and until such a solution is achieved, the Arab-Israeli conflict will remain a thorn in the side of human progress and world peace.

Personally, I am deeply sceptical of claims that such a solution cannot or will not be achieved, and regard such claims as naïve and short-sighted.

Taking the long view, which I have strived to express on this website and in the related book, there have been numerous conflicts across the world which have seemed more intractable and given rise to more hatred and feelings of injustice. The vast majority of those conflicts are now buried in the depths of history and lost to the collective consciousness. The Arab-Israeli conflict is no different, even if it seems to be from close up.


A note on the videos

The final part of the interview is currently unavailable due to a corruption in some of the files. If these are recovered we will add them to YouTube as well.


Contents by video

The interview contents by video are below, for the purposes of interested parties seeking-out particular sections. The earlier videos tend to be more wide-ranging. The later ones concentrate on individual incidents and issues.


Part 1: 10.50

  1. Name, rank and unit
  2. Being called up, and training (1945)
  3. Posted to Egypt (1946)
  4. Posted to Palestine
  5. Based in an ROAC unit, as a drivers IC
  6. The camp between Petah Tikva and Qalquilya
  7. Stories of illegal immigrants
  8. Army life in Palestine
  9. Haganah and Irgun
  10. Irgun attack 6th Airborne camp, killing British paratroopers
  11. The 6th Airborne retaliate
  12. Escalation: drive-by shootings and road-side bombs
  13. The King David Hotel bombing (July 1946)
  14. Aftermath of King David Hotel bombing
  15. Confined to barracks
  16. Riding his motorcycle – demonstrations of hostility
  17. The atmosphere in Palestine

Part 2: 9.10

  1. Terrorists ambush a train on November 5th (1947)
  2. Uncoupling the blazing wagons
  3. Standing on a gelignite bomb
  4. Legging it
  5. Later that week: a bomb at the train station
  6. 10 minutes warning
  7. A big explosion
  8. The casualties
  9. Back into the routine of terrorist attacks
  10. No fraternising with the locals

Part 3: 8.59

  1. Detaining suspected terrorists
  2. The situations deteriorates
  3. 24-hour alert
  4. Mervyn Paice and Clifford Martin – hanged and booby-trapped on a eucalyptus tree (July 1947)
  5. The Palestine Police rake a bus with machine gun fire, killing and wounding many
  6. Tit-for-tat attacks
  7. The UN Resolution to divide Palestine
  8. Start of the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine
  9. A poisonous atmosphere
  10. The Trans-Jordan Arab Legion occupying East Jerusalem (1948)
  11. The 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine

Part 4: 3.50

  1. Shooting from the road outside the camp
  2. The Haganah attack a bus full of Arab passengers (Jan/Feb 1948)
  3. Witnessing the massacre
  4. “It’s no longer any of our business. Put your weapons away.”
  5. Colchester United in the 5th Round of the FA Cup (February 1948)
  6. The fighting continues
  7. Leaving Palestine, en route home via Port Said
  8. British weapons given to the Arabs

Part 5: 12.35

  • Leaving the camp in tact
  • British troops seething with anger on the boat home
  • Collecting the mail from Sarrafan – waved down by an NCO
  • Sitting in a ditch after an ambush from an olive grove
  • Leave to Egypt: 2 trucks, about a dozen blokes and 350 miles of sand
  • Crossing the canal at El-Qantarah towards Tel-el-Kabir
  • A cholera epidemic
  • Inoculation – the most painful one he’d ever had
  • Driving through the desert in a truck in agony
  • Mosquito nets and a touch on tonsillitis
  • The work of a dispatch rider
  • Off the motorbike and into a 1500-weight
  • “Move him” – running over a suspected terrorist
  • The rainy season
  • Driving the staff car
  • “They are all staring at us”

Part 6: 13.32

  1. Palestine is a lovely country
  2. The heat
  3. The sites of Jerusalem – the Old City
  4. WAAFs went home when things started to get violent
  5. Discussions on leave and Egyptian cities (from Sue King)
  6. No fruit during the war
  7. Pick them when they’re green – sending oranges to Britain
  8. “Hadn’t seen oranges for 6 years”
  9. “When we first got to Egypt” – off the boat at Port Said
  10. “You always arrive in the middle of the night”
  11. Fresh orange segments for pudding (“Duff”)
  12. Sackfulls or oranges
  13. Knickerbocker glory in Tel Aviv
  14. In England they were still short of everything, in Palestine we had everything we needed
  15. Taking an officer from R.E.M.E. into Tel Litwinsky
  16. Passing Beit Nabala – a barrier of oil drums
  17. “Don’t do anything to provoke them”
  18. “They had just been told that their country was going to be divided in two”
  19. “Spotted a young Arab who worked in our camp”
  20. “Suliman, what’s going on?”
  21. “We are very angry. They are taking our country away.”
  22. They took the barrier down and we drove off …
  23. Cannot remember what happened afterwards
  24. “I can still see those Arab faces, blaming me for dividing Palestine.”
  25. A lot of our Arab workers came from Beit Nabala



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