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Photo - Palestine 1937-39


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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 photographs 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.

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I would say the larger photo shows 4 Australian troopers - the slouch hat is set in quite a distinctive way.

The others look to be British and one badge looks like Artillery. The smaller picture - he was probably

given the hat by an Australian. I don't think you could identify these as being in Palestine - no identifying

features. Perhaps a member will be able to help.

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Hello Mervyn, thanks for the reply. I agree with you, and am 90% certain that they are Australian troops. The others are Royal Ulster Rifles which is the cap badge you can see. The reason for my question is that the RUR and the London Irish rifles, the two units my grandfather served with, were never in theatre at the same time as Australian troops during the war. The setting seems to be Middle East/North Africa and my grandfather was with the RUR in Palestine from 1937-39. So the circumstantial evidence seems to point to Palestine, I was hoping for something more to go on from members knowledge. Confirmation there were Australian troops in Palestine in the 1930s would be good. Also some information ref when side caps were first used may help as most pictures from Palestine do seem to show peaked caps. Ref the smaller picture. Although he was in Algeria and Tunisia during the war with the London Irish Rifles the LIR never wore the slouch hat and I don't think he would have got away with wearing it. So again thinking Palestine and wondering if anyone had any information ref British Forces headress in the area at the time. Thanks again. Carl.

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Hello Odulf. I was aware the British also wore the slouch hat and did think perhaps they were not Australian troops but they look so Australian! So I suppose a more general question is did British forces in Palestine wear the slouch hat or side cap and could all these men be British? The cap badge is RUR and he was with the LIR in North Africa/Italy, he was with the RUR pre war and with the BEF in France. Most of the men also have the look of older regulars rather than the younger WWII conscripts. Thanks for your help. Carl.

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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 field 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 , minus webbing, 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 field gun 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!

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Having worn the slouch hat in Australia during National Service and later, I must say that there is a way the Aussies have of

setting the shape of the hat. The 'bash' in the top is something few other wearers accomplish. My point being - you are

probably right that they are Ulster - but, just might be Aust.. Anyway, I hope you are right as it clears up a mystery for you.

Mervyn

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Hello again. 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?

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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.

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The slouch hat originated in South Africa and was worn by the colonialists. It was adopted by many of the combatant

countries during the Boer War - 1899-1902. Whilst it was used by many other overseas units - as Peter points out -

the Australians adopted a particular way of putting-in the central parting and pressed-in bits. This became known as a 'Bash'

and I have seen very few other units get it so exactly.

I remember my Sgt. when we joined for National Service - rejecting nearly all of the attempts. Took some days to get it

right - however, once set it last for ages. My onee from 1960 when I briefly joined the Queensland Regt. - before going to a job in Thailand, is still as good as the day I set-it. Mervyn

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