With the Zionists in Gallipoli

August 26, 2021 by Alan Slade
Read on for article

A friend in England happened to acquire a historic 1916 edition of “With the Zionists in Gallipoli”, the book written by Lt-Colonel J. H. Patterson while he spent a month in hospital in 1916…writes Alan Slade.

The precious antique was sent to a volunteer with the Sydney Jewish Museum to be donated to their library. The book tells of Lt-Col Patterson’s WW1 command of both the Zion Mule Corps and later the 38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (also known as the Jewish Legion) which would eventually serve as the foundation of the Israeli Defence Force decades later. The Zion Mule Corps, which served with distinction in the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign has been described as “the first Jewish fighting force in nearly two millennia”. Patterson himself writes “Now, such a thing as a Jewish unit had been unknown in the annals of the world for some two thousand years – since the days of the Maccabees, those heroic sons of Israel who fought so valiantly, and for a time so successfully, to wrest Jerusalem from the grasp of the Roman legions.” The Zion Mule Corps, a concept dreamed up by General Sir John Maxwell, Commander-in-Chief of the British Troops in Egypt, to use Jewish refugees “who had fled to Egypt out of Palestine.. to escape the wrath of the Turks.” Patterson goes on to write “These people were of Russian nationality but of the Jewish faith, and many of them strongly desired to band themselves together into a fighting host…. at the disposal of England, whom the Jews have recognized as their friend from time immemorial.” How times have changed!

In his preface, Patterson expresses “admiration for the people who have given to the world some of its greatest men, not to mention The Man who has so profoundly changed the world’s outlook.”

“With the Zionists in Gallipoli” describes how Patterson and his motley collection (none of whom had any experience with mules) were, after only four weeks of training, instrumental in supplying and provisioning allied troops during the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, as well as being instrumental in the eventual evacuation. He writes “When, as a boy, I eagerly devoured the records of the glorious deeds of Jewish military captains such as Joshua, Joab, Gideon and Judas Maccabaeus, I little dreamt that one day I, myself, would, in a small way be a captain of a host of the Children of Israel!”

The swearing-in of the Zion Mule Corps was “a most imposing ceremony” officiated by the Grand Rabbi, Professor Raphael della Pergola and included the reading of a “heartening cablegram from Mr Israel Zangwill, whose name is a household word to all Zionists.”

In the appendix, Patterson names those among the 500 volunteers, who included doctors, lawyers and scholars, who he recommended for commendation, including Captain J. Trumpeldor, Second Lieutenants Alexander Gorodisky and Zolman Zlotnic, SgtMajor Joseph Yassinsky, Sgt Nissel Rosenberg and Corporals M. Groushkovsky, Nehmia Yehoudis, Isaac Yorish and Frank Abram.

Also in the appendix is the following version of “Hatikvoh” (sic) as well as the music.

John Henry Patterson DSO (1867 –1947), known as J. H. Patterson, was born in Ireland to a Protestant father and Roman Catholic mother. He became a British soldier, hunter, author and Christian Zionist, best known for his book “The Man-Eaters of Tsavo” (1907), which details his experiences while building a railway bridge over the Tsavo River in British East Africa (now Kenya) in 1898–1899. The book has inspired three Hollywood films: Bwana Devil (1952), Killers of Kilimanjaro (1959) and The Ghost and the Darkness (1996). In the First World War, Patterson was the commander of the Jewish Legion, “the first Jewish fighting force in nearly two millennia”, and has been described as the godfather of the modern Israel Defense Forces.

Patterson was close friends with many Zionist leaders, including Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Benzion Netanyahu. Benzion Netanyahu named his first son, Yonatan, the hero of Entebbe, Netanyahu, after Patterson. Patterson attended Yonatan Netanyahu’s brit milah and gave him a silver cup engraved with the words “To my beloved godson Yonatan from Lt.-Col. John Henry Patterson”.

Patterson died in USA less than one year before the State of Israel was established.  One of his final wishes was that both he and his wife eventually be interred with, or close to, the men he commanded during the First World War. On 4 December 2014, the remains of Patterson and his wife, were re-interred in the Avihayil cemetery where some of the men he commanded are buried. Attending the ceremony were Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, members of his family, military and cabinet members of the Israeli government, the British and the Irish Ambassadors.


The book is now available in multiple formats via Amazon, Dymocks and free at https://www.gallipoli-association.org/free-online-gallipoli-books/



One Response to “With the Zionists in Gallipoli”
  1. Mat Gelman says:

    Melbourne’s Dr Henry Lew has written a great book on the very great Colonel Patterson :
    ” Patterson Of Israel ” , a must read .
    Patterson is a neglected figure in Jewish history , but he is up there with Balfour , Wingate Truman and Doc Evatt in terms of their heroic contributions to the rebirth of the Jewish State in Eretz Yisrael
    Certainly Patterson was very much at the coal face creating a pioneering Jewish military infrastructure
    Google : ”Patterson of Israel”

Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

Got something to say about this?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.