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michaeldr

British hospital bombed

11 posts in this topic

the Matson Collection of photographs at the Library of Congress in the USA

has twenty or so pictures of the British Opthalmic (sic) Hospital in Jerusalem after it was bombed in 1918.

Does anyone know anything about this incident?

When exactly in 1918 did it occur?

Was it the result of artillery bombardment or of aerial bombing?

Was the building being used as a hospital at that time,

or was it being used by a British military unit as their headquarters?

Were there any casualties?

Thanks in advance

Michael

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In answer to my own question, I have just come across the following passage and wonder if it might be the incident referred to above

The Memoirs of Sir Ronald Storrs

page 305

"The Ophthalmic Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem is a long picturesque building on the east of the Bethlehem Road, straggling down the slopes of the Valley of Hinnom, and so known by the Arabs as Abu Salalim, the Father of the Staircase. For many years before the War it had rendered selfless, unpropaganded and deeply appreciated service to patients of all races and creeds ranging from the Sinai to Aleppo. I found it in a pitiful state, as the Turks had used it for an ammunition-dump and blown it up on the eve of their retreat. Nothing seemed to happen as quick as one wanted, for it took the best part of a week to clear it of exploded and unexploded cartridges and to summon the expert advice of MacCallan from Cairo; and some months before the hospital could be rebuilt by the Order and made ready to receive patients."

If so, then the 'bombing' or explosion, must have taken place not in 1918, but in early December 1917.

Perhaps the photographer put in the 1918 date, since that was when he took the pictures of Allenby visiting the site

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Below are three of the Matson Collection (LoC, USA) photographs showing the hospital and the damage caused by the Turkish explosion

BritOphthalmicHospJLMONE.jpg

BritOphthalmicHospJLMTWO.jpg

BritOphthalmicHospJLMTHREE.jpg

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And three more of the photographs showing Allenby and his party during their visit to the hospital

BritOphthalmicHospJLMFOUR.jpg

BritOphthalmicHospJLMFIVE.jpg

BritOphthalmicHospJLMSIX.jpg

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It seems that Allenby immediately put in hand the rebuilding of the hospital, for in his memoirs, Ronald Storrs notes that "... in February 1919 General Allenby reopened in formal state before representatives of every language and community, the reconstructed Ophthalmic Hospital of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem."

The photograph below shows how the building looked in the 1930s.

BritOphthalmicHospJLMSEVEN.jpg

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HRH the Duke of Connaught was the order's Grand Master at the time, and after he had visited Jerusalem, Allenby was able to write to Wigram [Assistant Private Secretary and Equerry to the King] on 5th May 1918,

"I had the unique honour of receiving, from the Grand Master of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, the insignia of that Order in the Holy City itself; and His Royal Highness occupied, in the Kaiserin Augusta Victoria Hospice, on the Mount of Olives, the suite of rooms reserved for the Grand Master of the German Order of St. John of Jerusalem."

(from 'Allenby in Palestine – the middle east correspondence of Field Marshal Viscount Allenby' selected & edited by Matthew Hughes, 2004)

The photograph below shows Allenby and others, just after they have received their awards at an investiture held by the Duke of Connaught in the Old City of Jerusalem. [Though as far as I can tell, the order being worn by Allenby in this particular photograph, is not that of St. John of Jerusalem]

InvestAllenbybyDukeofConnaught.jpg

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Following the description of the location given by Ronald Storrs in the quote above (see post #2) and by checking the other buildings which appear in the backgrounds of the various photographs, then I shall stick my neck out and say that I think the hospital is the complex of light coloured buildings which appears in the bottom left hand corner of this aerial reconnaissance photograph taken by the Bavarian squadron [on 29th April 1918, at 13.30 hrs., from 4,000 metres]. The photograph appears in Benjamin Z. Kedar's book 'The Changing land Between the Jordan and the Sea' where he credits the photograph to the collection at the Bayerisches Haupstaatarchiv, Munich, Abt. IV: Kriegsarchiv.

In the bottom right hand corner of the photograph can be seen part of the walled Old City of Jerusalem, including the Jaffa Gate entrance and part of the barracks square where HRH the Duke of Connaught held the investiture.

JLMperBavariansquadrons29Apr1918.jpg

Thank you for your interest

Michael

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Following the description of the location given by Ronald Storrs in the quote above (see post #2) and by checking the other buildings which appear in the backgrounds of the various photographs, then I shall stick my neck out and say that I think the hospital is the complex of light coloured buildings which appears in the bottom left hand corner of this aerial reconnaissance photograph taken by the Bavarian squadron [on 29th April 1918, at 13.30 hrs., from 4,000 metres]. The photograph appears in Benjamin Z. Kedar's book 'The Changing land Between the Jordan and the Sea' where he credits the photograph to the collection at the Bayerisches Haupstaatarchiv, Munich, Abt. IV: Kriegsarchiv.

In the bottom right hand corner of the photograph can be seen part of the walled Old City of Jerusalem, including the Jaffa Gate entrance and part of the barracks square where HRH the Duke of Connaught held the investiture.

JLMperBavariansquadrons29Apr1918.jpg

Thank you for your interest

Michael

Hello Michael and thank you for yet another dig through forgotten history.

While the story in new to me, the buildings are not: I cant locate the exact sections which include the original remains of the WWI hospital, but most parts of the post war medical institutes are now hosting the Mount Zion Hotel and the Jerusalem House of Quality. Some other parts were demolished during the long decades in which this complex was deserted.

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Gal,

Many thanks for your comments

and for providing the details of what has happened to the building in more recent times

With best regards

Michael

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I have just come across another ref to the damaged hospital; it's in a letter (5th April 1918) by Driver T4/143045 Jack Tait, Army Service Corps (Later service no. ET/50689).

"There is one thing about Johnny Turk, he never touched any of the buildings, except a British hospital on the outskirts of the city. He used it as an ammunition dump and blew it up when he left in a big hurry. "

see http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/gwa/item/5...BOX=1&REC=3

The collection has three of Driver Tait's letters

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The Hospital is located on Hebron Road, next door to the Mt. Zion Hotel, rigthwards diagonally across from the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and directly across the current Chutzot HaYotzer House (Artisans' Workshop House). It is now closed or used as a storeroom area for the Hotel but one room can be entered: that from its window the Hagana set up a means of transporting ammunition and even men: "A cable car capable of carrying a load of 250 kilos was designed for this purpose. The cable car was only used at night and lowered into the valley during the day to escape detection. The ride from the Israeli position at the St. John Eye Hospital to Mount Zion took two minutes"

A map from 1882 is here: http://begincenterdiary.blogspot.co.il/2011/04/1882-map-and-begin-center.html

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