On the 25th of April 1945 the Stern Gang carried out their most cold blooded attacks to date. A large car park in Tel Aviv was being used by the 6th Airborne Division as a transport deport. The car park was surrounded only by barbed wire and guarded by a section of 8 men and from the 5th Parachute brigade who were billeted in tents near to entrance of the car park. At 20:30 hours, three trucks pulled up un-observed outside a house opposite the car park entrance. From these trucks 25 armed members of the Stern gang got out. The Jewish terrorists entered the house and held to occupants at gun point as they set up firing postions towards the car park entrance. About 15 minutes later a bomb was thrown at the main gate of the car park and the the terrorists opened fire on the British Paratroops.
Those not killed in this initial hail of fire took cover in the tents. About 20 terrorists then left the house and entered the car park. They entered the first tent and found two British soldiers and a NCO who had been off duty and were now trying to take cover from the fire from the house. All three were shot at close range with machine guns. The NCO was somehow not hit and pretended to be dead. The terrorists then moved on to the next tent were they murdered another two unarmed Paratroopers. In all 7 british soldiers were killed, most were unarmed.
The account of the Palestine Post:-
Official contemporary report, WO 275/40:
At 2030 hours 25 April three vehicles stopped at the house opposite the entrance to the Divisional Car Park in Tel Aviv 12781643. Between 25 and 30 civilians entered the house, where they held up the occupants and established fire positions overlooking the guard tents. The car park is bounded by Zerubabel Street, Sir Hubert Samuel Esplanade and Ezra Street and faces the sea. Apak Police Station adjoins and East side.
The guard normally consists of 3 NCO's and 12 ORs but at the time of the attack only the guard commander and 7 men were in the car park, the remainder being allowed out for recreation after their tour of duty. When attacked, the NCO and 2 men were in the guard tent, 2 men were in an adjacent tent and 3 men were on actual duty, one as sentry at the entrance and 2 patrolling.
At 2045 hours the gate sentry saw something thrown from the nearby house, which exploded in front of the guard tent. At the same time a burst of automatic fire was directed at him from the same buildings, forcing him to take cover under a vehicle. At this point the entrance to the car park was rushed by some 20-30 men in civilian clothes who killed a soldier who was standing near the wire. They then entered the first tent where the Sgt of the guard, Sgt Peat, was trying to unlock rifles from the rack and where Pte Mackay and Gilliard were lying on the ground taking cover from the first burst of fire. The attackers shone torches on the 3 soldiers and fired a burst from a TSMG at Mackay and Gilliard killing both. Another burst was fired at Sgt Peat, missing him, and he fell to the ground pretending to be dead.
It is not known what happened in the third tent, as both of the occupants were killed. They were however unarmed. The raiders removed 12 rifles from the rack in the guard tent and withdrew when a bugle sounded the retreat. A PMF urban patrol consisting of one armoured car supported by a section of 6 GORDONS was at the Apak Police Station at the time of the attack, but the armoured car commander and the officer of the section were inside the station at the time. Small explosive charges were thrown at the armoured car forcing it away. The car commander from the roof of the Police Station observed some 30 persons moving from the entrance of the car park in an easterly direction firing as they went. Attackers dispersed in the Yemenite section of the Karton Quarter.
Road mines had been placed on all roads leading to the area and illuminated warning notices in English, Arabic and Hebrew were put up.
Casualties own troops:-
2887006 Pte MORRISON, A 5 Para Bn
7021365 Pte GILLIARD, J 5 Para Bn
14867443 Re McKAY, H 5 Para Bn
14533981 Pte LEWIS, H 5 Para Bn
14454077 Pte KNIGHT, N 5 Para Bn
180224 12 Re HOPE, J 5 Para Bn
WOUNDED SINCE DIED OF WOUNDS
57341 60 L/Cpl PARK, J 5 Para Bn
Cause of death in each case was multiple gunshot wounds.
No known casualties were inflicted on the attackers but a blood trail was found leading North from the garden from which covering fire was given.
The Yemenite area Tel Aviv was cordoned at 252230 hours by 6 GORDONS and a curfew was imposed. A search was begun at 0530 hours by PMF with 5 Para Bn in support and detachments 9 Airborne Squadron RE, and a prison cage set up in the Airborne Car Park by 0800 hours. At 0930 hours search half completed and 30 doubtful characters detained. At 1145 hours 2 Arabs on the edge of the cordon in area Hacarmel Street were accidentally shot and wounded by a burst of Sten fire; one has since died. The search was completed by 1205 hours, by which time 1491 persons had been interrogated of which 79 were detained. A quantity of WD property including tires and rations were covered.
Documents found included a plan for a future attack on Atulit.
Field Marshal Sir James Cassels
16 December 1996
Cassels was born at Quetta, then in India, in 1907, the son of General Sir Robert Cassels. His leadership qualities were recognised early on when at Sandhurst he won the Sword of Honour. He was commissioned into the Seaforth Highlanders in 1926. Before the war he served for 10 years in India, where he was adjutant to his battalion, and was ADC twice to his father, first for a year when Sir Robert was GOC- in-C Northern Command and again when he was C-in-C of the Army in India.
Soon after the outbreak of war in 1939, Cassels was appointed Brigade Major of 157th Infantry Brigade in the 52nd Lowland Division with whom he saw a few days active service when the division was sent to France after Dunkirk. Between 1940 and 1944 he held a number of staff appointments in Britain. In 1942 he returned to his old division, the 52nd, as GSO1, and, a year later, he was given command of the 1st Tyneside Scottish (Black Watch), with whom he remained until he was appointed Brigadier- General Staff of the 12th Corps at the beginning of 1944.
For his wartime service, Cassels was appointed CBE and awarded the DSO. Soon after the Armistice, he was promoted Acting Major-General and was given the 51st Division, which he held until disbandment in 1946. His next appointment was as Commander of the 6th Airborne Division in Palestine. Here he had the unpalatable task of maintaining law and order, which was not made any easier when the Stern Gang attacked a lightly guarded military car park and killed seven soldiers of the 5th (Scottish) Parachute Battalion.
And what he did:-