Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1947, Sergeant Clifford Martin and Sergeant Mervyn Paice, British Army Intelligence Corps, were murdered by members of the Irgun militia near the village of Even Yehuda in the central Sharon region of Israel.
Three members of the Irgun underground militia had been sentenced to death by the British; they had been convicted of blowing up Acre Prison and liberating two hundred Arabs and Jews three months earlier. The Irgun commander at the time was Menachem Begin, later the Israeli Prime Minister - he ordered that British hostages be taken in an effort to secure the release of his men. Just before 1 a.m. on the 12th of July, Sergeant Martin and Sergeant Paice were kidnapped as they headed back to camp from a café – a non-British friend with them was tied up and left by the side of the road; after three hours he managed to free himself and raise the alarm.
An intensive search was begin, but no trace of the two sergeants was found, even though tragically the building, a diamond polishing plant, in which they were held was searched twice by the police. They were hidden in a small air-tight cell beneath the building’s floor where they existed on bottled oxygen for seventeen days. On the 27th of July, the Palestinian Broadcasting Company announced that the three militia members were scheduled to be executed in two days’ time. The superintendent of the prison refused to conduct the execution until their families were allowed to visit one last time, but his refusal led to him being sacked. The men were hanged at dawn on the 29th of July.
Members of the Irgun took Sergeant Martin and Sergeant Paice from their cell and refused to let them write farewell letters to their parents. They were beaten and then strangled with piano wire. Their bodies were taken to a eucalyptus grove near the village of Even Yehuda, where they were hung from trees. A booby trap was set to explode when they were cut down. Jewish settlement police informed the new prison superintendent of the location of the bodies, and as they were cut down the booby trap exploded, injuring one of the men present.
Pinned to the bodies were notes which read: “Two British spies held in underground captivity since July 12 have been tried after the completion of the investigations of their "criminal anti-Hebrew activities" on the following charges: Illegal entry into the Hebrew homeland; membership of a British criminal terrorist organisation known as the Army of Occupation which was responsible for the torture, murder, deportation, and denying the Hebrew people the right to live; illegal possession of arms; anti-Jewish spying in civilian clothes; premeditated hostile designs against the underground. Found guilty of these charges they have been sentenced to hang and their appeal for clemency dismissed. This is not a reprisal for the execution of three Jews but a "routine judicial fact."
Journalists had accompanied the searchers and took photographs of the bodies, which were published in British newspapers, causing considerable stress to the sergeants’ families. After the bodies were discovered, British soldiers and policemen went on a rampage in Tel Aviv, assaulting people and causing considerable damage to property. Jewish youths stoned police patrols, and police units drove into the city, in turn conducting assaults and damage to property. Five Jews were killed and fifteen injured. At the funeral for those killed, Jews and police again clashed with thirty-three people injured. Sergeant Martin and Sergeant Paice lie buried in the Ramleh British Military Cemetery in Israel
Clifford, from Wales, was 25 years old; Mervyn, from Bristol, was 20 years old