The ashes of the head of the British Army’s Jewish Legion that fought at Gallipoli during World War I have been flown to Israel to be interred here next month.
Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson led soldiers including Zionist heroes Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Joseph Trumpeldor against the Turk in the Zion Mule Corps.
The Irish-born officer, who was not Jewish, played a central role in setting up the infrastructure for a Jewish defence force in pre-state Israel.
He continued to support the Zionist cause after leaving the British army and moving to the United States.
He died in Los Angeles 67 years ago, but always wanted to be buried alongside his men, most of whom now lie in Israel.
Plans for the transfer of the ashes from LA to Israel began several years ago, when his grandson, Alan Patterson, met Jabotinsky’s grandson.
The two comrades had also been friends, Jabotinsky (pictured, left) himself once saying of Patterson: “In all of Jewish history we have never had a Christian friend as understanding and devoted as he.”
Yossi Ahimeir of the Jabotinsky Institute echoed those thoughts, saying Patterson was a “true righteous among the Gentiles, one of the greatest friends our people had in the British military, whose contribution to renewing Hebrew militarism at the beginning of the last century and the national liberation of the Jewish people was of great importance.”
The Israeli prime minister has taken a personal interest in the matter, his office overseeing plans for the operation.
Patterson was friends with Netanyahu’s historian father, Benzion, and the PM’s brother Yonatan, who was killed during the 1976 Entebbe operation, was named after him.
His ashes, and those of his wife, will be interred near the graves of many of his soldiers on 10 November at the Moshav Avihayil Military Cemetery near Netanya, which was founded by veterans of the Jewish Legion.
British military representatives will attend a memorial service after the ceremony, which will be attended by Netanyahu and Israeli President Rubi Rivlin.