A new plaque commemorating 23 Jewish commandos and a senior British spy killed in a secret World War II operation has left Jewish researchers scratching their heads, after the appearance of a name nobody has ever heard of.
The names of 23 elite soldiers who part in Operation Boatswain have been added to the Memorial to the Missing at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, but with a 24th name – the unknown ‘Picchi F.’
In the first joint operation between the British and Jewish paramilitaries of the underground Haganah, Major Sir Anthony Palmer of the Special Operations Executive (the precursor to MI6) joined commandos from the Palmach, in a plan to sabotage an oil refinery in Tripoli in Lebanon.
The 18 May 1941 operation ended in tragedy, as the boat sank in mysterious circumstances. Accidental on-board explosions and torpedoes from an undetected submarine are two of several possible explanations.
Now, 75 years later, the names of those who took part have been engraved on a plaque in Britain by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, following a campaign by military archivist Martin Sugarman of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX).
With Palmer already listed elsewhere in the cemetery, there should only have been 23 names added – but as the plaque was launched, experts noticed several spelling errors, and were left asking: “Who is Picchi F?”
Former Israeli ambassador Gershon Gan said: “It is a time for Mazel Tov and Shechiyanu, if not for the two mistakes in the list,” adding: “Who is Picchi F, the 24th name engraved? Must have been added by mistake.”