Charles Orde Wingate

Charles Orde Wingate, a British Army officer, was an avid supporter of Zionism and the creator of the Special Night Squads which spearheaded the fight against Arab gangs during the Arab Revolt of 1936-39. Wingate was born on February 26th, 1903 in India. His father was a member of a religious group who believed neither in the ceremonial of the Church nor in the status of its priests. Their faith and form of worship was based on study of the Bible from which Wingate derived his deep religious feelings combined with a love for the land of Israel and the Jewish people. Wingate went to school in England and at the age of 20 was commissioned into the Royal Artillery. From 1928-33 he was attached to the Sudan Defense Forces in which he gained valuable military experience.

In 1936 Wingate was assigned to the British Mandate of Palestine and became an intelligence officer. From his arrival he saw the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine as being a religious duty toward the literal fulfillment of Christian prophecy and he immediately put himself into absolute alliance with Jewish political leaders.

At the time of his arrival, Arab guerrillas began a campaign of attacks against both British mandate officials and Jewish communities, which became known as the Arab Revolt (of 1936-39). Wingate became politically involved with a number of Zionist leaders, eventually becoming an ardent supporter of Zionism, despite the fact that he was not Jewish. He formulated the idea of raising small assault units of British-led Jewish commandos, heavily armed with grenades and light infantry small arms, to combat the Arab uprising. Wingate took his idea personally to Archibald Wavell, who was then a commander of British forces in Palestine. After Wavell gave his permission, Wingate convinced the Zionist Jewish Agency and the leadership of Hagana, the Jewish armed group.

In June 1938 the new British commander, Gen. Haining, gave his permission to create the Special Night Squads, armed groups formed of British and Hagana volunteers, based in En Harod. The Jewish Agency helped pay salaries and other costs of the Hagana personnel. Wingate trained, commanded and accompanied them in their patrols. The units frequently ambushed Arab saboteurs who attacked oil pipelines of the Iraq Petroleum Company, raiding border villages the attackers had used as bases. The tactics proved effective in quelling the uprising, and Wingate was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1938. The military training that Wingate provided the Hagana was tremendously valuable. For his friendship and contribution, he became a hero of the Yishuv (the Jewish Community in Palestine), and earned the nickname Ha'Yadid (The Friend).

His deepening direct political involvement with the Zionist cause and an incident where he spoke publicly in favor of formation of a Jewish state during his leave in Britain caused his superiors in Palestine to remove him from command. He was so deeply associated with political causes in Palestine that his superiors considered him compromised as an intelligence officer in the country. In May 1939, he was transferred back to Britain.

Following the outbreak of WW-II, General Wavell sent him out in 1940 to Ethiopia where he successfully carried out irregular military operations against the Italians. In 1942 he was appointed to Wavell's staff in India and in 1943 accompanied Churchill to Quebec for the talks with Roosevelt on the Japanese war. On his return to India he was promoted to the rank of Major-General and formed the special units which operated behind the Japanese lines in Burma.

But even in those difficult years, the Land of Israel was on his mind. In a letter to one of his former assistants he wrote "I always think of you and your problems" and added in Hebrew "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its cunning".

On 24 March 1944, Wingate flew to assess the situations in three Chindit-held bases in Burma. On his return flight the same day, the US B-25 plane in which he was flying crashed into jungle-covered hills in northeast India, where he died alongside nine others. He was originally buried at the site of the air crash in the Naga Hills in 1944. In April 1947 his remains and those of other victims of the crash, were moved to the British Military Cemetery in Imphal, India. In November 1950 all the remains were reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, in keeping with the custom of repatriating remains in mass graves to the country of origin of the majority of the soldiers.

To commemorate Wingate's great assistance to the Zionist cause, Israel's National Centre for Physical Education and Sport, the Wingate Institute (Machon Wingate south of the city of Natanya) was named after him. One of the Aliya Bet (clandestine immigration to Palestine during the British Mandate) ships was named after him. A square in the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem, Wingate Square (Kikar Wingate), also bears his name, as does the Yemin Orde youth village near Haifa.

The stamp was issued in 1985. Designer: A. Vanooijen.