Happy Hanukkah in this Great War Centenary Year!

The Jewish contribution to Britain’s World War One efforts was a great one, and the roles of the many British and Commonwealth soldiers of that religion are documented in the ‘British Jewry Book of Honour 1922’. In it are recorded alphabetical lists of those killed in action and those who won military honours, as well as nominal rolls of all who served, listed by service and regiment. It also outlines the assorted Jewish Units, hospitals, institutions and agencies that aided the war effort, and compiles testimonials from prominent figures of the day. Just some of these can be seen below. The messages of friendship and support are particularly poignant in view of the atrocities that were to tear the Jewish community apart not two decades later, in the Second World War.

 “The British Jewry Book of Honour is a striking testimony to a fact which every soldier will gladly recognise – namely, the loyalty with which British Jews of every class came forward to fight for the country of their adoption, and for the great human ideals which they shared with their Christian comrades in arms.”

(Signed) Haig, Field Marshal

 “Our British Jews have played a splendid part in the war. They have provided us with one of the finest Generals of all, Monash, the head of the Australian Army, and many other officers of distinction. Although the Jewish population of the Empire is comparatively small, Jewry has to its credit 5 Victoria Crosses, 50 Distinguished Service Orders, 242 Military Crosses, 80 Distinguished Conduct Medals, 308 Military Medals and 374 Mentioned in Dispatches.

“Nearly 9,000 Jews in the British Army alone fell in action or were wounded and missing, and missing, of course, means dead.

“The Jews are a cautious people and not anxious to make war, but in this great conflict they waged it just as vigorously as they did in the wars of the Bible.”

(Signed) Northcliffe {Viscount}

“It is with great pleasure that I accede to your request to contribute a message to the British Jewry Book of Honour. I feel, however, that any such message from me is unnecessary in view of the facts, which speak for themselves.

“Although Jews form but a small proportion of the population of the British Empire, some 60,000 fought in the War in Europe, Africa and Asia. Of these, 2,324 gave their lives, for the Cause and a further 6,350 became casualties. Five Jewish soldiers won the highest honour it is possible to obtain in our country, namely the Victoria Cross, while a further 1,533 obtained other honours. I can truthfully say that this record is a great one, and British Jews can look back with pride on the honourable part they played in winning the Great War.”

(Signed) Winston S Churchill

The British Jewry Book of Honour 1922, housed at The National Archives, is available to view in the Historic Library of Forces War Records here: https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/library/document/1368/british-jewry-book-of-honour/?searchQuery=jewry&searchPage=1&filterPagesOnSearchQuery=True&filterPagesOnSearchQueryExact=True

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