Martin Moore: A Policeman in 1940s Palestine

mooreToo often personal stories get lost in history. When public commemorations happen, a parade will be planned or a dignitary will speak of the number of lives lost and progress we have made in the years gone past. But captivating, true personal stories are often lost and these are the stories which bring history to life.

Last week I went to Bethany House in Sandymount and met an amazing man who had a unique and interesting story to tell. Martin Moore was born in Rathmines and educated in a boarding school in Cork. While the Second World War was going on, Martin felt he wanted to help in some way but at the time he wasn’t the age to join, and when he was the war was over. So, aged twenty, he decided to join the Palestinian Police. A few months later he watched the night lights from Nazareth on his 21st birthday.

In 1946 Palestine was accepting 1,000 Jewish settlers a month. This was seen by Jews as a trickle as they wanted much greater numbers and when this met with resistance from Britain, Jewish terrorism was born. Two of Martin’s colleagues in the Palestinian Police were kidnapped.

Sergeant Paddy Hackett, whose parents came from Tyrone and whose Dad was a doctor in Milwall in East London, joined the RAF straight after school and saw active service in Malta, Italy and North Africa, and when he was demobilised he straight away joined the Palestinian Police.

Constable Paddy Ward was from 41, Stella Gardens in Ringsend. His father was an interpreter in the Foreign Department of the Hospitals Trust.

On a warm evening on June 11th 1947 in Palestine, Sergeant Hackett and Constable Ward were swimming at a local pool when there was a call for them to come to reception. At the reception they were met with armed men who bundled them into a wardrobe on the back of a lorry and drove off with them. The two men arrived bound and gagged at an unknown location. Their Jewish terrorist captors seemed nervous and agitated, which the two policemen took as a good sign that they were inexperienced.

moore2Their captors fed them well, even providing cigarettes, beer and magazines but they told them they were being held because five Jewish terrorists had tried to help some comrades escape from jail and were captured and sentenced to death by hanging by the British. They told Constable Ward and Sergeant Hackett that whatever happened to the their Jewish friends the same would happen to them and to reinforce the point they showed them the yards of rope with nooses they had brought with them.

Understandably, the two men were extremely worried. They were kept awake all night but after 19 hours in captivity they managed to free themselves and ran into the local street where some Palestinian policemen were looking for them. Luckily, the getaway van was parked close to where they were being held.

Their euphoria at escaping was not to last long, as a few days later three other Palestinian policemen were captured by the Jewish terrorists and found hanging from an olive tree. When they were found, the officer in charge went forward to cut down the bodies but one was booby trapped and the body exploded.

A few months later, the United Nations were asked to help to solve the on-going terrorist activities by the Jews. They suggested partition, which was not a solution favoured by the British and so in a historic moment the UN became involved and the British withdrew from Palestine.

The British and Irish working in the Palestinian police were interviewed for other positions. Martin Moore was interviewed for the Malay police and the Kenyan police, and was later accepted for both the Newcastle and Liverpool Police.

He decided to come home for a few weeks to Dublin and while at a dance, met his future wife and stayed in Dublin. He worked at the Gas Board in D’Olier Street and later in Barrow Street. He retired in 1986 and after a few years moved into the wonderful Bethany House.

By Joan Mitchell