Monday, September 3, 2012

Who Is Colonel Coventry?
Mystery Pictures of British Soldiers in Jerusalem

"Col. Coventry driving into Jerusalem from railroad station" 1916
Here is a series of pictures of a Colonel Coventry entering Jerusalem in 1916.  "Coventry" would suggest an Englishman, but the year places his arrival in the middle of World War I, and Jerusalem was under Turkish control.

The soldiers greeting him at the railroad station wore the kabalak helmets and kaffiyehs of the Turkish army.
"Col. Coventry and officers approaching the Jaffa Gate."

The next picture shows Coventry and his officers in carriages heading up from the Hinnom Valley towards the Jaffa Gate.

A third and fourth picture show men marching toward the Old City.  They appear to be wearing British uniforms.

Troops marching toward Jaffa Gate at the same spot where the
officers were riding in carriages.  They appear to be British.
Research shows that the men were prisoners of  war, captured by the Turks in an early battle in the Sinai close to the Suez Canal.

The following is a report from the British General Headquarters, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, 1st June, 1916:

British POWs and Turkish soldiers marching toward the Old
City.  The building on the left of the picture is the St. John's
Eye Hospital, today the Mt. Zion Hotel
"On the 22nd April the Royal Flying Corps reported that new bodies of enemy troops were at Bir el Bayud [approaching the Suez Canal] Upon receipt of this information, General Wiggin obtained leave to attack the enemy at Mageibra that night. General Wiggin, with Lieut.-Colonel Coventry,  accompanied the raid to Mageibra. In the meantime the post at Oghratina was attacked at 5.30a.m. The Officer Commanding at Oghratina reported that he was again heavily attacked on all sides. This attack carried the post, all the garrison of which were either killed, wounded, or captured. Qatia itself was attacked about 9.30 a.m. Lieutenant-Colonel Coventry was detached with one squadron from General Wiggin's Force to operate towards Qatia. Unfortunately, this squadron became involved in the unsuccessful resistance of the Qatia garrison, and, with the exception of some 60 men and one officer who were able to disengage themselves, fell with it into the hands of the enemy."

The British soldiers, led by Lt. Col. Coventry, were taken by rail by the Turks to Jerusalem.  Their fate afterwards is not known.


  1. And I spotted in the background the plot upon which the future Menachem Begin Center was to be built.


  2. H/T to Seth:

    Here is some more on Col. Coventry, a famous cricketer:

    Born on 26 February 1867 in Marylebone, London, England, died 2 June 1929.

    The second son of the Earl of Coventry, Charles Coventry played his cricket for Worcestershire, at the time a Minor County, and in 1888-89 was invited to tour South Africa with Major Warton's side. Two of the games were considered Tests. In the first, Coventry, who was making his first-class debut, batted at No.10 and made 12; in the second, he again batted at No.10 and scored 1*. He returned to South Africa in 1896 and took part in the Jameson Raid where he was wrongly reported as having been killed. Arrangements were made for a memorial service back in England but news arrived that he was alive as the service was about to start and it instead became a celebration. He was sentenced to five months in prison for his part in the raid but was released after 24 days due to ill health. A career army man, he saw service in the 1893 Matabeleland campaign and in the Great War took part in the Dardanelles campaign and was later captured in Palestine. For many years he was official starter to the Jockey Club.

  3. H/T to Alan:

    One of the opening chapters of "Palestine 1917," a historical novel by a British author, details stories of captured British troops in Jerusalem and environs in the months before Allenby's campaign. The photos you show dovetail well with his "fictional" descriptions of the way the Turks treated the Brits. In the novel, at one point, the British officers are given a tour of the Holy City as if their Turkish guards were tour guides.