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Purity of Arms

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Acquisition of Planes  E-mail
DAILY EXPRESS – Monday September 20 1948

‘Farnfield bungled it’
from ARTHUR COOK:  Paris, Sunday

lostplanesEMANUEL ZUR, the man for whom Scotland Yard has been looking since Beaufighters, Mosquitos and Halifaxes vanished from Britain, sipped cognac in the sunshine of the Champs Elysees today and said: “I was the brain behind the deals.  The planes are now in Tel Aviv, part of the Jewish Air Force”.

Zur raised his glass again, smiled, and added:  “I made the plans which got the warplanes out.  But I don’t think I could do it again”.

This Zur is a short, quiet man of 37, going grey.

Today he wore a drab gabardine suit, buckskin shoes, and brown trilby.  He carried a mackintosh, although rain seemed to be a thousand miles away.

But his undistinguished appearance belies him.  As chief pilot of the Aviron Aviation Company, now controlled by Israel’s Government, he came to Paris and London to get planes for the Jewish Air Force.

In May Zur went to Britain on a French visa.  When the visa ran out he did not try to renew it.

“I thought it would be useless to apply”, he said.  “I don’t think I can ever go to Britain again”.

‘He bungled”

Zur, son of an Alsatian father and a French mother, switched his headquarters to Paris.

He never stayed long at one address.  With his dark-haired wife he booked week-by-week at the smaller hotels in Paris.

But Zur’s work in Britain was not done.  He appointed two agents to see it through.

“One of them”, he told me “was Terence Farnfield”… the man with a ginger handlebar moustache who bought four Beaufighters.

“Farnfield was a member of the Jewish Air Force.  He worked for me on his normal air force salary and expenses”.

“He bungled his job and our plans were discovered”

“The other man, also an Englishman, did his job well and I cannot tell you his name.  Both men are back in Tel Aviv with the Jewish Air Force.  Farnfield expects to stay there permanently”.

Zur ordered a coffee and another cognac.  “My business really began before the Beaufighter and Mosquito deals”, he said.  “I went to London and met a number of people in civil aviation”.  Later, I sent Farnfield to Britain.  He set up an office and arranged to buy Beaufighters.  “I got him to engage British pilots to fly the planes to Palestine, and I arranged for refueling in Alaccio, Corsica”.

“From there they flew direct to Palestine with long-range tanks.  Some of the pilots stayed in Israel and are now pilots of the Jewish Air Force”.

“The two Mosquitos I arranged through my other agent.  One of them landed at Nice, but the pilot got it cleared by saying he was flying on to Athens.  Both the Mosquitos arrived in Israel”.

“The biggest mistake was made with the Halifax.  I arranged for it to be chartered as a Halton civil transport with a British certificate of airworthiness.  Ostensibly it was to do charter work on the continent, but its real destination was Israel”.

“I engaged two British pilots to fly it but for some reason they did not wait until arrangements were complete, and took off”.

“The first I knew my plans for this machine had gone wrong was when they phoned from Belgium”.

‘The Fools’
Then Zur explained the mystery which is still puzzling the British aviation authorities – an SOS which was picked up from the Halifax as it flew over the Mediterranean.

“I told the pilots to stay in Belgium until I made fresh plans”, he said.   But they took it on themselves to fly to Israel”.

“Over the Mediterranean two engines failed through lack of fuel.  The plan lost height until it was only 50 feet above the sea.  Thinking they would be forced down, the pilots sent out an SOS”.

Zur’s eyes narrowed.  “The fools could have given any aircraft identification letters and they would have been picked up just the same if they had ditched.  But they gave the correct identification letters and revealed by plans”.

‘Another Bungle’

What happened to the plane?  Zur answered that, too.
“It limped on to Israel”, he said.  “but crashed on landing and was written off.  One of the pilots is in jail for his bungling.  I do not know yet what will happen to him”.

Zur finished off his coffee and spread his hands.  “I am only doing all this because it is my job.  I am a good Jew.  I wanted to return to Israel long ago – my wife and two small children were there.  They sent my wife to me and told me to carry on here”.

In a few days Zur is leaving his small hotel in a quiet street off the Champs Elysees.

He is not sure what action will be taken against him if Scotland Yard appeals to the Surete.

The Yard is compiling dossiers on everyone in Britain connected with the vanished plane.

Says Zur, who flew to Britain during the war with the American Transport Service, “Most of the people who worked for me have got safely out of the country.  But a few are still in Britain”.