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Purity of Arms

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Allan Burke  E-mail

Allan BurkeAllan Burke was born in Manchester on 7th December 1914.  He worked in his family’s garment business for a short while, but with the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted in the Royal Navy and served in convoy-escort groups.

After serving as an officer cadet on the destroyer HMS Whitehall, he rose to the rank of sub-lieutenant in 1940, and then served on another two ships, finishing as commanding officer on the corvette HMS Damsay before stepping down in 1946.  He took part in action at Dunkirk, Malta, the Atlantic and the Sicily, Salerno and Normandy landings.

In 1987, he was belatedly awarded a Russian medal – on the 40th anniversary of the end of the war – in recognition of his role in escorting wartime convoys to Russia.

Following a short post-war period in America, he volunteered in 1948 for service in Israel’s War of Independence.  “I could not stand on the side lines.  I could not live with myself.”

After an initial mix-up, when he was sent to the army rather than the navy, he became one of the only three known non-Israelis to command an Israeli warship.

He patrolled the Sinai and Gaza coasts, and his ship occasionally bombarded Gaza, Rafiah and El-Arish.   He also landed commandos behind enemy lines and successfully evacuated them.

In early 1949, with Portuguese papers, he smuggled in Israel’s first major war vessel, an ex-Royal Canadian Navy frigate.  It had reached Marseilles but then had to cross the Mediterranean, while evading Egyptian attack.

After the war, he stayed on in Israel with his wife Molly, whom he had married in 1934.  Their daughter Maureen asked the four questions at the first seder aboard an Israeli warship in 1949.

By 1950 he was flotilla commander of three Israeli frigates and was then appointed Inspector General of the Israel Navy.  However, illness forced him to return to England.

As a result of his Zionist connection, he was made Secretary General of the three-year-old Anglo-Israel Chamber of Commerce and editor of its journal.

He continued to take an interest in Israel and the armed forces, and was a member of AJEX and Machal, the association of volunteers from abroad in Israel’s War of Independence.

Source:  Jewish Chronicle obituary 5th November, 1999.