StandingWellBack

You can contact me at rogercdavies(atsquiggle)me.com  If you have a comment and the system won't let you post it, ping me using the @ for (atsquiggle)

This blog has evolved into a review of historical and modern explosive devices, and responses to them. Links are drawn between historical activity and similar activity in the world today. Mostly I focus on what are now called IEDs but I have a loose personal definition of that and wilingly stray into discussions of more traditional munitions, the science and technology behind them, tactical employment and EOD responses. Sometimes it's just about interesting people in one form or another. Comment is welcome and encouraged but I do monitor it and reserve the right to delete inappropriate stuff. Guest posts are always welcome. Avoid any stuff that makes the enemy's job easier for them.

A note on moral perspectives. Throughout this blog there are descriptions of all sorts of people using IEDs, explosives, or suffering the consequences. Some of the people using IEDs are thought of as heroes by some and terrorists by others. One person's good guy fighting for a cause is another person's evil demon.  It's complicated, and history adds another series of filters too. All of us too live in a narrative made up around however we were brought up, what we were taught and what we learned along the way, rightly or wrongly. So if you sense moral ambivalence, one way or the other, well, I'm guilty and I'm not perfect.  By and large though, I have unapologetic sympathy for those dealing with the devices, whether they be soldiers, cops, or whatever, even those who are part of Nazi or other nasty regimes. That's the cool thing about EOD techs - we don't really care who the enemy is.

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Wednesday
Apr102019

Two IED attacks on police during WW2

Here's the story of two curious IED attacks that occurred during WW2. Different in nature, but with some odd parallels between the two. 

The first attack took place in Tel Aviv, Palestine against the British Palestine Police in 1942.  The target specifcially was members of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) investigating the extemist "Lehi" group, aka "The Stern Gang". This was a significantly complex IED plot, what might be termed a "double come-on attack", using 3 IEDs, the latter two electrical command-initiated, targeting the responders to the first explosion. Senior members of the CID had had a number of successes against Lehi in the months prior to the attack. In particular Superintendent Geoffrey Morton and his subordinate Tom Wilkin were well known to the Stern gang.  When Wilkin managed to arrest Lehi's chief of staff for shooting a Jewish member of the Palestine Police, the Lehi leader, Avraham Stern, decided on very focused action against the head of CID (Morton) and his assistant Wilkin.

Superintendent Geoffrey Morton

The plot was complex and multi-stage. A small explosion was made to occur in a roof-top room of a house in Yael St, Tel Aviv, as if it was a premature explosion in a Lehi bomb factory. The CIDs response to such an incident was well known and the Lehi assumed that Morton, as head of CID would attend the scene of the incident, along with Wilkin as he normally did to incidents involving Lehi. A second larger device had been hidden in the roof-top room, connected by a carefully concealed command wire to a waiting operative in a building nearby. Another command-wire initiated device was buried in a flowerbed just outside the house, providing another opportunity to attack responding policemen.

When the first reports of the explosion came in, Morton and Wilkin were involved in another matter so tasked other senior Palestine Police officers to the scene, saying they would follow shortly. Three officers went to the the house in question and went up to the roof top. Deputy Superintendent Shlomo Schiff was the leading officer, and was the senior Jewish officer in the Palestine Police. He had been the target of a Lehi assassination attempt the previous year. He was accompanied by Inspector Nathan Goldman and Inspector E Turton.  As they approached the door of the roof-top room the command wire device was initiated. Allegedly the perpertrator mistook the unifomed police for Morton and Wilkin. Schiff was killed immediately and the other two succumbed to their injuries in following days.  Morton and Wilkin arrived shortly afterwards but the third device was not initiated and was discovered later. It contained 28 sticks of gelignite. In police operations that followed a number of Lehi members were shot during raids. Stern himself was shot dead by Morton after being arrested. In a curious after-story, there was an attempt on Morton's life three months later, another command wire IED on a car he and his family were traveling in. He escaped serious injury but later hidden IEDs were found at the cemetery where supposedly Lehi expceted him to be buried, purportedly to attack mourners. 

 

The second attack took place in Rome, Italy, in 1944, against the German SS "Bozen" Polizie Regiment. The attack target specifically was a mass column of German speaking Italian police, recruited by the Nazis from northern Italy, who regularly walked the same route on parade through Rome.  Thus the column of marching troops provided a predictable target for the attack by the partisan "Patriotic Action Group" (GAP). The regular march by the column of police, paraded through Rome singing, around the Piazza del Spagna and into the narrow street of Via Rasella. The partisans prepared a large charge consisting of a steel container holding 12 kg of TNT, along with another bag containing more TNT and TNT filled metal tubing. The bomb was hidden in this hand cart.

 

A forty second burning fuze was lit as the marching troop approached (exactly the same technique as used in the VBIED attack against Napoleon in 1800). 28 of the SS policemen were kileld in the explosion. The incident led to very significant reprisals by the Nazi authorities, includng the dreadful Ardeatine massacre where 335 Italians were executed.

 

I think there are some interesting points shared by these attacks.  Both were against police forces at least partially recruited or sponsored by other nations.  Both exploited the predictability of their targets, albeit in different ways. In both events the aftermath of the IED attacks led to further nasty tragedies. In war the focus of history is on the front line battles between armies. But Home fronts also provide an environment for IEDs and the police are often the targets but are often forgotten in some history books. Patterns of IED tactics seen today appear as we look further and further back in time. 

 

 

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