Today, my Dad remembers how Jewish families were keen to make their way from European countries to the “Promised Land” of Israel.
After the war there were huge numbers of Jewish families who were displaced persons or who were settled in countries that were now unwilling to accept them. Russia was a prime example as they had for years victimised their Jewish populous. In other European countries too their Jewish residents were unsettled now following the Holocaust and were anxious to migrate to what they felt was shortly to become the Jewish state of Israel.
As a consequence the European coastal areas of the Mediterranean from Spain right round to the Balkans had Jewish families amassing hoping to find ships to take them to the Promised Land. This was like but on a far larger scale the north coast of France is today with immigrants wanting to reach England. Consequently there were people prepared to provide ships at a price to secretly convey Jews to the Palestine coast and land them there.
The British Administration did not was a sudden influence of a Jewish population as they were trying to placate the Arab people and to persuade them to come to an agreement about the creation of a Jewish state of Israel. It was down to the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean to identify these ships, stop them and prevent them completing this journey. When a ship was located a Navy destroyer fitted with a platform on the bows to intercept and board the offending ship. The boarding party would force the ship’s Captain to change the course of the ship which would be escorted to a Cyprus port and the ship would be impounded and the families on board would be confined in fenced camps ashore in Cyprus. Although they would be confined they were well treated during their time there until the state of Israel was created in 1948 when they would be conveyed to Israel.
In a number of cases when an illegal ship was stopped and boarded it was found that the skipper and his officers was often Americans. Whilst American had been our allies during the war many Americans were supportive of the Jews and were attempting to get them to Palestine and did all they could to get them there.