September Last Post

Today we welcomed members of the Israeli Embassy and members of AJEX, The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen & Women. We were extremely grateful to see members of Private 5109 Thomas Barnes Holdway’s family, one of the subjects of our Individual Remembrance.

Paul McCue delivered a brief history of Operation Boatswain, a terrible incident when 23 Palmach Jewish Volunteers and their British Liaison Officer of the Special Operations Executive were lost at sea on the 18th May 1941.

The first subject of our Individual Remembrance was Captain Isidore ‘Izzy’ Newman. Capt. Newman was a British secret agent and radio operator who served with F (French) Section of the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War. He was born in Leeds and was the son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, then part of the Russian Empire. He was executed on 6th September at Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. A full biography is included below with detailed notes on his service.

Private Thomas Holdway was born in 1884 on a farm in Chapmanslade, Wiltshire, the youngest son of Thomas and Sarah Holdway, he was a cabinet maker and wood carver by trade. He emigrated to Australia in 1912 and in September 1915 answered his country’s call, enlisting in the 9th Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade, Australian Infantry. His unit embarked on HMAT Star of Victoria in May, arriving eventually in the Port of Marseille and moving up to the area of Pozieres to the Battle of The Somme. On 13th August he was taken on strength 49th Battalion Australian Infantry, whose Motto was “Always Faithful”. Here his unit received orders to take a farm on high ground which they did after seven attempts under one of the heaviest artillery barrages of the war. The village Pozieres was obliterated and is now open moorland. Private Thomas Holdway was killed in action on the 3rd September 1916 aged 31 in the Battle of the Somme near Pozieres and is buried in Serre Road Cemetery No 2 Beaumont Hamel. Thomas’s memory is kept alive in a children’s chair which he carved for his niece Dorothy and so far, has been used by four generations across 100 years, three of these generations were in the audience today.

Our poem today is from Achziv Poems by Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, 1924 – 2000. It brings an echo of the loss at sea of Operation Boatswain.

Broken by the sea,
my head a broken tin,
Sea water fills it
and drains out.

Broken by the sea.
A dirge my lament,
froth on the lips of the cliffs.
The sea has rabies,
has sea sickness,
more dog than dog,
more sea than all seas.

Broken by the sea
my lament.

Wreaths were laid by The Israeli Embassy, the family of Private Holdway, AJEX and the Secret WW2 Learning network.

Our Standard Bearer was Alan Lopez and Ruth Moore sounded the Last Post. We had Standards from AJEX, The Artists Rifles, The Royal British Legion, Knaphill, Bisley and West End Branch and the Woking Royal Naval Association. The Union Flag was paraded by John Pain of Woking District Scouts.

Thank you to Paul McCue and David Lasseter for text, and Alan Meeks for the photographs and audio.

Post edit: We did not realise it at the time, but the September Last Post would be the final time we sang God Save the Queen, probably for several decades if not much longer. An audio recording is included below, although we collectively were not on top form and it is included here for historical purposes.