EAST END OF LONDON PHOTO GALLERY & COMMENTARY
London's East End Synagogues, cemeteries and more......
My personal journey through the Jewish East End of London
Schneiderson’s story – The Royal Fusiliers, World War One
In the Lily
Montagu Hall of South London Liberal Synagogue is a display
of historic photographs relating to the Jewish East End of London.
Included in the photographs are numerous photos of soldiers from the
38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, a battalion raised
largely from foreign Jews living in the East End of London. Peter
Taylor, one of South London’s senior members, was looking at a
photograph of the Royal Fusiliers when to his surprise he identified
his father in a photograph. This in turn prompted him to
relate to me his father’s story, including an amazing experience in
World War One.
In his own
words, Peter says:
was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1898 and named Jacob Schneiderson. In
his very early years his family moved to England and they lived
initially in Brick Lane in the East End of London.
and only job as an employee was as a barber working for my
grandfather Phillip Belchak. Phillip’s family moved from Lodz in
Poland at the end of the 1890s and lived in Cable Street. Phillip
opened a hairdressing salon in Wilson Street, which is just behind
Liverpool Street station, and my dad worked there. Dad married
Phillip’s daughter Florence (Fanny) in March 1925 at Poet’s Road
Synagogue, Dalston, and I was born in Maida Vale in February 1926.
Dad only told
me one thing about the First World War. He was in Palestine in 1918
and was told to deliver a message from his regiment to another
place, and when he returned his regiment had gone. He said it took
him two months travelling up and down and across the country before
he found his regiment. He never told me anything else but I have a
photo of him in his Royal Fusiliers uniform (photo) and also his
1920 army discharge certificate.
understanding of Jewish involvement in the First World War is that
in 1914/1915 Jews in England were vigorously campaigning to form a
Jewish regiment. Two men particularly active in this campaign were
the Zionist leaders Chaim Weizmann and Vladimir Jabotinsky. Jews in
America were likewise campaigning for the British Government to
raise a Jewish regiment. Jews in Palestine – many of whom had been
pushed out by the Turks to Cairo and Alexandria – were also
campaigning. In 1916, with support from the foreign secretary Lord
Balfour, the 38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers was
formed specifically for Jewish recruits. Many of the recruits were
Russian Jews from the East End who were otherwise ineligible to join
the British army. The 39th Battalion of the Royal
Fusiliers was also formed to recruit American Jews, and the 40th
Battalion was formed to recruit Palestinian Jews.
In 1917, dad
enlisted in the 38th Battalion. The only non Jew in the
Battalion was the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel
Patterson. Soon after his enlistment dad was posted to Palestine.
My understanding is that in 1918 Turkish commanders, believing that
Palestinian towns on the Mediterranean coast were heavily fortified,
marched their army north along the East side of the Jordan valley in
order to avoid the fortified coast. British army intelligence heard
of this and, while my dad was away delivering his message, the 38th
Battalion was ordered east to Jericho to intercept the Turks, and
that is how my dad lost his regiment.
(Peter Taylor was talking to
Philip Walker, September 2010)
And now for the photos....click
Part of exhibition of East End photos at South London Liberal Synagogue. Peter's father featured in one of the photos
Private Jacob Schneiderson, 38th Batallion the Royal Fusiliers
Private Jacob Schneiderson's demobilisation papers
Jacob Schneiderson's naturalisation certificate
Private Jacob Schneiderson 38th Batallion Royal Fusiliers