MI6 crimes



Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin –
Via Wikimedia Commons.

[ 14 February 1947 ]

On 14 February 1947, Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin ordered MI6 to sabotage ships in European ports, which were taking Jewish refugees to Palestine, and also to deliberately contaminate the passengers’ food and water supplies. More conventional methods of preventing their arrival in the British controlled mandate had been contemplated, but the three miles of coastal waters off Palestine wasn’t considered a sufficient buffer space for the British navy to prevent their arrival by legal means. Accordingly, twenty ships suspected of carrying Jewish migrants were singled out, although only five were actually targeted, all in Italian ports. The damage to one from limpet mines was so severe it was rendered a ‘total loss’.  False rumours were then deliberately circulated to blame the indiscriminate attacks on an extremist Arab terror group. After all, the public would surely understand that only fanatical zealots could commit such appalling crimes.

Earlier in December 1946, during the initial discussions on what measures might be necessary, an internal memo noted that the ‘proposals for action to deter ships masters and crews from engaging in illegal Jewish immigration and traffic,’ depended on ‘intimidation and intimidation is only likely to be effective if some members of the group of people to be intimidated actually suffer unpleasant consequences.’1 In other words, that terrorism only works if it really does provoke terror. Special Operations Executive agents were therefore warned that, if they were arrested, His Majesty’s Government could not afford them any help. An understandable precaution given that even a silver-tongued lawyer might have had difficulty justifying such acts of violent intimidation against the surviving victims of the holocaust.


  1. Andrew Roberts, ‘MI6 Attacked Jewish Refugee Ships After WWII’, The Daily Beast, 19 September 2010, accessed online on 7 January 2019 at url https://www.thedailybeast.com/mi6-attacked-jewish-refugee-ships-after-wwii and James Barr, Lords of the Desert: Britain’s Struggle with America to Dominate the Middle East, Simon and Schuster, London, pp. 84-85.

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