Night of the Trains
The Night of the Trains (or Operation Party) was a sabotage operation of the British railways in Palestine ("Palestine Railways") on November 1, 1945. The operation was one of the first carried out by the Jewish Resistance Movement, before its official establishment, and symbolized its founding.
The Night of the Trains (or Operation Party) was a sabotage operation, targeting the British railways in Palestine on November 1, 1945. The operation was one of the first carried out by the Jewish Resistance Movement, before its official establishment, and symbolized its founding. During the operation Palmach units sabotaged a network of railways around the country and blew up three British guard boats in Jaffa port and in Haifa, and a combined Irgun-Lehi unit attacked Lydda railway station, which is the key junction between the Haifa – El Kantara main line and the Jaffa–Jerusalem railway. An estimated 1,000 men were involved in the operations.
Approximately fifty Palmach units, which included sappers and guard, severely damaged 153 points along the railway system in Mandate Palestine, primarily at railway junctions and bridges above them. The operations took place around 11:00 p.m., fully synchronized, in order to prevent a British response. In only two places did shootings occur, and they both ended with no casualties. Over 242 breaks in the railway lines were made, and a stationmaster's office, telephone installation, and petrol wagon were bombed.
At the same time, the Palmach's marine unit, the Palyam, sank three British guard boats; two in Haifa and one in Jaffa. These boats were part of the closure imposed on the shores in order to prevent Jewish immigration. In Haifa Yohai Ben-Nun led the operation and in Jaffa, Yossi Harel and Zalman Cohen did, after a briefing by Yitzhak Sadeh. In both cases the sappers arrived in boats, dived under the British boats and attached explosives with a delay mechanism to the boats.
That same night an Irgun unit, led by Eitan Livni, raided a train station in Lod. While exchanges of fire were going on the fighters destroyed a train engine and damaged six others. During the raid an Irgun fighter, two British (one soldier and one policeman) and four Arabs were killed. The operation took relatively heavy toll, most likely because the raiding team was late in arriving at the target, meaning the British were already on high alert. A Lehi unit launched a sabotage operation against the oil refinery in Haifa, but the explosives detonated prematurely as they were being carried, killing the Lehi member carrying them. Severe damage was caused to the facility, but the oil tanks, which were the intended target, were left untouched.
A subsequent confrontation at Ramat Hakovesh lead to the area becoming a "No Go" area for British forces. Two weeks later the District Office in Tel Aviv was set on fire and in the riots that followed, involving 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, six Jews were killed.
The operation raised morale in the Yishuv, after the heavy restrictions by the British on Aliyah and settlement. The operation mostly created satisfaction within the Yishuv leadership and Palmach and Haganah members that saw that they were able to simultaneously operate a large number of units in a large number of locations. David Ben-Gurion wrote to the leadership of the Haganah that this operation has its rewards—though they may not be immediate. The response in Britain was great as well. Government officials condemned the operation and the press published detailed articles about the sabotage actions.
- The Palmach—Its Warriors and Operation, Uri Brener, special edition for Palmach national convention, 1978
- Palmach: Plugot Hamahatz shel Hahaganah, 1941–1949 Meir Pa'il, Avraham Zohar and Azriel Ronen (Hebrew)
- Horne, Edward (1982). A Job Well Done (Being a History of The Palestine Police Force 1920–1948). The Anchor Press. ISBN 978-1-85776-758-2. p. 289.
- Horne. p. 289. Gives the number of locomotives put out of action as 5, and that two staff, a soldier and a policeman were killed.
- Horne. p. 290.