JOHANNESBURG (Jun. 18)
“I would like you to convey to Palestine Jewry the thanks and appreciation of the South African Army for the warm hospitality which has been and is being extended to South African soldiers visiting Palestine on leave, and also to congratulate the Jewish people on the wonderful development and progress which they have brought to the country,” Major-General George E. Brink, C.B., D.S.O., General Officer Commanding the first S.A. Division, declared in an interview with the JTA here.
“Any number of South African soldiers, mostly non-Jews,” said General Brink, “including many officers, who have put in special courses in Haifa, have spoken to me in the highest terms of the hospitality shown to them by Palestinian Jewry in Haifa and elsewhere. They have also told me of the remarkably fine development work which the Jews are doing in Palestine, men and women alike.”
Men of his command who had visited Palestine, the General continued, had remarked that, after seeing how the Jews had turned the desert into a garden in Palestine itself, they wished they could be brought into the Western Desert to perform the same service there.
General Brink referred, among others, to his own driver, a husky Afrikaner sergeant from the Northern Transvaal, who has spent his leave in Palestine more than once and who cannot say enough about the friendship shown him and about the high qualities of the Jews whom he met.
General Brink also spoke highly of similar kindnesses and hospitality shown to South African troops by the Jewish community of Cairo. He referred with special appreciation to incidents which had come under his own notice of visits paid by the Jewish ladies of Cairo to the South African military hospitals and their kindly care for the needs of the patients.
LAUDS HIGH PROPORTION OF JEWS IN SO. AFRICAN FORCES
General Brink was then asked what he thought of the quality and celibre of Jewish soldiers in the Middle Eastern Army. He said that he could not speak of the Palestinian Jewish units from first-hand knowledge or contact. With regard, however, to the South African boys under his own command, there had been a gratifying proportion of Jews in the First Division – in the case of some battalions a very high percentage indeed. These men were of a good type and had done well. They had worked and fought side by side with their fellows: and in this respect he wished to draw no distinction between one section and another of the men under his command, Jewish or non-Jewish, especially where all had shown up so well.
“I can say, however,” General Brink added, “that my Brigadiers and C.O.’s have always spoken with approval of the work and gallantry and morale of the Jewish soldier. Many of the Jewish men have earned decorations in the field: amongst them I recall Major (now Lt.-Colonel) Melzer, Lieut. Frank Solomon, and many others.”