WINGATE, ORDE CHARLES, Major General, British Royal Army

 

Orde Charles Wingate was born on 26 February 1903 in Naini Tai, Kumaon, , India, to Colonel George Wingate (1853-    ) and Mary Ethel Stanley (Orde Browne) Wingate (1868-    ). a military family. His childhood and upbringing was in England. He married Lorna E.M. Moncrieff Paterson of Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1935. Siblings included Rachel Wingate (1901-    ), Sybil Wingate (1902-    ), Monica Wingate (1905-    ), Constance Wingate (1907-    ), and Nigel Wingate (1909-    ).

He was accepted at the Royal Academy for military training. In September 1936, Wingate was assigned to a staff officer position in the British Mandate of Palestine, and became an intelligence officer. From his arrival he saw the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine as being a religious duty, and immediately put himself into absolute alliance with Jewish political leaders. Palestinian Arab guerrillas had at the time of his arrival begun a campaign of attacks against both British mandate officials and Jewish communities.

Wingate became politically involved with a number of Zionist leaders and became an ardent Zionist himself. He always returned to Kibbutz En Harod — because he felt familiar with the biblical judge Gideon, who fought in this area, and used it himself as a military base. He formulated the idea of raising small assault units of British-led Jewish commandos armed with grenades and light infantry small arms to combat the Arab revolt. Wingate took his idea personally to Wavell, who was then the commander of British forces in Palestine. After Wavell gave his permission, Wingate convinced the Zionist Jewish Agency and the leadership of Haganah, the Jewish armed group. In June 1938, the new British commander, General Haining, gave his permission to create the Special Night Squads, armed groups formed of British and Haganah volunteers. The Jewish Agency helped pay salaries and other costs of the Haganah personnel.

Wingate trained, commanded and accompanied them on their patrols. The units frequently ambushed Arab saboteurs who attacked oil pipelines of the Iraq Petroleum Company, raiding border villages the attackers had used as bases. In these raids, Wingate's men sometimes imposed severe collective punishments on the villagers, which was criticised by Zionist leaders as well as Wingate's British superiors. Wingate disliked Arabs, once shouting at Haganah fighters after a June 1938 attack on a village on the border between Mandatory Palestine and Lebanon, "I think you are all totally ignorant in your Ramat Yochanan [the training base for the Haganah] since you do not even know the elementary use of bayonets when attacking dirty Arabs: how can you put your left foot in front?" But the brutal tactics proved effective in quelling the uprising, and Wingate was awarded the DSO in 1938.

However, his deepening direct political involvement with the Zionist cause and an incident where he spoke publicly in favour of the formation of a Jewish state during his leave in Britain, caused his superiors in Palestine to remove him from command. He was so deeply associated with political causes in Palestine that his superiors considered him compromised as an intelligence officer in the country. He was promoting his own agenda rather than that of the army or the government. In May 1939, he was transferred to Britain. Wingate became a hero of the Yishuv (the Jewish Community), and was loved by leaders such as Zvi Brenner and Moshe Dayan, who had trained under him and who claimed that Wingate had "taught us everything we know." Wingate's political attitudes toward Zionism were heavily influenced by his Plymouth Brethren religious views and belief in certain eschatological doctrines.