Friday, December 13, 2013

"The story of Whisky Hotel 799 and a lone grave in Beirut" (by Michael Karam)

One of the graves in the Anglo-American Cemetery is featured an article in today's Daily Star. Written by Michael Karam entitled "The story of Whiskey Hotel 779 and a lone grave in Beirut".

This article traces the story of FO Roy Urquhart-Pullen and his unfortunate mission during the Suez Crisis in 1956.

Quoting from the article:
"The cumbersome Canberra bomber – call sign Whisky Hotel 799 – had little chance in the brief and one-sided encounter led by Lieutenant Munir al-Garudy, who claimed credit for downing the airplane. Two of the Canberra’s three-man crew, Flight Lt. Bernard Hunter and another pilot, Flight Lt. Sam Small, ejected over the Anti- Lebanon Mountains. They landed in the Western Bekaa where they were set upon by a crowd of excited Lebanese who believed them to be Israelis, before they handed them over to the authorities.

The third airman, a navigator, Flying Officer Roy Urquhart-Pullen, who had been in the nose of the plane, was not so lucky. He died from injuries most likely sustained after he hit the tail when exiting the airplane with a parachute. His body lies in the Anglo-American cemetery located in the southeastern Beirut suburb of Tahouiteh (ironically, just off the highway leading to Damascus), under a faded and cracked white RAF headstone, in the shade of a carob tree."

The article explains that Roy's widow Ellen, who eventually worked for the UK Foreign Office in Beirut,  was unable to visit her late husband's grave in the AAC until 1997.

Karam concludes that "[t]he story of Roy Urquhart-Pullen and aircraft Whisky Hotel 799 is a forgotten footnote in what was one of Britain’s last imperial ventures in the Middle East. But every fatality shatters the world of at least one family whose lives are never the same again. In this case, however, Lebanon was where Urquhart-Pullen lost more than just his life: It was also where his widow found new love, and where his country, until recently, abandoned him. I say recently because after the last Remembrance Day ceremony on Nov. 9, a British Embassy delegation visited the Anglo-American cemetery to pay their respects." 
Images from the Remembrance Day ceremony can be found on this earlier post. 

We look forward to commemorating Roy Urquhart-Pullen again in the upcoming months, when a new headstone will be laid by the Commonwealth War Graves at the his grave in the AAC. On this headstone will be carved his family's motto of "“Mean, speak and do well."

Christine B. Lindner
13 December 2013

Update: The Anglo-American Cemetery Association is happy to share that in November 2014, the memorial stone for Roy Urquhart-Pullen was beautifully restored. The AACA would like to thank all who facilitated this restoration.
Creative Commons License
"The story of Whisky Hotel 799 and a lone grave in Beirut" (by Michael Karam) by Christine B. Lindner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Remembrance Day 2013

Remembrance Day in Beirut
On 9 November 2013, Remembrance Day was commemorated at the Anglo-American Cemetery.

Members of the committee participated in the worship service, lead by our Rev. Nabil Shehadi, at the British Beirut War Cemetery. At this service, poems were read by ambassadors and dignitaries, honoring those who served in the Armed Forces, followed by the laying of a wreath. In the audience were veterans of war currently living in Lebanon, their families and other honored guests. The event was reported in the Daily Star and NOWLebanon.

 One of the poems that was read was “The Last to Leave” by Leon Gellert

The guns were silent, and the silent hills
had bowed their grasses to a gentle breeze
I gazed upon the vales and on the rills,
And whispered, "What of these?” and "What of these?”
These long forgotten dead with sunken graves,
Some crossless, with unwritten memories
Their only mourners are the moaning waves,
Their only minstrels are the singing trees
And thus I mused and sorrowed wistfully

I watched the place where they had scaled the height,
The height whereon they bled so bitterly
Throughout each day and through each blistered night
I sat there long, and listened - all things listened too
I heard the epics of a thousand trees,
A thousand waves I heard; and then I knew
The waves were very old, the trees were wise:
The dead would be remembered evermore-
The valiant dead that gazed upon the skies,
And slept in great battalions by the shore.

AACC members at Beirut War Graves Cemetery
AACC members at the Anglo-American Cemetery

Wreath of Poppies at Urquhart-Pullen grave

Additional photographs of the main event can be found on the UK embassy's facebook page.

Following the main service, a small memorial was held at the Anglo-American Cemetery. A wreath of poppies, donated by the UK Embassy, was laid upon the grave of Geoffery Urquhart-Pullen, the single Commonwealth Grave at the Anglo-American Cemetery. Urqhurt-Pullen was an RAF flight navigator who was killed during the 1956 Suez Crisis.

Flowers were laid at the graves of those who served in the British Armed Forces. These include: 

            IX H 2     Burges Watson, Harold      (1893-1950)     Retired RAF Officer
            IV B 4     Joly, John Leonard             (1924-2011)     Retired Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm
            X D 3      Knight, John                      (1893- 1958)    Former soldier 
            V A 10    MacKenzie, James W. F.   (1893-1948)     Palestine Police Officer
            X F 2       Owen, John Rodney          (1936-1959)     Third Officer of Merchant Marines
            VI K 4     Roberts, Frank W. C.        (1882-1944)      Agricultural expert with Spears Mission 

Flowers were also laid at the Charnel House, under the names of those who served including:

Slab 4    Dale, Lieutenant John B                (d. 1848)
Slab 4    Fursman, Private J                        (d. 1841)
Slab 4    Gunn, Private D                            (d. 1841)
Slab 5    Hoskin, Private John                     (d. 1841)
Slab 9    Penny, Lieutenant E B                   (d. 1840)

 Respects were also paid to MP Bassel Fleihan, who is buried in the AAC.

Christine B. Lindner
10 November 2013

Creative Commons License
Remembrance Day 2013 by Christine B. Lindner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Welcome to the Anglo-American Cemetery Website

Tucked away in the Beirut suburb of Furn el-Shebbak (meaning the oven of the window), the Anglo-American Cemetery is a serene location, providing calm and sanctity to contrast the bustle of Beirut. 

On this page you will find more information about the Anglo-American Cemetery (AAC), its history, location, opening hours, and governance. Periodical blog posts will provide additional information about the personalities who are buried at the cemetery. From missionaries to businessmen, relief workers to RAF pilots, children to entrepreneurs, these individuals illuminate the manifold paths Americans and Brits followed to the Middle East (and to the USA and UK). Exploring the lives of these individuals will offer an insight not only only this unique facet of Beirut history, but of transnational global history---highlighting that which brought such diverse individuals together and which continue to link us today.