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.
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"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.