British Military Administration travel document - Our Passports
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British Military Administration travel document

 

1949 Cyrenaica Defense Force issue (Libya).

 

An exceptionally rare and important temporary travel document issued in liberated Libyan territory, used for immigration to Israel in 1949 with the short lived Israeli consular visa being issued at Tripoli.

 

The North African campaign of World War Two is considered as one of the famous of the campaigns fought outside of Europe and the Pacific war zones and with important consequences to the development of the war and the eventual Allied success in beating the Axis forces.

 

The campaign in Northern Africa lasted from June 10th 1940 to May 13th of 1943, ending in Tunisia with the Axis forces abandoning their attempted goal of conquering the area, with their dream of pushing east, all the way into Egypt and British Palestine and eventually joining forces with their comrades in arms in the Caucuses. At some point in 1942 there was even fear among the British forces of such a possibility, with some panic in Egypt and among the Jewish population in the Mandate: the burning of documents and preparations of a “last stand” on the Carmel Mountains, something like a Second Masada. Luckily for us all, history had a different course of events and the Allies prevented such a catastrophe and cleared the Middle East, at the end, from Axis control.

 

The Italian declaration of war on June 10th, with eruption of fighting the following day, continued with the odd skirmishes and campaigns for the effort to control Libya and Egypt, culminating with the infamous Second Battle of El Alamein of October 1942, where the Allied forces gained the upper hand, eventually, as mentioned above, pushing Rommel and his Africa Corps westwards, all the way into Tunisia. A month later with the launching of Operation Torch, which enabled the entry of US forces into the campaign against Nazi Germany in a limited scale, assisted the British in closing-in onto the retreating German forces.

 

A British Military Administration was established in liberated Libya after its liberation from Italian forces in 1942 which lasted until the country got its independence in 1951. Former Axis regions of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania fell under British Control, with the 3rd area of Fezzan under French occupation.

 

The document in this article was issued by the above mentioned military forces as a TEMPORARY travel document, being issued by the Cyrenaica Defense Forces (CYDEF), Libyan armed forces that were established by exiles living in Egypt during the war, who joined the British forces in fighting the Axis powers then controlling their country (Italian), and some historians see these units as the origin of the later-to-come Libyan Armed Forces.

 

Temporary travel document numbered 1400/49 was issued at Tripoli on June 16th 1949. It is extra attractive due to the rare applied passport-revenue stamps: originally issued British military administration stamps for liberated Eritrea used here with an added over print for 25 piaster’s (ERITREA INLAND REVENUE). The document was issued to Hammus Coen aged 20. The British Military Authority exit permit can be located on the 4th page, bearing also the Tripolitania police force examination and departure stamp two days later, where he left for the eastern port city of Gioda, not far from Misrata.

 

The most important part of this passport is the Israeli consular visa No. 2807 being issued on the 11th at Tripoli. Even nowadays, most Middle Eastern countries do not recognize Israel officially and the consular immigration office that was opened in Libya was only possible because of the British presence in the region, and it was opened secretly for the sole purpose of immigration assistance to the country. At the beginning of 1949, following British recognition of the newly formed State of Israel, it permitted mass Jewish immigration from their zones of influence in Libya to Israel, this was done on the sole condition that those departing would renounce their citizenship (this was proclaimed officially at Parliament on January 26th by Undersecretary of State Christopher Mayhew). The official proclamation by the Jewish community in Tripoli was done on February 2nd.

 

The news of permitted immigration to the Land of Israel spread like wild fire causing thousands to flock to the capital. The massive flood paralyzed the authorities who were dealing with exit permits. The sudden quantity of those wishing to leave prompted the international organizations to try and assist, but the lack of medical examinations, funding and ships to take the immigrants away at the end prompted the cooperation between the British and Israel. Finally a secret office was opened in the city, in the guise of an educational visiting inspection committee to the Jewish community, headed by Israeli immigration official Baruch Duvdevani, who arrived on March 4th (up to that point independent immigrants arrived en mass in Italy and this was done without the proper documentation, both immigration & medical, to the DP and immigrant camps run by the Jewish Agency in the city). Mr. Duvdevani’s arrival was to try and prevent such immigration attempts via Italy and organize proper departure directly from Libya to Israel; and after negotiations together with the vice of the Jewish community Zakino Haviv with the British military commanders, he was permitted to act as Israel’s official immigration officer or PCO in the country. Soon afterwards, Israeli ships such as the Eilat, Atzmaut, Herzl, and Kidma began to arrive at port bearing the Israeli flag. The immigration process was conducted swiftly without applying any unnecessary obstacles due to the fears of the Jewish leaders in Israel to the fate of the Libyan Jews; this was due to the 1945 and 1948 massive pogroms inflicted by the local Muslim population upon their Jewish neighbors.

 

Young Hammus left the port of Gioda on August 19th for the port city of Haifa, arriving several days later.

 

 

 

Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.

Neil Kaplan
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