Sunday, October 13, 2013

Charles Tegart's Police Forts in Israel

Here is an article from the BBC about Sir Charles Tegart, the founder of the "Tegart forts" in Israel. The "Tegart forts" were built in British Mandate Palestine from 1936-39 (and some afterwards) as part of the war against Arab terror. The initiator of the project was Sir Charles Tegart, a former commissioner of the Indian Police. Tegart fought terror in Bengal in the 1920s and was invited by the Mandatory government to advise them about fighting Arab terror in Palestine. Tegart recommended building a series of police forts across the country, to serve as well-defended positions and bases for suppressing revolt, and to prevent the infiltration of armed Arab guerrillas from Syria and Lebanon. The forts were also to be used as government offices in areas that were regarded as unsafe.

Tegart strengthened the Criminal Investigation Department (about which see this post), imported Doberman dogs for police work, and suggested forming horse-mounted police units, comprised of British and Arab policemen. Tegart also introduced interrogation methods he used in India, which included torture. (Here are links to the Tegart papers in St Antony's College, Oxford University and the British Library, Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections.)

Some Tegart forts were the focus of intense fighting during the War of Independence. The most well-known of these were the battles for the fortress of Nabi Yosha (or the Koach Fort – named after the 28 IDF soldiers who died trying to conquer it; Koach is numerically 28 in Hebrew letters), the Latrun Fortress, and the Iraq–Suidaan fort (now the Yoav Fortress) a.k.a. "the Monster," which was occupied after 8 attempts.
Nabi Yosha fort today (Wikicommons)
Iraq-Suidaan fort after been taken by the IDF, November 1948 (Wikicommons)
Tegart fort in Sasa (Wikicommon)
Latrun fort and the Armor Museum and memorial for the fallen (Wikicommons)

Yoav fortress (Wikicommons)
Some of the fortresses today are memorials (Yoav Fortress - a memorial to the Givati ​​infantry brigade; Latrun - Museum of Armor and the memorial site of the Armored Corps), prisons (Megiddo prison - where Adolf Eichmann was held) and various police precincts. Some of the forts were abandoned. One of the Tegart police forts which passed to the Palestinian Authority became the famous "Mukataa" in Ramallah. Other police buildings became major Palestinian government installations. During Operation Defensive Shield in May 2002, the Tegart fortress used by the Hebron police was destroyed by the IDF.

Another fact about Tegart, less known, is that he was the architect of the dormitory of the Jewish Institute for the Blind in Jerusalem. According to architectural historian David Kroyanker, the design was very conservative but crafted with a deep understanding of the needs of the blind. (It is not clear when Tegart planned the building, since it was built when Tegart was a member of the Secretary of State's Council in India. Maybe one of the readers of this blog can enlighten us on this subject.)
Front of the Jewish Institute for the Blind in Jerusalem during visit of High Commissioner Wauchope in 1935

1 comment:

  1. Charles Tegart was a policeman, not an architect. The story about him designing the Jewish Institute for the Blind seems like a mistake. Does Kroyanker give any references to that?