Middle East

Briton hailed as 'Godfather' of Israeli army reburied

Media captionJohn Henry Patterson's "extraordinary" life inspired three Hollywood movies, as Kevin Connolly reports

The ashes of a British World War One veteran who became a Jewish hero have been reburied after a ceremony at a museum near the city of Netanya.

Born in 1867, John Henry Patterson made his name as a lion-hunter in Africa and served in the cavalry in the Boer War.

He gained hero status in Israel for leading Jewish fighters during WW1, becoming a passionate Zionist.

Attending the event, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called him the "godfather" of the Israeli army.

Mr Netanyahu's father was a friend of Patterson's and the PM's brother, Yonathan, was named in honour of him.

Image caption Prime Minister Netanyahu attended the service with his wife
Image caption Before commanding Jewish soldiers, Patterson was a big-game hunter in Africa

For his role in WW1, Patterson is credited as being the first commander to lead Jewish forces on to the field of battle for two millennia, making him an important figure in the history of Zionism.

Mr Netanyahu said the Jewish Legion, which Patterson commanded, was the basis for what became the Israel Defense Forces.

In his later years, Patterson worked for the creation of a Jewish state. He died in 1947.

One of his fellow fighters, Zeev Jabotinsky, who became a leading Zionist, said: "In all of Jewish history we have never had a Christian friend as understanding and devoted."

The remains of Patterson, and his wife, were laid to rest at Moshav Avichail, a museum established by Jewish Legion veterans.

According to his grandson it was one of his final wishes to be interred alongside men he commanded.

His exploits as a big-game hunter have inspired several films, most recently The Ghost and the Darkness in 1996.

Media captionBenjamin Netanyahu speaks to Kevin Connolly about John Henry Patterson

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