This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: WPN 275).


I. 'TRAGEDY IN JERUSALEM.' An item covering the aftermath of the bombing of the King David Hotel (HQ of the British Palestine Army Command) in Jerusalem on July 22 1946. The badly damaged exterior elevations of the King David Hotel are shown as British troops and Palestinians clear rubble in an attempt to find possible survivors. The commentary describes the victims of the bombing as being "murdered in cold blood by the notorious Jewish terrorist organisation - Irgun Zvai Leumi". A crane is used to lift fallen masonry. British High Commissioner, Sir Andrew G Cunningham and Chief Secretary Sir John V W Shaw arrive for a tour of the bombed hotel. British infantry use oxy-acetylene torches to cut masonry girders. The dead are taken away on stretchers. British medical officers check inert bodies for signs of life in the back of a parked ambulance. Union flag draped coffins are carried through Ramleh Cemetery past a British Army guard of honour armed with Lee-Enfield No.IV .303-inch rifles.

II. 'BIKINI- THE ATOMIC BOMB.' Crates containing livestock are loaded by crane onto the deck of one of the seventy-three target ships anchored near Bikini Atoll in anticipation of the air-burst (Able) atomic bomb test forming part of Operation Crossroads. Close up footage shows Admiral Blandy of the United States Navy (USN). USN ratings shear a sheep before adding anti-flash cream to its exposed skin. Close up footage shows shipboard animal-holding boxes that have been designed to give its occupants varying degrees of exposure to nuclear flash and heat. USN ratings leaving a target ship, throw their kitbags into a waiting landing craft. Brief footage shows Captain Bibby, the last man to leave the unidentified target ship. Elsewhere, United States Army Air Force (USAAF) groundcrews load an atomic bomb into the bomb bay of Boeing B-29 Superfortress #7354 "Dave's Dream" (atomic bomb is not shown and the loading procedure is carried out behind tarpaulins). Brief footage shows USAAF Major W P S Swancutt, commander of B-29 "Dave's Dream". Close up footage shows the legend "Dave's Dream" on the front fuselage side of B-29 #7354. Aerial footage shows B-29 "Dave's Dream" en route to the Bikini dropping area. Observers don goggles prior to the atomic explosion. Aerial footage shows a B-29 Superfortress bomber opening its bomb bay doors. Aerial footage shows Bikini Atoll. Extended shipboard and aerial footage shows the air-burst atomic explosion dwarfing the target ships anchored nearby.


Title: the normal World Pictorial News titles do not appear at the beginning of this edition

Commentary: Flight Sergeant Fitchen is called "Sergeant Fitchen" on the printed commentary.



One consequence of the British failure to predict or contain the serious anti-Jewish riots and massacres of 1929 was the beginnings of a debate within some sections of the Yishuv (the Jewish population of Palestine) as to whether or not a policy of restrained defence was truly sufficient to safeguard Jewish life and property. It was felt by some that the Hagana (‘Defence’), a Jewish militia formed in the wake of the 1920 riots, had not been able to adequately protect Jewish settlers and land. (Officially illegal, the Hagana was in effect tacitly sanctioned by the Mandate authorities, and would occasionally be aided by them.) In the months following the 1929 riots, senior commanders of the Jerusalem Hagana split away, forming a splinter group with a more radically nationalist and proactively military ideology. During the Arab revolt of 1936-39, when the issue of  ‘restraint or retaliation’ once more came to the fore, this initially small and ineffectual dissident group would decisively break with the Hagana and come to prominence as the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the ‘National Military Organisation’ (IZL) (Krämer 2008: 291; Zadka 1995: 15-16; the precise date of the Irgun’s formation seems to be in some dispute).

The IZL was not founded with anti-British actions in mind; rather, it was intended as an anti-Arab retaliation and attack force, and its first operations were accordingly directed against Arabs: shootings, bombs in public places, attacks on buses and similar. In the run-up to war there were however occasional actions directed against the British, and the publication of the notorious White Paper of May 1939, with its stated aim of definitively limiting immigration and its indication that Palestinian Arabs would eventually have jurisdiction over Jewish immigrant numbers, caused great consternation; but after the outbreak of hostilities in September 1939 there was overall consensus in the Yishuv that co-operation with the Allies was the major imperative. The years 1940-44 thus saw the IZL at peace with the British, though this decision was not without dissenters: in June 1940 an IZL commander, Abraham Stern, broke away from the organization to found the Lehi (Lohamei Herut Yisrael – the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, also known as the ‘Stern gang’). An even more radical group than the IZL, the Lehi continued to act against British infrastructure and personnel even during the war and many, including Stern himself, were killed or arrested (Krämer op. cit.: 303).

However, by late 1943 the IZL (which from December that year would be under the leadership of Menachem Begin) were beginning to organise in earnest again, and the threat that the British might severely restrict or even halt Jewish immigration from Europe at such a critical moment stimulated a return to armed insurrection against the Mandatory power. Working with the more extreme Lehi, the IZL began a campaign of anti-British violence in early 1944, culminating in several attempts by the Lehi on the life of High Commissioner MacMichael, and the November 1944 assassination, again by the Lehi, of Lord Moyne, minister of state for the Middle East. The British response, in addition to the usual pattern of reprisals, was an appeal to the Jewish Agency, and through them to the Hagana, for assistance in suppressing the two militant groups; after the killing of Moyne, the Jewish Agency assented, fearing that a severe British military crackdown would be harmful to the long-term interests of the Yishuv. Thus began the Saison (the ‘hunting season’), around six months during which the Hagana actively helped the Mandate security services to track down and detain hundreds of IZL and Lehi cadres (Cohen ed. 1987: i-ii; Zadka op. cit.: 52-5).

This period drew to a close after the end of the War. The failure of the Jewish Agency to have gained any concessions from the British for their collaboration, and the apparent intention of Atlee’s newly elected Labour government to uphold the recommendations of the despised 1939 White Paper led to a radical reversal of the situation. Having withdrawn co-operation from the British, the Jewish Agency and the Hagana set out in the autumn of 1945 on a joint anti-British insurgency in collaboration with IZL and Lehi forces. (Intercepted telegrams between prominent Jewish Agency figures that indicate the depth and nature of the collaborative campaign were published in July 1946 in a British Command paper entitled Palestine: Statement of Information Relating to Acts of Violence [Cmd. 6873], see especially pages 4-9; this document is reproduced in facsimile in Cohen ed. op. cit.: 155-65.)

Despite the uneasy marriage between the three forces, this ‘Jewish Resistance Movement’, as it was termed in British official correspondence (e.g. Palestine: Statement…op. cit.: 3),  undertook a serious and sustained campaign of sophisticated and damaging strikes against British interests from late 1945 to mid-1946. The first major co-operative action, on the night of 31 October 1945, saw Palmach units (the elite strike force of the Hagana) cause explosions on the Palestinian railways system in no fewer than 153 places, and destroy three police launches in Haifa and Jaffa; the IZL simultaneously attacked Lydda station, damaging trains and equipment, while the Lehi made a failed attempt to blow up the Haifa oil refinery (ibid.). Further major operations included Palmach assaults on RAF radar stations, Police Mobile Force camps, airfields, bridges, and roads, and the kidnapping of British forces personnel (ibid.: 7; Zadka op. cit.: 68-71).

On the 22 July 1946, six IZL cadres dressed as Arab workmen planted bombs disguised as milk-cans in the basement of the King David Hotel, beneath the part of the building which housed the headquarters of the British government secretariat and army command. Ninety-one people were killed in the resulting explosion, and many more were injured. The bombing profoundly shocked opinion in both Britain and Palestine. Even though the Hagana had been aware of the plan for the attack, they subsequently dissociated themselves from the other two factions. The united resistance was abandoned, and the Hagana refrained from further coordinated attacks on the British, leaving the IZL and Lehi to continue their campaign alone.   



The first item of two reports on the newsreel, ‘Tragedy in Jerusalem’ is introduced in both English and Arabic lettering. Covering the rescue operations in the aftermath of the bombing, the report begins with pictures of the bombed wing of the building, its façade destroyed, the exposed floors sagging. Understood as terrorism, it now seems a very modern image, similar to many such images familiar from the final decades of the twentieth century and opening years of the twenty-first. For a British audience who had only recently experienced the massive destruction of the Blitz, it must surely have had a different proximate resonance, and if an Arab audience was intended (as the titles seem to indicate) then it is hard to ignore the fact that dynamiting civilian buildings was standard British counter-insurgency practice during the Mandate years.

The narration of the item is remarkable only in that it provides evidence that the official tone and vocabulary used to describe actions designated as ‘terror’ has hardly changed in 60 years. While the King David Hotel bombing is the operation that opens the modern era of ‘mass casualty’ terrorism as it is conventionally understood, it is clear that the particular official language attached to such acts, and the manner in which they and their perpetrators are represented by the authorities and media, is already in place (Enders and Sandler 2006: 250-1; the authors describe the King David bombing as ‘the role model for the massive bombings of the 1980s and beyond’).

The IZL are correctly named as the authors of the bombing (though by the time of the newsreel’s production – and indeed quite possibly before the bombing itself – the authorities were certainly aware that the Jewish Agency and Hagana had been co-operating with them for some time); the newscaster describes them as the ‘notorious Jewish terrorist organisation, Irgun Zvai Leumi’ in saying that ‘dozens of Jews, Arabs, and Britishers’ have been murdered ‘in cold blood’. The emphasis here on a racial breakdown of the dead is of interest: of the 91 people killed, the greatest proportion were Arabs (41) followed by British (28), then Jews (17), with a few other nationalities also present among the casualties (Zadka op. cit.: 87). However, Jews are placed at the head of the list, with ‘Britishers’ modestly bringing up the rear, and as with the language of shocked outrage which is employed by the narration, there emerges the implication that that the bombing is irrational (‘senseless’), and possibly even pathological: ‘solemnly condemned by sane people the world over’ (emphasis added). It is presented throughout the item as an act without meaning, and its irrationality is signified in the first instance by the presence of Jews amongst the victims of Jewish terror, a fact to which particular attention is drawn. Similarly, there is an assertion that all classes of people were also caught in the outrage, ‘from the most junior messenger to the most senior government official…servicemen and civilians alike’. The central message of the coverage is that the bombing was a meaningless outrage, and its indiscriminate nature is presented as proof.

In some ways the sequences of the various ‘types’ composing the onlookers and rescue workers – Arabs, Orthodox Jews, nuns, etc. – is a peculiar modulation of the classic ‘street scene in old Jerusalem,’ so common in British film of Mandate Palestine, and always used as an example of civil harmony and diversity. A further message about the bombing – that it is an act finding no support anywhere in the Palestinian population – is thus communicated to the audience through a transformed reference to this well known signifier of Palestinian religious and social tolerance.

The second item, on the atomic test at Bikini Atoll (‘Operation Crossroads’), is a significant coda: while the first item on Palestine shows a serious bomb disaster perpetrated by enemies of Britain, the second purports to show a incredibly powerful bomb which is being detonated under strict, even scientific, control by Britain's ally (and it is noteworthy that the prospects and terms for a settlement in post-war Palestine were by 1946 very much a part of the American agenda). There is a reminder here too of the fact that the atom bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war in the Pacific: in other words, that a protracted conflict can be solved by overwhelming force if necessary.

Francis Gooding October 2009


Works Cited

Cohen, Michael J. ed. The Rise of Israel: Jewish Resistance to British Rule in Palestine 1944-47 (New York: Garland 1987)

Enders, Walter and Sandler, Todd The Political Economy of Terrorism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2006)

Krämer, Gudrun A History of Palestine (Oxford: Princeton 2008)

Palestine: Statement of Information Relating to Acts of Violence [Cmd. 6873] (London: Colonial Office 1946)

Zadka, Saul Blood in Zion: How the Jewish Guerrillas drove the British out of Palestine (London: Brassey’s 1995)



  • WORLD PICTORIAL NEWS NO 275 (12/8/1946)

Technical Data

Running Time:
7 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
630 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Ministry of Information, Middle East
Fitchen (Flight Sergeant)
film editor
Martin, Charles
Production company
World Pictorial News