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Surafend Affair, 10-11 December 1918 [1 of 2] | by Archives New Zealand
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Surafend Affair, 10-11 December 1918 [1 of 2]

The Surafend Affair of 10-11 December 1918 was the premeditated massacre of at least 40 male inhabitants from the Arab village of Surafend, Palestine by soldiers of the ANZAC Mounted Division.


Increasingly tense relations between the local Arab population and soldiers of the ANZAC Mounted Division, coupled with an underlying racism on the part of the soldiers, boiled over on 10 December 1918 when a New Zealand soldier of the Machine Gun Squardron, Leslie Tuhoe Lowry, was killed while attempting to stop the theft of his kit bag. Angry New Zealand troops placed blame on the village of Surafend despite little evidence linking the culprit to the village.


On the evening of 11 December 1918, 200 men, many of them of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, entered the village of Surafend, expelled the women and children, and then used heavy sticks and bayonets to beat and kill the remaining male villagers. The number of those killed range from 40 to over 100. The village was then burned to the ground.


Despite several courts of enquiry, no one was ever tried for the killing of the villagers. The New Zealanders stood firm in solidarity and refused to name any individual soldiers responsible, and thus no-one could be definitively charged and disciplined for the massacre. At a parade of the ANZAC division soon after General Edmund Allenby, commander of allied forces in Palestine, admonished the Zealand troops, stating; “I was proud to command you, but now I’ll have no more to do with you. You are cowards and murderers.”


This fragile record from the NZEF War Archives is of the Court of Inquiry into the death of Leslie Lowry. Page 2 can be found here:


Archives New Zealand Reference: WA1 Box 8 XFE 1069 [Page 1 of 2]


Material from Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga


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Uploaded on November 28, 2018