The Last Battle of the M.13; Negba, Israel 1948

Author: Vollketten

And a big thanks to Ilan and Oded Negbi

Silentstalker’s foreword: As some of you probably know, I am a big fan of Israel. Vollketten tried to make the article as apolitical as possible – I’d have acted differently, were I him. That however doesn’t mean I won’t ban any anti-semite I will see in the comments. Respect Vollketten’s wishes, keep politics from it.

So, I have been remiss in writing this up for several months, for which I offer no excuse except saying I’ve been busy with other writings and been trying to add more to this story. In doing so, I was very fortunate to speak with an eyewitness of the actual battle. It first came up as a part of looking at post war-footage from the Middle East, originally for the Egyptian use of British armour after the war.

Also, just because the topic involves Israel in some way, don’t think that any political viewpoint is offered here by me or wanted from you either, this is just about the tanks. Not interested in politics.

Negba [in Hebrew נגבה) is the location of a Kibbutz near Qiriat Gal in what is now South-Central Israel, founded on the 12th of July 1939 as the southernmost of several ‘protected’ settlements, known as ‘tower and stockade’ settlements.

On the 15th May, 1948, Egyptian Forces, numbering some 6,000 men with tanks and armoured vehicles, attacked through the Gaza strip with one part of the advance heading for Tel Aviv and another towards Jerusalem; this came just one day after Israel’s declaration of independence.

At this time in the history of Israel, its forces were sparsely equipped with all manner of odds-and-ends salvaged, bought, stolen and donated from a wide variety of sources. The Negba area was seen as a strategic location near the main route from northern Israel to the Negev area and only 2 kilometers or so from the old British fort at Iraq-al-Suweidan, held and strongly defended by Egyptian forces, that took it on the 12th May. The Israelis had tried to take this fort on the 12th May and again on the 18th May, but were repelled by the Egyptians. At the time of the attack by Egyptian forces, the Kibbutz was defended by some 70 or so soldiers and about 140 irregulars, armed mainly with light weapons, but also two 3” mortars and a couple of PIAT anti-tank weapons.

For a protected settlement, it was poorly located, having several small hills around it higher than it was, allowing for fire to be directed down onto it. The first attack took place around the 21st May 1948, starting with a bombing run by aircraft, leaving possibly three or more dead.

The next contact, the ‘First Battle of Negba’, took place on the evening of the 1st of June, 1948, with approximately a battalion strength attack of Egyptian forces with a heavy artillery bombardment and an assault by 7 tanks, flanked by armoured vehicles and followed by infantry. By 0700 hours, on the 2nd of June, these forces had moved up to about 100 metres from the compound, as the defenders, lacking long range weapons, were unable to stop the advance. When they got this close however, the Egyptian artillery could no longer support them and the Egyptians entered an area with mines and covered by fire from the defenders.

The lead Egyptian tank was disabled and the other vehicles started to fall back, at which point two of them struck landmines and were also damaged. Israeli forces were then seen on the flank and the Egyptian forces were forced to retreat. Casualty estimates, as you imagine, are ‘varied’ to say at least, but from the Israeli side, the count was about 100 Egyptians killed versus 8 Israelis killed and 11 wounded. The fighting continued until the 11th of June, when the defences of the Kibbutz were reconstituted, expecting a renewed Egyptian attack by regular forces.

By the 12th of July, the ‘Second battle of Negba’ took place, when a battalion sized (about 500) Egyptian force again attacked the Kibbutz at around 0600 hours against the 100 or so defenders. Beginning with a 5 hours bombardment, the Egyptians attacked again and by 1100 hour, they reached the distance within 50 meters of the Kibbutz. Unable to gain a foothold, the Egyptians retreated at dusk, leaving four ‘Bren-Gun carriers’, a single M.13/40 and a (per Israeli sources) up to 200-300 dead versus (again these are Israeli sources 5 dead and 16 wounded).

This is a photograph of the M.13.40 tank in question. Originally an Italian beast, it must have languished in Egypt since about 1943, when Italy left North Africa. The keen eye will notice the turret front is different.

The two men in the image are both Israeli defenders of the Kibbutz, the chap of the left with his shirt off is Oded, the gentleman I correspond with, who very kindly dates this image to the 12 or 13th of July 1948. Oded had gone out and cleared the mines out of the way and the defenders had then accessed this tank and removed the gun from it. The gun being described by him as a “37mm ‘2 pounder’ “. Oded also informed me that in the course of that day, he saw 20 or so light tanks, of which there were 2 Fiat M.13/40’s and 2 British Matilda’s.

From here, the M.13/40 in question was dragged into the Kibbutz and then 3 or so days later was loaded onto an army truck to be taken away. It seems the retrofitted and removed gun may have been refitted in the Kibbutz, but it too was taken away and does not seem to have survived.

Here it is inside the Kibbutz (note the building on the left of the image) and the remains of a tow rope. Also in this view you can clearly make out the modification to the front of the turret with a greater thickness of steel plate and a box type structure in which the gun was mounted.

In case you are curious, the slogan I am informed reads “מות לפולש” (mawet la-polesh) which means “Death to Intruders”

This is the only known image of the tank in question with its gun still fitted, taken some time around the 13th of May 1948 when the gun was removed and prior to its recovery for the Kibbutz.

The area today is currently part of Israel – a functional Kibbutz that still bears the scars of the battle, the most obvious place being the water tower, which – shell damaged – became a symbol of defiance against the Egyptians and of an independent Israel. There is a small museum on the site and a single M22 Locust on display (barrel not the original), which was given to the Kibbutz in about 1953 to replace the M.13, which was taken away and the location of which is still unknown.

There is footage of the period before and after the fighting here, which shows a row of ‘Bren Gun Carriers’ at 3:31 and an M.13/40 having a turret hoisted onto it at 3:46, the damaged water tower is also visible during the footage. The image is a little distorted, making things seem wider/longer than they should be, but it is interesting nonetheless.




Personal correspondance with Oded Negbi

49 thoughts on “The Last Battle of the M.13; Negba, Israel 1948

  1. Great article. I have been always fascinated by the extremely complex history of the territory and the people who lived there, and I love reading stories like this.

    (Although I must note that I’m glad you didn’t write any political stuffs SS. The more I read about Israel and her neighbouring countries the more I realize that noone is exclusively right or wrong in this story, not the Jews nor the Arabs. I think it’s fundamentally wrong to be a fan of any sides in a conflict so complex as the Arab-Israeli one. But of course, everyone is entitled to have an opinion. )

  2. “Death to the Invader” it means. They have a Locust tank, still there as a monument, says it was one of the tanks stopped there, later used by the Israeli army and returned to the place.

    • All people are victims of their rulers and interest of the world money grabbers, on both sides of every conflict.

      The amount of personal involvement in immoral acts of the government is to each person and to his conscience to decide.

      Think the other side are all holy people and little children?

    • Being a fan if Israel doesn’t necessarily mean that you also have to be a fan of a buffoon like Netanyahu or the racist, ultra conservative, ultra orthodox members of Israeli society.

    • Nenshou, you have to defend your citizens against attack, don’t you? What kind of infantile comment is this?

      • Dude, you said you were a big fan of Israel and now you try to avoid a discussion. The fact is that Israels very exsistance is disputed by a large number of nations and its recent actions have made them even less popular. You can not expect people not to react to a statement like that. Close the comments if you dont like it.

        • Sorry SS, but if you start a post with “I’m a big fan of Isreal but no replies please” you are going to get that sort of discussion… you should just have said “NO POLITICS” and left it at that…

        • Yes, I think that SS very well CAN expect people to respect his wishes on this. He said that he was a “big fan of Israel”. He didn’t write a long post explaining why he felt that way that begged a response. Honestly, I think that you were just looking for a fight. And if you cannot respect his wishes on this, rather than close the comments, he should just delete your post or ban you.

          • He was the one looking for a fight yet SS was the one who stated up front “I am a big fan of Israel” … so who exactly is looking for a fight here.

            Why not just say I realise it’s a contentious subject so can we not have “political” comments.

            To be honest this just comes across as yet another lets stoke the controversy as that gets more readers.

            • Quote
              “He was the one looking for a fight yet SS was the one who stated up front “I am a big fan of Israel” … so who exactly is looking for a fight here.”
              End Quote

              I know of the kind of people who use that logic. They where very supportive of the group who took care of some cartoonists in Paris not so long ago…

            • Sorry, but you’re wrong. A guy who goes against the wishes of the owner/blogger and starts in with some political stuff and then goes on to say in so many words, if you don’t like it shut down the comments section, is not much different from “people” who care more about their religion than other people’s freedom of speech, and will do anything …. ANYTHING … to stifle that freedom of speech. Shame on you.

          • Dude I never asked for a fight nor did I take a side, I merely stated that picking a very controversial topic and then saying do not comment it is like putting a cake in front of a child and telling it not to touch it… it aint gonna happen. So just relax and either let people say what they want or close the comments.

    • Nobody from rest of the world has the right to judge Israelis.

      Yes, some things they do might look kinda unpopular in western media, but believe it or not: those people are at war. Maybe not real, ful-scale open one, but still, they’re basically at war from 1948 till today.

      It’s all the same for Israel, Ukraine and whatever other local conflict today: People see it in the news from one angle and suddenly they know everything and feel the urge to judge and moralize. World is not black and white, there was never in the history a war where you could say “those were bad guys, those were good guys”- WW2 was damn close, but still not there.

      All wars have bad guys, heroes and innocent victims on both sides, the problem is historians tend to pick those parts fiting their point of view and hide the rest.

      That’s just the reason SS asked you to keep your political opinions for yourself…

      • everybody should have the right to think and mean whatever they want about whoever they want as long they don’t harm anyone…

        • I said Judge, not think.

          You can actually think whatever you want, but passing narrow-minded judgements is totally different thing.

          And let’s turn this thing around:

          If i go and say “Hitler was kinda nice guy afrer all, he rebuilt german economy and totally loved all those cute hitlerjugend boys” (note: i don’t actually think he was nice guy, just putting an example), would i look like

          A) Guy with opinion
          B) Nazi asshat?

          think about it…

          • Quote
            If i go and say “Hitler was kinda nice guy afrer all, he rebuilt german economy and totally loved all those cute hitlerjugend boys” (note: i don’t actually think he was nice guy, just putting an example), would i look like

            A) Guy with opinion
            B) Nazi asshat?
            End Quote

            Missing another option
            C) Ignorant

            and your comparison lacks relevance. if you turn things aroung the simplest way to do it is by replacing the object of judgement and keep the meritum the same.

            • Not really, my point was, that everything is based on how do you look at situation.

              In wartime german media Hitler was shown just the way i mentioned: Man who rebuilt economy and who really likes children. It was reality. Well, it was the slightest part of it, but it was the part that was carefully selected for propaganda purposses.

              And this trend goes on till today… There have been many civil wars in recent history and you might notice how media approach each case from diametrally different angle, not as whole, but from artificially narrowed, propagandistic point of view.

              What i was originally trying to say is: Don’t go and judge actions of country thousand miles away from you, you aren’t there, you don’t see the whole picture, you see only what your media let you see. The analogy with wartime nazi propaganda might be exagerated, but still valid.

    • After being victimised due to their Religion for thousands of years i’d expect them to know better.

      They rebel in a country, take it over and chase the inhabitants out. Now they call the people in gaza (people who lost their land) terrorists and bomb UN schools.
      Leading border conflicts ever since they took over that country. I guess some nations just have trouble voting the right politicians.

      • Please don’t get into that conversation.

        Please don’t get into that.
        Seriously, it’s in the first sentences of the post:
        “Respect Vollketten’s wishes, keep politics from it”

      • Nobody forced the Palestinians and Arabs to go to war in defiance of the 1947 Partition Plan. (which was modified 3 times since the 1920′s to actually award the arabs more land)
        They lost.
        Nobody forced Nasser to blockade the Straits of Tiran in 1967 for shipping bound to Israel (an absolute act of war in accordance to international law) which actually invalidates the claim that Israel was the aggressor in 1967), plus all the threats to eradicate Israel, forced Israel to go to war. Jordan Syria, & Lebanon were all warned to stay out of the conflict (this is a historical FACT), yet they all decided to open fire to assist Egypt (whom were being slaughtered) forcing Israel to engage. I suppose that we are to blame that we won right?

  3. I wonder why the egyptians did not simply by-pass that kibutz instead of attacking it over and over again? It is not like those villages cover a great area. I would have simply ignored it after the first failed attack and continued the push.

    Then again, i am an armchair general and the man leading the troops was a real commander. Thus i wonder, why?

      • A kibbutz is not much of a base and 200 barely armed ppl walled up are not much of a fighting force that could cause any trouble behind the lines. This was just after WW2 and some lessons could have been learned from it. Bypass isolated strongpoints and keep the push moving. Shell the strongpoint with mortars untill they give up. Throwing soldiers on fortified positions to be moved down by machineguns was passé with the end of WW1.

      • I think the explanation lies in “Negba area was seen as a strategic location”.

        It wouldn’t be the first time in history of armed conflicts that a small hill, patch of land or settlement was seen as a “strategic location” when after grueling battles and countless lives lost it would become clear it wasn’t.

        • Sometimes a small hill can make a large influence. Picture yourself a relatively flat ground, open view for miles around without significant cover from a rare hill, and you got a strategic location. All they do in wars is fight from hill to hill :-P Something like that.

        • Quote
          “google ”why Arabs lose wars”
          End quote

          Because they mostly fight each other thus most of them has at least one arab side loosing? :-)

    • There were a few instances like this in the last 100 years.
      A guy called Adolf Hitler who decided to commit his forces to an industrial town called Stalingrad, rather then push hard to the oil fields of the Caucases.

      Personally, I cannot believe that Israel survived the early stages of our Independence War. Considering the weapons we had vs. what the Egyptians/Syrians/Jordanians/Iraqi’s/Saudi’s/Libyan/Lebanese fielded against us.
      The Israeli Air Force consisted of Piper Cubs and a British version called Auster Autocort. Which were opposed by Egyptian Spitfires. (until the Israeli’s managed to purchase Czech versions of the BF-109 Messerschmit engined with Junkers 111 engines. Called Mezek by their Czech creators (mule)

      Israel had no tanks. Until they managed to beg borrow steal some Micro Mauses. (PZ38H.) And some sympathetic Scotsman made some Cromwells vanish from Brit hands into the Hagana’s hands.

      Yet, I am writing this from my home 10 km north of Tel Aviv. This is a symbol of defiance to all those who wish that my country would not exsist.
      My Grandfather who fought in WW2, then in the 1948 war, the 1956 war, and the 1967 war.
      My Father, who fought in the 1967 war, the 1969 war, the 1973 war.
      My Brother, who fought in Lebanon and in the 1987 intifada.
      And Myself, I have fought in Lebanon, and in Gaza, & Judea & Sameria, and am still ready at a moments notice to be called upon to defend my country and people against those who wish to destroy us.

      Hello From Eretz Yisrael!!!!!

  4. ”Being a fan of israeli” And also not an ordinary one: Big Fan LOL. Just beacuse this means you like their government, i would totally stop following this blog just because of this. You can like the people of israeli but liking their government… they are maybe the most deserving ones of the word ‘terrorist’ in the world. Just ”doublefacepalm”

    • Just lock down the comments, SS
      No one on the internet is able to have a conversation about Isreal.

      PS: Who violated every single cease-fire agreement in that part of the world, ever?
      Hint: not once was it Isreal.
      Food for thought.

    • If someone says he is a fan of US, does it automatically means he approves waterboarding or supports NSA? I guess not. Being a fan of something has quite a broad meaning, from blind adoration to liking common folks it that country with no regard to their politic representation.

      But feel free to leave, no one would ever force you to stay. But I guess you would have quite hard time to find an information source whose author would have exactly the same points of view as you.

      PS: I’m a fan of Albania. I simply like the people there, their hospitality, way of life, nature…. But still, I don’t approve Albanian mafia or political corruption.

      • Media is not needed to see what is happening, for me at least. For me looking out of window is enough. Seeing people beeing killed just for they are living in their home is PRİCELESS you know. And you people are free to go on watching, reading seeing whatever you want with your so called ”’FREE”’ media or let me say ” FREE” life. I dont want to blame any of you because i can imagine how desperate to live in a limitless world which is actually a small box full of desires

  5. When defenders estimate 200-300 casaulties… Would an educated guesstimate be around 20-30 dead and 40-60 wounded? surely no battallion would get over half their troops killed in a modern warfare action? or did they charge with bayonets like ww1?

    • Well, if people start retreating you will shoot in their backs with the idea that otherwise they might come back and fight, also I assume they found their 150/200 bodies and assumes also something like that amount was killed but taken back.

  6. While I’ll personally respect Vollketten’s wishes and keep my mouth zipped on politics, it’s extremely hypocritical to say “I am a big fan of Israel. Vollketten tried to make the article as apolitical as possible – I’d have acted differently, were I him.” while at the same time asking people to stay apolitical in their comments. If you want people to respect someone’s wishes, you might want to start on your own end.

  7. If you aren’t interested in politics, you are a moron. This history effects YOU and understanding it necessary for the solution of our current problems. Wealthy Zionist bankers created Israel after they won WW2 and pushed the people off their land. Anti-antisemitism happened for a reason, because of the mentality of “gods chosen people” and that everyone else is basically cattle. You can see it by how Israel drops bombs on the UN shelters designated for children during their bombing campaigns. The many media outlets were owned and influenced by pro-zionists spread the ant-nazi propaganda. US gives over 10 million per day to Israel in foreign and they receive more foreign aid than all thecountires in the world combined. The US is their lapdog the politicians are in the pockets of the bankers(zionist rothchilds). Those not in support of Zionist policies have to run against the best smear campaigns money can buy to elect their pro-israel opponents. US military personnel are hardly more than conquering mercenaries and deserve to be spit upon. All this conflict in the middle east has been created by Israel as a destabilizing factor and excuse for war. ISIS = Israel. Wake up, you appallingly ignorant sheeple.