Lieutenant Petr Mayer

* 1919  

  • „The mobilization of Czechoslovak nationals in Palestine was announced on March 17, 1942. Of course I immediately reported at the Czechoslovak consulate general in Jerusalem. In the recruitment office they accepted me as “capable of military service”. I started my military service on July 5 as a member of the 200th light anti-aircraft regiment – East. After a short training my unit was entrusted with the anti-aircraft defense of Haifa and later with the defense of an important oil pipeline. I was injured in a car accident that happened near Jericho.After my recovery, I was on an assignment from February 1943 till the end of June of the same year at the defense of the airport Air Aden, to the north of the port Tobruk.”

  • „The critical situation ensued on November 25, 1940, when the ship at 9:15 suddenly started to sway. At first we thought it was an air raid alarm or a torpedo or something of the like because there were policemen running around. The ship was sinking and they were shouting: “Go in! Go in!” Then they shouted: “Go out! Go out!” And yet I asked them in English, when the ship was already sinking, whether I should really climb down the side of the ship and save myself in the sea. They shouted: “Yes! Go in!!!” I was brought up in a very decent way so I always asked for everything. I was overly decent, in Czech it’s called stupid.”

  • „On July 5, 1943 me and other 1125 soldiers boarded a ship called Mauretania in the Suez Canal and after a cruise around all of Africa and a three day leave in Cape Town, we arrived in the English town Liverpool on August 11. In England there was a parade and afterwards the regiment was dissolved by president Beneš and the soldiers were reassigned to various units of the Czechoslovak armed brigade, which after the allied invasion in Normandy in July 1944 – together with other allied troops – besieged the 12 000 German troops that were cut of from the retreating German armies in the port of Dunkerque.”

  • „On board of the ship Milos we sailed all the way to the shores of Palestine. A British patrol boat – the coastal guard – navigated us to Haifa on November 11, 1940, where an intelligence officer, Major Petr Hájíček, promised us that our group would be quickly granted admission into the country. There were rumors spreading among passengers that we would be deported to Australia. So a couple of chaps fled from the ship at night. Then we were told that the British high commissioner McMikel has ordered that we would be deported to the island of Mauricius in the Indian Ocean. We protested against it.”

  • „In the detention camp we were treated very well. They gave us clothing, laundry, caps, boots – because we didn’t have anything. On March 7 we celebrated the anniversary of President Masaryk’s birth. There was quite a lot of fun in the camp. We played soccer. But most of the time was spent on the investigation of the sinking of the Patria. They found out that it was an act of sabotage with the aim of preventing the transfer of the passengers to Mauricius. The perpetrators wanted us to stay in Palestine.”

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    Praha, 14.10.2008

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I stayed in my pajama trousers and a light overcoat. verything else stayed buried in the wreck of the Patria

Petr Mayer
Petr Mayer
photo: Pamět národa - Archiv

Petr Mayer was born on June 1, 1919 in Olomouc. He spent his childhood in Mikulov, where he attended a Czech municipal school. He later transferred to a German grammar school and later on to a Czech grammar school in Břeclav. He started to study at a higher school of agricultural studies but was expelled for racial reasons. In September 1940 he illegally emigrated to Palestine. He was on board of the sunken ship Patria. Approximately 260 people perished on the Patria. According to international law, the English were then obliged to grant the surviving passengers of the Patria an asylum. The passengers were transported to the detention camp Atlith. Mr. Mayer stayed in the camp for ten months and afterwards worked as a liftboy in a hotel. On March 17, 1942, there was a call for the mobilization of Czechoslovak nationals in Palestine. Mr. Meyer enrolled in the Czechoslovak 200th light anti-aircraft regiment - East. His unit was commissioned with the anti-aircraft defense of Haifa and subsequently with the protection of an important oil pipeline. In February to June 1943 they defended the airport Air Aden which was located north of the port Tobruk. Afterwards the unit was transferred to England and participated in the siege of Dunkerque. Mr. Meyer returned to Czechoslovakia with Patton’s army. Most of his relatives perished in concentration camps. After the war he worked in ČTK, Telepres, in the pedagogic publishing house and in Chemoprojekt. He wrote his memoirs called „From the Protectorate to the liberated fatherland” and „The diary of a fugitive”.