Malcolm Hay Papers relating to Orde Wingate

Scope and Content

Research papers collected by Malcolm Hay for what appears to have been a projected study of Orde Wingate's military service in Mandate Palestine. Hay began his research on this topic around the time of the publication of The Foot of Pride in 1950, his study of the Jews in Europe. Like Wingate, Hay was a supporter of Zionism. Although he later married Wingate's mother-in-law, Alice Paterson, it is not known if he was acquainted with the Wingate family at the time of this research.

The surviving papers mainly relate to a trip Hay undertook to Israel in early 1950 to collect information and interview former members of the Special Night Squads as well as Haganah and Jewish Agency officials about Wingate, the Squads and the political and military context in which they operated.

Hay did not interview any British military or civilian personnel or Arab participants, and it appears that he did not undertake any further work on the project after his return to Britain after April 1950.

The papers include cuttings and transcripts of Jewish newspaper articles relating to Wingate and the Squads, mostly written by former participants and published in Ha'aretz. There are also records of interviews with, amongst others, with senior Israeli politicians and soldiers including Moshe Sharett, Reuven Shiloah, Yigal Yadin, Avraham Akavia, Dov Jirmiyahu, Nahum Shadmi and Yitzhak Sadeh. These provide varying perspectives on the SNS and the involvement of Jewish volunteers, including training, operational methods, and specific operations (particularly attacks on the pipeline, the Hanita and Ein Harod settlements and the SNS response to the Tiberias massacre. The interviewees also provide insightful comment on Wingate himself as well as the attitudes of other British civil and military officials.

The documents in the collection appear to be translations and transcriptions of Hebrew publications and interviews, and it is assumed that Hay used a translator for this. Some of the names of individuals and places appear to be inaccurate or use variant spellings to current usage. Wherever possible, an attempt has been made to identify individuals and place accurately.

Administrative / Biographical History

Malcolm Vivian Hay was born into a Scottish gentry family in 1881. He was titular head of the Seaton estate, Aberdeenshire, and conventionally known as Hay of Seaton.

A career soldier, Hay fought in the First World War at the battle of Mons (1914), where he was wounded and captured by the enemy. He was later repatriated to the UK to recuperate. He then joined the War Office's cryptology department (MI1(b)).

In later life, he became a writer. Hay wrote historical studies of Scotland and the Catholic Church. He also wrote a study of the Jews in Europe, The Foot of Pride: the Pressure of Christendom on the People of Israel for 1900 Years (Boston: Beacon Press, 1950) and finally in 1981 as The Roots of Christian Anti-Semitism. Hay was supporter of Zionism.

He married firstly Florence de Thiene, who died in 1943, and they had five children. In 1956 he married Alice Ivy Paterson née Wigmore (she was Orde Wingate's mother-in-law). He died in 1962.

Orde Charles Wingate (1903-1944) was one of the most controversial British soldiers of the twentieth century. He was best known for his advocacy of unconventional guerrilla-style warfare. During the Second World War, he set up the Chindits, which fought behind enemy lines during the Burma campaign. Wingate devised new methods of infiltrating and supplying these troops, who undertook sabotage and delaying actions against Japanese forces. Wingate was killed in an air crash in the early stages of the second Chindit campaign, Operation Thursday, in March 1944. The success of the Chindit missions remains a matter of disagreement amongst military historians.

Earlier in his career, Wingate had taken a similarly innovative approach to counter-insurgency warfare while serving in Mandatory Palestine. The British had administered Palestine under a League of Nations mandate from 1922, and the British civil administration was supported by the British Army. One of the major issues for the authorities was maintaining civil order in the face of growing antagonism between the territory's Arab and Jewish populations. From 1936 to 1939, there was a major revolt by the Palestinian Arabs against British rule, which involved strikes and military action. Economic targets such as the Iraq Petroleum Company's pipeline in northern Palestine were sabotaged, and Jewish settlements attacked. The British initially deployed conventional military methods to stop this, including large-scale sweep and search operations, with limited success.

Wingate, who had been serving as an intelligence officer in Palestine since 1936, wanted a more radical approach. He proposed the creation of small units, which would launch counter-insurgency operations against Arab guerillas under the cover of darkness. Controversially, Wingate wanted to enlist Jewish settlement police into these Special Night Squads (Wingate was opposed to including the main Palestine Police, who he considered to be pro-Arab). Wingate was motivated in this enterprise by his passionate Zionism as well as his liking for military novelty, and he made little effort to disguise his sympathies. As a result, he was prepared to incorporate members of the main Jewish militia, Haganah, in the Squads, which he was not authorised to do.

The SNS went into action in 1938, and soon enjoyed considerable success in ambushing Arab guerillas. Wingate believed that his highly mobile units, operating under the cover of darkness, would outmanoeuvre the enemy by their surprise attacks. He also lead great emphasis on training, and his methods later became influential in the military training of Haganah and other Jewish militias.

By the time, Wingate left Palestine on leave in October 1938, the SNS had largely pacified troubled areas of northern Palestine. However, British officials had become increasingly concerned about Wingate's overtly pro-Zionist sympathies and about allegations of excessive force used by the SNS. By 1939, the British had switched back to more conventional pacification measures. This was against the background of the MacDonald White Paper on Palestine issued in May 1939, which took a much less sympathetic view of Jewish settlement and the ultimate establishment of a Jewish state in a partitioned Palestine.

Although the Special Night Squads operated for a relatively short period, they were influential in the military thinking of the Haganah and later the Israel Defense Force about counter-insurgent warfare. Several senior IDF officers received their original training in the Squads, and Wingate was held in high personal regard by Jewish political and militia groups with whom he dealt.


As the archive contains relatively few documents, it has not been arranged into series. Arranged chronologically where dating is discernible. Note with newspaper publications, it is likely that the copies and translations were made several years after original publication.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 2018. Under the Act 2018 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for archiving and research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may contain personal data about living individuals. Some items in this collection may be closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA. Restrictions/closures of specific items will be indicated in the catalogue.

Acquisition Information

Hay's papers were donated to the Library by his widow, Alice Hay, in the 1970s.

Other Finding Aids


Archivist's Note

I am grateful to Dr Stefania Silvestri, University of Manchester, who assisted in translating some Hebrew documents.

Separated Material

Other papers of Malcolm Hay are held by University of Aberdeen Special Collections (MS 2193; MS 2272; and MS 2788) ; these do include some additional papers relating to Wingate and Mandatory Palestine. Alice Hay's papers also held at Aberdeen Special Collections include material on Orde Wingate (Ms3079).

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.


None expected.

Related Material

Wingate's uncatalogued papers are held at the Imperial War Museum, Department of Documents.

The library holds further collections relating to Wingate, mainly concerning the Chindits:

Papers of Rex King-Clark, one of Wingate's lieutenants in the SNS, are held by Tameside Archives. Public records relating to Mandatory Palestine can be found in Foreign Office, Colonial Office (esp. CO 733) and War Office (WO 191) records held by the National Archives, Kew.


Alice Ivy Hay , Valiant for Truth: Malcolm Hay of Seaton (London: Spearman, 1971).

There is a great deal of literature on British military policy in Palestine and the Special Night Squads. Recent publications include: Matthew Hughes "Terror in Galilee: British-Jewish Collaboration and the Special Night Squads in Palestine during the Arab Revolt, 1938–39", The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 43:4, (2015) 590-610, DOI: 10.1080/03086534.2015.1083220.

Simon Anglim "Orde Wingate and the Special Night Squads: A Feasible Policy for Counter-terrorism?", Contemporary Security Policy 28:1 (2007) 28-41, DOI: 10.1080/13523260701240260

Preston Jordan Lim, "The Prickly Thorn: A Re-evaluation of Orde Wingate and the Special Night Squads," Small Wars and Insurgencies 29:1, (2018) pages 91-111 .DOI: 10.1080/09592318.2018.1403749