Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Few incidents illustrate the sadness of war as much as a family losing two young sons, in a foreign country thousands of miles from home, within weeks of each other.

The pair of Memorial "Death" plaques.
(Awarded to next-of-kin of casualties by the Union Defence Force)

29/8/1920 - 28/7/1944 (Age 23)

He attested with the Kimberley Regiment in 1940.
Was killed in action 28/7/1944 whilst serving with the combined Imperial Light Horse & Kimberley Regiments attached to the 6th South African Armoured Division and General Mark Clark's U.S. 5th Army.

The summer of July 1944 saw the allies final push for Florence.
Marais was K.I.A. during the assault on San Caciano, north-west of Mercatale, whilst driving the enemy back across the Greve River.

The dreaded "Killed in Action" entry on his medal index card

Scroll details on his Memorial plaque.

F.M.J. MARAIS lies buried in the Florence War Cemetery.
The site for the war cemetery was selected in November 1944 for burials from the hospitals established in and around Florence but the greater part of those buried here lost their lives in the fighting in this area from July to September 1944.
Florence War Cemetery now contains 1,632 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War.

His medal group awarded to him posthumously.

1939/45 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal,
1939/45 War Medal & silver Africa Service Medal.
(All six medals named to: 20488 F.M.J. MARAIS)

Naming on the reverse of the Campaign Stars.

Two weeks prior to F.M.J. Marais's demise his younger brother P.J. Marais was killed in a "battle accident" on 12 July 1944.

8/11/1924 - 12/7/1944 (Age 19)

His medal card bears an entry which shows his age as 16 when he attested with the Regiment De La Rey. In 1942 he was transferred Kimberley Regiment thereafter in 1943 to the Cape Town Highlanders.
At the time of his death he was, like his older brother, attached to the 6th S.A.A.D - 
P.J. MARAIS was wearing the insignia of the combined First City & Cape Town Highlanders Regiments.


Scroll details on his Memorial plaque.

Most of the burials in the cemetery date from the first two weeks of July 1944. Foiano della Chiana War Cemetery contains 256 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War.

His medal group awarded to him posthumously.

1939/45 Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal,
1939/45 War Medal & silver Africa Service Medal.
(All five medals named to: 152604 P.J. MARAIS)

Naming on the reverse of the Campaign Stars.

The two sons of Mr. & Mrs W.M. Marais of Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Lay buried in the soil of ITALY.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


28/2/1890 - 3/3/1945

(Bevelled mahogany base measures 10,7cm x 14cm)

Awarded to the next-of-kin of casualties of war.

The Star of David superimposed over a wreath and four torches as well as the coat-of-arms of South Africa in the centre. Details of the deceased impressed on the scroll below the star.

The more regular death plaque in honour of the non-Jewish casualties bears a cross pattee, four torches and the coat-of-arms in the centre roundel surrounded by a wreath. Details of the deceased on the scroll below the cross.

(Bevelled mahogany base measures 10,5cm x 13,5cm) 

These awards of honour, also known as Memorial plaques, were officially issued by the Union Defence Force and given to the next-of-kin, usually with the accompanying medals and a parcel of personal effects & clothing.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


(MBE awarded for Courage)

Built in 1892 to accommodate the pampered travellers arriving aboard the Orient Express.
Agatha Christie was in fact one of the hotel's most ardent visitors - The "Agatha Christie Room", number 411, is now preserved in her honor. It is rumoured that she wrote Murder on the Orient Express here.

Many other State leaders and well known personalities stayed at the Pera Palace, they include: Greta Garbo, Mata Hari, Yehudi Menuhin, Jacqueline Kennedy, Rita Hayworth, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ernest Hemmingway, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Emperor Franz Josef, King Ferdinand, King Edward VIII, King George V and many more.

Whom did Greta Garbo entertain in room 103, or Mata Hari in 104, or Sarah Bernhardt in 304? What plots did Trotsky hatch in 204, or the Shah of Iran in 202? Was it all work for Ernest Hemingway in 218, and all play for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 308?

On the morning of 11 March 1941, the hotel lived through its most shattering moments when a tremendous explosion shook the hotel lobby, evidently from a bomb planted in a suitcase by pro-Nazi saboteurs.
''People ran from their rooms shouting that the Germans had come,'' one historian later wrote. ''The whole neighborhood shook and windows were broken in all directions. The first floor of the hotel was in shambles, with furniture blown across the lobby. The elevator collapsed, its cable cut. Six people were dead and another 25 had been injured."
Two women attached to the British Diplomatic staff were included in the loss of life:
The other four unfortunate casualties were Turks, instantly killed, which included two porters. Armstrong was the British Legation Stenographer and Ellis was Minister George Rendel's Private Secretary.

"ISTANBUL, Turkey, March 12 -- Last night's bomb explosion in the British-occupied Pera Palace Hotel, just after the arrival of the British diplomatic mission from Sofia, has caused extraordinary indignation in Istanbul."

"BLAST IN ISTANBUL LAID TO TERRORISTS; Bombing of British Diplomats Said to Be Work of Gestapo and Bulgarian Assassins SECOND EXPLOSION FOILED - Englishman Hurls Bag With Infernal Machine Inside From Hotel Window. "

One of the central figures to this explosive incident, the "Englishman", was a 36 old Legation clerk to the Air Attache, Mr. Stanley Embury.

b.28/10/1905 in London, U.K.
From a passport issued to him in February 1943 in Teheran.

Embury's MBE & King George VI General Service Medal with clasp for PALESTINE 1945-48

Naming on the KGVI General Service Medal

Letter from the AIR MINISTRY signed by Sir Arthur Street, wherein he informs Embury of his MBE award.(See transcript below the pic).
23rd July, 1941
Sir, I am commanded by the Air Council to inform
you that His majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve your appointment to be a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (Civil Division) for the courage and initiative which you displayed on 11th March last on the occasion of the arrival at Istanbul of the British Legation Party from Sofia, when a suitcase containing bombs was discovered among their luggage...........
............London Gazette 25th July........."

George Rendel, former British Minister in Sofia:
"The bomb was contained in one of two suitcases which were surreptitiously added to the hand luggage of the British Legation Party before it left Sofia.
As a result of a careful enquiry the following facts have been established. The stage at which these cases were added to the luggage is not yet clearly established, but it seems probable that they were brought to the legation and treated as belonging to some member of the party.
Mr, S.A. Embury and Mr. D. de Bethal, clerks to the Air Attache and Military Attache respectively, took charge of the suitcases but, having been unable to find any owners for them after a change of carriages at the frontier station at Svilengrad, they opened, they appeared to contain dirty clothing, shaving materials, old Turkish newspapers (which may been intended to throw suspicion on some Turkish national), and in one case one and in the other case two electric dry batteries.
The case which contained two batteries was taken to the Pera Palace by Mr. de Bethal. That which contained one was taken to the Alp Hotel by Mr. Embury. Mr Embury was on his way to the Pera Palace Hotel to see Mr. de Bethal when he heard the explosion. On seeing the results of the explosion it occurred to him that what had appeared to be dry batteries in the suitcase might in fact be bombs of enemy origin. With the utmost presence of mind, he hurried back to his hotel, opened the suitcase containing the single battery and threw the battery into a pit in some open ground nearby thus probably averting a second disaster.
The Turkish police were immediately informed. They retrieved the battery and removed what turned out to be a fuse. It was in fact a bomb filled with a powerful charge of TNT. Therefore it is clear that powerful bombs had been added to the luggage of the legation party by some hostile agent before the party left Sofia.
It appears probable that the intention was that they should explode in the train, which would have been wrecked with great loss of life. The escape of the majority of the members of the party is providential and the greatest credit is due to Mr. Embury for his courageous action and presence of mind."


Numerous letters/documents in the EMBURY collection including certificate of award for the MBE (signed by Queen Mary), invitation to the Investure at Buckingham Palace, letters dated August 1946 confirming that the MBE has been sent to him as well as a Buckingham Palace letter from the King (printed) regretting the fact that he was unable to give Embury the award personally.

In 1942 the Turkish Government issued summons against the British Legation members for damage of property. The British response was to recommend to the individuals to not defend the action. Motivated by technical reason of the fact that the summons was served on them through His Majesty's Consul at Mersin instead of by way of publication.
The real reasons are reflected in the subsequent letter to Mr. Embury.

On 5 June, 1942 Mr. Embury, then with the British Legation in Teheran, received a letter from the British Embassy in Angora (Turkey).
In response to a summons sent by the Turkish Government to Mr. Embury, and other defendants, in connection with the bomb explosion, Mr. Anthony Eden's Foreign Office advises:
"For reasons given below. it seems undesirable that action should be defended."......
"A court hearing would involve giving evidence/calling witnesses before court in Turkey and great opportunities for publicity and propoganda whilst legal contest was in progress.".......
"An unsuccessful defence would involve worst political consequences and probability that Turkish judgment could be enforced against defendants in England.".......
"His Majesty's Government's declared attitude with regard to this matter, that is, that responsibility rested with Bulgarian Government, to whom claims for compensation be addressed." ......
More suggestions in the letter that an undefended summons would not be enforceable in England and therefore could not be executed unless the defendants possessed property in Turkey and/or in future decide to travel to Turkey without the privilege of Diplomatic immunity.
(Original letter below)

After the war and right through to the late 1960's Mr Embury received correspondence from the British Foreign Office in London keeping him informed and advising him not to travel to Turkey.

In a letter from the British Embassy in Ankara, dated 4th September 1948:
"In the circumstances, it would be most unwise for you to visit Turkey as you would almost certainly become involved in the interminable court proceedings and you would be unlikely to be allowed to leave the country until they are over."
(Original letter below)

 On 8 March 1967 he was advised in a letter from the Foreign Office:
"I am writing to let you that some time ago Mr. Kiciman, a member of the Turkish Embassy in London, conveyed to us a request from the court of First Instance in Istanbul for your present address and occupation. Mr. Kiciman explained that the Court wanted this information in order to inform you about a lawsuit for damages which had apparently been instituted against yourself and four other persons (Sir G. Rendel, Mr. T.V. Brenan, Mr. Stanley Harrison and Mr. David de Bettel), whose addresses and occupations were also required by the court for the same purpose......."
"After consulting our legal advisors, we indormed Mr. Kiciman orally that you and the other persons concerned had all retired and we had no knowledge of your present whereabouts......"
Despite this reassurung information, you may think it prudent not to visit Turkey for the time being."
This was in 1967 !
(Original letter below)

In 1943, after having been removed from TurkeyStanley Embury took up position in Palestine.

In a letter from DEPUTY CHIEF OF THE SOVIET TRANSPORTATION DIRECTORATE, Tehran, Iran, 30 December, 1943:
New year wishes for 1944
"....hope that in 1944 we shall have just the same close contact in the great work which is being carried on here by the British, Russian and American Armies...."
"...May the coming year bring the complete victory of the Allies over our mutual enemy !"
(Original letter below)

On February 4, 1946 Stanley Embury received this letter from the Embassy of the U.S.S.R. informing him that he was awarded the Soviet medal for Labour Valour:
"....and are happy to inform you that the Medal for Labour Valour has been conferred upon you by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R...."
(Original letter below)

On July 8, 1947 a letter from GOVERNMENT HOUSE, JERUSALEM i.r.o. of the Soviet Honour:
".....which has been awarded to Mr. Stanley Embury, Divisional  Food Controller, for his services in the transportation of supplies to the Soviet Union through Persia during the war...."
(Original letter below)

Mr. Embury MBE
Mr. Stanley Embury M.B.E., from a passport issued to him in Beirut in 1948.
His profession is now a Farmer, not a Government Official any longer.

Stanley Embury M.B.E. eventually settled in Cape Town, South Africa.
A picture taken possibly 1960's.

The last correspondence I have of him dates from 1979 (he was 74 years old).
I don't have the exact date of his passing.