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Israeli ambassador pays tribute at memorial service to Norfolk soldier

PUBLISHED: 12:05 02 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:05 02 July 2019

Israeli ambassador to the UK Mark Regev (centre) was among those to pay tribute to Norfolk soldier Tom Bowden. Picture: Stan Kaye

Israeli ambassador to the UK Mark Regev (centre) was among those to pay tribute to Norfolk soldier Tom Bowden. Picture: Stan Kaye

Stan Kaye

The Israeli ambassador and Lord Dannatt, former head of the British Army, were among those who paid tribute at a memorial service to a Norfolk soldier who fought for Israel after witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust.

A memorial service for former soldier Tom Bowden was held at St Andrew’s Church in South Lopham. Picture: Stan KayeA memorial service for former soldier Tom Bowden was held at St Andrew’s Church in South Lopham. Picture: Stan Kaye

Tom Derek Bowden, from South Lopham, near Diss, who died aged 97, was captured by the Nazis as a young British soldier in 1944 after parachuting into Arnhem. After letters from his Jewish girlfriend were discovered he was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Though he was not Jewish himself, his experiences of handling corpses led to him to enlist under the name David Appel as one of 5,000 foreigners who volunteered to fight with the Machal for the nascent State of Israel in the 1948 War of Independence.

The Israeli ambassador and Lord Dannatt, former head of the British Army, were among mourners at the burial of Tom Bowden at Diss Cemetery. Picture: Stan KayeThe Israeli ambassador and Lord Dannatt, former head of the British Army, were among mourners at the burial of Tom Bowden at Diss Cemetery. Picture: Stan Kaye

He fought with Israeli Army's 7th Brigade and then in 1949, after the armistice, was asked by the founder of the Israel Defence Forces to start a parachute school.

A memorial service in his honour at St Andrew's Church in South Lopham on Monday, July 1 was attended by Israeli ambassador to the UK Mark Regev who marked his contribution to the country's history by laying a wreath.

British military veterans adn standard bearers pay respects to Norfolk soldier Tom Bowden at Diss Cemetery. Picture: Stan KayeBritish military veterans adn standard bearers pay respects to Norfolk soldier Tom Bowden at Diss Cemetery. Picture: Stan Kaye

He said: "He bravely fought to defeat the Nazis and ensure the rebirth of the Jewish state. Israel will always cherish his memory."

Lord Richard Dannatt was among British military veterans, standard bearers and representatives from the Parachute Regiment also attended the service and his burial at Diss Cemetery.

Israeli ambassador to the UK Mark Regev lays a wreath at Diss Cemetery paying respects to Tom Bowden. Picture: Stan KayeIsraeli ambassador to the UK Mark Regev lays a wreath at Diss Cemetery paying respects to Tom Bowden. Picture: Stan Kaye

Mr Bowden's connection to Israel began during the Second World War when he fought in ferocious battles in British Mandate Palestine. In 1941 he was wounded in a cavalry charge in Syria alongside Moshe Dayan, later Israel's Defence Minister, who lost his eye in the battle.

He met his wife Eva in Israel but came back to England in 1955 becoming first a farmer and smallholder at South Lopham before later working in insurance.

Mr Bowden married five times to four wives and was father to children David, Robert, Judith, Kenneth and Anthony, as well as having five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

He had been married to Irene Bowden since 2004. She said: "It was a beautiful family service. All the family were there as well as the ambassador and Lord Dannett.

Israeli ambassador to the UK Mark Regev at Diss Cemetery paying respects to Tom Bowden. Picture: Stan KayeIsraeli ambassador to the UK Mark Regev at Diss Cemetery paying respects to Tom Bowden. Picture: Stan Kaye

"At the cemetery the last post was played and there was a fly past by a plane that used to be his.

"The ambassador said he was there to honour Tom and they laid poppy wreaths. I think it was a mark of respect with which they held Tom in."

Tribute to Norfolk soldier Tom Bowden on wreath laid by Israeli ambassador at Diss Cemetery. Picture: Stan KayeTribute to Norfolk soldier Tom Bowden on wreath laid by Israeli ambassador at Diss Cemetery. Picture: Stan Kaye

Israeli ambassador to the UK Mark Regev speaks to Irene Bowden at Diss Cemetery. Picture: Stan KayeIsraeli ambassador to the UK Mark Regev speaks to Irene Bowden at Diss Cemetery. Picture: Stan Kaye

Widow Irene Bowden and the family of Norfolk solider Tom Bowden at Diss Cemetery. Picture: Stan KayeWidow Irene Bowden and the family of Norfolk solider Tom Bowden at Diss Cemetery. Picture: Stan Kaye

The burial of Norfolk soldier Tom Bowden at Diss Cemetery saw a fly-past by a plane he used to own and fly. Picture: Stan KayeThe burial of Norfolk soldier Tom Bowden at Diss Cemetery saw a fly-past by a plane he used to own and fly. Picture: Stan Kaye

Lord Dannatt (third right) with British military veterans at funeral of Norfolk soldier Tom Bowden at Diss Cemetery. Picture: Stan KayeLord Dannatt (third right) with British military veterans at funeral of Norfolk soldier Tom Bowden at Diss Cemetery. Picture: Stan Kaye

Tom Bowden's wife Eva, who he met in Israel before coming back to Norfolk in 1955, is also buried in Diss Cemetery. Picture: Stan KayeTom Bowden's wife Eva, who he met in Israel before coming back to Norfolk in 1955, is also buried in Diss Cemetery. Picture: Stan Kaye

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