Date: 3 May 1948
Rex Farran was killed by a bomb hidden in a book that had been sent to his address which was intended for his brother who was an ex-army captain who had been acquitted of the murder of a Palestinian youth in the Middle East.
Rex Farran's brother had been targetted by Jewish terrorists because he had previously been acquitted of the murder of Alexander Rubowitz in Palestine. Alexander Rubowitz, a 16-year-old youth, had disappeared in Palestine the year before and Thursday 6 May was the first anniversary of his disappearance.
Alexander Rubowitz had been out putting up posters for the Lehi group celebrating 'Fighters for the Freedom of Israel', which was opposed to the British occupation of Palestine, and it was said that he had been caught by Rex Farran's brother, who was a former member of the SAS and had served in the second World War. It was claimed that he had taken Alexander Rubowitz to a remote location and beaten him in order to extract information from him and then murdered by Rex Farran's brother with a rock. Alexander Rubowitz was then said to have been disposed of by an Arab. A hat that was said to have belonged to Rex Farran's brother was found near to where Alexander Rubowitz had been putting up posters and where he was seen being pushed into a car. Rex Farran's brother claimed that he was being framed and fled to Syria, but he was later persuaded to return voluntarily in the belief that he would not be arrested. However, when he was arrested, he escaped and fled to Jordan. However, he again returned after hearing that reprisals were being planned for other British officers. He was then brought to trial at a British military court in Jerusalem where it was heard that he had confessed his guilt to his colonel. However, the colonel refused to testify in case he incriminated himself. However, notes were produced that Rex Farran's brother had made whilst in custody before he had escaped, but they were judged to be preparation for his defence and classed as inadmissible under lawyer-client privilege. At his trial the prosecution failed to prove that the hat had belonged to Rex Farran's brother or to even prove that Alexander Rubowitz was dead and Rex Farran's brother was acquitted.
It was later reported in several contemporary articles that the bomb was made and posted by a Lehi operative living in London who was alive as of 2020, and who is, as of 2020, an Israeli lawyer and right-wing activist. In interview, he claimed to have received explosives, batteries and a radio from Lehi activists in the United States, whilst he was living in the United Kingdom, and to have put the bomb together in the book and posted it to Rex Farran's brother under orders. The man had run a technical department for Lehi, specialising in making bombs in Israel, using a paint factory as a cover and was ordered to go to England in 1947 to set up a Lehi cell there and to murder Ernest Bevin, the British Foreign Secretary, Evelyn Barker, a former commander of British troops in Palestine and Rex Farran's brother. It was said that the order to kill Ernest Bevin was rescinded, however, he was said to have sent a bomb to Evelyn Barker but it was spotted by his wife who thought it suspicious and it was destroyed safely. The man later left the United Kingdom and went France and then on to Israel where he fought in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
At the time, 1948, the police said that they thought that the Lehi, also known as the Stern Gang, were behind the attack and the police said that they re-examined a dossier that had recently been compiled by Scotland Yard of suspected 'agents' of the Lehi. The police said that they were also looking at the Jewish terrorist methods from a letter bomb that had reach London the year before.
The bomb that killed Rex Farran had been concealed in a hollowed out omnibus volume of Shakespeare's plays and was delivered by the postwoman. The postwoman said 'I didn't notice it in any way specially, no doubt I would have done had it borne foreign stamps. It was neatly wrapped in brown paper and nine inches long, six inches wide and three inches deep. The address was typewritten. It had come through the post in the normal way, being brought in the mail van from Wolverhampton early in the morning and was sorted with the other post at the Codsall Post Office'. The postwoman also said at the inquest, 'One end was open. I thought it looked like a book. I noticed it was a little heavy. I met Mr and Mrs Farran at the bottom of the drive of their house, and asked Mrs Farran whether she would take the parcel. She told me to take it to the house. I handed it to Mr Rex Farran. As I came away, I heard an explosion'.
A BBC documentary shown on BBC2 entitled 'Empire Warriors' which was broadcast on 19 November 2004 included a former Lehi operative who said that the bomb had been addressed to 'R. Farran', without the knowledge that Rex Farran shared the initials as the target.
At the time it was noted that both Rex Farran and his brother had the same initial and that Rex Farran may have thought that the parcel, from its shape, contained a copy of his brother's newly published book.
When the bomb went off, Rex Farran's other brother and his grandmother were both in bed.
Rex Farran's other brother said, 'I was lying in bed when I heard the explosion. I went down and saw Rex lying there. He was conscious. He spoke to me as they carried him out. He had bags of pluck, that boy'. He also said, 'I was in bed when it happened but thought it was some blasting work in progress nearby. I paid no attention until my grandmother told me smoke was coming from the dining room. I then found Rex lying there badly injured with the windows broken and the book itself blown into a thousand pieces. Rex was conscious until he died'.
It was reported that the force of the explosion later became apparent when Rex Farran's cufflinks were found embedded in the wall of the room.
Rex Farran's brother, the Captain, had been in Dunblane at the time spending the weekend with a colonel and his wife. At the time he had been in charge of a North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board quarry.
He had previously received threats against his life and about six months earlier it was said that the Stern Gang had threatened to 'get' him and that if necessary, they would 'follow him to the end of the world'. The threat had been posted in leaflets on the walls of Tel Aviv about six months after his murder acquittal.
He had also received threatening letters with a London postmark. The family received a number of abusive letters, one in particular which contained a drawing of two eyes with an equals sign between them, signifying 'an eye for an eye' with the words written at the bottom saying, 'Ask the colonel', referring to the colonel who refused to give evidence at his trial.
However, Rex Farran's mother said that she bore no grudge against the Jews, saying, 'I am disgusted with the letters, but even now I have no grudge against the Jews. This sort of thing does not come from a true Jewish citizen. I think, myself, it comes from Jewish Communists instigated from Russia'.
Following the murder, an anonymous call was recieved at the BUP offices in Paris to claim responsibility on behalf of Lehi. The call claimed that he purpose was two fold, firstly revenge for the murder of Alexander Rubowitz, and secondly because England had sent more troops to Palestine. The message was signed, 'The war against the British occupation - Stern Gang'.
At the time the police said that they were trying to establish whether the parcel had reached Britain from a foreign port, and that if so, whether it had been handed to a 'sympathiser' to post or posted by a member of the ship's crew.
It was reported that moves in the search for the sender of the parcel were being kept a close secret by Scotland Yard, but reported that Special Branch officers were checking the names and movements of aliens who had recently entered Britain and that close liaison was being maintained by wireless between Scotland Yard and the Headquarters of the International Police Commission in Paris as well as, through the Commission, all police forces on the Continent.
The inquest into Rex Farran's death was held on the afternoon of Tuesday 4 May 1948, but Rex Farran's brother left earlier in the day for a secret destination and wasn't expected to give any evidence.
Following the attack, uniformed and plain clothed police officers kept guard on Rex Farran's house, and no parcels or letters were delivered there.
A police superintendent who spoke to the press said, 'Obviously we must start with the parcel and try to work back from there. We don't know yet what information we shall be able to get from the fragments, but we are hoping that we shall get some indication of the district in which the parcel was posted'. The fragments of the bomb parcel were later pieced together.
The police also carried out a systematic search of Rex Farran's brother’s correspondence in the hope that they could find some clue that would lead them further in their inquiries for the identity of the person or persons that sent the bomb.
Rex Farran had worked as a draughtsman at Boulton Paul aircraft factory. His funeral took place at Codsall Parish Church on Friday 7 May 1948. He had a simple service and his plain oak coffin was borne by six former colleagues from the Boulton Paul aircraft factory.
At his inquest on Tuesday 29 June 1948, a verdict was returned that he was feloniously killed by some person or persons unknown.
Rex Farran's brother later ran for Parliament in 1950 in Dudley but lost and then later went to Canada where he launched a political career in 1961, when he was elected for a seat on the Calgary City Council. He later ran for parliament in Canada, winning a seat in 1971 and after being re-elected in 1975 he was appointed Solicitor General and held a further number of important posts up until 1979 when he retired from provincial politics.
Rex Farran's brother died in 2006 aged 85.
see National Archives - MEPO 2/8766
see Staffordshire Sentinel - Tuesday 04 May 1948
see Dundee Courier - Tuesday 04 May 1948
see Staffordshire Advertiser - Saturday 08 May 1948
see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Friday 07 May 1948
see Manchester Evening News - Saturday 01 January 1949
see Newcastle Journal - Tuesday 04 May 1948
see Birmingham Mail