Military Wiki

Edmond Wilhelm Brillant at Port Said, Egypt, in 1942

Edmond Wilhelm Brillant the Levi (Hebrew: אדמונד וילהלם ברילנט‎; 1916–2004) was a Polish-born Israeli naval architect, Hagana member, among the founding fathers of the Israeli navy and was notable for assisting the Israeli Merchant Marine in several major projects, including the nations' first passenger liner, SS Shalom through the ZIM Navigation company, now Zim Integrated Shipping Services. He dedicated his greatest efforts to building up the young states' maritime capability, both civil and military. Brillant was born in Jaroslaw Galicia, Poland, and was the youngest of the four sons [1] of the famous pharmacist Wiktor Brillant [2][3] and his wife Laura Brillant (née Sturmlauf).[4]

Brillant was a flight amateur and joined the gliding club of Jaroslaw at the age of 13.[5] There he studied building gliders, aircraft, gliding and flight.

Brillant graduated from the August Witkowski Gymnasium (high school[6]) in Jaroslaw in 1934, and started his MD studies. However, since he had a strong technical aptitude, Brillant started learning precision mechanics in Lviv. He immigrated to Israel (then Palestine) in 1936 on board of Template:Interlanguage link from Port of Constanţa with a Hebrew Technion Certificate, and resided in Haifa.

Hagana Service

PPRD Railway Company C of Hagana Haifa, 1939 – Edmond Brillant is in the first row on the right, with a pistol

Brillant started his mechanical engineering studies in the Hebrew Technion, and in 1937 he joined the Hagana Flight Club in “Kfar Yeladim” at Jezreel Valley as an instructor. The Kfar Yeladim flight club was the early seed of the Hagana for creating an air-arm, later became the Israeli Air-Force, under the guise of a gliding club. In 1938, he volunteered in the Palestine Police Railway Department (PPRD) of the Hagana Ghaffirs of the Jewish Supernumerary Police, and escorted trains from Zemach at the Sea of Galilee to Port Said, Egypt. During service in the PPRD, he was wounded when his train was damaged by a mine placed by terrorists during the Arab rebellion of 1936-1939. He discharged himself from hospital and returned to his company.[5]

Service in the Royal Navy

As World War II started, Brillant wanted to volunteer to join the Buffs, but had typhoid and instead joined the Royal Navy as Chief Petty Officer in role of Engine Room Artificer (ERA) in 1942. Brillant was among the Jewish Hagana Volunteers to the Royal Navy, and served there till March 1946.[5][7]

Brillant served in the Red-Sea Theater aboard HMS Massawa at Eritrea and other naval bases.[5] Prior the takeover of Masawa by the Allies, the base was an Axis stronghold of the Regia Marina (the then Italian Navy). It was a bay which served as a harbor and shipyard with docking, thus was a strategic port for the Indian Ocean.[8]

As the Italians started to retreat, they scuttled their ships. Salvage work was done by the United States Navy's Jewish Navy Officer, Commander Edward Ellsberg.[8] His team was replaced later on by the Royal Navy. There, Brillant started to learn salvage work, shallow water diving, diesel engines and other naval professions that assisted him later on in his Israeli Navy career.[5]

During Brillant's service in HMS Massawa became a pilot’s duties volunteer. Brillant's commanding officers at HMS Massawa recommended him to be commissioned[5] and assisted him to reach aviator trainings of the RN Fleet Air Arm (FAA) in 1944. His pilot duties were disallowed, since the Ministry of Colonies did not allow access to aviation training for Jewish volunteers from Palestine.[5] In his file, it was written that Brillant's engineering skills were of 'great importance' to the Navy.[5]

Even though Brillant was disqualified from Royal Navy pilot duties, he continued serving and did not answer the U.S. Navy requests to join them as an officer.[5]

After his release from the Navy, he returned to the Hagana and joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Naval Forces.

Israeli Naval Forces

Edmond Brillant and his wife Rosita Segal

Brillant joined the Hagana Harbor Platoon, which later on became the Flotilla 13 Navy commando unit, and took part in several of their operations. During this time, Brillant took part in converting the clandestine immigration ships of Hagana into first improvised Israeli Navy ships for the War of Independence.[5] This work was camouflaged since the British Mandate only left Haifa harbor in June 1948.

Brillant founded the damage control branch and the special salvage unit and special under water operations called YALTAM. He established the damage control floating fighting, and fire fighting training that each navy officer and sailor has to pass.[5]

Brillant served as a naval Staff (military) officer, and during his service he was the operational planner of the 1956 sea battle in which the Egyptian destroyer Ibrahim el Awal was captured.

He analyzed the air attack and navy operation of both the French and Israelis, and his report was submitted to Lt General Moshe Dayan as well as the French military staff.[5]

Brillant also improved the conversion time of reserve fishing boats to patrol boats from 3 days into few hours.[5]

In ZIM Navigation Company

SS Shalom Project, Chantiers de l'Atlantique, 1963 – Edmond Brillant at the left

Brillant was borrowed from the Navy by ZIM[5] in order to lead three projects of merchant marine ship building.[5] He moved to France, and led the SS Shalom project in Chantiers de l'Atlantique. This ship was the largest passenger ship of ZIM and was the flagship. After then, he moved to Toulon to manage the building of three freight ships: Keshet (Bow), Noga (Venus) and Mazal (Luck).[5]

In 1963, Brillant asked the IDF attaché in Paris for permission to retire from the Navy, even though they requested him to continue his service for the vital naval operation known as the Cherbourg Project.

In 1969, while he was a technical superintendent in ZIM Europe lines, Brillant organised and led the logistic and technical effort behind the fueling of the 5 Sa'ar 3 class missile boats that escaped Cherbourg Harbour in operation Noah.[5] The fuelling- freight ships that were modified by him were MV Lea to fuel in Gibraltar and MV Nahariyah as a backup in the Bay of Biscay.[5]

See also


  1. "Karol Brillant". Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center Israel. Retrieved 10 May 2013. 
  2. "Historia Aptek Jarosławskich" (in Polish). Zbigniew Biliński. 2008. Retrieved 10 May 2013. 
  3. "Wiktor Brillant". Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center Israel. Retrieved 10 May 2013. 
  4. "Laura Brillant". Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center Israel. Retrieved 10 May 2013. 
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}" (in Hebrew). YNET. 30 December 2005.,7340,L-3192074,00.html. 
  6. At present, named Template:Interlanguage link
  7. Pfeffer, Anshel (11 October 2007). "Israeli WWII veterans honored for service to Royal Navy". Haaretz. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Edward Ellsberg". Ted Pollard. Retrieved 10 May 2013. 

External links