Conway Alfred Dvr aka Cohen Abraham T/171865

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Personnel Entry

Cantor Conway after the Rosh Hashanah service in Reykjavik.
Cantor Conway after the Rosh Hashanah service in Reykjavik.

Name Conway Alfred aka Cohen Abraham
Army number T/171865
Rank Driver
Date of birth 7/2/1918 in Newcastle. Birth registered Q1 1918, Mother's maiden surname Leafman.
Age 40 at the time of his death.
Unit Enlisted RASC 4/4/1940, Posted 12 Driver Training Unit, Posted 18 Reserve Mechanical Transport Company 1/6/1940, Posted 12 Reserve Mech Tpt Coy 27/7/1940. Served Iceland. Posted No 2 Holding Unit 16/3/1942, Posted 12 Reserve Mech Tpt Coy 18/6/1942. Attached 70th Infantry Brigade 22/6/1942. Attached 547 Gen Tpt Coy 14/8/1942. Posted 2 Mobilisation Centre - Depot Coy 8/11/1942. Posted Heavy AA Regt 11/11/1942. Posted 1507 Heavy AA Regt Section 13/2/1943. Posted 1504 Heavy AA Troop Sec 27/3/1943. Posted No 1 Holding Bn 22/4/1943. Posted 197 Armoured Bde 28/4/1943. Posted 648 Armoured Div Tpt 15/10/1943. Served Europe. Posted 44 Tpt Column 28/6/1944. Posted 104 Coy (Army Tpt) 18/9/1944. Attached 53 RHU 7/5/1945. Attached 104 Coy (Army Tpt) 15/6/1945. Posted 69 Inf Bde Tpt Coy 27/1/1946. Posted 504 Bde 8/2/1946. Released to Reserve 11/8/1946. Discharged from liability to serve 30/6/1959 (by which time he was already deceased, according to genealogical research).
Company/Battery 70 Bde Hq
Platoon or other sub-unit RASC Brigade Transport Company.
Task or role Driver.
Joined Brigade 22/6/1942.
Wounded Yes - in Holland (some souces say Germany) in 1944, full details not known.
Prisoner of War
Died/Killed in action Died 12/1/1959 from Rheumatic Fever.
Home address Marriage to Hannah Kaufman 9/6/1940 Leeds. (Spouse to be confirmed - name not uncommon).
Source table 70BG

In an e-mail Howard Conway - son of Alfred - set out a description of a unique event in which his father had a leading role. His account reads as follows:-

"He was of the Jewish faith and conducted the first Jewish religious service in Iceland (Day of Atonement)...."

"On a cold day in the fall of 1940, Yom Kippur was observed for the first time in Iceland. In fact, this marked both the first Jewish and the first non-Christian service in the country since the Icelanders embraced Christianity in the year 1000. On 10 May 1940, British forces (whom some Icelanders considered British occupiers) had arrived in Reykjavík, and more kept coming in the following months. Among them were Jewish servicemen, who immediately sought co-religionists and a synagogue. There was no synagogue to be found, but eventually they found some refugees who had arrived a few years earlier and been allowed to stay. The result was the first non-Christian religious service in Iceland in 940 years. About twenty-five Jewish soldiers from England, Scotland, and Canada gathered together with eight Jewish refugees and Hendrik Ottósson, who had studied Hebrew, as their shames (sexton).

The Icelandic authorities offered the chief of the British military chaplains, Chaplain Hood, that the Jews could borrow a chapel in Reykjavik's old cemetery to conduct their services. Hendrik Ottósson found this proposition insulting and instead rented the hall of the Good Templars' Lodge for the services. He and his wife improvised interior changes to make the hall look like a synagogue, and with some help from a librarian they borrowed the only Torah available in town.

Without a rabbi, with only two prayer shawls and one skullcap, the new congregation's services went well. Alfred Conway, a cantor from Leeds, sang the Kol Nidre prayer. Chaplain Hood gave a speech and talked about British soccer and long jump. The audience was not impressed. After the full day of fasting and services, followed by a photographing session, the hungry people gathered for a meal at a nearby Reykjavík hotel, and the first Jewish congregation in Iceland was officially founded".

A photograph of a Jewish event (Rosh Hashanah or Jewish New Year) in Iceland is set out below - related to the presence of a Canadian soldier, later killed in the Dieppe Raid. Cantor Conway (Cohen) is seated on the left. Thanks are due to Howard Conway for spotting this image in the Canadian Jewish News and forwarding it to the author. The photograph appeared in the Canadian Jewish News of September 2015.

Group photo after the Rosh Hashanah service in Reykjavik