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Col John Henry Patterson

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Col John Henry Patterson

  • Birth 10 Nov 1867 County Longford, Ireland
  • Death 18 Jun 1947 Bel Air, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • Burial Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • Plot Mausoleum, Niche 952-OC (Old Column)
  • Memorial ID 15815142

British Army Officer, Author, Zion Activist. In February 1898, John Henry Patterson was commissioned to oversee the construction of a railway bridge over the Tsavo river in Kenya, East Africa. Over the next nine months, lion attacks escalated to the point where the bridge construction eventually ceased due to a mass departure of the work force. The man-eating behavior was eventually confirmed to be the work of a pair of rogue males, who were believed to be responsible for as many as one hundred-forty deaths. After months of near misses, Patterson finally killed the first lion on Dec. 9th, 1898, and killed the second one on Dec. 29th (narrowly escaping death in the process). Each lion was over nine feet long from nose to tip of tail and required eight men to carry it back to the camp. With the man-eater threat eliminated, the work force returned and the Tsavo railway bridge was completed in February 1899, where it still stands today. His 1907 book, "The Maneaters of Tsavo", was the basis for the 1996 Paramount Pictures film, The Ghost and the Darkness, starring Val Kilmer (as Patterson) and Michael Douglas. He also wrote a second book of his Africa experiences, "In the Grip of the Nyika" (1909). In 1924, Patterson sold the Tsavo lion skins and skulls to the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois, where they are now mounted on permanent display. Although he was himself a Protestant, he became a major figure in Zionism as the commander of both the Zion Mule Corps and of the 38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (aka Jewish Legion of the British Army) in World War One. He ultimately achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel, and retired from the British Army in 1920. Patterson was a strong supporter of the establishment of a separate Jewish state in the Middle East, which was realized with the statehood of Israel on May 14, 1948, less than a year after his death. He authored his experiences during these times in two books; "With the Zionists at Gallipoli" (1916) and "With the Judeans in the Palestine Campaign" (1922). Patterson and his wife Francine lived in a modest home in La Jolla, California for a number of years, and he spent his final years at the home of his friend, Marion Travis in Bel Air, California, where he eventually died in his sleep at eighty years of age.

Bio by: Todd Young





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Todd Young
  • Added: 19 Sep 2006
  • Find A Grave Memorial 15815142
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Col John Henry Patterson (10 Nov 1867–18 Jun 1947), Find A Grave Memorial no. 15815142, citing Angelus Rosedale Cemetery, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .