Alan Mills – Back on Dry Land

After spending what seemed like months on a ship at last we docked in Egypt. The early risers among us were treated to a spectacular calm Eastern Dawn, complete with a new found appetite stirred by the fragrant local cuisine slowly wafting from Port Said’s local cafe’s and eating houses.
Next stop was a short trip to another army camp where we were issued with a uniform consisting of, khaki battle-dress with Palestine Police flashes in each shoulder together with a dark blue police cap and badge. We were only to spend one night in Port Said but were warned if we went into the Port to be wary of the hoards of shoe shine boys.¬† They quite literally pestered you on every street corner and a few military lads had encountered problems with them in the past. The warning was not to act angrily towards them or be tempted to give them a kick up the back side. They were street wise, they knew all the phrases and all the tricks and it wasn’t uncommon to find the back of your uniform covered in black boot polish. Needless to say most of us stayed in the camp NAFFI that evening.
Very early the next morning and our party found itself on Port Said railway station boarding a train bound for a busy town by the name of Kantara, which sat at the opening of the Suez Canal. The town was built in two parts, East and West either side of the water. The railway followed the canal on the Western side for a while before we left the train and crossed the canal by bridge into Kantara East and thus Palestine.
The next stage was by train to Jerusalem but almost as a warning of what might lie in store for us we were delayed as the locomotive was de-railed, most likely by terrorists. Eventually we arrived at the Police College and Training School, Mount Scopus Jerusalem. It was an up to date, spacious complex, with a large ‘constables dining room’ complete with Arab waiters for our three daily meals.
Early the next morning we were formed into squads and issued with our full uniforms – Khaki Drill, shorts, shirts and slacks (three of each), jacket to be worn after sun set, dark blue police jacket and trousers, handcuffs, one rifle, one steel helmet, day boots, night boots, army woolen socks. We were also given two pairs of hose socks and blue ‘puttees.’ to be worn over the woolen socks and pulled up to the knee. I’d never heard of puttees before but they were like a wrap round legging applied around the top of your boots to below the knee. They were the subject of derision from the lads until it was explained that during the course of our duty, from time to time we’d have to enter Arab ‘doss houses,’ where fleas and bugs of all descriptions lurked, eager for fresh blood.
We soon found out how our days were planned; 6.30 am, dressed in shorts and singlet we did a two mile run to the main gate and back to the parade ground where after a roll call we were dismissed for breakfast. After breakfast we went to one of the classrooms where we had an Arabic lesson. One of our Sergeants took the course, his Arabic was so good, he had a part in Arabic Children’s Hour on the Radio, teaching classic Arabic to Arab children. After a short break, more classroom – from Arabic to constables manual to Criminal Code Ordinance (to be learned by heart). Dinner time, then field work – unarmed combat, small arms such as revolvers, then Bren Guns, Sten Guns, Thompson sub-machines guns (Tommy Gun), tear gas, hand grenades, while all this was going on we had a drill sergeant howling at us, quick march, slow march, about turn……by the time the twelve weeks of training was finished, I’d had enough, though I have to say I was ready to face the challenges Palestine had in store for me.

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2 Comments

  1. I’ve followed Alans Articles on line for a while now, they take me back to my own National Service in Cyprus. He really should write a book.

  2. Barry O'Hare says:

    Fascinating stuff, look forward to the next one

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