Alan Mills – First Shift and Can-Cans

Alan Mills had finally settled in at Haifa and was looking forward to his first shift as a constable with the Palestine Police.

 

Alan Mills in Palestine Police uniform

Alan Mills in Palestine Police uniform

So – after all the travelling, all the training, I finally was on the rota to begin my first shift. I was on Haifa Circle One 6pm until midnight.  A couple of the more experienced lads told me I might have a baptism of fire, this was usually the most hectic beat.

The day before all us new lads had been shown round the ‘circles’ which were the different beats. Here we were shown a few of the most notorious haunts but also friendly places where the owners were keen to stay on the right side of the law. One such place was a ‘Can Can Club’ which was situated on the cross between circle one and circle two and was used as a meeting point for the two circle beats to exchange any information or pass any messages on. It was situated at the top of some steep concrete stairs and was dimly lit even in the day time with low tables, chairs and a stage at one end.

Now the Can Can clubs were dancing clubs who usually featured a touring party of about a dozen tall, buxom, highly paid Egyptian belly dancers. They were held in very high esteem by the Arabs, they were the pop stars of the day and wouldn’t be seen dead with a man unless he was an oil millionaire. The manager needed to make sure his club and the girls were protected and was always happy to supply us with a coffee (as he had on this day) and a sit down and also gave information, mainly which gang was in town and what they were planning.

Anyway, back to my first shift, at 17.50 I paraded in the police station, checked I had everything..note book, pencil, whistle, short   truncheon, handcuffs, revolver (loaded with five rounds,) and that was it,  I was ready to go. I’d been coupled with an Arab Constable until I found my feet but after that, I’d be on my own. He was a big fellow, who looked like he’d be useful in a rough house. He couldn’t speak English, so it  gave me the opportunity to improve my basic  Arabic.

 

Within 25 minutes we were in the centre of Circle No.1, the heart of the Arab quarter. It was a different world to someone like me who a few months ago had barely been out of Leeds. The noises, the smells, the people, the atmosphere, all alien to me but something I’d get used to in no time. Mostly it was stall holders calling their wares and customers haggling the price.

Round one corner a crowd had gathered, we hovered at the rear of the crowd, the Arab Constable told me it was a ‘Story Teller,’ reciting his adventures. As we watched, at the other side of the crowd an argument had developed and we could see some pushing and shoving. I followed my mate as he started to cleave his way through the crowd towards the raised voices. The argument had spilled out from an alleyway which housed the Can Can club we had coffee in the previous day.

One of the Can Cans security, who I recognised from the day before was face to face with a man of European appearance. We managed to get in-between them and calm the situation down before hearing the story of what was happening. The worse for wear European, who turned out to be a Norwegian Merchant Seaman had paid into the club thinking it was, well, let’s say a little more than a dancing club. He’d become a little agitated when the dancers refused his advances and demanded his money back. The Can Can Club refused to refund him and the argument spilled out into the street where we got involved. It wasn’t worth arresting him, he spoke no English or Arabic and would have been more trouble than he was worth so we escorted him back to the port gates which were controlled by our Port & Marine section, who then sobered him up and found which ship he was on.  So the first incident of my first shift which then passed off reasonably quietly. I didn’t get stabbed or shot and I learned a few things which were useful for the future.

 

 

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