Alan Mills – Held Up with My Own Gun

Deep in the Arab quarter, on the main square, an old Arab used to sit opposite the mosque. He sold freshly squeezed orange juice, which he got from Jaffa oranges which were grown just a few miles up the road. I liked him and always used to chat with him as he sliced the orange in two with his large knife and squeezed it into perhaps the most refreshing drink I’ve ever had in my life. I always made sure I paid him and as when chatted, he often used to tip me off about things, such as which gang were expected in town, more often than not, his information was accurate.

Alan Mills orange seller

One day while he was slicing my orange in two, he told me an Iman (Islamic teacher) was coming to the mosque in a few days time and told me we had to be on our guard as he had the reputation of been a bit of a rabble rouser. I relayed the tip back at the station and our staff sergeant told me the Iman was known to them and said he would draft some reinforcements in. So cometh the day, cometh the man and we were introduced to a few extra hands.

One was a staff sergeant from a rural location who insisted on taking control of our section, despite not knowing the layout or the people. We waited outside the Mosque while the Iman gave his speech. Suddenly the Staff Sergeant marched up to the old Orange Juice seller and started going on about his knife. The old Arab explained it was a tool of his trade in much the same way as a butchers knife was. But he was having none of it and attempted to confiscate the knife. An argument began just as about a hundred fired up Arabs began filtering out of the Mosque. The argument soon escalated into a small riot, we were hopelessly outnumbered and forced to retreat down a small alleyway.

There was an upstairs cafe and some of the rioters found there way in there and heavy chairs and tables began to rain down on us. We had no choice but to retreat further, onto a main road. The rioters soon realised they had nobody to riot against and it soon calmed down as was often the case. I was sent back to have a look. As I peeped round the corner of the alleyway into the square, a boy sneaked up behind me and took my gun out of its holster. The gun was on a lanyard (basically it was tied to me) so he couldn’t get any further than a couple of feet away. I could see he was panicking, and beginning to realise what he’d done, I tried to calm him down as his finger was on the trigger and I knew if he panicked and fired I was a goner.

One of the lads had come to check on me and out of the corner of my eye I could see him sidling up the wall out of the kids line of vision. He got really close and the kid heard him and turned to look, it was all I needed and I was able to knock the gun out of his hand, surprising it didn’t go off but the kid did and I didn’t think I’d see I’m again.

With everything quiet, we waited on the main road for our transport back to the station. Out of the crowd, came the same kid holding a tray of coffee, it was definitely him, I recognised his clothes and I’d looked into his eyes while he pointed a gun at me. One minute I was as close to death as I’ve ever been, the next the perpetrator was serving us coffee. He recognised me when he offered me a coffee and scarpered, I could have given chase and arrested him but it never even crossed my mind, I was more relieved than anything. I don’t really know what it would have achieved if I had done. I still think about this incident, even know, nearly seventy years later. The gun was a Colt 45 and would have blown a hole in my back at point blank. Just another day at the office in 1940’s Palestine.

Normally we would only put five bullets in the cylinder, (it held six) leaving the first chamber empty in case the gun went off accidentally, but as were expecting trouble, we’d been told to use all six.

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