Alan Mills – Jaffa Crouch

We were up to around July 1948 now. We had been relieved of our stint guarding the railway sidings and returned to the main billet and much to our dismay, the hole in the floor toilets which brought about much wry humour. We walked back in to a problem at the bar, we were out of stock, so we had a quick whip-round which brought about the arrival of much needed beer and cigarettes. The following evening we made up for much lost drinking time. During this session there emerged a character who hailed from Liverpool, a born comedian who unsteadily climbed onto a table and gave us a few verses of Maggie Mae among others and then finished off with an impromptu monologue of what he coined ‘The Art of Using the Jaffa Crouch.’ This was classically hilarious and aptly finished by falling off the table to tumulus applause. I never did find out his name but it would be nice if he were to read this, the memory of his performances always raises a smile when I think about it.

In the few weeks we’d stayed on at the end of the mandate, I don’t recall seeing any military personnel or indeed our own senior officers. It was all quite idyllic, we were happily guarding ourselves, although on reflection the billet was a minor armoury. Both Arab and the Haganah must have cast envious eyes in our direction.

Towards the end of the month, the duty roster indicated I had a week of night duty. I was coupled with B/C ‘Butch’ Davis, who I knew to be an effervescent character from our Haifa Central days. There had been a couple of reports of movement during the night but there was nothing concrete and probably nothing to worry about nevertheless, it caused a little bit of tension as nobody wanted to take a bullet so close to going home.

To make matters worse, most of the billet was hit by a dysentery bug. Butch warned me he had got the runs and the Security Sergeant was also in a flap. He’d already had to dispense with the tower guard and prowler patrols, both pairs were sick and there were no replacements.

Later that evening I reported for duty hoping Butch would turn up. Two minutes later he joined me armed with A Thompson sub machine gun, toilet roll and a shovel. The Sergeant took one look and exclaimed ‘What are you going to hit them with the shovel or the gun?’ We had to walk about 300 yards down the driveway to the main gate. The driveway was illuminated every 20 yards or so by large globe lights, very modern and effective. Each side was decorated with bushes and a slightly wooded area. This provided a habitat for numerous wild birds and at night was lit by a spectacular show of fire flies.

alan mills railway bridge

A railway bridge was situated around 800 yards away to the left. At night it cut a stark silhouette against the yellow fog of the security lights from some distant oil storage tanks. As we took over from the day shift, they warned us they had seen some movement near the bridge. We kept an uneasy eye on it, from time to time we thought we saw movement but it was difficult to know if it was a trick of the dark. The night turned nervously into day light, otherwise uneventful apart from Butch trotting off with his shovel. Just after the relief of dawn, locomotive and four trucks passed over the bridge driven by the Royal Engineers. We got a friendly wave and the mystery of the movement on the bridge was solved as a pack of wild dogs scurried away from the oncoming train.






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One Comment

  1. Alexander Greaves says:

    Hi, this is a great article, so interesting and entertaining. I have been researching my grandads time serving in the Palestine Police. Funnily enough, he was from Liverpool and many people considered him a born comedian. The description of the Jaffa crouch sounds like something we could imagine him of doing. I have a few pictures of him, a couple of which were taken in Palestine, I wonder if you would be able to identify him possibly through a picture? Of course, it may not be my grandad but then again it would be incredible if it was. Once again, amazing article and so entertaining!
    Thanks very much!

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