Alan Mills – Leisure Time

We were permanently short staffed, so days off were few and far between. Even when we were off duty, we had to be careful as someone generally commandeered us for some or other task, which usually involved escorting someone to the far end of the country.

 

There was a cinema in Haifa we used to attend regularly. We were under orders to be armed at all times, even when off duty. It was something I got used to although it felt strange going to see Betty Grable in When My Baby Smiles at Me with a revolver tucked under my arm. The local youth liked us to know they knew who we were and used to make a point of standing near us and talking English loudly. It always amused me when our Welsh contingent showed up and they used to patter on in Gaelic much to the bemusement of the locals.

 

Perhaps the jewel in our crown was the fact we had our own private beach which was exclusively for the Palestine Police and guests. During the summer I and a few others took to actually sleeping there when we came off night shift. It could be difficult to get any sleep because of the noise in the billet and it was nice to just stretch out on a sun lounger with the gently lapping waves to send us to sleep. There was also a little food tent there, so we could also get a light breakfast when we woke up. We were safe there as the beach was permanently guarded by us, we used to joke we had a life guard with a Thompson Sub Machine gun. A few of the lads ‘borrowed’ a floating wooden cage from an illegal boat and anchored it about forty yards out and we used to use it as a diving board.

alan millsSwimming-in-Haifa

Relationships with the locals were discouraged, although there were a few who married and remained out there after the mandate finished. We had to be wary of honey traps though, there was a common story of one of our lot in Jerusalem who arranged to meet a local lady only to be met by a hail of bullets in the back from a pillion passenger on a motorbike.

 

We occasionally got a football team together and usually took on the First Airborne Division who were out there but it was virtually impossible to organise training and really none of us knew when we would have the time off to play. We used to have a man who did boxing training on the beach but again it was difficult to take it any further as there was no such thing as routine out there.

 

There was also a small aerodrome in Haifa, which was used for light aircrafts. One of our duties was to guard it and I found myself out there from time to time. One time I was with a CID Officer as he’d had a tip someone was trying to land contraband there. It was a long day in which very little happened. Late afternoon a legitimate supply plane landed and he went out to the runway for a chat with the pilot. He came back and said pilot was willing to take him up for a while. While he was in the air, typically a car rolled up with his superiors in it. “Where’s Jackson?” he asked. I muttered something like ‘He’s about somewhere and made out I went to look for him in the hangar. His superiors weren’t stupid and treat my futile search for him with the contempt it deserved. As soon as he landed, he was marched off and charged. So as you can see, leisure time sometimes came at a price.

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