Alan Mills -Water Board and Legionnaires

Alan Mills in Palestine Police uniform

Alan Mills in Palestine Police uniform

I began to settle into my life in the Palestine Police. Four shifts, spanned over seven days a week. We rarely had a day off and often did two shifts in a day. Even if we did have a free day scheduled, the chances are something like an escort would crop up. Two days were never the same and after two weeks I’d stopped counting the number of drunk servicemen or merchant seamen, pickpockets and petty criminals I’d dealt with.

On my third week something different cropped up. I was told I was to be a police escort for an English employee of the Palestine Water Board. This chap had been working on a project for a few months, surveying the water from the Jordan Springs which was the source of the River Jordan on the borders of Syria and Palestine with a view to supplying water to an extension of a kibbutz.

At first I thought, this could be a nice easy job,  driving about in a nice car at the water boards expense,  almost a mini holiday – a couple of days off and a chance to see some more of the country. Then I saw our transport and my heart sank – an old spluttering 15 hundred weight  CWT truck and my seat was a plank of wood spanning two blocks of concrete.

So we began the four hour trip down towards the border, on the road to Damascus. I must have felt every bump in the road and there were plenty, it was okay for the water board man, he sat up front with the driver. Eventually we arrived at our destination where he was to take some samples. It was too late to go any further so it had been arranged to stay over. I was thankful for that, my back was killing me and I had splinters in my legs from the wooden plank. The water board man stayed at the Kibbutz and it had been arranged for me to stay at the local police station at a place called Rosh Pina.

Rosh Pina was a small, picturesque town on the slopes of Mount Canaan, overlooking the Golan Heights and Hula Valley. I understand it’s a tourist town these days full of restaurants and hotels, then it was a quiet Arab town full of cobbelstone streets.

One of the policemen there recognised me, he’s also trained at Mount Scopus and he remembered me doing my trot round the square. After training, like a lot of the lads, he’d applied for the mounted section but had ended up here, where he was both disappointed and bored. He grilled me about Haifa and I told him to get a transfer, it certainly wasn’t boring and we were always understaffed.

After taking more water samples, I rejoined my mate on duty in the evening. He’d invited me for a cup of ‘chi’ (the local tea) a cafe next to a small bridge over a ‘wadi.’ (A wadi was a dried up stream.) This wadi was right on the border between Palestine and Syria and exactly half way over the bridge a line had been painted to signify the border. Syria was governed by the French at the time and at the other end of the bridge we could see the French Foreign Legion on duty. We’d heard rumours about the Legionnaires before, cut throats and fugitives, some even said their post war ranks were made up of ex Waffen SS but I wasn’t so sure, I think it was mainly Eastern Europeans escaping the Soviets. My friend often went for a drink and a smoke on the wadi and had become firm friends with one of the French who was called Pierre, who, the previous night had told him an English man had just joined their ranks and promised him he would bring him along for a chat and a smoke. So we met up with his mate Pierre but there was no ‘Anglaissy.’  He wouldn’t show his face with British coppers about- apparently he was wanted in London and had escaped justice by joining the French Foreign Legion. He became a bit of a mystery, we both made enquiries to find out who ‘Beau Gest’ might be but came up with nothing.  A few months later and my mate got his transfer and joined us in Haifa, he told me the water was deemed okay for the kibbutz expansion which was going ahead but we never found out who the Legionnaire was.

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3 Comments

  1. Lovely article again.

  2. Barry O'Hare says:

    The mystery of the Legionnaire! He was probably one of the Kray twins mob!

  3. Martin P Higgins says:

    I was very interested in the Palestine Police service of Alan Mills. I notice his photograph in Palestine Police uniform. The English and Arabic numerals on his breast which form his Force number are illegible. I would be pleased to find out what this number was.

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