Thursday, 30 January 2014

15th & 16th March, 1948 - A damp journey back from Sarafand to a scene of disarray...

Monday, 15th March, 1948
A shower of rain opened this morning of my leaving hospital.  I put on my badly creased uniform, had my breakfast and bid adieus to my new friends.
First thing on leaving the ward was to hand in all the clothes issued to me by the hospital.  Then with the others going out today I went to the reception room outside the OC’s office to await our parting interview.  The Colonel just asked me if I had any pains now to which I answered in the negative, then he gave me a discharge certificate.  We now all went to the camps reception office to await transport back to Jerusalem.  This transport eventually arrived in the form of two open three ton lorries.  It was now raining lightly and we were told it was the brigadier’s orders that the trucks be open.  We set off getting gradually wetter then the rain poured down and we put in at a nearby army camp and put a cover on before proceeding.  The journey was very tiring & boring.
In warmer weather the open back
of a truck was not so bad!

Tuesday, 16th March, 1948
What a place to come back to, it is perpetually cold and the barrack rooms are always damp.
There have been a number of changes in staff since I left.  The sergeant who was so put out at my untimely illness has gone to take charge of the reception camp in England.  Another sergeant was released from close arrest yesterday for being drunk on duty.  Another sergeant is going to the Bahamas as an A.S.P.
Two B/Cs a few days ago stole 13 T.M.C.s from the armoury loading them onto an Arab truck parked outside the wire and absconding with it.  The armourer & the tower guard are both under close arrest as a result.
This morning I woke to find a layer of four inches of snow outside.  It is bitterly cold inside the room as I write this.  My feet are feeling as though they are frozen stiff.  I am not looking forward to getting back on static points again.  Roll on the summer & the boat.  My Gratuity works out to be just over £100.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

13th and 14th March, 1948 - Ron gets his "all clear", enjoys the company of some Dragoons and the irony of the cinema show.

Saturday, 13th March, 1948
The hospital here is in varying degrees of closing.  Everyday equipment is being packed up ready for the final moves.  Some patients are being told where they are going, some to Egypt and others to England direct.  I hear the Police are being evacuated on every troopship going and I am looking forward to my leaving.
Every evening here we get a cup of beer each as a ration.  Apparently this is a standing order for Hospitals.  I have become very friendly with a Coldstream Guards Sgt [Sergeant] and a Pte [Private] in the 3/7th Dragoon Guards[1] and as these are relatively old time[r]s in the army and its ways it is not altogether surprising that we get a little more than a cup of beer each evening.

All of us going out on Monday went to collect our kit this evening but we were told by a fast removing private (removing to the mess) that we could not have it until tomorrow.

[1] I have found reference to the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards being deployed in Palestine from 1946 - 1948 but nothing about 3/7th... anyone?  Anyone?

Sunday, 14th March, 1948
I[t] was raining this morning when I went up for my kit and I was fairly wet by the time I returned to the hut.
After arranging my bags ready for tomorrow I joined in a game of cribbage with the other chaps.
The fellows here have been very good fun, their wit was quite different to ours back in the barracks and came as a pleasant change and a source of inspiration with which to continue our usually unending stream of “cracks”.
There was a cinema show in the camp this evening the subject was a series of murders in a hospital.  We found this very amusing and many very amusing comments were heard during the performance. [Green For Danger?]

Monday, 27 January 2014

11th & 12th March, 1948 - Ron gets up, tries a bit of embroidery and goes to the cinema..

Thursday, 11th March, 1948
Every morning between 9a.m. and 12 mid-day we are not allowed to smoke.  It is during this period that the inspections by the officials & M.O.s take place.  Yesterday the Colonel I/C the camp came around and as a result I was told this afternoon that I could get up for a while.
I felt a little dizzy after being in bed without food but this passed off and I sat out on the veranda in the Sun.
Not quite finished...
The walking around made me quite tired and in the evening I sat by a chum’s bed and continued the embroidery of my badge, given to me by the Sister in charge of handicrafts for the patients.  There are various things which can be done in this way to break the monotony of days in bed.  All come under the impressive title of “Occupational Therapy.”


Friday, 12th March, 1948
This morning as an “Up” patient I had to wash in the wash room.  There are also showers and baths in the ablutions.
When a patient is up he is required to help with the duties in the ward.  These comprise such tasks as dusting and washing lockers, supplying bed patients with “bottles,” washing water, meals, drinks etc.
This all helps to occupy the time and for the other spare time we read, talk and listen to the Radio.  I think I shall go out on Monday.  I heard the doctor tell the sister this morning that I was ready to go out.
This evening I went to the hospital cinema, it is very much of a barn but quite large and well seated.  On the walls are small murals of scenes in the Arab lands.
The film was a Cowboy type and passed an evening away if of no other value.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

9th and 10th March, 1948 - Appendicitis? Yes or No - it's all about what a hungry Ron can eat!

Tuesday, 9th March, 1948
This morning my pains wakened me and continued all through the day.  They are not fierce pains but dull and as if a weight was pressing down on the lower right hand side of the abdomen.
Mealtimes are some of the worst times of the day, for all the others are being given their food while I get nothing.  Since Friday evening I have eaten two poached eggs and four slices of bread & butter.
I wish they would operate if I have appendicitis for it is liable to come back again even if it passes now.
Today I learned that the “Squaddy” in the bed opposite me came out on the same boat as I did though I did not know him of course.
We have a Radio in the Ward and this is played quite a bit, (to the annoyance of the Arabs.)

Wednesday, 10th March, 1948
Every morning at six we are wakened by the orderly and given a bowl of cold water each which those of us who are able can wash.
At half seven we get breakfast which with other meals I have not yet been able to enjoy.  At 12.30 we get lunch and a mid-afternoon break of a cup of tea and bread, butter & jam precedes dinner at 5.30pm.
The orderly moved me into the other half of the ward today where there are more Englishmen.
At dinner I was brought a meal by one of the patients who are up and helping.  I thought it was the usual mistake made by these people and was very agreeably surprised when he later returned with a confirmation from the Sister who said it was about time I ate some food.  I enjoyed the meal and felt no ill effects from it.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

7th and 8th March, 1948 - Suspected appendicitis and transfer to the large military hospital at Sarafand

Sunday, 7th March, 1948
There is a very strict routine laid out for a hospital day beginning with the taking of temperatures.  I have not felt too bad in myself today and was allowed to eat two thin pieces of bread and butter at lunch time and a poached egg at tea.
The Sisters are all very nice to us patients although the orderlies tell me that their relations with the staff are not so cordial.
This is not to be wondered at.  The orderlies were conscripted into the army and were told to be Medical Orderlies.  Some like it others don’t therefore some work while the others dodge and I suspect it is the latter to whom the Sisters complain.  The majority of the orderlies here seem to be capable but a little lazy.
The Doctor tells me he suspects that I have had appendicitis in a very slight manner & am to be sent to Beit Jacov near Sarafand for confirmation.

Monday, 8th March, 1948
I felt quite good this morning first thing so fancied some breakfast when asked by the sister.  I eat two poached eggs and two slices of bread & butter.  Almost immediately after, gripping pains made me lie in agony for about an hour.
At 9.30am the orderlies put myself and the others into three ambulances ready for our journey to Sarafand.  We were lying on the stretchers in the Ambulance for an hour before we started off.  I had a small window to look out from onto the two scenes we passed through, the bleak bare mountains of land around Jerusalem and the rolling green fertility of the coastal plain.
We reached the huge military hospital at 12 midday and again had to wait for more than an hour until our fate was decided.  The army sergeant who had been shot in the shoulder was in our ambulance and was crying out with agony by the time we reached the camp.  The huts are very large and long.  From the bed I have calculated that there are about 50 patients in this ward and there are 37 wards in the camp.

Friday, 24 January 2014

3rd and 4th March, 1948 - Desperate remedies to turn up the heat, Ron and his comrades scavenge for firewood.

Wednesday, 3rd March, 1948
These night duties are not unpleasant when we have a fire.  Last night we took a very large and unused plywood notice board off the H.Q. wall for our fire.  Plywood burns very quickly that was the only trouble but with some larger pieces of wood we lasted the night.  At about 3a.m. when everything was deathly still in Jerusalem we reached the stage in our fire where we had to split the notice board down in half.  Not thinking we bent it half and cracked it down.  Now Plywood does not crack cleanly but splinters and this splintering was mistaken by a guard on H.Q. roof for gunfire and he opened up with a burst of automatic fire and fired a flare into the sky*.  He could have had no idea what it was but thought he would show he was awake by opening up.

[*This story of setting the gun fire off was one of Dad's favourites and was often retold when we were children. I hope to produce a page of remembered anecdotes with the collaboration of my siblings at a later date.]

Thursday, 4th March, 1948
Last night’s duty was started in despair; we had not a splinter of wood with which to light a fire.  I set out from the gate and went around to all the nearby guard positions all of whom had cheerful fires but no pieces of wood to spare.  In my travels I collected all the empty cigarette packets and cardboard I saw.  Returning to the zone gate I decided there was nothing for it but to go and ask the “City Guards” for some.  The Arabs on their ten hour duties had not a large supply but they let us have a few pieces.  My Partner went off on the scrounge now and returned with a large plank which had been serving no purpose nailed to a wall.
Thus we had a fire after all and with the teas & biscuits we were quite happy again.

5th and 6th March, 1948 - Rain and pain - Ron ends up in hospital.

Friday, 5th March, 1948
It rained all last night so we were not very pleased when any vehicle wanted to enter or leave the zone as we had to leave the reasonable dry of the sanger and open the gates for them.
The wind has changed its direction and instead of clearing the smoke from the sanger is now filling it up.  We did a sample of hole blocking and opening other hole to allow an exit for the smoke.  This was with some success.
I have had intermittent pains in my stomach for the last couple of days.  These I put down to indigestion possibly from acids from a bad tooth.  They have not improved so this afternoon I went sick.  The sergeant went off the deep end about it saying I should have gone sick at 8a.m. the proper time.  He said it was inconveniencing not only him but the guard duties, the duty driver and the hospital staff.  In fact disapproval was registered only by the sergeant.
I was taken to the local military hospital.  Two doctors heard my story and thoroughly examined me.  They came to the conclusion I could bear watching so put me in bed.  The sister told me I was to have nothing to eat as my case was one of queried appendicitis.

Saturday, 6th March, 1948
At all hours of the night orderlies who are in the R.A.H.C. came into the ward to take my temperature and pulse.  I did not sleep before midnight as the strange surroundings and my sitting position in bed do not encourage sleep.
At half past six this morning I was wakened and given a bowl of hot water so that I washed myself.  I then had a cup of tea and two orderlies bed bathed me.  (Yesterday I was given an enema but since I have had no motions.)  The pains in my stomach were still present and increased a little this evening.
Two Policemen have come in during the day with bullet injuries.  A Palestinian Arab this morning was shot in the arm he is now proudly exhibiting the bullet
Military hospital in Israel, 1948
source: wikimedia
extracted from his arm.  An Englishman came in this evening shot in the stomach, he has hardly moved yet but I am told the wound is not serious.
I think they still can’t make out my case.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

1st and 2nd March, 1948 - Cold nights, missing trucks and a welcome cup of tea...

Monday, 1st March, 1948
The first night on our new duty passed reasonably quickly.  During the whole of the night there were about six vehicles in all which passed through the zone gate.
We had no fire last night and we shivered in the freezing cold night air.  I had come prepared for the cold wearing four pullovers and two pairs of sock extra to my normal accoutrement, but this was not enough even then.  My friend and I took a blanket each and this kept our shoulders warm but our feet froze.
This afternoon we were informed that two Police 15cwt trucks had been stolen during the night from H.Q. in our zone, and it was suspected that they had left the zone via the gate we were guarding.  We recorded statements to the effect that we had seen no 15cwts pass through all night.

Tuesday, 2nd March, 1948
Last night we procured some wood from odd places nearby and built a fire which warmed us all night.
A street tea vendor in Gaza, 1946
courtesy of the acid history blog

My partner purchased a thermos flask yesterday and we were very pleased with the hot tea thus obtained and with the packet of biscuits I took to work.  At about 2.30am we heard a shout from a nearby road and looking out from the Sanger we saw an Arab coming out of the darkness with a tray and a primus in a tin bucket.  He was selling “Tea with milk” at 1½  piastres a cup.
We each had a cup full and the man told us he had no employment so was earning about 10/- a night by selling tea to the night guards.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

28th and 29th February, 1948 - Ron has a few problems getting out of bed...

Saturday, 28th February, 1948
My friend Barclay and myself were both called at five minutes to five this morning by the Billet Orderly whose duty it is to see that all persons on early duties are awake an hour beforehand.
Barclay & I have found that three-quarters of an hour is ample time in which to perform the early morning pre-departure necessities.  Therefore we have enjoyed an extra quarter of an hour lay in bed every day this week.  However this morning we must have both have dropped off to sleep again for when I next awoke it was ten minutes to six and the duty sergeant was wondering where we were.  By omitting all the necessities of pre-departure we arrived on parade only a few minutes late.  Fortunately the sergeant on duty with us took pity on our late rising and allowed us to use the N.A.A.F.I. canteen in the R.A.F. Billet nearby our guard post.

Sunday, 29th February, 1948
I do not start duty until twelve midnight tonight so this morning I lay on in bed until 8 a.m.
Being awakened by the entrance of the B/C who had been on night duty I nearly decided to stay in bed after eight for he told me that it had been snowing spasmodically during the night.  It was not enough for it to lay thank goodness.

The arrangements for gratuities and compensations for our pending breaking of contracts was announced yesterday.  I have not yet heard full details but I think that we or at least myself will receive between £P80 & £P100.

Today a notice was published stating that in future we are not confined to camp only to the zone.  This is a better arrangement for we can now go to the cinema ‘legally.’

Monday, 20 January 2014

26th and 27th February, 1948 - Sitting down on the job, breaking down, and interesting lists!

 Thursday, 26th February, 1948
The weather was very dull today and on several occasions threatened to rain.

The guards at work makes a very humorous picture I would say but no doubt if their behaviour was published or conveyed to the Security Council of the United Nations it would be taken in a far from humours vein.

source: Life Magazine
We now have chairs at our individual posts.  One at the gateway to the P.W.D. and another half way along the road towards the Haganah road check.  One can see B/Cs sat in various attitudes upon these definite assets to guard duties.  The sergeant can be seen patrolling along the road with a smoking pipe hanging from his mouth.  This system would no doubt be very much frowned upon by the powers that be if those powers knew.

Friday, 27th February, 1948
The start to today’s toil was very unpromising.  The truck on which we are conveyed to and from our static points broke down only a few minutes from the Billet.  This necessitated our walking the rest of the distance through the heart of the city.  The poor night people we were relieving were very displeased at the prospects of their walk back.  I wonder what comments they made when they reached the billet.
Yesterday I saw a list of about 20 names, mine included, of B/Cs under 20 years of age.  I was asked whether I had employment to go back to.  I replied in the affirmative as this will mean I will be among the first to go home next month.  From the sample of the employment offered us here I think I shall gain if I look for my own employment.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

24th and 25th February, 1948 - The Aftermath of the Ben Yehuda Street bombings...

Tuesday, 24th February, 1948
Since Sunday we have all been confined to barracks except when on duty.  The camp defences have all been strengthened against possible and likely attack.  The blowing up of the three and four storey buildings of Ben Yahudi Street on Sunday are now definitely put down to have been done by British persons.

Today, although not afraid of the Jewish threats to shoot all British personnel they can, we thought it wise to forsake the Haganah road block.  We stayed in the P.W.D. shops themselves so that the Jews had no chance of shooting at us.  On returning off duty we also thought it wise to not cross the road in full view of the Jews but to walk the five minutes walk through the R.A.F. zone and up the other side road in the Arab area

Wednesday, 25th February, 1948
Yesterday morning went quietly so this morning we walked directly to the Workshops.  The Haganah have reinforced their road block with some of the rubble from Ben Yahudi Street and have dragged huge blocks of ferrous concrete rubble in front of it to stop a sudden charge onto the block.
Typical Haganah road block in Mamilla district of Jerusalem

Every night now there are fierce gun battles fought though I think a great deal of the firing is at an enemy that cannot be seen.

Last night so I have been told one or two shots were fired from the Jaffa Road area.  These were probably not aimed at anything in particular but the “trigger happy” boys on H.Q. saw this as their signal and eleven bren-guns poured bullets into the empty Jaffa Road.  There was no target just any window or vehicle parked on the road.  Senseless foolhardiness by over enthusiastic anti semetists.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

22nd and 23rd February, 1948 - More guard duties and more explosions

Sunday, 22nd February, 1948
We started yet another week’s duty on the Public Works Departments Workshops today.  We started our duties at 6am.  A sergeant is now on duty with three B/Cs on this Static.  Two B/S stay on the Haganah Road Block while the other B/C stays at the entrance to the P.W.D. itself.  The sergeant wanders between the two positions.

The Sergeant on with us this morning is knew (sic) and so I showed him which workshops were which.  He said to me “You can sit down now until the workers begin to arrive.”  I was half was into the act of sitting down when there was a terrific explosion.  It shook the whole building, breaking panes of glass.  It flashed into my mind that the Arabs had blown up the Haganah road block the explosion seemed so near.  In fact the explosion was in Ben Yahudi Street a short distance
Car Bombing in Ben Yehuda Street
away.  It almost demolished the street killing about 50 Jews.  I saw the initial cloud rise up when the explosion occurred and the smoke drift up afterwards when fire broke out.

Monday, 23rd February, 1948
This morning we decided to abandon the Haganah road block after the deeds of the last evening.  The Jews having found out that Britishers were involved in the blowing up of the shopping centre announced that in future all British Personnel found in Jewish Areas would be shot.  They immediately put this policy into practice last evening.  They opened fire on British Police who after handing over Mutashpha Police Station [1] to the Jews were moving out of that Station.  They killed seven troops and wounded a Padre.  There was intense firing in the H.Q. quarter last evening also.

This morning at about 11am all the Arabs and Jews except four office staff walked out of the P.W.D. Workshops.  The watchmen handed us the keys and said they would not be back for two days.  They are all frightened of the recent events and intend to wait for two days to see how things turn.

[1] I cannot find any reference to a Mutashpha Street Police Station so I imagine Dad must have the spelling wrong.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

20th and 21st February, 1948 - Guard duties continuing, rumours flying and the end of term is in sight.

Friday, 20th February, 1948
Today was very dull on duty.  The weather was quite fair but not very warm.
I took a book with me to the P.B.S. and this helped to pass the slow creeping time away.

More rumours are flying about our prospects of going home.  It is now said that on the 13th of next month there is a boat sailing on which the married families are travelling.  There are 50 vacancies on it to be filled by B/Cs under 19 years of age.  The remainder of the 19s will sail on the 28th together with some of the under 20s.  I wonder if I shall be one of them.

Saturday, 21st February, 1948
So another week has come to an end without event.  We are all being very careful now that the boat is in sight.  We are all expected to be out by the end of April except for some stores people who are being asked to volunteer to stay behind in Haifa.
Today was very quiet again with just a few sporadic shootings.  I felt rather off colour today but much better this evening.

Monday, 13 January 2014

18th and 19th February, 1948 - Ron goes out snapping and takes issue with a young bird hunter.

Wednesday, 18th February, 1948
This morning when we awoke the sun was shining brightly so we just had to get dressed and go out for a walk.

I first called Bob Matthews and we each took our cameras for a walk around the Colony before lunch.
We came back with a hearty appetite for our lunch and the heat of the sun coming up the slight incline before the billet made us perspire.
I met Mr Pattle on the walk.  He is my old Station Officer and is going home on Saturday.  He said that he had heard from H.Q. that between now and May 1st 800 of us are going home and in the first 2 days of May there are 5 ships each carrying 500.  Roll on May.

Thursday, 19th February, 1948
I dislike the shift I am working this week as the morning is too short for anything useful to be done in it, and the evenings as I have said before are too cold here to be enjoyed.

This afternoon I saw a boy with a bird in his hand.  He had just shot it with a catapult.  I took it from him and began to chastise him for doing such a thing.  He laughed at me and said “you kill men, I kill birds.”  That is what this boy is thinking.  What sort of man will he make?  What sort of country will he be a man in?  What Religion is this that allows his thoughts to run ungoverned in this way?

Friday, 10 January 2014

16th and 17th February, 1948 - Bitterly cold winds, a home made brazier, chats with the Arab Legion and a poem...

Monday, 16th February, 1948

A terrific gale has been blowing all day with occasional light showers of rain.
At the P.B.S. we sit with a T.A.C. and an Arab Legion fellow at the entrance to the Studios.  Again our duty is to check and search all incomers to the Studios.  With us is an Arab Woman Police Searcher.  She searches all the women in a screened off place.

We were very cold in the late afternoon and tried to build a fire in an empty petrol tin in which holes had been punched.  The fire was a very smoky one and for the greatest part of its existence was outside the building waiting for the smoke to go off.

Tuesday, 17th February, 1948
A bitterly cold gale force wind continues to blow all today.
We continued our watch on the P.B.S. buildings without event.
I have been talking a great deal with men of the Arab Legion.  These men seem to be of a much higher standard of intelligence than the Palestinian Arab and they have better powers of conversation.
These people do not give us the English much credit in our knowledge of the Political scene out here.  The two I was talking to seemed very surprised that I knew that the Palestinian Arabs do not like King Abdullah of Trans Jordan and would not like the two countries merged in one.



City in two I found you
City half old and half new
What is the tie that binds you
Being half Arab half Jew?

City so old I found you,
Shut in by David’s high wall;
Minarets tall stand o’er you,
Religion the wish of all.

City so new I found you,
Nothing can stop you at all;
New buildings rise around you,
“Homes for the Nation,” you call.

City in two I found you
City half Arab half Jew
There is no tie can bind you
Never your heart will beat true.



Thursday, 9 January 2014

14th and 15th February, 1948 - Ron's on duty at the Palestine Broadcasting Studios

Saturday, 14th February, 1948
For the last few days there has been little or no firing or explosions in the city either at night or in the day.
The weather has been very nice for a few days.
The sun although weak does shine at least on most mornings.  This week’s duty with its additions of refreshments and a fire has passed quickly and has been reasonably pleasant.

Next week I am on duty in the Palestine Broadcasting System’s Studios.  I am working from 12 mid-day until 6p.m. every day.  I should find this very interesting and be able to compare the studio here with the ones I know at home.
I don't have a photo of the actual studio so this one will have to
fill in - a state of the art recording studio from 1948

Sunday, 15th February, 1948
Today I started my guard duties on the Palestine Broadcasting Studios.[1]

I naturally made a tour of the Studios and introduced myself to the Chief Engineer.  He told me I could wander around as I liked.  The eight studios are housed in a small building and are therefore very small themselves, the largest being only large enough for a very small orchestra.  They have one steel tape recording room and one disc recording room.  The control room was a very small one and controls all the studios in Jerusalem.  I was told by the Engineer that very few Outside Broadcasts are done.
In fact I was very disappointed.

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