The diaries of Ronald Baldwin, British Constable in the Palestine Police Force from 1946 to the termination of the British Mandate in 1948.
Friday 24 January 2014
3rd and 4th March, 1948 - Desperate remedies to turn up the heat, Ron and his comrades scavenge for firewood.
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.]
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.