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The Palestine Police during the British Mandate (1920-1948)

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A film by Frank BARAT I'm Gerald Green 80 years old now formely served in Palestine Police Force went straight from school in the Palestine Police Force. So I joined it when I was 17 years of age I enjoyed every minute of being there despite the fact I was twice wounded once very badly wounded but I enjoyed every minute of it It was a part of English history serving in an old mandated territory... Palestine and seeing the birth of a new nation, Israel because I stayed on with about a 150 volunteers in what was the Haifa Police Force. We went into Palestine, never left it and Israel never entered it but we left Israel. And that was in June when we left Israel, we were there after the mandate finished. There was 2 training schools for Palestine Police recruits. We were all trained out there. One was Mount Scopus in Jerusalem and the other was Jenin. Thank the Lord I was trained in Jenin because it was a wonderful, beautiful part of the country, we were in the foothills of the mountains, and we were along the end of the Israeli plain We could look accross and see Nazareth, many miles away and most mornings we could see Mount Hermon in Syria covered with ice, over 12,000 feet high, used to look down on us. I enrolled because I so badly wanted to be a pilot. At the end of the war, in 1946, the RAF didn't want any more pilots. They were throwing them out of the airforce. I had no hope in hell of being a pilot. So, a woman who worked with my father married a Palestine police officer and he introduced me to the Palestine Police Force. I saw happen that my father had served with Major Raymond Cafferata many years previously I think in the WWI with Major Raymond Cafferata and he became a very famous Palestine police officer... Raymond Cafferata highly decorated. We were all enrolled as British constables the lowest form of life really as British constables. We were full time members of course and the Palestine Police Force was somewhere about 4,000 Britishs strong. It had about 2,000 Arabs and 2,000 Jews in it. Some of the Arabs and the Jews were temporary auditional constables, part-timers. We had to learn... when we trained at the training school we were given the option, we had to learn a language. nearly everybody went for Arabic. I knew very little about the country at all, I hadn't a clue about it really except that everybody said it was a lovely climate which it was, probably one of the world's best climate there were no vicious animal there nothing to sting you or bite you a very lovely place to be. Palestine was not a British colony Palestine was a mandated territory. After the WWI, the League of Nations was formed not the United Nations, the League of Nations was formed and Britain was given the job of looking after Palestine. France was given the job of looking after Syria and Lebanon. And we were guardians of it but Britain and France had to pour money into it I mean Britain introduced the railway there, the roads it was a wonderful set up what was done... I mean up until 1938, Britain did a lot there: railways, roads, electricity, everything. It was a public work department Well, we interacted very well particularly in Jenin which was of course an Arab stronghold, very famous city Jenin and we got on very well with them. We used to go shopping there and all that sort of thing and the same in Haifa. Haifa was an Arab-Jewish city very modern, particularly the Kingsway area, built with a German architect, beautifully tree lined boulevards and that was a very beautiful place to be and Hadar Carmel which was a beautiful shopping center that was a Jewish area Hadar Carmel, Mount Carmel the Arabs lived in the Kingsway area and in the Eastern part of Haifa. There was a feeling there which was slowly getting worse. The Jewish were the minority, population of what was then Palestine was about 1.2 million. And outside of that, when you think it was the end of the war, Britain didn't know what to do with their troops. They all put them into Palestine and you had a ratio, I believe of about 11 of the local population, Arab and Jew to one Brit. So, it wasn't a very safe place to be because there were a lot of Brits about and if the terrorists wanted to do some damage they could... It was a Jewish... the Stern gang. al Lehi Zedal. In fact, one of the leaders went on to become Prime Minister of Israel. Begin terrible terrorist. Most of those terrorists were thrown out from their original countries like Poland, Germany and places like that. They were gangsters really infiltrated into Palestine under the Jewish flag, so to speak. And ran riot with the place, they were targetting mainly the British and the Arabs but mainly the British. The Jews wanted us out. In 1938, there was an uprising by the Arabs. That was called the war of the black triangle, that was Tulkarm, Jenin and Nablus. The Arabs started an uprising because they could fear that the Jewish immigration was beginning to take over, getting into position. Frank Barat: How did people react after the King David bombing in July 1946? Really really bad I think it got even worse after King David. I mean at Ramat Gan when they tried to Dov Gruner, great terrorist he tried to break into Ramat Gan police station, well he did break into it to a point but one of our Dearl sergeants at Jenin, Dearl Dick Wainwright he'd been in the black watch regiment in the war he was a ballistic expert, expert with a gun. He used to take us on the range. At Jenin, they used to put a swimming trunk on for us to go to the coast swimming. And he always went on it because he used to go through Ramat Gan and he wanted to get off Ramat Gan to see his friend in the police station there. Jolly good job he got off that truck that day because he ended up capturing Dov Gruner and because he captured Dov Gruner he was never ever allowed to transfer to Jenin, the Arab training school. Dov Gruner was the first terrorist they hung. I was about to go on... take my armoured car 6 o'clock in the morning, with my two colleagues, we had a three-man crew, Wallis operator and the car commander, me as the driver, we had four GMC armoured cars in Haifa I was about to go to Jerusalem that morning, 6 o'clock. As I walked accross the yard to go to my car, I can't remember much more, I woke up in hospital. And one of the Arabs in the compound picked me up, took me outside to a passing Arab taxi, and the Arab taxi took me to hospital, where Dr. Sami Khoury was happening to be working and he's of course saved my life. And Dr. Sami Khoury, as a result of his great work, was brought to Palestine because police force had no doctors of our own we had a consultant doctor who happened to be home, in England, on holiday, Dr. Thompson, really well known, he happened to be home on holiday, and Sami operated on me. His qualification were such that it wouldn't be recognized in England but he did a hell of a good job and because of that, he was brought to England by some medical people he met in the forces. And he qualified actually in Beirut you see, he was brought here, he qualified here as a fellow at the Royal College of surgeons within eighteen months, he went to America and got the equivalent qualification, and then he couldn't get back to Palestine he's Palestinian, Israel wouldn't let him in he went to Jordan and him and his wife were working in the camps Frank Barat : the refugee camps? In the refugee camps, yes. And one morning, King Hussein found him he said "you can't be here!" we have a hospital in Amman, they set it up, the Palestine hospital in Amman. And it's still there today, it does have 45 beds well, it has expanded a bit now it's got a few beds for the poor and needy but the rest of the beds are for fee-paying people. Haifa, I suppose two-third were Arab and about a third, Jew. You see, there were only about 300,000 Jews in the whole of Palestine out of that 1.2 million. That's 300,000 maybe 250,000. Well, Haifa was a big city of course and there was about a third Jewish there to two-thirds Arabs. That was the ratio. But sadly, towards the end, Britain didn't really do the job of policing it properly, looking after the mandate, because we should have carried on right up to the day, the 14th, 15th of May when Israel has formed, doing our job. But the G.O.C in Haifa I can't remember his name now... he obviously sided with the Jews because he gave instructions in the last three months, that we were not to get involved in any activity whatever, in Haifa, and the Jews drived the Arabs out. I can't remember his name and he was criticized for it so much so that somebody out there, it must have been somebody serving got a message to Ernest Bevan he was the Foreign Secretary and said this is not right what is going on in Haifa. The officer in command in Haifa is not doing his job. And Bevan immediately ordered that General Montgomery, it was the GOC of the British forces, to London to ask what's going on? And Montmogery had an argument with that Bevan and Bevan said "You don't know what's happening there, you see, I do!" And, we should never let the Jews drive the Arabs out of Haifa. I would go so far as to say that the Palestine Police Force was 95% at least very pro-Arab, 95% very pro-Arab, the Palestine Police Force, that's the British section. The Arabs were lovely people simple people, honest and nice people. Nice people the Arabs, lovely to get on with them. The Palestine police commander were alright and very much so superintendent Paddy Meahan who was in charge of Haifa, he was very angry that the Arabs were being driven out of Haifa. He didn't like it at all. The name of that General in Haifa was Sir Hugh Stockwell. And so, Sir Hugh Stockwell had a lot to answer for. Many people think that Hugh Stockwell was either bribed by the Israelis or genuinely didn't want the troops to be hurt or injured. So we'll never know but there is a big question mark over that Hugh Stockwell. If he had only given the command, nothing would have happened in Haifa if they had been allowed to do the job to the end, the situation would have been different. It was very sad when we moved out to the trade school near the airport about 3 miles ahead of Haifa, we saw all these poor Arabs, hundreds and hundreds of them cars with chairs on them, all children and women, convoys of people leaving Haifa, they go up to Lebanon. Very sad. We could not do a thing. No.. because it was not a British colony, mandate a territory. Britain was only the guardian of the place see, that was the tragedy, if it had been a colony it would all have been different and if Montgomerry had only listened properly to Ernest Bevan as he should have done, things might have been different, because Hugh Stockwell was not the right man in charge of Haifa. Really I suppose it was all a wasted effort. Sadly. When you think of what Britain pulled into it. They built railway engines there, they had railway workshops, they built many things there, made all the electricity, did all the roads and things, when you think. The Palestine Police force had about nearly seven hundred vehicles all told on their strenghth, when you think we blew them all up to pieces so the Jews could not get them all the armoured cars we had, GMC armoured cars as safe as anything. We blew them to pieces It was an experience, we were part of history. That's what it was. We were part of history

Video Details

Duration: 16 minutes and 32 seconds
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Producer: Duffer2222
Director: Duffer2222
Views: 1,513
Posted by: duffer2222 on Sep 14, 2009

An interview with Gerald Green who served in the Palestine Police from 1946 till 1948.
Filmed in September 2009.

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