Dec 1947-April 1948
Pages in Section 13
1948 - views of a traffic policeman
i. December 47 - Strikes and Riots
ii. Massacres at refinery and Balad al Sheikh
iii. Battle for Jerusalem 1
iv. Ben Yehuda Street bombed
v. Jewish Agency bombed
vi. 1948 - views of a traffic policeman
vii. Battle for the Roads 1 - Jerusalem
viii. Battle for the Roads 2 - Mishmar ha Emek
ix. Battle for the Roads 3- Deir Yassin
x. Haddassa Hospital Convoy
xi. Battle of the Roads 4- Gush Etzion
The following extract is taken from 'Patrick J. Byrne's Service in the Palestine Police 1947-1948'
Pat Byrne served in the British Section of the Palestine Police from early 1947 to May 1948. He trained at Sarona Camp for three months and then served in the more rural areas of Northern Palestine. Late in 1947 he transferred to the Traffic Police. The HQ was based in Nazareth, but his motor cycle beat covered all rural areas of Northern Palestine. The memoir is based on letters he wrote to his father while he was in Palestine. Pat Byrne was an enthusiastic member of the traffic police in the last days of th mandate.
Many times in the past I was told, 'Traffic is the best', but nobody really had a clue, it was better than the best. This was the life. My first instructions were, 'We are totally non political'. For instance if I stopped a car and the occupants were armed to the hilt but all the papers relating to the car were in order, that was all that mattered. It was the only way we could survive.
For the most part we worked alone and would be easy prey for a terrorist, if they thought we were a danger. In fact no matter how serious a state of emergency existed in Palestine I was allowed to go out alone when regular police personnel could only go out in groups of up to ten. All sides saw the need for traffic control, including the investigation of accidents. The way people drovein Palestine there sure was a need for the latter.
To clearly identify us as Traffic officers we wore a white top to our blue police hats, white sleeves over our blue uniform and a white Sam Brown belt and holster. you could see us a mile away. I was so conscious of our 'spit and polish' appearance that more often than not I stuffed the holster with paper and carried the revolver in the motorcycle pannier bag. Many years of tough but fair treatment by past Traffic officers earned great respect from the police personnel, as well as the population at large and I was very careful to maintain same.
Our Traffic Division consisted of the District Traffic officer, two Arab Police, two Office Clerks and a driving Tester, I was the only Traffic officer in the district whereaw there were about a thousand regular motor pool and mounted police. If you think I did not feel special, you are dead wrong.
By early March 1948 there was little we could do in the traffic area, the courts were not operating so it was useless issuing tickets. We stopped handng them out, instead just gave warnings. Most Palestinians did not realise the courts were not operating so in this way we kept control; most were pleasantly surprised at our benevolent attitude.
One day I was approached by a prominent Arab and offered 100 pounds to transport the body of a local man, killed in Haifa, to Nazareth. I was tempted but as this would violate my non-political status, I refused.
At this time the high status in which 'Traffic' was held, was proven beyond doubt. I was detailed to drive to Jenln three times a week to deliver reports for the Inspector General. The reports were handed to a truck with regular police for furtherance to head office in Jerusalem, an important duty, as Haganah had developed such an intelligence network, in and out of the Police organization, that it was the only way to keep our reports secret. This went on for a few weeks until we got news the truck from Jenin was blown up. I was then instructed to go all the way to Jerusalem with the I.G. reports. I drove my motorcycle and had on my Traffic regalia. I did many trips this way with no problems.
One beautiful day I was enjoying the ride until I came to a big dip in the road. As I approached, I heard gunfire coming from either side of the road. I stopped at the top of the dip, in plain sight, and the gunfire ceased, I proceeded on my way and, as I reached the top of the dip on the other side, the gunfire started again. On learning of my experience the H.Q. sent two armored cars out to clear the way for my return the next day. I did not usually stay over but they were auctioning off the belongings of the crew of the Jenin truck. This was common practice, anything not wanted by relatives of the deceased were auctioned off to raise money for their family and it gave the rest of us the opportunity to contribute, as the belongings fetched far more than their value.
On one trip to Jerusalem I went to the police crime laboratory in the Arab section. Not sure of the way, I was going very slowly. As I turned a corner a group of about ten men, squatting in a circle, jumped to their feet and ran away. They had been gambling, which was illegal, and on seeing me they just took off leaving cards and money behind. I just kept going as if I saw nothing. The men were back before I was out of sight, very pleased I had not taken their money.
On one of these trips to Jenin my attention was drawn to a group of approximately 20 Arabs. The object of their interest was an unfortunate dog with a broken back. It was obvious, from its condition, that it would have to be put out of its misery. I made the group circling the dog move to one side, out of the line of fire, drew and cocked my revolver and held it about 6 inches from the dogs head. This had an immediate effect on the group; they became dead silent and watched my every move, remember all types of weapons were banned so they seldom saw a gun in action. With a sense of high drama I pulled the trigger, only to see the bullet pop out of the revolver, bounce off the dog and land at my feet. Embarrassed? You bet.
I picked up the spent bullet, re-cocked the revolver, pulled the trigger, this time dispatching the poor creature to its hereafter and was on my way before too many realized what had happened.
Tension was very high with both Jews and Arabs. I was invited to dinner in the Dajura household in Nazareth. Although they were Moslems, Mrs. Dajura served and then joined us for the meal. She had graduated from the American University in Beirut and spoke very good English. The topic of conversation was mainly about what would happen when we (the Police) left. I could not see how they would be in danger from a Jewish invasion as the only Jewish settlement was to the south, in the valley miles away, and it was mostly Arab territory to the north. Alas, I was wrong, one of the first towns taken by the Jews after we left was, Nazareth.
1948 - views of a traffic policeman
Text Copyright Patrick J. Byrne, Margaret Penfold, British Palestine Police Association