- Contributed by
- Tom the Pom
- People in story:
- Tom, Dick and Fred
- Location of story:
- Nablus Palestine 1939
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 23 September 2004
THE NABLUS OLIVE TREE
Having been in Palestine some time now and stationed at a British Military camp near the Arab village of Jenin, we were at the stage where the novelty of living in wooden barracks surrounded by barbed wire and high hills in a foreign country was beginning to wear a bit thin.
But one day one of our lads entered the barrack room and warbled to all and sundry “Ah see it’s up on Company Orders that B Coy is movin’ aht ov ‘ere”
One bloke with his nose buried in a book entitled, “Snow White and the Seven Snakes” rested the book on his chest and enquired, “An’ duz it say weer they is off tae?”
“Nah mate, it just just sez B Coy is tu be fell in in front o’ the Guard room wi’ full pack an’ marchin’ order termorrer mawnin’ at nine o’ clock sharp.
My name is Tom Barker and I was in B Coy and was reclining in my favourite position on my bed watching the antics of my pet chameleon that was even now stalking it’s next meal on my mosquito net.
On hearing this bit of gossip I lifted the mossie net carefully so as not to dislodge my mate the bug eater cum mozzie strangler and crawled out of my fleapit and sort of trickled on to the floor and out of the door.
On perusing Company Orders at the Guard Room I verified the warblings of Pte Young who had indeed read it and informed us correctly.
I reflected on the order that stated, “ All service personnel residing in this establishment will read and obey Company Orders”.
“Failure to do so will result in a penalty of seven days jankers.”
I got back to my bed just in time to welcome Sgt Lamb who waltzed into the room like a Suffolk Punch plough horse complete with a red sash over one shoulder and a look on his face like he had just won first prize at the local quadruped show.
“Right lads, pay attention!” he rapped.
“ Aw yuz blokes in B Company will be dressed en foo kit the morra’s morn’ an’ in front o’ the Guard Room at a quarter ti nine… ony questions?”
“ Weer is we off ti Sarge?” warbled a reedy voice.
“If yer in front o’ the Gerd Room termorrer yu’ll find oot then, aw richt?” then he was gone and the door banged shut.
The hut was now all a buzz of conversation as it was bandied about by the strategists among us that seemed to know all the answers but sometimes got it wrong.
That was when the opposition would rear up and smirk, “Och jings! away an’ bile yer bliddy heed, ah telt ye tha’ wiz a load o’ crap en at, but ye wudnie listen, jeez! yer heeds foo o’ wee moters an’ they’s aw broke”.
However to our delight the next morning when we fell in on parade outside the Guard Room we noticed a line of R.A.S.C. trucks outside the Camp and after a quick inspection we were ordered onto the trucks and were soon enjoying the cooling breeze
that was being generated by the now moving trucks.
Traveling through hills and valleys we eventually arrived at what looked like an Arab village with a small fort like building that had a courtyard enclosed by a high wall and was about fifty yards from the main part of the village.
The fifteen foot high walls that surrounded the small group of buildings inside had barbed wire on the top to discourage anyone climbing over them.
The entrance to this fort like structure was a stout iron gate that had a bell built into it’s middle that had a short piece of rope tied to it’s clapper that was obviously tugged to draw attention to the fact that someone was at the gate and wanted to parley to those within the walls.
The observation tower had been built of heavy wood and stood like a huge open wooden box with a roof atop of four uprights.
This assembly was erected on four telegraph pole like stilts that were encased in barbed wire to discourage any baddies from climbing up to the observation box.
The only way to gain entry to this guard tower that was outside the walled compound was via a wooden ladder to get to the top of the wall where the barbed wire had been cut away to allow the guards to stand there while waiting for the old guard to come down one by one.
Then the two Guards by day and two by night about to be relieved would respond to a certain tapping signal on one of the wooden legs and open the trapdoor that was the only entrance to this wooden observation tower.
Five minutes prior to the Guard change the guardroom would alert the sentries in the tower by telephone that in five minutes they could expect a tapped signal on the wooden post for them to open the door in the floor of the tower and they could lower the rope ladder.
One of the new Guards would tap a code that was altered depending what day it was. The code would be tapped on one of the wooden upright supports and the trap door high above their heads would open and a rope ladder lowered and one old Guard would climb down while his mate still in the tower kept watch.
One of the new Guards would now climb up into the tower and the second old Guard would descend to the top of the high wall, then the other new Guard would ascend to join his companion for the next two hours.
Once the Guard had been changed the rope ladder would be pulled up and the trap door closed and bolted on the inside.
The two new Guards would now acquaint themselves with what was going on below them and they could also keep an eye open on who was coming into or leaving the village.
A rope like a clothes line was tied to the side of the watch tower and when tugged
it activated a bell that acted as an alarm bell that was fixed on the wall just outside the Guardroom near the black iron gate.
The two main incidents I remember best about this place was when I had a birthday there on May the 23rd and the second incident was when an Arab murdered his father
because he would not loan his son the family plough to plow up a bit of ground.
The birthday was just like any other day so I was not disappointed.
However about three months later I got a birthday cake from home that had presumably been round the world a couple of times looking for me.
Once I got the wrapping off and observed what I thought was a green curled up puppy dog.
Two wee black eyes peering up at me through the shaggy fur that turned out to be green fungi with the odd currant stuck in the icing of what had meant be a Happy birthday cake.
I was about to throw it into the rubbish bin but some of the lads decided that it would make a nice change to their usual diet and pulled it to pieces and devoured what was not covered in green moss.
A couple of weeks later a ruckus in the village caused our Guard to be turned out and they brought back an Arab who had got into an argument about the family plough that was a bent bit of branch from an old olive tree that a donkey pulled at the end of a bit of rope.
Sadly the argument ended with the older man’s death and the people in the village wanted the younger blokes head.
Our blokes grabbed the son of the dead man and locked him up until the local law came and took over.
I lost track of what happened to him but did hear he was on a gang doing hard labour on the roads of Palestine.
Tom Barker 1st A&SH
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