Among our regular customers at the Jaffa/Tel Aviv Traffic Office were the managers of local bus companies. They visited the traffic office on most days, dealing with the registration, testing and licensing of their fleets of vehicles.
In late 1945 there were also long queues of recently demobilized members of the Jewish Brigade, many of them seeking a bus driver’s licence. That licence was a prized document, because it enabled the holder to apply to buy into one of the larger Jewish bus companies as an owner-driver. A much sought after occupation just after WW2.
Standards were high, and Jewish bus drivers were generally skilled and competent men. Their driving seldom caused our motor-cycle patrols any real concern. The bus companies were anxious to maintain their reputation, and on those occasions where their drivers were prosecuted by the police and convicted, they quite often faced further punishment from their own company. There was however one exception to this otherwise admirable standard, and that was speeding on the main highways.
One of the roads that caused the police particular concern was the Egged Bus Company’s route on the main road north of Tel Aviv, particularly on the stretch from Sarona to Petah Tiqva. Police speed-traps operated on that stretch from time to time with varied success. This was long before the advent of speed cameras and it involved two or three constables armed with a stop-watch, establishing the speed of a vehicle over a measured distance. Egged “intelligence” would quickly learn that a speed-trap was operating, and they responded by dropping off an employee at each side of the trap to wave down approaching busses. Once through the trap area, the driver of course put his foot down to make up lost time.
The local Egged manager, a chap quite well liked by the police, was made aware of this problem but he was not able to assist! One could hardly blame the man; he had to keep his drivers up to their time-tables! He was a tall fellow with a good English accent and a very English sense of humour. Looked more like the actor, George Sanders, than the average citizen of Palestine. He was generally believed to be the local Haganah commander, although of course we were not supposed to be aware of this.
The little problem was overcome one morning by putting out a couple of men as a dummy speed-trap. The real trap was a mile or so further along the road, concealed as much as possible by the orange groves. The operation was most successful, several busses were bagged before Egged realised they had fallen for a dummy trap.
A weary Egged manager marched into the traffic office that afternoon with a pained expression on his face. “Gentlemen” he declared, “that was not cricket”.
"Anyone who served in Holy City in the latter years of the Mandate will probably remember the Jerusalem District Traffic motor-cycle sergeant, dear old Johno Johnston. He was a large and rather portly fellow, but invariably one of the first on the scene at any serious incident.
Johno was a fatherly figure to the younger motor-cycle constables. I remember him getting them together in the autumn of 1947 to remind them of how "business" would pick up with the first rains. The streets would have gained a dry film of oil during the long summer months, and the first light shower would turn it into a greasy slithery mess. They were advised to have a plentiful supply of accident report forms in their saddle-bags.
The first light shower arrived one afternoon, just as Johno and two of his constables approached the Jaffa Gate in V formation. As they turned left the impossible happened - Johno's bike skidded, and he landed on the hard greasy road, on his bum ! All very embarrassing for the great man. Particularly when the two young constables who were following him both produced accident report forms and asked if they could help. But no one in the traffic mess up in the Greek Colony was prepared to mention the incident in Johno's presence that evening."
For readers too young to remember George Sanders was a suave actor, appearing in over ninety films. He starred in the 'Action in Arabia'(1944), as a reporter investigating an axis plot in Damascus Back