By Len A.Hynds

Owing to my reputation of being able to shoot my way out of trouble on a few occasions, for my last year in Egypt I was appointed the driver/ bodyguard of the Assistant Provost Marshal, Canal South District.

General Crocker, the Commander In Chief of Middle East Land Forces gave the APM an assignment one day, and we had just under three weeks to prepare for it. In the Far East, the Royal Navy Frigate, Amythyst, had been sent up the long river Yangtse in China to rescue British personnel from an embassy, as the civil war between the Nationalists under Chiang Kai Chek, and the Communists under Mao Tse Tung were getting perilously close.

The Amythyst had negotiated the long river and rescued the people, but the communists had placed artillery on both banks for several hundred miles and the Frigate was effectively trapped.

She fought her way down river, with guns firing at both banks, and the cruiser London was fighting her way up river to give fire support. Both warships made the safety of the South China Sea, but were both extensively damaged. They were on their way back to England and a hero’s welcome.

It was the APM’s job, to organise the regiments in Egypt to line the banks of the Suez Canal, in serried ranks to cheer both ships through. The site had been chosen, and a few days before the ships were due to steam through towards the Med, we took General Crocker in our car to examine the site. It was approved, and we were on our way back to G.H.Q, with me driving at about 70mph along the bleak and completely empty Canal Road, with the two senior officers sitting in the back talking of the plans, with maps spread across their knees.

I suddenly saw a movement on the floor beside my foot. I glanced down but could see nothing. A few seconds later I felt the slightest touch on my bare knee and glancing down, to my horror, I saw a small brown Egyptian mouse. He was calmly sitting there, washing his front paws and then his be-whiskered face.

I must explain. I have an innate horror of mice. It all stems from when I would arrive home from school aged about 6, to find my mum standing on a chair because she had seen a mouse scuttling around that old house. She had probably been in that position for hours in a state of fear. No wonder I grew up to hate all vermin.

There he was, sitting there on my bare flesh, just smiling at me, the very epitome of evil. With one hand I swept him to the floor, whilst at the same time, slamming my foot on the brake, all thoughts of my very important passengers completely forgotten.

The car screeched to a halt, and apparently the passengers were thrown into the air, and then in a heap on the floor, I opened the door, and the now terrified mouse leapt out, running up the road, with this mad monstrous red-cap chasing him, trying to hit him with the truncheon always kept under the seat.

It was only after the little beast had dived into the sand to get away from me, to avoid the heavy coshes, did I realise what I had done. I turned and looked back at the car, and saw that in my mad braking, I had tipped them upside down. They were both on their knees looking over the front seats in astonishment at me. All they had seen was me running up the road, striking it with a truncheon. They had not seen the mouse. They thought the sun had got me, and I had gone 'Macnoon.'

I helped them out of the car, recovering hats and important papers, trying to think up some excuse for my behaviour, as my boss was almost apoplectic with me at giving the C in C the drive of his life. I had to tell the truth, and told them about the mouse, and finished up by saying that I was scared of mice.

I could tell by their expressions that they were dumbfounded that the red-cap chosen to be the fearless bodyguard was actually scared of mice. I had destroyed my reputation in a few seconds.

As we resumed the journey, it would suddenly go quiet in the back, and I knew that they were looking at me, and I am sure I heard suppressed sniggering like a couple of schoolboys. My embarrassment was complete.

On arrival at the marble steps at G.H.Q, the turbaned guards lowered their lances in salute, as I opened the door to the two officers and saluted. General Crocker took a few steps and then came back with a big smile on his face. He put his arm cross my shoulder, and slipped an Egyptian five pound note into my hand, saying, "It's worth that Corporal, just to be able to repeat that in the officer’s mess."

My misery was complete. It made my nickname as the “gunslinger of Suez” look a bit foolish.