By Len A.Hynds

I had been posted to the Military Police Station on the outskirts of Suez Town, and had been there only a short time, when I was sent by my Sergeant Nobby Clark, to investigate the theft of six bales of clothing from an army depot. He told me to take Ibrahim, our Sudanese Tracker with me, someone I had never used before.

The British army had used Egypt as a base depot for well over a hundred years, with everything that an army could need, apart from food and drink, and they were like small towns, with large bales in hessian sacking, stacked on top of each other to the size of a two storey house, with those huge house-type blocks in street after street. These depots were always near garrisons, but covered large areas of desert surrounded by a high chain link fence, with a sentry hut on the inside every 100 yards or so. This particular depot was guarded by an Empire Regiment, the Mauritian Pioneers, with two platoons of 60 men every 24 hours, with one platoon on whilst the other rested, as they did four hours on and four hours off.

So there was always 30 men spread around this vast place., spaced technically 100 yards apart. During my later investigation, I discovered that one or two sentries would be approached by an old man on the other side of the wire, offering the services of a prostitute, and if accepted for just a few piastres, a young woman would squirm under the fence by burrowing away at the sand, and join the sentry in his hut. By having two sentries occupied in this way, it was a simple matter for the main team of thieves to cut the wire in the dark in a safety gap of some 200 yards, enter and steal bales, each man just being able to carry a single bale. They then cleverly rejoined the wires, which could only be detected by a very close inspection.

I took Ibrahim with me in the jeep, and we followed the Royal Army Service Corps Sergeant from the front gate to where the thefts had taken place. As I was making notes as to what had been taken, Ibrahim was circling around, sniffing the ground like a dog.

He looked at me and pointed to the wire fence some distance away, and I followed him, and he pointed out where the wire had been rejoined. I had to get really close before I could see it. That had impressed me, so opened up the wire, and he continued to track across a featureless desert, with me close behind. I could see in the distance the railway sidings outside Suez Town. Ibrahim hesitated at following the tracks knowing that it was out of bounds to Europeans and quite frankly dangerous. With the brashness of youth, with my Smith and Wesson revolver in its holster, and the excitement of the chase, I told him to press on.

Luckily the Sergeant behind us, still inside the wire, knew what dangers we were heading for, and racing back to his office telephoned my station and notified Nobby. We crept alongside a stationary train, and Ibrahim put his finger to Empty Gun his lips, pointing up towards a guards van. Holding my revolver I climbed up and entered with Ibrahim behind.

The stolen six bales were in the middle of the floor, and behind them knowing that it was foolish to hide any longer, six Arabs stood up, and each had a dagger in his hand. They were close together so it was easy to cover them all, and I shouted at them to drop their weapons, but they didn't, although I am sure they could understand me. I waved the gun at each of them in turn, as I stood in the doorway, and I hissed to Ibrahim, "Get Nobby quick," completely forgetting how far he would have to run across the desert to do that.

That poor man had run about half a mile, when Nobby in his Jeep, with our truck close behind came roaring across the desert. On seeing Ibrahim on his own running like mad everybody thought the worst. I was still there in this stand off, when the lads arrived and everybody was arrested. Nobby told me off for not getting back-up, and asked how many rounds I had. I said, "Twelve. Six in the gun, and six in my pouch."

I broke the revolver for him to see that I hadn't fired any rounds, when I saw the gun was empty. I had forgotten to load it.