I Capture the Public Information Officer (P.I.O.) Bell, by Th. F. Meysels, Palestine Post, May 20, 1948

The Public Information Office was shrouded in darkness on the last evening of the British Mandate for Palestine. The current was off and the candles were finished. A conscientious man young was still editing the last bulletin of the Palestine Broadcasting Service by the light of a little fire in the middle of the press room floor which he replenished from time to time from a stack of Government communiques . An optimist had rigged up a kind of medieval wall torch and by its flickering light was typing out a cable, which he did not know how to send.

With the aid of a box of matches I climbed the stairs, carefully avoiding all the windows , through which the bullets of nervous soldiers continued to enter now and then. I felt a sentimental urge to take away with me some souvenir of this building, endeared to me by many years of wearisome press conferences and enjoyable drinks. I wanted it to be a useful souvenir, something my wife would appreciate, a nice shiny telephone, for instance.

Red Phone

I went from room to room , but everywhere the telephones had already been taken away. Finally I penetrated into the deserted holy of holies and there on Mr. Stubbs late desk — behold — was a beautiful red plastic telephone. I peered into the open safe, found a disappointing bill from the safemakers in a sealed envelope marked "secret", and took out a pen knife . (Warning to other would-be telephone subscribers: as you cut the cable, the handset cries out miserably, if you are sensitive, lift the receiver first.)

In my case, however, I was disturbed by the approach of heavy steps. A British lieutenant, complete with escort, entered the room, and I pocketed knife. He looked at me my, smiled, and said: Would you mind, sir, if I cut the telephone and unscrew some of the electric bulbs? I graciously agreed and offered to do the whole job for him. He refused , but offered me a tip from the last bottle of Scotch in the thoroughly rifled P. I. O. canteen.


The Army proceeded on its requisitioning trip and I threw a last glance over the room of the Public Information Officer. And with this very last look I discovered the souvenir of souvenirs — the very symbol of the regime.

There stood the big hand bell , wielded by the Public Information Officer in person to give the alarm signal whenever somebody phoned to say that the P. I. O. would be blown up in the course of the next half hour , a game that was very popular at one time. Caution being the better part of wisdom, the building was always evacuated and the rest of a working day was usually gone by the time the police experts satisfied themselves that there was no bomb.

Feeling a little like T . E . Lawrence after he got the bell of the last Hejaz Railway Station, I marched off to town—where very soon the rumour spread that the Jerusalem Railway station had been captured and Th.F.M. had been appointed provisional station master.

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