|Ruck Nichols Comments
Around June or July'59 an ordanance came down from RAF Seletar that all camp pets on Chia Keng should
have an owner or someone that would be responsible for their welfare.
As Pongo was always around my bed space-plus I would always get him treats from 'cookie'-I took it upon
myself to vouch for Pongo. See attached "yellowed/aged" page from my Singapore days photo album showing
the actual license which was bestowed on Ruck dated August 19th '59 from RAF Seletar.
As you are aware I flew back to the UK early December'59 for demob. Yep! I grew very attached to Pongo!
I am unaware who took over the license and responsibility
Pongo is a slang name for an Army wallah! Perhaps an Army personnel gave him to Chia Keng?
I was unaware of the Shane name until your EMail.
The monkeys that were kept near the mess on Chia Keng I would be always grateful for their presence.
One Sunday lunchtime the mess was quite crowded when the "monyaks" stared to go wild and screaming.
We wondered what all the fuss was about-then we found out-There was the biggest Cobra (approx. 12 feet long)
under one of the mess dining tables-Boy did that mess clear quickly! I believe Gintin the cook killed it?
Yeah! It was hell in the tropics!
Trust all is well-Cheers, Ruck
Forgot to comment on Roy Henderson-
Check out the photo of Christmas Party 1958-Ruck was working a shift when this was taken-
he is the guy standing on the right of the cook, Bedoe is on his right.
As he was the senior rank on Chia Keng-he ran the Admin. side of things.
Due to our connection with CK2, we, Taffy and myself didn't really have much connection with him.
He seemed a nice personable guy-quiet.
-I do believe Taffy and I might have been Harry's replacement-as I really do not remember him?
I arrived in CK May 1958???-I think? Time goes on mate!
The best thing is at least someone came out of the woodwork! More! More!
I checked into a seach site for people in the UK recently-Len Nesbitt, Doncaster, it shows a death.
Jim Rand Comments
1) I remember John Arrowsmith was 'into' photography and bought some quite high class stuff when we were out there. If you've got any contact with him I know he took loads of pictures of everything Chia Keng and beyond.
Not sure whether you were lucky or not to fly out East. It was the time of the Suez crisis when I'd finished at RAF Locking and we went out by sea. HM Troopship "Asturias" on which I served in the galley - not cooking, but just scraping out slops and washing up. Very therapeutic after a rough passage through the Bay of Biscay! Got me off parades though, and plenty of time to watch the dolphins and flying fishes.
When I arrived on the island I was almost immediately chosen for a "special" job on Air Calibration Flight. This was a Flt. Lt., a Flt. Sgt., an SAC and me. We flew in a Valetta to all the operational stations in the Far East and, on landing, the SAC and I disembarked and set up a theodolite on the airfield. The plane took off again and flew a pattern above us whilst we tracked it and called up our bearings to them, which they checked against the readings being given by the DF gera on the ground. So we got to HK a couple of times, to the US base, Clarkfield, in the Phillipines, etc, until they told me that I really should be an SAC and would I like to take the SAC trade test. I saw the writing on the wall and asked if I could be allowed to do what I'd been trained (hah!) for. So they sent me to CK and the rest is history.
Your web site has brought back some great memories, and again raised the old question in my mind - viz. why did we ever want to come back to this country from such an idyllic life? Especially when all that was waiting for me was an office job in an insurance company! Yet there we were, when demob time drew close, poring over the repat. lists and hoping like hell to get on a Comet because the trip was quicker. I ended up on Airwork and my recollection is that the journey took about 4 days. An improvement on the outward journey time though.
I do remember Burt Platt but I'm afraid I've not heard from him since I left the island and certainly have no contact with him I'm afraid. Did you ever come across a guy called Dave Dodds? I know we went through square bashing at Padgate and trade training together and that he came to Singapore because at one time we were mates and went to stay a couple of days with a civvy chap (name escapes me) who was in charge of the island's Drainage Dept. This chap was known to an aunt of mine in UK who put me in touch. He and his wife had a huge house and I recall that, not only did we have a bedroom each and ate like kings, but there was a a tin of 50 Piccadilly on every side table, including at our bedsides! I lost touch with Dave after demob but I still can't remember if he was at CK or not. Tall guy, close curly blond hair and wore glasses?
2) Many thanks for photos. Not sure about Dave Dodds - could be him standing at the back if he's abandoned his specs and grown a moustache! What I can tell you is that the guy sitting on my right in that photo is Brian Salkin, a jewish lad who went through Padgate and Locking with me. And the one you mentioned on my left, seated with glasses, is Harry Foster, a Geordie (like myself) and he was a CK2 man. I remember because after demob and our respective marriages, we both went to live on the same estate in Co. Durham and we made contact as a result. Oddly, I don't think I had anything to do with him whilst I was at Chia Keng - but then, as I remember, the CK2 guys kept rather to themselves. I do recall that, even after we'd been demobbed and in civvy street for some time, Harry would never talk about his work at CK2, claiming the Official Secrets Act.
3) This was a real surprise this morning!
As Harry says, we lost contact when I moved away, not to Norwich as he says, but up to Glasgow and then ultimately down here to Sussex.
Harry was CK2, of course, and I remember that he was bound by the Official Secrets Act and would never say anything about what he did.
Ray Hensby Comments
I left Chia Keng in March 1954 after 18 months i/c Guardroom and the Malay Auxiliaries. The photo of Cpl Ahmed brough back memories because I got his promotion to Cpl. He was fluent in not only his native tongue, Malay, but also in the Chinese dialects of Teochew and Hokkien. He was wasted in carrying out normal patrols etc on the aerial farm so I had him promoted and he became my right hand man/interpreter in dealing with the civilians living on the in the bashas.
Hoppy I remember too, the idle sod!
During 1953, or early 1954 I was paying the usual visits to the holdings on the aerial farm when I came across a couple of puppies, one black and the other brown.
Thinking no more of it, later that day the owner turned up at the guardroom with the brown puppy as a gift. Our previous camp dog had been shot by the dog patrol so it was a good idea to start again.
We pondered over a name and decided on Shane as we had seen the flilm earlier at the Cathay Building. If the dog is one and the same I think I have a photo somewhere as a puppy which I could send on.
David Bateman Comments
In August 2005 Paddy McCracken a cook at CK
posted a message on the site and I have emailed him today and it has returned.
Thought my message would be of interest to you. Have you been in contact with
Paddy or do you know an upto date email address?
in respect of the photos on your site, in the photo titled CHRISTMAS DRINKS
1958 on the far rifgt I know the chap who left CK1 at the beginning of 1962. It
was a short chap named weddy A SAC Radio Mechanic. He has a Austin Car and has a
good large Bluespot Radio and one of the first rell to rell aki tape recorders.
We are going to Penang and KL next May as prices on Malaysian Airways together
with 4 stat hotels have been very cheep in the UK. Did a booking with all
tranfers and hotels foe £502 from UK Heathrow.
I have been alot to Singapore on business, but getting expensive now.
I may have some colour slids of the camp. Do you wish me to forward them to NZ
so you can put them on the site.
CK was a Butlins posting
In 1960 the Japanese Cemetery was not there. On this site there were some new
houses and there was a dirt road to the houses. Some of the CK2 chaps used to
be live there.
Another point, when I was last in Singapore, there was a posh bus station at the
junction of the village of Paya Lebar and Yio Chu Keng road.
When I was last in Singapore, I gave my 1960's Shell map of Singapore away to a
travel agent in Orchard Road for a deal on Air fares to Malaysia at that time.
Was there a Arial rigger named Ivor Lawrance and one named Geoff, both married
And living out. Were they at CK1 when you were there. They were there up to 1962.?
On CKI our camp, we also had initially a Scotsman who was in the Army Royal Signals
who looked after the lines up to 1961 and he was replaced by a Londoner named Charlie?
I have a lot of coloured 1960/62 slides of Singapore as at that time I bought a
Single reflex S£ £21, and at that time the same camera in the UK was £98 as
there were import restrictions on. Good rate of exchange then 8:57 to the UK
Pond! Now Under £3 to UK £.
Singapore was very cheap, only Aden was cheaper.
On another note, we now get Tiger Beer in the UK but it is Brewed in CHINA,
they have it all in China!
I for the last 10 years , on compliance in respect of the financial services
industry regulations here in UK.
I may go to Singapore in 2007 as the flights to KL are very cheap to from
Singapore and they have a turn up service for flights with Malaysian Airways.
There are also local budget airlines in Singapore operating on short haul
routes, making for more competition.
I was in Singapore and visited the old camp 10 years ago. The bungalows
on the opposite of the road were still standing from the camp were still standing.
There were about 2 or 3 bungalows. The address was was 6.5 mile stone
Yio Chu Keng Road.
Coming up the Yio Chu Kang Road from Singapore City, Serangoon Gardens was
on ones left. Right opposite this turning (on the left hand side of the road) was
CK 1's aerials of the aerial farm. The road then went off to the right and
The corner was over a large radius.
Went on your site again last night and this was the first time again for 9 months.
In respect of the 1960 Photos under the heading of CK 3, the first one( black and White. I was there in 1060 when this was taken.
The persons from left to right were:
Less Matthews a Ground Radio Mechanic from I think Stoney Stratford, Jock Lockray a J/T Wireless from I think Glasgow, Paddy Mac Cracken the camp Cook, who was a guest on the site in 2005.
Jock Garvin a Ground Wireless Mechanic from Dundee area who visited the site on 6?10/2006 and sent him a email last month and Barry Davey( good footballer) a teleprinter operator at CK2 from Plymouth.
As regards the Colour Photo, it appears to be ourside Selectar Swimming Pool.
The persons here are: Jock Garvin, Terry Richards a Corporal wireless operator I think from London and Paul Coddington a teleprinter operator from Nottingham at CK2.
Harry Foster Comments
1) Out of curiosity I typed RAF Chai Keng into my search engine on Sunday (10th Aug) and there you were.
You may not remember me: Harry Foster, I was one of the 007 boys who worked in the GCHQ office. We were billeted in the smaller of the two billets along with the Aux Police lads. With me were Ken Close, Derek Giles and Alan Young.
I was particularly pally with Paul Bennett because we were in Scouting together and ran the Seletar Troop.
After we were demobbed, Jim Rand and I moved onto the same estate when we got married and had many a good night together until he moved to Norwich. Since then we've lost contact. I've tried using the email address on your website but he must have changed it. If you have his address I would be most grateful. Also that of Paul if possible.
Incidentally, I'm in the photo of the Christmas party, the bespectacled character on the right of the photo with my arm resting on the back of the chair. Directly behind me is Chiefy (if I'm not mistaken). Jim Rand is the face to my right, Paul Bennett is sitting at the end of the table nearest the camera and the only other guy I recognise is Hoppy the bearer, extreme left.
2) Am attaching a photo of the four GCHQ lads in the hope they may jog your memory. They are Alan Young (Regular), Derek Giles (NS), Ken close (NS) Great little cricketer and Me (NS) at the front. The other pic is of Cpl Ahmed, NCO i/c RAF Aux Police who became a good friend of mine. Spent many hours just chatting about our different cultures.
After I left the RAF in May 1958 and married my sweetheart in June so we have just celebrated our Golden Wedding Anniversary. I went back to the firm of printers I'd served my apprenticeship with and stayed with them till November of that year. I then took a post as Senior Technician at Newcastle College Printing Department. I retired in 1992 as a Senior Lecturer and have been enjoying my retirement ever since.
I wanted to bring my wife, Doreen, out to Singapore when we retired but unfortunately her health wouldn't allow it.
This October our granddaughter, Helen, is going to Borneo with her school, calling in at Singapore on the way. I am green with envy.
I often reminisce about those days with great longing. We were lucky, weren't we?
Hope this finds you and yours in the best of health and good spirits.
3) I've also sent you a photo of the camp I took from the top of the water tower. Incidentally I got a roasting from Dick Meal for being up there - something to do with 'elf 'n safety (if it existed in those days!
Just remembered - the day we carried Dick Meal's car round the back of the radio cabin and the shock on his face when he came out to get in it!
4) The only Sergeants i can remember were Dick Meal and Chiefy who was Ft Sgt Sylvester (can't remember his Christian name).
I'm sure that's Ken Close and me talking to Cpl Ahmed in the Cookhouse shot.
The kitten playing with the monkey was named Sapristinurkle after one of the Goon Show sayings!
Other shots are of Hoppy the bearer who had been tortured by the Japanese, the monkey was called Chico, an atap just outside the perimeter fence, Sapristinurkle and me on my pit reading God knows what.
5) Have been in touch with Jim and he has invited us to go and see him and Norma. He also said he would be "pooping" in to see us when next up here.
6) Have sent the attached photo to Sailor so he can pass it on to Paul. It's a shot of us at Jurong Park. The guy in the middle holding the baby is Tony Danker, a Sub-Inspector in Singapore Police. really nice guy. He occasionally visited Paul and me on the camp.
Do you remember the day a rabid do got onto the camp and the police came and shot it behind the radio cabin. Tony was the guy in charge of that squad.
God, the memories keep flooding back.
7) I must be growing very old. I cannot remember that Xmas Party although I was obviously there. Even the fact that the canteen was decorated and some of the guys wore fancy dress!
I'm afraid I can't remember many names of the lads in your billet apart from Paul, Sailor, Jim, Sam. I honestly can't even recall yourself, shame on me! One face I do recall is the guy in the pointed hat in the front row of the group photograph - don't recall his name though.
I do remember that Fl Lft but not his name. As far as I remember he wasn't a very friendly chappy. He was the guy who told Chiefy off after hearing me address Dick Meal by his Christian name outside the office in the corridor!
I do remember, the barbecue we had on the area between the radio shack and your billet. We roasted a whole sucking pig and had a bit of a dance going with some invited ladies. Derek, Ken and I were seconded to produce the banner over the main gate because we were all in the printing trade at home and some lad from your billet produced the invitations by photographing the original and have stacks printed off.
Am sending you the attached of me dressed in the SP's kit. I'd sneaked into he room in our billet donned this stuff and had the photograph of me with an Aux PC named Zainal. It was meant as a bit of a joke to send to my girlfriend. Can't see the point of it now!
Peter Faulkner Comments
1) Re the then and now photos, seems a good idea. I have one taken with Brian (Sailor) Luttman,( he's one of the guys in that group photo sporting cravats, taken prior to a down town trip I imagine). Mind you it was taken about 7 years ago, and he was pulling a face. I tracked him down to the pub he was running. Would you like to have a look at it. Perhaps you are in touch with him? I have e-mailed him since summer and he did say he is about due now to go into hospital for an operation. I must give him a shout.
It wasn't my mate, Pete Hughes that I was referring to that had died, it was Frank Sinatra! Pete is alive and well in deepest Somerset. Oh its great to find another Sinatra fan, who like so many of us 'found' Sinatra through other RAF friends, (when many of us thought at first that we didn't like him). That was one of the things about mixing with other guys in the RAF, passing, learning and sharing tastes and experiences.
You have gob smacked me a bit saying that Johnny Egden was living in Frodsham!!!! Was he from Frodsham? Because thats where we lived, around 1974 to 1985, off and on, because I was still working overseas, but later a lot of the work was unaccompanied, so the family were there more than me. We lived in Fluin Lane which turns off passed the community centre. Those were happy days, when my lad started school, nice little town Frodsham. It was good for me traveling, Manchester, Liverpool airports, motorway system. As well as Delamere Forest, Chester and other nice Cheshire towns.
Let me know about the photo, will have to crank up the scanner.
PS Have you had any contact from one Dave Bale, good mate of mine, from Labuan. MT corp. at the time, ex Seletar. I was detached to Lab. three times). I know he gets your e-mails, might be from a third party. Its just that he's off to NZ to Christmas visit his family down there again, afraid I don't know where exactly.
2) I remember Pongo well. There was at least one other dog on camp, but I canít recall names. I'll have another read of your Servicemans comments shortly, as a memory jogger.
By the way it was good to read Jim Rands comments. I'm sure I sailed out with Jim on the Astarius, then we were posted to Seletar together. I also got stuck in the galley for a while. I seem to recall a couple of us moaned about working in there for the full month of the voyage and they remustered us to baggage handlers, finding wanted on voyage luggage from a great heap of suitcases and deep sea boxes at the behest of the families.
Its a pity Baz White never got into computers, he would have some tales to tell. Sailor (Brian) Luttman tells me he's) Baz in his second childhood with his motor bike. Baz says he built the monkeys cage. I'm sure thereís a tale about Pongo getting lost on trip to Changi beach, or somewhere, he was written off, then turned up about a month later!
I do recall that the monkeys were Sabrina and Elvis, I think Elvis was Sabrina's son, that didnít stop him fancying her! Thatís monkeys for you I suppose
I did one trip on that Calibration flight that Jim talks about, donít think that Jim was on it. We went to Cocos Is. It was a small island that the Aussies used as a Quantas refueling/night stop. There was some RAF emergency radio kit in the control tower so that was good enough reason to get a trip there. I recall we went down there just before Christmas. The Aussie guys on the prev. trip had passed an order for all kinds of Singapore duty free goodies and our kite brought them down. One of the air-crew went down the steps of the Pig, (Valetta), wearing a Santa's outfit! So you can imagine that we were made very welcome. It was magic, no RAF rules, a civvy island, great food and made very welcome.
Rex Wiggins Comments
1) The photo in Signals S&S history 1947-72 is of the receiver building at Kranji. Our mob(CK2) moved there when 9 ANZUK Regt was formed. They moved out of the old CK2 site because the Brits gave the Singapore govt everything including all those sites at the Naval Base, all the aerodromes & those enormous areas out near BMH and Princess Mary Barracks.
I understand CK2 is now a hospital. I donít have any photos of it myself but will ask around.
There you go fellows, Dont try and make me remember things that far ago.. I am working on it, slowly.
My man in Canberra is Ted Baker, he took over from me in W section on prior to my return to land of Oz
April 1961. Ted told me he had a couple of good friends at ck1 but like me, memory some what short
at this time..
2) The info I passed on regarding CK2 being turned into a hospital I received from one of my
mates from early sixties. Ted Baker took over from me at CK2 and he is my man in Canberra
seaking out some pictures of the old CK2.
I do not mind if you pass on my email address to Peter Chan, though doubt if I can through much light
on the subject.
I will forward your email to Ted Baker and I am sure he is in a better position to answer some of the
questions regarding the hospital etc.
So I will leave it at that for the moment.
Enjoyed the little read on CK2 at your site there, should note thanks to Ruck he promoted me to
Cpl when in actual fact was only baggy arsed signalman in those days.
It was a wonderful surprise when Ruck made contact with my last October. Could hardly believe that after
so long he was able to track me down..
3) Apparently CK2 was still extant in 1985 and was used as a remand centre and also a drug referral centre.
I donít know when but now is no more nor is CK1.
The site is now highrise high density houses. A few months ago an ex-MOTU was there and could not recognize anything at all re CK1 or CK2.
4) Well all I can say is the Australian component was Det of 101 Wrls Regt and the unit had the grand title
of Wrls Troop Type "F" Malaya. Not sure when but married members moved into married quarters at
Serangoon Gardens estate and single fellows were accommodated in Princess Mary Barracks at Pasir Panjang
All signallers were employed at CK2 unless on similar duties up North on the malayan peninsular.
Around 1959 / 1960 Single members moved from Pasir Panjan and took up accommodation
at RAF Seletar.
I was at CK2 from 1 Oct 58 to 21 April 1961.. Had option of staying 3 years but decided I had had enough,
and as soon as my replacement arrived, I was out of the place.
Tom Garvin Comments
Thanks for the E mail and the pictures donít think there was anyone I recognise on them though. Some lovely girls out there we also invited them to the camp dances when we ran them, in the badminton court and the spare billet we had a Welshman ex art student who used to do the decoration to a different theme each time.
Remember also in the early hours of a Sunday morning CCS at Changi would sometimes give us a teleprinter link through to Stanstead to get the football results, and when it was quiet chatting to the telephone exchange girls. Happy days I also felt sad to leave beneath the exitement of going home, I always intended to go back to Singapore one day but it never happened. Most of our holidays now are trips over to Spain to see our daughter and her family, they have lived there for 20 years usually a month or so at a time now i have retired.
Iíve attached 4 photos of some of the faces in the early 60s. Thereís Brian Beddows taking a picture in the mirror with Pongo stretched out on the floor, then a few of us in Bugis St. no doubt you know it, L to R Les (who worked with Lofty) Jock Lochrey, Paddy Mcracken (cook), myself and a Barry from Plymouth. The colour one is outside the pool at Seleter me , Terry (cpl. radio op.) and Paul Coddington from Nottingham. Then a crowd at the Britania club for my 21st. birthday May 1961, Iím the wee guy at the back trying to get in the picture.
cheers for now thanks again for the great site.
Found another guy in a photo on the site I remember, Bill Edgecome, am I correct in thinking he was married and lived on the estate? Think I remember the cook/hairdresser in one of your photos, but the chief local cook was the older one who was called Chinting (still owes me 25 dollers from a card game).
Did you ever get sent up to Frasers Hill? most of us went at one time or another during the tour. It was called jungle familiarisation but think it was just to give the lads a change of air. It was up country near Kuala Kuba Buhro (probably not the correct spelling) we had walks in the jungle in the morning or talks about snakebite or something, in the afternoons played football or volleyball, the evenings were spent supping ale in the NAFFI, (as you do out there) it was another experience Im glad to have had. We went up in pairs with people from the other bases on the island.
Im off to Spain tomorrow for three weeks so will be off line for a while, when iI come back will have a look to see if I have any more photos which may interest you
cheers for now
Thanks for the pictures, trying to remember Brian Luttman but my memory fails me, take it he was an ariel rigger, I remember Len Nesbitt another rigger I think so should know him ..Ruck Nicholls I think I can just remember , worked at C.K.2, he went back not long after I arrived perhaps a few months, if its the same chap I remember he was very keen on American culture, as Ruck moved to the states maybe its the same guy.
Bill Edgecome is in faces from Chia Keng 2 the picture titled Chia Keng pals, Bill is the west indian bloke in the front row, I think he was a wireless op. working in the radio room across from flt. sgt. s office think they had a Racal reciever, I worked on these later on at RAF Digby when I returned to U.K.
Who was the senior nco in your days, we had a Flt. Sgt. Wilson ( another scot ) he was promoted to W.O. just before the end of his tour. There was a sgt. with sandy cloured hair , think his name was Ray or something similar.
We did the Tiger Brewries trip twice I think in my days, would have gone more often if we could have, remember well the Tiger Tavern at the end of the tour. We also visited Radio Singapore studios on one occasion. Another time a few of us went over to see the transmitters at Jurong, can't remember exactly where it was on the island, remember doing frequency checks for them on the measuring equipment at the desk in the cabin ( cant recall the name of the equipment )
Sent an E mail to one of the chaps I served with ( Paddy Mcracken, he's in one of the pictures I sent you ) sadly when I arrived back there was a message from his daughter saying he died a few weeks ago before receiving the E mail , however she would like me to send any pictures of him to her.
Michael Allen Comments
I was only at Chia Keng for about 6 months before being posted to Ceylon. At Chia keng I worked at CK2 listening post with GCHQ and RAF operators. There were about 6 RAF Opís. Those I recall are George Hampton, Harry Foster, Derek from Plymouth, Ken from London and a Scottish chap (I think called Bates). We were housed in the first block in from the gates together with the police corporal.
I arrived at Chia keng in April 1957 having journeyed around the Cape on the troop-ship Dilwara, stopping at Dakar, Cape Town and Port Louis in Mauritius. With two other I was taken across to CK2 and introduced to the staff and shown round the section. The next day we were told that we were confined to camp as our clearance had not come through from England. This was a blow as I had arranged to meet a friend from home (stationed at Changi) in Singapore to celebrate my 21st. We ebded up having a bit of a ďdoĒ in the dining room-my first introduction to Tiger and Anchor beer. There seemed to be a lot celebrating going on with boat parties, barbeques, etc. Remember the aerial riggers? They knew how to let their hair down with trips down to Katong.
Walking round the aerial farm was always enjoyable and we would set off with Minnie the dog. Do you remember the guys making rope and the pottery? Minnie would normally flake out and need to be carried back to camp. One time she had her leg broken and we took her to the vet to put a splint on it. Within five minutes of getting back to camp she had ripped it off. Other pets included Eccles, Sir Pristy Nurckel the cat (names after the Goons) Sabrina and Sandy.
Gin Tin and Lew worked in the kitchen and Hassem was our room boy.
As I sit here the memories come flooding back, faces and places.
Paul Bennett Comments
A Riggers Tale, - TWO WIVES AND A MONSOON DRAIN by Paul Bennett
The work of the Ceylon Radio Fitting Party came to an end and we were all posted to Singapore. So we duly boarded (with exception of Baz White as he has explained in one of his tales.) the Valetta aircraft known as the Negombo Pig which made regular trips between Ceylon and Singapore. The pilot welcomed us and explained that he was in command, throughout the trip, despite there being a more senior pilot aboard, in the person of the C.O. of the Flying Boat Squadron based at China Bay. He gave the estimated time of arrival but it could be an hour either way depending on the wind speed and direction.
We taxied to the end of the runway, the pilot revved the engines the old plane shook and shuddered the noise grew until speech was impossible until we finally staggered into the air. It was my first flight and I enjoyed every moment.
We broke our journey at an Indian Airforce Base on the Island Car Nicobar where the aircraft was refuelled. An Indian Airforce Officer met us on the runway, he was very apologetic that they were short of transport to take us to the base for refreshments. In fact it was not really a problem, the senior officer and his family went in the solitary car and the rest of us crammed into an old truck that made two trips. Some civilian accountants seemed worried about keeping their suits clean, but the rest of us were quite happy.
After half an hour or so we returned to the plane and took off to continue to fly over the Indian Ocean. After a while the pilot came out of the cabin and sat down in the rear to talk with a New Zealander Air Force pilot. OK I thought the co-pilot has taken over. Then the cabin door burst open and there was the other two crew members wrestling on the floor. I found this rather disconcerting who was flying the thing! I looked around and realised that no one else was concerned, the old Negombo Pig was chugging along quite happily with the autopilot engaged.
Thus we arrived at the bustling, colourful island of Singapore. Shortly afterwards I was moved from the fitting party and became the station rigger at the receiving station Chia Keng.
The residents of Singapore Island come from several races, all of which have different customs and religions.
The civilian employees, at Chia Keng were Malay and Chinese. One of the Malay Auxiliary Police who worked with the Snowdrops to provide security at the camp told me about his domestic arrangements. His religion allowed him to have two wives and he reckoned it was a splendid arrangement. The secret he claimed was not to let the two of them get together. He had four children, two by each wife. All of the children lived with him in a house situated on the Aerial Farm. One wife looked after him and the children. The other lived in flat in Singapore Town and worked in a departmental store. Once a week he visited her and stayed the night. Every six months the two wives changed over, including the job in the shop. This was the first instance of job sharing I'd come across!
In my naivety I thought the different races lived in relative harmony. One evening I had a rude awakening.
The road running passed Chia Keng was typical of most on Singapore, single carriage way with a narrow grass verge between the road and deep concrete monsoon drains. On that night I was walking the short distance from the bus stop to the camp when I saw the dark figure of a large man walking a head of me. A lorry tore passed me, rather to close for comfort, and hit the man in front knocking him into the monsoon drain. The lorry did not stop but speeded up, even more, and disappeared down the road.
I ran up the road jumped down into the drain. There was a couple of feet of water in the bottom. The man, who, I now saw was an Indian, was unconscious face down in the water. He was big and heavy but some how I managed to turn him over and get his head onto my shoulder, but although I tried I was not strong enough to get him up the steep sides of the drain. Fortunately I heard a car pull up and called out until, to my relief, a face appeared, it was one of the radio mech's returning by taxi. We realised that even with two of us we were going to have difficulty in removing the man from the drain and so he ran to the camp to obtain help and call for an ambulance.
Soon afterwards pounding feet heralded the arrival of three of the station's auxiliary police To my amazement they took one look and said Indian man he will be drunk let him drown! They started to walk away. I took exception to this and summoning all the authority of a nineteen-year-old with two stripes ordered them back. They sheepishly climbed down and helped me lift the Indian up onto the verge. The radio mech returned (I cannot remember his name only that he hailed from north of the border.) we together established that man was breathing, had an irregular pulse, and blood was oozing from a head wound. Shortly afterwards the ambulance arrived and took him to hospital. With out knowing the man's name I could not make inquiries at the hospital and therefore never found out whether he recovered.
Despite this experience, I was interested in the different cultures and customs and was fortunate in having friends from the different races through involvement in the Scout Movement, from whom I learnt a lot. This did not stop me from dropping an almighty clanger, but I think I will write about this in my next tale.
A Riggers Tale, - DOGS AND GODS by Paul Bennett
Among the civilian employees at Chia Keng was a young Chinese lad called Ali. He worked as an assistant to Jack the camp cook. (I must say that the food at Chia Keng was excellent) It was noticeable that the other employees treated Ali with some caution. He was reputedly connected to one of the criminal gangs or triads. This particular gang had some involvement with the Taxi Company that operated from the village just outside RAF Seleter
One day Jack and Ali had a violent disagreement, this resulted in the camp being visited by a senior plain clothes Air Force Police Officer who instructed Jack to stay on the camp for a few weeks until things cooled down.
One evening I had been visiting friends at Seleter, as I was leaving the camp I saw Ali and called to him and asked him to find me a cheap taxi, to take me back to Chia Keng. Ali disappeared into a shop and shortly afterwards a large black car pulled up next to me, four very large Chinese jumped out grabbed me and I found myself crammed into the back of the car sandwiched between two of them. To say I was a little concerned is putting it mildly. I tried to work out if I had done anything to upset Ali but could not think of anything. I surreptitiously glanced at the men either side of me they stared stone faced straightforward. As we near Chia Keng the man next to the driver burst out laughing, the next moment they were all laughing and pulling my leg Ali had set me up good and proper! I was soon laughing with them, they refused to take any taxi fare and we parted on good terms.
The aerial farm covered a large area, the aerials being for both the RAF receiving station and the adjacent Foreign Office station. (Known as CK1 & CK2 respectively) There was quite a population living beneath the aerials. Some officially and others were squatters, they occupied a wide range of dwellings from shacks to well appointed bungalows. Most residents grew a wide range of crops in plots around their residences and occasionally I would be presented with a ripe juicy pineapple. Many had guard dogs tethered by the front door. One day one of them escaped, the first I knew of this was when it sunk its teeth into the back of my thigh. It had not barked or growled so there had been no warning. Luckily I had a parang in my hand which I swung behind and hit its head, luckily, for the dog, it was the flat of the blade which caught it. I then proceeded to return to the camp backwards swinging the parang if it came too close. The flight sergeant saw my plight and run out with a couple of others the dog got the message and disappeared back onto the farm. Chiefy insisted I was driven straight the sick bay at Seleter for stitches and jabs without waiting to change my ripped shorts etc. After treatment to my intense embarrassment a friend Pat, a very attractive young lady, spotted me Her father was a Flight Lieutenant and she worked in the hospital in a clerical capacity. I'm sure you can picture the scene there was me trying to be polite and pleased to see her and at the same time keep my backside to the wall. The next time I saw her she smiled and admitted that a mutual acquaintance had told why I had come in and she had deliberately come to find me.
I was fortunate to have an excellent civilian assistant at Chia Keng, a Malay called Karim he was hard working and knowledgeable.
Someone somewhere decided that Karim and I should have means of communicating between the aerial farm and the camp office. In those relatively low-tech days this was to be achieved by stringing wires between posts driven into the ditches which bordered the paths on the farm. On each post a jack point was fitted into which a hand wound telephone could be plugged. Therefore besides any tool or equipment, which we needed, we had to carry the hand set in a leather box.
One day as we neared the end this task Karim and I were hacking out some undergrowth from the sides of a ditch to make way for a post when we found a cardboard box. Inside the box was a large very beautiful china tea service. Karim could shed no light on why it should be there, he could only suggest that it had been stolen and hidden in the ditch. The condition of the box indicated that it had been there sometime. We decided we would take it to Jack the cook and use it at Sunday tea. (Which was one of the week's highlights).
This we duly did, the kitchen was empty so we unpacked the china and put it on the draining board. Ali strolled in and started to wash it up. When Jack arrived I explained where we had found it etc. I didn't notice Ali had gone. We were still chatting with Jack when the flight sergeant rushed in crying what have you done? I looked at him in bewilderment. Look outside he said, we ran to the widow. The entire Chinese staffs had downed tools and were sitting with their backs to a wall muttering away in very agitated manner. Chiefy explained that apparently the tea service was an offering to one of their Gods. Karim and I hurriedly repacked the service and carried it back to the ditch where we carefully replaced it.
For some time after this Karim and I were given a wide berth by the Chinese having been informed that we had the "evil eye"!
Thus ended my first, but not the last, experience in the field of industrial relations.
Shortly after this I unexpectedly was awarded a third stripe, this meant there was no establishment for me in Singapore and I duly boarded HM Troopship Dilwara for the trip back to the UK.