Changi Troop recollections by Mike Wells

1 Sqn Office Changi

Changi Troop Recollections by:
Mike Wells.

I had graduated from Harrogate in August, married a few days later and travelled to 30 Signal Regiment at Blandford in September.

Four of us were sent to User Trials and had just started the trial on the D11, when we were seconded to 19 Signal Regiment.

As we had no passports we had a weekend pass before flying out. My wife’s home was in Lockerbie, so the round trip left us precious little time together.

We flew out on an RAF Comet, arriving late at night at Changi. We were taken to Block 139 by truck. The following morning we walked to RHQ. On the way a Land Rover screeched to a halt beside us. I remember the amazed face of the driver and a very angry RSM B.T. Lord pointing his stick at me and shouting “What are you doing back here B………?” Apparently I am the double of this soldier, who had been posted out after committing a serious crime. I waved my brand new passport and we were sent on our way. The CO did keep giving me odd looks, and the LEPs’called me J.. for a long while.

Myself and Roger Viney were sent to Changi Troop, working shifts in Block 20 and FEAFOC. Block 139 was ruled by a six foot odd Lineman called Fred Strickett. He had the Grip Stick and banner, that entitled him to grip anyone, as he had the least days to do till Blighty. As we worked a three shift we had little time to spare, but were introduced to the Malcolm club, Tiger beer and Bugis Street.


Mike Wells and his “Gongs”

The RAF canteen at Changi was the best I ever encountered. The food was so good after Army food. Outside the canteen was a barbers and the head massage after a haircut was superb. Also there was a NAAFI van that called at 139 every day. In Block 20 were two of the infamous two circuit repeaters, a scary green box that was so hard to set up.

It was used to boost the signals from two outlying radar stations into the left and right ears of the airman, who moved the counters on the big map table in FEAFOC. Just like in the old war films. Occasionally they would ring up to complain one signal was louder than the other. After narrowly making a mess of things, I learnt to do nothing and ring back later and ask how it was. Always the answer was “Much better thank you”.

Night shift we always asked the driver to buy us Malay food. Keema curry in a condensed milk tin, with a straw handle and a Puratha wrapped in a banana leaf, heaven.

There are so many snippets of memory, too many to recount them all.

1 Sqn Office Changi

1 Sqn Office Changi

But there were very competitive board games in 139 , Risk in particular.
A mean looking Chinese in our room who practised Kung Fu by punching a concrete pillar bound in rope.
Gamal the bearer doing everything we had grown used to doing for ourselves . Making beds, cleaning rooms, laundry, bulling boots and even money lending.
The Indian tailor on the ground floor.
Tapping the phone line in the WAAF block, listening to airmen pleading with girls to go out with them.
FOS Prof Kenyon trying out his fractured Mandarin on Cpl Ooi.
The China Sea Beach Club.
Bugsy Smith with one of the early Japanese motorbikes, a two stroke Yamaha.
The speaker in every room with BFBS on it, the signature tune being the theme from The Magnificent Seven.
A whole day running up and down Nee Soon ranges firing the SLR until I was deaf in my right ear, and to this day my hearing is fuzzy on that side.
Parking a Land Rover in front of the Fire Station and getting the bollocking of a lifetime.
The incredible sports facilities at Changi, ten pin bowling, golf, swimming pools.
The Astra cinema being packed out when they smuggled in a naturist film.
Every civilian being called John; Fred if they owned a Makan stall.
Hearing stereo for the first time on someone’s upright tape recorder.
Pick up taxis.
The Capitol cinema, watching The Pink Panther.
The Kai Tais and the other sights in Bugis street.
The Death houses in Sago lane.
Change Alley.
A desperate few days sunbathing on the roof of 139, to eliminate our bar tans.

Before we knew it we were on an ancient Britannia Airways aircraft on our way home. My first impressions of England were, it was so grey, so littered, and everyone looked pale and ill. I never dreamt I would be lucky enough to be posted back there, but I was in 70/72 to Microwave troop.

Thanks for that Mike JH