I arrived at RAF Seletar and was settling into a room when Midge Brown along with Selby Robinson arrived to say I should move in with them as opposed to settling in with the lame ducks (apparently they went out on fewer occasions and drank less) and it turned out to be a good move we became very close friends for the short time I was at RAF Seletar. My first night out became a race between tri-shaws on Jalan Kayu offering the winner an extra 10 cents. We went on to try out a number of hostelries before returning to camp. As time went on I spent evenings wandering through the Jalan Kayu night market with the Florescent lit stalls attracting clouds of nocturnal insects and the monsoon ditches running with smelly refuse until this was washed away following showers which always seemed to catch us between bars and the dried fish hanging outside the shops was something else.. Some nights we went out in pirate or official cabs, it did not worry any of us so long as we arrived at our destination safely. I remember visiting the Sky Hotel dancing on the rooftop and getting slightly inebriated and goodness knows when we got back to camp but as always I didn’t remember much about where we had been but before going through the gates we would stop off for something to eat and there was a local who used to stand with a brazier next to the monsoon drain he would poke the fire and stir the food with the same tool, go across to the monsoon drain have a spit then turn the food out into a fig leaf but the food always tasted good and rounded off the evenings. Talking about food, RAF Seletar had the best selection and most tasty of foods presented to we soldiers. It almost made me think perhaps I should have joined the air force.
In an effort to slow down the drinking we tried late night cinema outings, playing squash or badminton along with the regular trips to the swimming pool and this was interspaced by checking various bars on camp. Having previously boxed I talked Midge and Selby into trying the sport, Selby climbed into the ring, the bell sounded and following one punch Selby was on his back, a fitting end to his career in the ring , I know until I left he never went near a boxing ring again.
It wasn’t all beer and beer and beer and beer we did try other things. Our outings took us to the City. Selby and I tried sneaking into Raffles for a swift pint, Tiger Balm Gardens, the Botanical Gardens and following these days out, bars, bar and bars. Everything seemed so close and easy to get to, what a place! I remember buying from the shops in Jalan Kayu where you could get made to measure shirts made from fine silk or light cotton for a few dollars, I think if my memory serve me right I came away with half a dozen shirts I also bought two suits . I went for a measure up after breakfast, a fitting at lunch and picked up the readymade suit by tea-time. The second suit was purchased a couple of weeks later. I think it was Midge who told me to get my shoes made to fit and of course I was able to buy a couple of pairs of shoes and when I reflect I am sure they were the most comfortable shoes I have ever possessed.
I was so naïve when I arrived in Singapore so far as copywrite was concerned, I would select LP records and ask for them to be put onto tape for my recorder. On one occasion I went to a record shop on Jalan Kayu. I had selected 20 LP’s and paid very little for this service. In the back of the shop someone transferred the music onto my reel tape as I was stood waiting I noticed the shop keeper put the records back in their sleeves and re-sealed the cellophane for later sale. I soon realized why the music industry complain about copywrite.
When Paddy Cartin arrived of course we had to introduce him to the delights of Jalan Kayu, I don’t know what or how much we drank but in the morning we got up had breakfast and were getting ready to go on parade when somebody said “Didn’t a new guy arrive yesterday?” This prompted us to go in search of Paddy and when we found him he was lying safely on his bed so to get him on his first parade on time we decided to take him and put him in a shower…. failed so we filled a bath with cold water. Paddy sank to the bottom where we left him for a short time before dragging him to the surface carrying him back to bed when he promptly fell to the floor. After picking him from the floor; putting him back on the bed for the third time when he fell again we decided the safest way would be to kick him under the bed and leave him. If Paddy reads this he will laugh. He slept or was unconscious throughout and knew nothing of the incident when asked if he had enjoyed his first evening out in Singapore.
When I was called to the hospital for a check-up and the nurse told me I could go, I went to await one of my colleagues ‘no names’ who was at a STD clinic. When he came out he handed me a clear bottle to carry which I was happy to do until two nurses started laughing, I soon enough gave back the bottle and legged it back to the Land Rover. That night we placed a flashing light beside his bed left a message stating unclean and a bell for him to ring.
I used to go sailing quite a lot at one stage, I can’t recall the name of my the guy who introduced me to the sailing club but he was able to get a wreck of a boat which we worked on at his house. I stayed over a couple of nights with his family as I recall there was the mum, dad a young girl and a boy who all loved being on the island. When out sailing on two occasions we were becalmed. On the first a submarine was coming up the channel to the Naval Dockyard and a guy with a loud speaker was politely asking us to move over. It went something like “get that F— boat out of the water”. On another occasion a minesweeper was making her way to the Naval Dockyard and I am sure sailors must have gone to the same school as his expletives were exactly the same. There’s a surprise. There were many occasions when the weather was perfect and we had hours of fun. However we had to be conscious of the sea snakes and other stinging creepy crawlies and a hidden danger was overcast skies. I had my shirt off for maybe an hour and when I woke the following morning my chest, back and arms were a bubble, the skin had lifted away from my body. Needless to say I did not go to the docs to be told about self-inflicted injuries.
One day we were taken somewhere when we were trained to marshal helicopter’s. The pilot scarred half of the troop by flying in low and fast and more than one soldier landed face down in the sand. All in all it was a good day out providing us with an additional skill. I recall being taken to RAF Changi for a Radio Relay course and following the exams we were flown upcountry in the middle of nowhere to set up a Relay station. We were at the edge of the jungle with a 2000ft drop directly in front of us and were there for a week. We decided we should try ringing somebody in UK so I contacted the telephone exchange where Jackie a friend of mine answered. She got us patched from country to country before reaching the exchange in London. We then asked between ourselves who knew anyone with a telephone and of course in those days very few people actually owned phones so we ended up ringing off.
Fond memories !!!!
Make sure you look up Sean’s wonderful selection of photographs on the Ops Troop profile pages…Thanks Sean ..Ed