In the early part of 1949 I was transferred to 2 Squadron where I was to take over the detachment of nine men at Tengah from a Corporal who was about to return home to Boston, Lincolnshire. Having moved onto the station I made myself known to the Station Warrant Officer and was taken by him in to see the Wing Commander. Being an RAF station the way of life was much relaxed. For instance they only required beds to be made up but not laid out with equipment.
…a bit crafty
This of course led to another little problem. Those of you who served in Changi will remember that one of the first jobs enjoining the regiment was to scrub all webbing white. For some of those on detachment who had missed this requirement if and when they returned to Changi they were expected to have scrubbed equipment. At the time that seemed to be an unnecessary amount of work for someone who was only passing through on his way home. So, those who came out from regiment swopped gear and hoped that they were never posted back. This blancoed gear was then stowed at the back of the locker never to be seen again, with luck!
Keeping the Station Commander happy
One of the first difficulties experienced was how to keep nine men gainfully occupied on what would have been part of a one man load had we been working for GPO telephones. We had a small manual exchange, a number of teleprinters and of course the telephones in various places around the station. Generally the relationships between the services were very good but from time to time little problems arose like the time a new Wing Commander arrived straight out of, I believe, Fighter Command in England. He asked for, nay demanded, a telephone system between his clerk, office and switchboard that did not exist in 19 AFS’s inventory of stores, So, much effort was put into designing and building something in an old battery box with a yaxley switch to change connections. This was installed but he was never very happy with it! It was eventually removed.
Blame Seletar Troop
There came a time when we required to move underground pairs about, so a jointer from Seletar was called in. The cable to Flying Control was opened and that
to the transmitter site. The cables were replumbed and everyone went home. Later that evening the rain started and the lights started coming up on the switchboard. Flying Control was off the air as were the transmitters. The new joints on both cables were porous due to the plumbing lead having been incorrectly mixed. Next day we had a party of coolies in to dig the cables out so that they could be replaced, but what a surprise for a young westerner – they were all female!
Going for “Jollies”
One of the pleasures of being on a small station was that one only had to go down to Flying Control and see the pilots who were on night flying and ask if you could go with them. As a consequence I flew in a Dakota and the C in C’s Avro York. This latter four engined aircraft was handled like a fighter with a threat that it would cost you $10 if you were sick on the carpet. It was fantastic to see Singapore by night from about 1,500 feet.
There are many more memories, motorcycle trials, trips to Singapore and meeting and making friends. For the two years that I spent in the Army I feel that I received good value in return.
Inspection by the Squadron Commander
There is one last memory to which I would like to know the answer. Just before I was due on the troopship for home we detachment staff suffered an inspection by the 2 Squadron CSM and OC. Everything was going fine until we arrived at our top floor billet. They went all regimental, wanting to know why we had not made our beds up and laid our kit out. I explained diplomatically that we were on an RAF station and had complied for years to their Standing Orders. I was informed that I and all of the Detachment could be charged for not obeying Regimental Standing Orders. However, they would speak to the Wing Commander before we complied. I remember hot footing it to the Station Warrant Officer and explaining our predicament to him. He in turn spoke to the Wing Commander who asked us to lay out our kit as per regiment on the next due inspection day. The inspection party duly arrived and they were impressed despite our multi coloured webbing. They went away saying that they were so impressed that they were giving consideration to getting their RAF types to do the same layout! Fortunately I left next day and still do not know the outcome of this little dispute.
Cpl Peter Wall Changi 1948-Tengah 1949