DUTY CLERK
By Keith Armitage

Keith Today

Keith Today

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…and Keith then

He wore his cap like that of a guardsman, its peak sharply pressed down over his forehead like a ski slope with the crown sloping down each side like a shed roof. His most striking feature however, was a moustache as big as his ego, that grew from under his nose to the lobes of his ears, like a pair of huge furry animals. His only competition came from the RSM, whose upper lip was similarly festooned. He was the Adjutant (Capt.J.J.Crowe)  and his power was such that he scared to death every squaddie who had the misfortune to cross him. His specially tailored olive green tropical uniform was always starched and ironed to perfection, the creases razor sharp and his boots as shiny as patent leather, setting the required standard for all to follow. He and the RSM (WO1 G.B.Symonds) were the only ones in the RHQ Block who wore boots and puttees on a daily basis, everyone else in the building wore shoes and stockings. A bachelor, he lived in the officers” mess at Temple Hill, so no doubt his immaculate turnout was due to the efforts of his houseboy/batman. His office was his seat of power and his enormous desk his altar to fastidiousness; every item on it carefully placed in its precise position.

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The old RHQ

The Adjutant’s temper

I got the full blast of his raging temper one morning after completing my stint as Duty Clerk. After having an early tea, I had to return to RHQ, everybody left and I locked all the doors and windows. At sunset, I hauled down the flag. The CD’s, 2IC’s, RSM’s as well as the adjutant’s office then had to be thoroughly cleaned and their desks highly polished, overflowing ashtrays emptied and the floors coated in red mansion polish and shined to a gloss finish. Having finished all these chores a bed with a prickly mattress was where I spent the night, reading smutty novels by Harold Robbins or Hank Jansen, or studying the heavily airbrushed photos of the female anatomy depicted in the pages of the books of Harrison Marks; lulled to sleep by the low hum and creaking paddles of the slow-moving fan spinning hypnotically above my head, whilst trying to ignore the dive bombing mosquitoes.

Punished !

An early call, arranged through the WRAC operating the exchange switchboard, summoned me from my slumber but instead of leaping to my feet I must have slumbered on a while before I set about opening up ready for another working day. Unfortunately, my first concern should have been to ring the adjutant at the Officers Mess, to wake him up for his breakfast and the start of his day. Apologetically my call to him was half an hour late and the blast from the earpiece told me I was in deep doo doo! When the staff arrived I scurried off for my late breakfast and early shower, all the while trying to think of something in my defense that may appease sir. I failed; my punishment was to serve as duty clerk for a complete month from that day on. I could only look on the bright side and count the money I had saved by not patronising the Malcolm Club.

Working with Bernard Strange.

Later, Keith was posted to Singapore, GHQ FARELF in Tanglin. During this tour, he was seconded to 252 Signal Squadron in Hong Kong where he worked with Bernie Strange ( the Sqn MTO ) The picture below shows Bernie and Keith at the Officers’ Mess in 1962.

Webmasters comment. Sadly Keith died on Sunday April 9 2017. he was a hard working committee member and he will be sorely missed ..John Hilluntitled