After my ‘Q’ course at Catterick I was posted to 19th signal Regiment in 1959. On my initial interview with the CO, Lt Col Pat Williams, he told me he was sending me to RAF Tengah as the Troop OC. The previous OC, a National Service Officer, had returned home, and the Troop was currently being commanded by a S/Sgt.
The next day, OC 2 Sqn collected me from Changi and after a brief stop at his Squadron HQ at RAF Seletar we arrived at RAF Tengah. Following a short interview with the Station Commander and the SASCO I met my Troop S/Sgt, whose name unfortunately I cannot remember but he was a really first class SNCO and I will always be indebted to him for his advice and assistance on my first posting. I was briefly introduced to the Troop, then he drove me to the Officers’ Mess where I discovered I was the only Army Officer! The mess manager told me he was putting me on the 1 st floor of the West wing with ‘Billy Smarts Circus’! It turned out that all the occupants of the West Wing’s 1 st floor were fighter pilots in 60 Sqn whose OC was a Squadron Leader Smart – hence the nickname and very appropriate as it turned out!
I had an official telephone in my room but it soon became a real disadvantage as I was continually woken up at all hours by various sultry women wanting to speak to so and so, however, after installing a wall mounted telephone on the verandah my night’s sleep remained undisturbed. It was the custom on the 1st floor of the West wing to gather on the verandah each evening after our evening shower and ‘Shoot the breeze’ for half an hour or so before changing for dinner.
One evening shortly after my arrival, one of the pilots suggested that we ought to form a Society, and proposed that we call it The West Wing Rubber Trees Observance Society (WWRTOS) – (there were a group of Rubber Trees about 50 yards from our verandah) This was duly agreed and after some discussion the membership fee was settled as a bottle of gin, per person, per month. There was a long drawn out debate as to who would be Treasurer and look after the gin! After this was resolved someone suggested that we get rid of that damn Tot Tot bird!!
Throughout the night a bird would roost in the rubber trees and its call of Tot Tot was an awful noise. Quite often someone, who could stand the noise no longer, would stagger out of his room and throw some object like a shoe at the damn bird, it would become silent for a short period and then start its call again. The idea was unanimously agreed and after many gin and tonics, the society prepared for the firing of the Tot Tot Cannon Mark 1.
A metal tube, which normally held four tennis balls was the cannon and a metal 50 cigarette tin with a firecracker packed inside was the bomb. An ‘0’ Group was called and duties spelled out ie, Cannon Holder, Angle Estimator, Loader, Igniter etc. The bomb was duly fired and amazingly it landed right in the middle of the rubber trees. We all stood or rather swayed in silence for a few seconds and then we heard the dreaded Tot Tot start again, so it was back to the drawing board.
Dinner by this time was well and truly over but after many more gin and tonics, the Tot Tot Canon Mark 2 double whammy was ready for firing. The modification to Mark 1 was really a very simple solution, two firecrackers were linked together and the theory was that when the 1 st firecracker exploded and projected the tin out of the tube, it would ignite the 2nd firecracker whilst in flight and the tin would then explode when it landed in the trees. The firing took place quite a few hours later and on reflection I marvel that it ever got ignited considering the state we were in after so many G & T’s. Anyway, off went the cigarette tin with a bang and lo and behold when it descended into the rubber trees, off went the 2nd firecracker as predicted. We all stood swaying in absolute silence for a few minutes, then someone said, ‘The b****g’s dead1, whereupon there was a great roar and the celebration party went on into the early hours!
Unfortunately my stay as OC Tengah Troop was relatively short, because after about 6 months I was posted to Ceylon as 2i/c Ceylon Squadron 19th Signal Regiment and that proved to be a wonderful one and a half year tour.
Curiously the CO never visited Tengah during my tour and my Sqn. Commander only twice. I am not sure whether this was because we were at the other side of Singapore Island or they had confidence in our ability, I suspect it was the former.