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"Dear Mum" Chapter 15

23rd. June  RAF Gan.  

Dear Mum,  We had quite a night Monday, on the occasion of my promotion to Corporal.  It didn’t really end it just got smaller and smaller. I can recall about 2.00. a.m. seated in a circle in the middle of the runway in the pouring rain, singing like mad. We were in the RAFA Club at the end of the island until closing and then we bought two cases of beer and got kicked out of 3 different billets before adjourning to the runway.   It’s not been very hot lately and my suntan is rapidly fading. It soon goes. I bet that I will be a proper Moonie when I get back from Singapore.


Everyone who did a tour on Gan at that time was allowed a couple of weeks or so in Singapore for a mid term break.  Even though I had already spent over a year there already, this applied to me too.  Consequently, just prior to my birthday on the 7th. July 1962.  I was given a free flight back to Changi. I was given a bed in the Transit Block and I was given the freedom to do whatever I liked until I had to get back.   Things had changed a bit since I had been away and I got into some bad company.  These naughty people persuaded me that it would be a good idea to go out drinking.   I knew one or two places to go so I readily agreed.  One thing lead to another and I ended up meeting a load of guys that I had known previously.  The evening degenerated and I lost track of things in the end even though I was a very proficient boozer.  Against my better judgement, I was persuaded to mix my drinks.  


The next thing I knew I was being shaken awake and a burly RAF Policeman was asking who the hell I was and what the hell I was doing in somebody else’s bed.   I had come back to Changi under my own steam and gone back to my old block, quietly got back into my old bed and was sleeping like a baby when the current occupant came back even later from his night out.   When they found out that I was from Gan, a chorus of  “Oh No, not another one” went up.  I still had my 1250 ID card and my money, which was a bit surprising, but I had lost a shirt.   I could not remember the events of the evening leading up to this ignominious return. No real harm had been done so I was put back to bed in the Transit Block and I awoke the next day with a hangover and a resolve to be more careful in future.


As I had already visited KL, but not really seen it, so I thought that it would be a very good idea to visit it again.  I decided that I would take the same train overnight, arriving at the crack of dawn and I would go across the road and put The Frightened City on the Juke box in the little Café and savour the experience, once more.  I was like that.


The journey was not the same on my own and when I finally arrived at the crack of dawn, I walked out of the station to find that the café had been knocked down to make way for a development with diggers and bulldozers all over the place.   This was a disappointment that was compounded the rest of the day.  I wandered round on my own still and could not find anything that was a patch on what I knew existed in Singapore.  Before the evening, when I would have had to find a hotel and fork out some serious money to stay there, I got myself on the next train back to Singapore.  I felt a bit daft, but it was better than staying there another day.  It was my 21st.  on the next day  so it must have been the 6th July. 


With 3 of my old friends, I suggested a quiet night out the next night and so the 4 of us dressed up a bit and went over to a nightclub across the causeway in Johore Bahru. This was a good show and after it, I suggested that we then go and eat at the Golden Dragon Gardens.  A very up-market Chinese Restaurant and at the end of a sumptuous meal, I told them that the meal was on me because it was my 21st. Birthday.   I never told them that I was still a virgin, as by now the whole thing was a bit of an embarrassment.


Too soon, the holiday was over and I went back to Gan.  I told them all sorts of stories about my trip, some of which were true, but I shall not forget my 21st.   It would be nice to meet the guys again at the turn of the century, but I doubt very much if any of them will make it.    Nor me!


All the Radar equipment that went wrong in "my" Shackletons either had to be sent back to Singapore for repair or, if I thought I could do it, or it was urgent.  I used to take it to the Radio Servicing Flight.   This is where I used to go, if there was not much happening down the road at ASF.  This is where I made my camera box.    We had an amiable Warrant Officer in charge, who knew there was not much to do and we never felt guilty doing something that was not really work.   I used to keep my bait in the RSF Fridge and the only Maldivian I really got to know, used to keep the place tidy and make coffee etc. there.  His name was Hamed  Said. 


He must have been about sixteen and because of exposure to a lot of English had managed to get a good grasp of it.   The only problem was that he could not pronounce his S's correctly and if I asked him to say "spoon" he would say "Espoon."   I made it one of my good deeds for the tour on Gan to help him out in this and every time I saw, him tried to get him to say spoon.   He never did learn, however, and I count it as one of my life's failures that I never achieved this.  It was fascinating to discuss things with him as his outlook was so incredibly narrow, and yet he was wise beyond his years.   He had been born on Hittadhu and never done anything but come to Gan to work for the RAF.   He was always ready to talk about anything under the sun and had absorbed some surprising things from the Airman to whom he had been exposed.  He had a great fear of the "Male Men" from the Northern Capital of whom he must have heard ghastly tales.  I heard tell of one of the helpers in another section, who, on being shown the picture of some Stately Home in the UK, sagely pronounced that it must be  "many lockers having". 


A few weeks before leaving Gan I got a letter from Karola, to whom I had written, - on and off, all that time, saying that I should come to Germany for a week or so, when I got back to England.  I had kept a photo of her on my locker, wherever I had been, as she was a good-looking girl and I didn’t want to feel out of place.  It seemed like a good idea so I said I would.


5th August  1962. RAF  Gan.  


Dear Mum, I went for a last joy ride in one of our Shackletons the other day.  I took my camera and I reckon I got some ace pictures of Gan from the air.  It was one of the most enjoyable flights I have ever had.  I sat right up in the nose where the gunner sits with nothing in front of me but the glass.  The pilot flew very low and very fast over the island and then turned on the power and climbed steeply up.  It was wonderful. I think I shall have another go at Aircrew when I get back.


14th.  August. 1962.  RAF  Gan.   

Dear Mum, Just a short final note to tell you that I have my next posting, the best, as far as I am concerned. - 201 Squadron - Shackletons of course, at St. Mawgan in Cornwall.  A lot better than Ballykelly or Kinloss.  And I will be able to pop home for weekends.  Next time you hear from me I will be knocking at the door.  I hope you recognise me.  Not long now. 

See you soon.    Your Son.

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