I came across an excellent colour photograph of the airmen’s swimming pool at RAF Changi that was taken from the Changi Hospital in the early 1960s. It brought back memories of the many happy hours I had spent in that pool during the time I was stationed at Changi between 1960 and 1962. Like all young fellas we larked about diving and jumping from the top tier of the diving board. Some of my dives were not as accurate as I would have liked and I quickly learned just how hard water can be when you land in it at the wrong angle!
I was stationed at Bomber Command High Wycombe in late 1959 working in Command Stats (not the most thrilling of jobs) when I my Corporal’s tapes came through. Knowing was going to be posted I contacted my father (then a warrant officer working at RAF Records Office) and he ‘fixed it for me’ after learning that would like to go as far away as possible for my first overseas posting. I could not have had a posting much further away than Singapore and I was delighted.
I was sent on my way on the troopship Nevasa, a journey which took around 3 weeks, calling in at Gibraltar, and into the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal and then visiting Ceylon on the way. A magical trip during which I became acquainted with the wily ways of Egyptian sellers of ‘genuine’ Rolex watches in Port Said as well as with real flying fish and dolphins swimming alongside the ship.
I was first assigned as PA to the then Station Commander of RAF Changi Group Captain ‘Ginger’ Maynard. He certainly tested my shorthand and typing skills so diligently learned during AA training at Hereford. He was a difficult chap to work with and I learned to be extremely diligent in checking my typed up letters before offering them up for him to sign.
However, being young, single and adventurous, I was during my tour, given the opportunity to visit some interesting places. These included a detachment to Fraser’s Hill which was and still is, a highland resort destination, nestled among the mountains of Pahang, located two hours away from Kuala Lumpur. It was a favourite holiday destination for senior military and government officials during my time in Singapore and a small RAF Unit was located there commanded by a Flight Lieutenant. While there I did, believe or not, have a round of golf with (unbeknown to me at the time), with Lee Kuan Yew the Prime Minister of Singapore.
I was also seconded briefly to RAF Seletar and while there, took part in another detachment this time to Alor Star as clerk to 66 Squadron flying Belvedere helicopters. I remember Alor Star just as a jungle airstrip where we lived under canvas that attracted an abundence of snakes which managed to get into your tent!) Alor star is now known as Alor Setar and is one of the largest cities in Malaysia.
Other memorable experiences included a holiday on the beautiful island of Penang, staying at a forces leave centre close to RAAF Butterworth and a rail trip to Ipoh in the North West, having volunteered to bring back a stranded RAF staff car. Ipoh had a large army presence at the time and one night I remember being taken to a nightclub where I encountered a number of bored army wives who were not behaving quite as they ought to have been while their other halves were away. Enough said about that experience!!
Regrettably I have never been back to Singapore but nevertheless, retain many fond memories of my time in the Far East.