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My posting to Kuching began from RAF Wyton. I had a rush of blood to the brain box and volunteered (yes I know, never volunteer for anything) for a 12 months unaccompanied tour. Must have had girlfriend troubles but thinking back, at that time I was going out with a certain Susan Taylor from Ramsey who was a right bit of stuff. Memories of her are flooding back, but that’s another story, anyway lets get back on track

I left Wyton with a railway warrant, passport and suitcase one very cold day in November 1965. I was a bit under the weather from the night before after a great send off party from the lads. I made my way down to Knightsbridge in London for the booking-in process for my flight to Singapore. Sitting in the lounge drinking loads of coffee (no beer on sale), still trying to get rid of my hangover. I started a conversation with Jonah Johnson who was sitting next to me. It turned out he was going to Kuching also. In the end there were nine of us all going to the same place - all Suppliers - the ‘Mavericks’ were born - more later.

Eventually, we all boarded a coach for Heathrow. Travelling down the A4 (no motorway then), the coach broke down. This was a bad omen. This was the start of a journey that lasted a week to get to Singapore. At Heathrow, after booking in, we all headed straight for the bar. In my case “the hair of the dog” started to work.

I can’t remember the name of the civil airline, but the aircraft was a Britannia. After a delay of some hours, we boarded and started the take-off run, but the pilot aborted. After coming to a stop, we were surrounded by fire engines. Obviously something was very wrong with the aircraft. We all returned to the bar. Many hours later, we got away, heading for our first stop, Kuwait City. We landed okay, but there was some trouble with one of the engines. It turned out this was the same problem that they had back at Heathrow. Whilst on a little walk around the airport we watched other aircraft movements. We saw one landing with another one coming in right up his rear. The one on the ground seemed to go straight up and the other passed under him to land. They missed each other by feet! Glad we were on the ground then.

With memories of that near-miss still fresh in our minds, and after over 24 hours delay in Kuwait, we took off for Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Again on arrival they had trouble with that same engine. This time they decided on an engine change. The families and officers had hotels to go to. We, the lower ranks, had to go to the local YMCA. Words cannot express what this place was like. It was disgusting. We spent all our time walking around Colombo and drinking. After a few hours we began to notice that the clothes we were wearing were rotting. What a welcome to the tropics. The local shops made a small fortune out of us all.

A total of seven days after leaving the UK we arrived in Singapore and transferred to Seletar (or was it Changi?) to await our flight to Kuching. The delights of Singapore awaited us.

What a place Singapore was, especially Bugis Street! You could buy anything you required, and I mean anything. For those of you who didn’t have the pleasure of visiting, you really missed out. Those of you who went there know what I mean. I’ll say no more until later.

Two days later, via a Bristol Freighter that I think belonged to the RAAF, we landed at RAF Kuching in what was then Sarawak (now Malaysia). All I can remember about this trip was the noise, the vibrations and having to sit on the cargo.
 
This photo shows part of the civilian airport and RAF base. The guy standing on the roof wearing an armband is not Air Movements - in fact he was Malay and is wearing a black armband for obvious reasons.
 
Air Movements Passenger Terminal and Lounge. Notice the bar in the middle left. This was used by everybody, especially those off duty
 
Here’s a view from the Supply Control and Accounting Flight (SCAF). Part of the camp HQ is on the left and an Argosy is on the pan.
 
Looking across from Air Cargo, there’s a Bristol Freighter next to an Argosy
 
Another shot taken from Air Cargo with the aircraft steps and a Bristol Freighter
 
Main Street. On the left SCAF, then  HQ, further down on the left is the Comcen, Air Operations and Air Movements etc.  Also down on the left, Station Sick Quarters, which always had a large box outside the entrance full of condoms. V.D was like the common cold out there. I remember one guy…   no, I’d better not, he could still be around...  Slightly to the right and further down is the Main Guardhouse
 
No this not a photo of a POW camp! This was my home for twelve months. The hut on the left was where I lived and shared a room with five other guys.  Notice the laundry hanging out to dry and the flood ditches. The building middle top was the NAAFI, not too far to stagger back to our pits!
 

Before we go any further, a little explanation of my working life in SCAF. This was my only posting where I had to shuffle paper around in the Supply Squadron. On arrival, my first job was inventory clerk. This wasn’t too bad really, if anything went missing, it was “issued to the forward area” then written off - it was assumed that anything going up there never came back.

I then became a stock controller (F1640’s come to mind). I think I am correct in saying that the 46th Boy Entrant brats were the last to be trained in the old supply system. After the 46th Entry, computers came in, so walking into SCAF out there was like entering a museum, everything was done by hand.

 
When it rained it came down in droves - which explains the reason for the flood ditches!.  This shot was taken from the NAAFI.
 
 
This is a shot of "The Bogs".  It looks bad but I’ve been in worse
 
 
Taken from behind the bogs. We used to have all sorts of nasties coming out of there, many different types of snakes and loads of various creepy crawlies. After dark the bogs were not used a lot, I wonder why?
 
 
R &D Section
 
 
SCAF,  F1640’s Stock Control Section.  Third from right (with legs crossed) is Jonah Johnson
 
 
Tech Stores. On the left is Paul Hignett
 
 
Local Malay Labourers
 
 
On the sign is Tinker (that's me!), Jonah, Bones, Cloop, Noel, Speedy, Jeff, Tony and Higgy.  We are the originals that met up in London and with others formed the “Mavericks”. We were mainly a darts team but took on all-comers in different sports, especially drinking contests.
 
 
Supply and Air Movements Squadron, Boxing Day 1965

Names that I can recall are few, especially 37 years after the event, but in the front row, left to right are: Jonah Johnson, Tinker (that's me!) and Chas Gibson
 
 
A Westland Belvedere Mk 1
 
 
A Wessex Whirlwind is tasked for a fuel drop to a forward supply base at Simangang. We used to volunteer for these trips as it allowed us to see a lot more of the country.
 
 
Another fuel drop, but this time at Sibu.
 
 
I managed to hitch a ride on an Argosy doing supply drops over a forward area
 
 
Not only did we volunteer for the helicopter drops we were "volunteered" at random to escort Bedford 3-Tonners up country. These were fully loaded with 45-gallon drums of high-octane fuel. The only place to sit was on top of the drums, but this time we had to have our Lee-Enfield .303’s with the total ration of five rounds each with us. Who knows what would have happened if we met the enemy, who ever they were. Don’t forget the confrontation was still going on then even although it was getting towards the end I could never understand the logic in issuing us with only five rounds each. Perhaps the powers that be thought the less ammo we had, the less damage we could do? This applied to the many real call- outs we had on the base as well.
 
 
No, honestly it’s not a POW camp!   This is part of the base perimeter, which on call-out we had to protect.   The system was, get to the armoury, collect your weapon and your five rounds, and then run to your allocated place. Mine was up on that  look-out tower.   One guy started a right panic when he let off a couple of rounds. The subsequent search revealed a dead monkey. He got into trouble - but not for his shooting accuracy!
 
 
It was not all work, there was plenty of time for R & R, especially down in the city of Kuching, which had loads of bars. The Kwon Fook Bar, Peter Pan House, Honey Café, Palm Hotel, Rose Night Club, and Mayfair Hotel, all spring to mind.
 
 
This was during a visit from some Aussies who were part of ENSA (if that’s what they were called). I can’t remember who they were, but after 7 or 8 months into a tour and you get a bird like that up on stage, who cares even if she can’t sing!
 
 
Most of these guys are Suppliers but there are a few Movers  amongst them
 
 
Time for a little R & R, and here we are on our way to a fresh water lake in a "borrowed" Bedford truck with a tea urn and some food.
 
 
During the journey we had to cross quite a large river by way of a ferry.  Normally there would have been a cost involved, but  it was free to the Forces
 
 
When we arrived at the lake we took the place over.   It had a small bar but it didn’t carry enough stock for us, in any event ours was cheaper. Luckily the tea urn was not full of tea, it was spirits mixed with a little fruit juice. Went down a treat!
 
 
Feeling no pain!
 
 
Notice the sign - I believe it should also read "If drunk"  That's me on the left and my old mate Jonah on the right.
 
 
What a way to go………………..
 
 
Up to our rear ends in muck and bullets. Well, not really - looks good though doesn’t it? - Read on...
 
 

We had this young Pilot Officer - you know the type, "know it all". He was into walking, I mean rambling, back in the UK. He decided to organise a "Ramble in the Jungle" (no pun intended).

Anyway, it turned out he had to go midweek, and so he had a load of volunteers to go with him (anything for time off work).
Little did we know what we were letting ourselves in for! We all had to wear our jungle outfits as you can see and draw a weapon each. But this time no bloody 303’s or five rounds. We picked sub machineguns and handguns both with plenty of ammo. I gathered the reason being that we had to be ready for trouble if we came across it.

Not only did we have weapons but also full survival gear, plus food and water and also a great big radio. We had a right weight to carry. The powers that be would not let us go otherwise - all this for a round trip walk of about ten miles .

 
 
Off we went out of the camp gates and turned left into the jungle. Only the Pilot Officer and the C.O. knew where we were going.

We came upon a river that was far too deep to wade across. As luck would have it,  along comes a native in a dug-out canoe, (just like in the movies!). There was no room for us all , so in goes the kit and one non-swimmer with the rest of us hanging onto the side.

Off we went. Bear in mind the water was dark brown and we couldn’t see a ruddy thing. We were looking everywhere for anything that could bite.
 
 
I felt something hit my leg. My first reaction was to scream and try to jump into the canoe. The rest panicked, the non-swimmer went one way and the kit went with him. I finished up under the canoe with what I thought was some sort of bloody crocodile. I was by now in a right panic. I managed to draw out my machette and was just about to lash out when the canoe was lifted off of me. The croc turned out to be only a rucksack.

We had drifted onto a sand bank. Everybody was killing themselves with laughter except me and the non swimmer,  who, by the way,  learnt how to swim that morning. It turned out one of the others had deliberately touched my leg for a reaction from me and he got it in spades!. I was still holding the machette and I went for him but he was quicker than me and ran off into the jungle.   I let him go, anyway it was snack time. He returned a little later but got no food.
 
 
On we went. By now we had been struggling, not walking (it’s harder than you think), for about seven hours.

We finished up in a Malay Longhouse somewhere. This turned out to be half a mile from Kuching City and only five miles from camp.

We had been walking in a complete circle, and it felt like fifty miles.

We found a road and our priority was to seek out a bar. After a few beers we had a good laugh but never ever again did I go back into that jungle!
 
 

I really enjoyed my tour but was glad to get home. One last thing, I mentioned Bugis Street earlier on. When we arrived back in Singapore, Jack wanted to see the sunrise over Bugis Street, so with no hesitation at all off we went knowing our flight wasn’t for another three days. We saw the sunrise o.k., three of them, came back broke. But what memories!

I’ve still got my GSM somewhere; bring it out now again - memories……….