BURMA CAMP REVISITED
July 1963 - October 1963
............Back at Burma Camp life became a little boring compared with what we had been used to in Sarawak, where the military aspects of life had been quite laxed. We had also become used to the idea of whatever we wanted we took. All we needed to do was give the locals a note saying that Her Majesty’s Government promises to pay the bearer the sum of etc etc, mind you I do not know if they ever did.
............At Burma Camp, a tough military regime was reinstated and was used in its entirety to pull us all back into line. As soon as we were settled in, the hard work began. At first it started with a fairly liberal dose of square bashing. Followed by a full inventory check of all our personal gear, because most of it had been lost or should I say mislaid during our deployment in Sarawak. Although a lot had been also altered to suit the situation we found ourselves in.
............We also under took a lot of jungle training, especially on how to lay ambushes and how to react if you were unfortunate enough to walk into one. Hoping to learn from the wrongs we had all experienced while on active service. Then there was a full physical program organised to knock us back into shape, who were they kidding, out of shape my eye. I found this one had to understand, how could we be in a bad physical shape after all of the patrols we had been on during the past few months. What they really meant to say was that the HQ members need to be whipped into shape, because they had never been out on patrol. However there was no gymnasium, so it was all achieved outdoors in the full glare of the sun on the football fields.
............During 40 Commando’s first tour of duty they had suffered a number of casualties from medical and hygiene problems, a close study of the jungle drills was instituted and related training courses have been retained in the Corp to the present day. Therefore as you can imagine we spent a lot of time in the jungle honing our new found skills.
............I remember one such day when B Company gave the whole unit an anti truck ambush demonstration. For this they used two of their sections, who were positioned in the back of a three ton truck. The first demonstration was to show us how not to travel in the back of a truck.
............As the truck sped towards us, all the Marines were acting drunk and dancing about. Once the truck was ambushed, bodies were seen falling about everywhere as the truck came to an emergency stop. It was utter chaos with one guy actually rolling over the front of the cab onto the road in front of the driver, while others spilled out of the open sides. It gave us all a good laugh, but in real life they would have all been killed. Once the watching Marines had gone through a debrief picking on all the relevant points. B Company then under took a re-run showing us the correct way to travel in a truck while in a hostile environment. The truck was going a lot slower this time, with everybody quiet and holding onto his riffle in a ready to fire position. At the ambush point, the truck pulled up with the Marines on the back returning fire. Some jumped off to take up better fire positions, while being covered by their comrades. Once in a good position they open fired, allowing the remainder of the Marines to get off the truck safely. It was a good demonstration with a great deal being learnt by all, and to prove a point none of the Marines were laughing during the second demonstration. Until that is one Marine just happened to draw attention to the fact that there were no roads in Sarawak. Adding that during our last deployment only very small two seater Citroen flat backs were used.
............We also went into the Ulu, our name for the jungle, to a village that had been specially constructed on a small hill and fortified. It housed many underground tunnels and buckers beneath the village. It was very impressive and was of the same design that the Americans found in Vietnam. I went through some of these tunnels and I must say it was quite scary, just knowing that in real life the enemy would be down here somewhere waiting to kill you. Not to mention the bobby traps and snakes, all very frightening especially for the squeamish.
............On one-excursion into the Ulu poor old Don Hackett had a flare gun cartridge hit him right on the bridge of his nose. Fired I believe by our officer Lieutenant Bar, it bounced off a tree and hit him, while the phosphorus was still burning. It split his nose open like a banana. After hospital treatment the scar always looked black, I guess it was from the burning. Don was very lucky not to have lost the sight in that eye, but I never heard him complain, he just accepted it as part of life. Of all the Marines I knew, Don was military through and through and you just knew he was in for the full duration, which at that time amounted to twenty two years. He was one of the few guys you knew you could rely on in any emergency situation. I always believed Don to be of Victoria Cross material.
............This was also a time when I took up running once again and would spend hours running around the bottom football fields in my heavy leather boots. I found that it was a good way to train, because once I swapped them for my running shoes on race day, it felt like I was running on air.
............One afternoon I was in our hut on the side of the hill overlooking the football fields and the Jungle Warfare School on the other side of the hill. The school consisted of several tin huts housing at that time a contingent of Gurkhas. A very bad thunderstorm was taking place and I do mean bad. Lightning strikes were happening all around us, one hit a power pole near our hut and we watched as a green glow ran along the wire to another pole and explode with a terrific bang. The bang was so loud that it is very hard to describe. As well as this explosion, the thunder was also very loud making us jump at times. Suddenly across the valley, we saw another lightening strike hit a transformer on a power pole. The same green glow shot along a wire fixed to one of the tin huts. As the glow hit the hut, there was a terrific bang. Suddenly Gurkhas soldiers were seen diving out of the windows and doors. There must have been about a dozen of them, we found out later that nobody was hurt, just very scared and slightly deaf.
............For recreation most weekends we would board a three-ton truck on a Friday night and all head south into Singapore with sixty dollars in our pockets. It became a routine, drink until you passed out somewhere and slept where you fell. On Saturday mornings we would head for the Britannia club for a swim and to sober up, we travelled light with no gear. Then it was get drunk time again, ending up across the square in another club, known as the Union Jack Club. There it would be pretty much the same, drink, drink and more drink.
............The Union Jack club always held a talent competition on a Saturday night and a local girl called Rita always sang. We would all cheer so loud she would always win, although she sounded terrible. Then one day a Marine from C Company sang the American folk song the 'Alamo'. From then on we made sure he always won, even if it meant that we had to go round the tables and threaten violence, if the other patrons did not vote for him.
............Once the clubs had shut we would all take a trip down to the infamous Boogis Street or somewhere else much the same, looking for female company. However, I was lucky and ended up with a regular girl, which is very unusual in this type of environment. She was a young student attending the Singapore University and her Mother was one of the teachers. I must have been one of the only guys who did not end up with a street worker. It still amazes me to this day that I held on to her for so long. Because I was never what you would call a well dressed person. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, whatever clothing I left the camp wearing on the Friday night, I was in when I returned to camp on the Sunday night. Lu was half Chinese and both she and her Mother spoke a little broken English. There were times when I went home with Lu and she allowed me to clean myself up. Lu was always very kind to me knowing that I did not have much money, she paid on many occasions. Our little affair only lasted a few months. However, with me being on standby to return to Borneo at any time I guess our relationship was doomed to fail. I believe the end came one Sunday morning when I failed to meet up with her in a café located in the better end of town, by Collyer Quay near Clifford Pier. From that day I never looked back, anyway it was almost time for my units return to Borneo and there was no way that I would be able to keep in touch with her, my writing skills would have seen to that.
............Boogis Street is well known throughout the world by the service men of that era. During the daytime, it was just the same as any other street that you could find throughout Singapore Island. While at nights most of the open fronted shops would bring out their tables and chairs and it would be turned into one very big road side bar cum café. It had a reputation amongst all service personnel that you could purchase anything down this street and I do mean anything. We also had a saying that the 8th wonders of the modern world, was to watch the sun rise over Boogis Street. Unfortunately not many people ever achieved this feat, usually collapsing through alcohol and sheer exhaustion, long before the sun’s rays broke the skyline. Whatever you wanted to buy, it was always cheaper here than anywhere else. On top of that, you always had to bargain, or haggle as we called it. Many times I woke up the following morning clutching something that I had bought the night before and not had a clue as to why I had bought it. I usually ended up giving it to somebody, not wanting to carry it around with me for the duration of the weekend.
............On one particular occasion I woke up in the Union Jack Club lying on a bed covered with what I believed was a nice clean white sheet. Mind you there seemed to be a horrible smell coming in through the open windows. Upon closer inspection I found a six week old puppy snuggled up to me and the sheets covers in loose dog poo. Lucky for me there were no other people in the room so I changed the sheets with another bed and gave the puppy to one of the club cleaners, who walked away with a broad smile on his face. Upon reflection I hope he didn’t take it home and eat it.
............Sunday mornings we would sober up once again back at the Britannia Club while taking a swim. Not too much drink though, as most of us would be down to our last couple of dollars. We would have to stretch it out until we were picked up at 6 pm, from outside of the Britannia Club. The three-ton trucks would pick us up and return us to our Burma Camp home. In order that we might get back into all of our old routines, that included plenty of so called and spit and polish. Can you imagine what we must have smelt and looked like, still wearing the same old T-shirt and trousers we had left the camp in on Friday night. No change of clothes and no washing gear, how I ever found myself a girl friend I will never know. Most of the guys just smelt of sick, stale beer and fags. As a footnote on many occasions some of us used to sleep rough in the Cathedral Churchyard each night. It being in the middle of the very large traffic island separating the Britannia and Union Jack clubs. It was a great way to let off steam and we did not harm anybody although we might have threatened a few locals. A lot of our behaviour was tolerated because of the Sarawak campaign and anyway we were guarding many of their interests.
............Another way we let off steam was when a group of us would occasionally go up the road from Burma Camp to visit the Kota Tinga waterfalls. They were located near an old tin mine with a lush area of jungle around it. To get to the falls we had to go past an old Japanese prisoner of war camp, which was still intact but over grown. I hated that place, knowing that Uncle Eric had been captured around here somewhere during the Second World War, but it was a great place to swim in its very cool water.
............I met up with a Marine from C Company, who had formed a band from members of his company. I used to go to the camp cinema and watch them practice. It was my first insight to the workings of a live band. I also noticed how the Bass guitar just dominated the whole sound. Unfortunately, I never saw them perform outside the camp on a gig. The only thing I learnt from the encounter was that one day I would like to try and learn how to play the Bass Guitar, although at that time I could never see it happening.
............One day we were told that our hut was to be used for a girly film show and that we could all watch for free, however everybody else had to pay fifty cents. So there was great excitement and expectations as the night drew near. Show night saw our hut bursting at the seams, you would have thought the whole Commando unit was packed inside, all seven hundred and sixty-six men. Once the film show got started, there were the usual cat calls and jokes, being thrown around. This is usually quite funny and makes for a good sound track. Everybody seemed to be enjoying what they had paid for. Once the show was over somebody asked the guy showing the film, where he had got it from and he replied he had taken it. Who is the bird someone shouted at him, my wife he replied. A deadly hush fell over the whole hut and you could cut the air with a knife. All of a sudden, two of Marines grabbed the projectionist and threw him out of the hut and beat him up and making a good job of it. When the story of the beating leaked out and an officers got to hear of it, the Marine was whisked away somewhere. We never saw him again, you just do not do that sort of thing with your own wife and then brag about it. Mind you I guess they must be somebody’s wives. Once again we males are a very hypercritical race.
............Another incident worth mentioning was when an Army guy who was out on the town and becoming quite drunk. Later he jumped into a taxi and asked the driver to take him to see a white woman for a night. You guessed it, the taxi driver took him to his own house. That night he smashed the place to pieces, so the military police became involved. They discovered a vice ring being run by some of the wives while their husbands were away in Sarawak. The end result was that about a dozen or so wives, including one Marines wife, all got sent home to England, to defuse the situation. Many Marines take their wives on tour with them, but I never thought it right, as they spent so much time on their own while living in a strange country. You imagine if I had taken a wife with me to Burma Camp and then within the first couple of weeks, I was rushed off to Sarawak. She would have been on her own in a strange country and surroundings, with no friends for almost six months. It always amazed me that the military allowed that to happen.
............On occasions we would go to Nee Soon to buy our Rabbits, that’s Royal Naval slang for presents. Nee Soon is a small village on the main Singapore Island but out of the city and in the middle of the country. Here it was supposed to be the cheapest place to purchase these types of things. I think I sent Mum and Dad a couple of items while I was out there. One was a black musical box and when you opened the lid up popped a ballet dancer, who danced to the music. The other was a brandy barrel built like a donkey it being musical as well. It had four small whisky glasses placed around it on a little rack. Of all the Rabbits I sent home only one of the small whisky glasses got broken. I also sent a Chung Sam, that’s a split dress, to a girl pen friend I was trying to write to in America. Never did know what happened to her. I guess she might have got fed up with my dozen line letters, all three of them.
............Sitting outside of our accommodation huts each day was an Indian guy who for fifty cents a week would make our beds, clean your shoes and iron our uniforms. He had a little paraffin stove and would cook us an Egg Banjo, which consisted of a fried egg between a bread roll and a cup of coffee for one dollar. There were about a dozen of these guys scattered throughout the camp. Punka Walla’s are what we called them. Somebody said that they had been left behind in Malaya after the Second World War and were trying to earn enough money to return home. At these prices I doubt they ever made it.
............During one weekend, I had to go to HMS. Terror on Singapore Island for an aptitude test to see if I was good enough to go on a S.B.S. Swimmer and Canoeist course back at Poole in the UK. We arrived at HMS Terror late Friday afternoon and drew some gear, canoes, flippers etc. Then we were taken to the boat ramp where we set off down the Singapore Straights for a five mile canoe test. After dark, we landed on a very small island and tied up the canoes to the mangrove bushes. Then we donned flippers that were too small for us. These had been issued small on purpose so that they were of no use to us. Wearing our jungle green uniform we had to swim about a mile to the main land, to RAF Selletar air field to undertake a Recce. The task was quite easy because the whole airfield was lit up like a football stadium by search lights. The flippers hurt me so much I had to take them off and tie them around my neck, but I had to keep my uniform on because there are sea snakes in the area. Mind you I can’t see how my jungle greens were going to protect me, were they trying to tell me that a snake cannot bite through material.
............As there were eight of us, we swam in an arrowhead formation. After an unchallenged look around the airfield, we then had to swim back and to somehow find our Island in the dark. Which was quite an achievement, because by now the tide had come in and we could not use any lights. However, we never found it how we left it, because by now all the land was completely under water. All we found was our canoes tied to a few bush tops sticking out of the water. We were ordered to stay where we were not being able to head back home until daybreak. Therefore, we had to tread water for the rest of the night. Occasionally we splashed water onto our faces to scare the sand flies off as they were eating us alive. When the tide did start to turn and the sea level lowered, I kept my body submerged in the water all of the time, those sand flies just about ate every bit of flesh they could get their teeth into.
............At daybreak we canoed the five-mile return trip back to HMS Terror. We were then run up and down the main camp road about one hundred times while in bare feet. Then we had to go into a tennis court arena, still in our bare feet and running around on the fine gravel that the courts were treated with in those days. After a time, a few fresh SBS guys came over and we had to play football with them. I might add that they were wearing heavy leather boots. Unfortunately for us every time we made contact with them, somehow their boots always managed to end up on top of our bare feet. One other twist to this bizarre football game was the fact that if we kicked a ball over the small half a meter high wooden fence that surrounded the court. Then we were penalised with a ten press up punishment. I thought that once the game was over we would be able to take a rest. How wrong I was, we were taken right back to the road for some more running, by now my feet were bleeding badly from broken blisters.
............At midday we had to pair up, each pair was given a live chicken and one hour to eat it. Now you know I do not like killing animals, so I told my partner to kill and pluck it and that I would start a fire. All the chickens were consumed within the hour, some only half cooked I might add. Since we arrived at 4.30 pm Friday night, the chicken was the first food we had received and it was now late Saturday afternoon.
............Then there was the swimming tests, many of them. That included distance swimming under water on one breath. Underwater duck diving to retrieve a dozen-dinner plate from the bottom of the pool on one breathe. Depending on your luck as the Sergeant threw the plates into the water, to how the plates end up on the bottom. It is almost impossible to get a plate off the bottom if it is face down. Then we had to try out different breathing apparatus that included the aqualung and the Co2 pack, similar to the type used by submariners to escape their sunken vessels. Finally, just as it was getting dark we were allowed to return to Burma Camp, for a good night’s sleep.
............With my attempts at letter writing to Pat Phoenix, Kim Novak and a few others I cannot remember. I had also decided to write to the Windmill Theatre in good old London town. Telling them that on numerous occasions, I had spent my leave in London and during that time, I had visited their club many times. They promptly replied sending me a few of the photo's they usually displayed outside the theatre, all signed by the girls. I still have the photos to this day and one is signed by Denise Warren.
............Another funny incident that happened at Burma Camp, involved Big Mac. Who had a bad habit of wetting the bed, I guess mainly because he drank so much and got too drunk to know what he was doing. Our bedding mattresses consisted of a large block of foam sewn inside of a thin cotton bag. Bed wetting in the service is a chargeable offence, so hearing that we were due for inspection. Mac had to somehow wash the stains out of his mattress. He cut the bag open and pulled the foam block out. He then filled up a bath full of water in the shower house and pushed the foam into the water, slurp, slurp, slurp, you could hear the foam sucking up the water. It was amazing, it sucked up every single drop of water. I’m not sure how many gallons of water a bath tub actually holds, but it took ten of us to try and get it out of the bath. Unfortunately with all of us tugging at it and the weight of it, it soon became out of shape. After a long time of laughing and horse playing about, we somehow managed to drag it outside. However, when we put it over the linen line, the weight broke it. Even when it had dried out Mac's troubles were not over, it was so out of shape that he could not get it back into the cotton bag, coupled to this the bag had also shrunk after being washed. The finished object looked a terrible sight, but at least he got away with the inspection, but only because he had swapped it with one from a spare bed in another hut.
............One day a couple of mad scientists turned up at Burma Camp from one of the large government research stations back in the UK. It fell upon C Company’s shoulders to supply them with a group of guinea pigs to undergo a few of their crazy tests. Three sections of Marines were taken to the cinema where they were given a long lecture about what they were trying to achieve. Apparently they had come up with a special designed suit of clothing that could be worn during a nuclear attack. To the average on looker the best way to describe the suit is to say that it looked exactly like what an underwater diver might wear, only it did not have the big steel helmet. Instead the head covering looked like it was made from the same material as the suit. This can best be described as being made up of several thin layers of material that were stuck together with a tar like substance. Like the tar paper you sometimes find in wooden packing cases. The suit completely enclosed the wearer giving him only two eye glasses to peer out of, like a full facial gas mask. Once the Marines were all fitted in to their suits they were fell in on the road in three columns and double marched towards the direction of Singapore. As you can well imagine at the best of times it’s very hot in this part of the world. However, to be wearing a fully enclosed suit doesn’t bear thinking about. Being made to double march wearing a fully enclosed suit like this is another ball game all together. The heat inside would be absolutely unbearable. As the Marines were running down the road the scientist were also running alongside of them, keeping an eye on how they were going. While every now and then, if somebody looked like they were struggling the scientist would attach a thermometer they were carrying to a wire that hung on the Marines shoulder outside of the suit. That wire had earlier been inserted into their back side before they climbed in to the suite. Those guys marched and run down the road for nearly ten mile. Its full credit to their stamina and fitness that they made it, because I believe any normal service man would have collapsed just leaving the camp gates. It was later described to us that the principle of the suit was that it breathed. Allowing air to pass through the fibres of the material while the tar like substance filtered out the radioactive material. Most of the Marines I spoke to did not believe that it worked as far as they were concerned there was hardly any air in side of the suit. None of them wanted to repeat the test and lucky for us that was the last we saw of the mad scientist.
............At one time I was placed on a charge of being drunken and disorderly. I was marched into the company commander’s office, where he described me as an animal and ordered me to clean out the officer’s mess after they had thrown a party the night before. The site that greeted me was unbelievable, there were heaps of old Camouflage nets lying around everywhere. Intermingle with ladies under wear and vomit. There was even urine in one of the corners. I’m sure that when I’ve told this story to people they have not believed a word I’ve said. Anyway I and a couple of other Marines had to clean it all up. If you know my history, when I’m not happy about something I usually talk quite loud so that people around me understand where I’m coming from. In the service you’re not allowed to make a complaint but you can talk loud so that other people know exactly how you feel. Anyway I let it be known that I was not happy in cleaning up the mess. I went on to say that the officers had probably acted like a pack of animals at the party. The officer that had sentenced me over heard this and came over to give me a telling off. "It's was just high spirits Aspinall, just high spirits". I made the situation worse by back answering him. "Oh I was described as an animal for this sort of behaviour, but for you guys its high spirits". For my troubles I was award a further days cleaning up around the camp. This proves my point that there is a law for the rich and a law for the poor, and that in the service you will never win, so at all times keep your bloody mouth shut.
............One night Ginger, McGinty and I went to Johore Barhu for a night out. Johore Barhu sits on the Malayan side of the causeway that leads to Singapore and has a rather large canal running right through the centre of the town. At all times this cannel looks and smells absolutely awful, as it is used by all wanting to discard their unwanted items. Once the tide goes out and exposes its muddy bottom the whole area resembles a rubbish dump that has been used for many years. You name it and I’m sure it’s in there somewhere. We nick named it the Sweet Water Canal although at times I thought it would be better known as the Sewerage Canal. I was once told that it had not been cleaned out since the Second World War, when the Japanese forced British prisoners of war to do the job. To prove a point just how bad the canal was. One night a Marine from B Company fell in and was whisked away to a hospital. Where he was administered 17 injections and kept under close observation for a week. Because of its risk it was an area you stayed away from, just in case.
............Anyway we sat in a bar having a nice quiet drink when in walked a large group of soldiers who we usually refer to as Percy Pongo. However, because they out numbered us by several to one, we did not say anything. During the night as they became drunk it was inevitable that they would pick a fight with us, which is exactly what they did. For a few moments it was full on and during that time several tables and chairs were broken. It was also inevitable that we would be on the losing side. Anyway lucky for us it came to a quick conclusion and Percy Pongo withdrew leaving us to lick our wounds over another drink. Unbeknown to us the owner of the bar seemed to think we had started the fight. I found it quite hard trying to explain that we had been the victims. Why would three guys take on half the British Army. This did not help and he persisted in trying to make us pay. I guess he was just trying to get some compensation and as Percy Pongo had gone why not try and get it from us. It was all very stupid, although we were the mugs we should have left with Percy Pongo, and then we would not be in the mess we now found ourselves in. Suddenly McGinty lost his cool and smashed an empty beer bottle on the table we were sitting at. That was our signal to leave before it got out of hand. Once outside we hailed a taxi, but Mac was in an argumentive mood and would not pay the driver what he wanted to return us to Burma Camp. In those days you haggled the cost of the trip before you got in the taxi. Failure to do this meant that he could charge you whatever he wanted and you were obliged to pay it.
............Anyway once again Mac lost his temper and slammed the taxi door shut with such force that it smashed the window. Well by now things were starting to heat up and I was wondering if we were going to get back to camp in one piece. I grabbed Ginger telling him to start walking because we had to get away from that area. Which is what we did and Mac followed us. A couple of hundred meters further down the road when I thought we were safe, I turned round and saw a large group of locals heading are way. Some were carrying large pieces of wood and iron bars. We all acknowledged that we could be in trouble, so we quickened our pace hoping to lose them. All of a sudden they started running towards us, it was time to make a quick exit. Lucky for us just then an open backed Police Land Rover suddenly appear around a corner. Therefore, we ran over to give ourselves up, hoping that the matter would be over. How wrong we were, because the three Police Officers took one look at the crowd rushing towards us and they ran off taking the keys. There was no way we were going to out run the crowd in our present condition so we climbed on to the back of the Land Rover just as the crowd reached us. By this time I had already made up my mind what I was going to do. Thinking along the lines that once a frenzied lynch mob has hung their prey, they usually just drift away there being nothing else to do. Therefore as the first piece of timber rained down on us I fell to the floor pretending to be hit. Lucky for me Ginger had the very same idea and landed on top of me. Although Mac had come up with a different idea and that was to try and out fight them. I would estimate the crowd to number about fifty, so as you can imagine they were reining blows down on him from every conceivable angle. The beating seemed to go on for a long time before Mac finally succumbed and fell on top of Ginger. Just like I had imagined the crowd sensing that they had reaped their revenge and taken their pound of flesh they started to drift away. Where upon the Police Officers reappeared from nowhere and drove us around to the Police station. We were allowed to sit in a waiting room while we explained our version of events. However, Mac was in a bad way and had to be taken to a hospital. Ginger and I were quite lucky as we came out of the whole incident unscathed. We were even allowed to go back to Burma Camp and no charges were ever laid against us. Unfortunately, Mac ended up with permanent damage to one of his ears and a rather large bump on the back of his head. Later he was to lose the hearing in the ear and at times used to go a little crazy after a few beers, so we gave him a wide berth whenever he was on the town.
............It was also at this time that I noticed my headaches were getting worse and more prolonged, but I still did not seek medical help. I just took a couple of tablets that I bought myself locally. On one exercise the whole company under took a route march to Singapore, to a destination I cannot remember. By the time we arrived I already had a throbbing headache, we then had to dig slit trenches to sleep in that night. After all that marching and then the bending over to dig, I ended up with a massive migraine, one of the worse attacks I’d ever experienced until then. I was with Ginger Walters and he could see I was in a bit of a mess and just about ready to pass out. He went to the medical tent while I lay in the slit trench. Upon his return he dropped six tablets into my hand, I do not have any idea what they were. All I do know is that once I had them I just grabbed my water bottle. I was in so much pain that I took all six tablets and it still took almost an hour to work, but at least they did.
............While the trenches were being dug, a so-called enemy being some members of A Company had to do probing attacks against us. One of these was a friend of ours, a Marine Thompson. While we were digging, Thompson crept up close to us lying unseen in very long grass, calling for the dirty British to go home. A popular phrase used in those days by the locals, to get rid of the British. Anyway, on and on he went repeating that we the dirty British should all go home. Funny, but nobody took any notice of him, but it did get on our nerves. In the end, one of our Officers just shouted back at him, "Why don't you just piss off Thompson". We never heard any more from him during the remainder of the exercise. However, it was becoming harder and harder to hide my headaches from my mates, lucky for me nobody had reported my problem to one of the officers. My weekend drinking binges were also leaving me with weekly headaches from the hangovers.
............Looking back at the hell fire way in which we spent those weekends, it is incredible that none of us ended up ill. Every weekend we would go to regular drinking houses, where we got to know all the girls very well. From there several of the Marines usually ended up in the brothels for the remainder of the night. There were not many girls around the area, who were not charging money, I guess it was the only way they could survive. However, I can honestly say that I have never paid any woman to sleep with them and am very proud of that record.
............I guess I was always lucky because after I had finished going out with Lu. I found a regular girl who I would go home with to Nee Soon. I even had a key to her home and at times I had the run of the place. Her name is supposedly tattooed in Chinese on my leg, namely "Salome". One night I was in a bar in Nee Soon with Salome and a couple of her friends when a travelling tattooist came to are table. I asked Salome to write her name onto a piece of paper. I then gave it to the tattooist and told him to put it on my right leg. Suddenly the girls all started laughing, so I realised that it was not quite right. I then asked her to write it again on another piece of paper. Once again the girls all laughed, so I screwed up the piece of paper and threw it away. For a third time I asked her to write Salome on to another piece of paper, then before I could change my mind I ordered the tattooist to start tattooing.
............Unfortunately, she laughed when it was being tattooed on, so I doubt very much that it actually say "Salome". Knowing my luck it probably says "Go Home Dirty British" and not only that nobody has ever been able to tell me what it does says.
............Several years later I approached an Asian looking person and asked if he could read it for me and he stormed away in a bad mood. I was then told that he was actually a Japanese person and that there are 57 different dialects of the Chinese language.
............While on the subject of Tattoos, I’ve not mention why I had two eye’s inscribed on the cheeks of my backside. Several years earlier I had been reading letters on the old Codgers Page in the Daily Mirror. One had been from a nurse who went on to describe how she had been administering a bed bath to a very old Sea Dog of a sailor. Upon rolling him over she was surprised to discover two eyes staring at her from a most unusual position. That struck me as being very funny and so at the first opportunity I copied the idea. I remember leaning over the back of a chair as the tattooist attempted another of his master piece’s to suddenly being made aware of great pain. Which I could not believe. I had always thought that the only time it hurts is when they go over a bone, while the cheeks of your backside are all muscle and fat. Of all the tattoos I have, the eyes would have been the most painful to have put on. Over the years they have caused a lot of laughter mainly because I can’t see them so I forget that I have them.
............I guess by now most people reading this book probably think that we were all drinking alcohol from morning to night, which is not quite true. To quench our thirst after a hot days slog through the jungle, we would usually have several cold glasses of a Lemon drink that in the Royal Navy has become known as Limers. I’m not sure if that’s its correct name and I’m not sure if that’s the correct way to spell it. However, what I do know is that the basic ingredients usual came in a tin and it looked like a very course yellow looking powder. We usually placed a large tea spoon of the powder in our drinking mugs, topped it up with water, and stirred the contents together. At first it looked like a glass of yellow cloudy water, although within just a few minutes it would settle and end up looking quite clear with a faint yellow tint. When you are very hot, it is one of the best ways of refreshing yourself and it also helps to cool you down.
............However I do not believe that was its sole purpose in life, as an old Sailor once told me that it originated in the sailing ship days, as a means of warding off Scurvy amongst the crew members. Because of its constant use over the past 200 years, it is also believed to be the main reason why the Americans started calling us Limey.
............I volunteered for a hiking come camping trip in the Cameron Highland up north of Malaya. I was rewarded with a very long train journey, sitting on hard wooden seats. With a filthy hole in the floor for a toilet and unbearable heat and smells. We boarded the train at Johore Barhu, early in the morning and spent a whole day on the stinking ride arriving at our camp destination by late afternoon, just as it was getting dark. To an awaiting message from Burma Camp that told us to please return immediately, we all guessed why. Borneo had more than likely flared up once again and so even before we had unpacked. We turned around and endured that same horrible train journey back to Burma Camp. To me it was a crazy way to spend two days, something I would not want to repeat on a regular basis.
© Copyright Terry Aspinall 1994 ....All Rights Reserved