Noch Ein Blog

June 30, 2013


While stationed in Malaya I spent many weekends with my oppos on Singapore Island. Once a month, we would board a Bedford three ton TCV (troop carrying vehicle)on Friday evening after work and head for the fleshpots of Lion Island. However, being severely limited in the amount we had to spend, the nearest we got to flesh was the lamb in the curry at the small Indian restaurant behind Raffles Hotel. Most of our time was spent in the pool of the Brit Club, the Britannia, (entry free), drinking NAAFI beer (cheap)at the pool bar, and retaining enough loose change to buy a “nasi goreng”, wrapped in banana leaf, to eat on the truck going back to base. Even now I can virtually smell the honk those things gave off. But, delicious when drunkenly ravenous.

Occasionally boat trips would be organised, sometimes shared by the families of the married soldiers, for sea jaunts to the myriad of small islands that surrounded Singapore. These outings would take the form of a picnic, the cook house supplying cheese sandwiches like doorsteps and jungle juice strong enough to dissolve leather  for the living-in squaddies, on the sandy beach of one of the islands. I remember, with a singular lack of fondness, one such trip to an island called Hontu.

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Dave Walker and Dell Illett, two of my closest mates, were both particularly strong swimmers. Since the only alternative to sitting in the sand, cooking in the sun, was swimming they were in their element. Having only learnt, and not quite mastered, the breast stroke, my choices of activity were decidedly limited.

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We disembarked and carried the gear to the beach and before long the kids from the families were building sand castles or splashing each at the edge of the water. After an hour or so, Dave pointed to another island about three to four hundred yards away and suggested swimming over. Dell agreed with alacrity whereas I was slightly more reluctant but on being assured by the two stalwarts that they would swim alongside and be on hand in case I got into difficulties I entered the water with them.

After two hundred yards or so, with the beach in front appearing to recede further with each paddle stroke I made towards it, and choking on ingested salt water, I became more than a little concerned. My minders had apparently forgotten their commitment to my safety. I recollect having had the thought that I should strive to minimise this inclination that people frequently had toward me.

The muscles in my arms and legs ached and burned. Breathing, out of sync, mostly with my mouth and nostrils in the water, I attempted to attract their attention and make my predicament known. They blithely continued with their Australian crawls and ignored my increasingly panicky “glugs” for assistance.

On recollection I feel sure I went under more than the much vaunted three times before the voices started.

Angels?”

Was I that far gone? I couldn’t believe it. They were joyous, happy and carefree. I felt a sense of deep sadness and isolation together with mounting panic. In my desperation they seemed totally oblivious to my plight.

It was only when the little bastards walked past me that I gingerly put my feet down and realised the water was two to three feet in depth all the way across.

I’ve hated military brats ever since.

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