First day at work in Singapore
I was about halfway through eating my full breakfast when Myra arrived at the table, so I poured her a cup of tea and asked her how she was feeling that day, she replied that the sick feeling had gone now, but her body still felt a little tired and she mixed one of the Chinese powders with her tea. I asked her if she wanted breakfast and she said that she did, but today she wanted to eat rice not an English breakfast, so I ordered her a seafood fried rice. When the fried rice arrived, I wished that I had ordered it for myself too, it looked lovely and had freshly cooked prawns, it was topped with a fried egg and had fresh sliced lime to sprinkle over everything.
I had just finished my breakfast as Myra started into hers and I was sitting back with a cup of tea, when an Indian guy wearing a turban walked in and approached our table, he smiled at me, held out his hand and said "Mr. Reed?" I nodded and shook his hand and he said "My name is Saudara Singh, just 'Singh' is fine, I am your driver now". I looked at my watch and it was 06:45, he then said "It is okay, I am a little early so just take your time, finish your breakfast and then we will leave" . Ten minutes later, I said goodbye to Myra and told her that I should be back around 18:00 and walked outside, I was looking for an RAF vehicle and I couldn't see one anywhere, then Singh tapped me on my shoulder and pointed to a black and yellow taxi, so I got in.
Singh dropped me off at the Visiting Aircraft Servicing Section (VASS) about twenty minutes later, he said that he would be back for me at 17:00 smiled and drove away. I walked into the operations office and introduced myself, this time everyone was expecting me, the senior NCO in charge then showed me around, introduced me to all of the other guys and then we went back to the office and he showed me the 'movements board' this had all of the aircraft due in and out for that day and was updated each day with the flight ETAs and ETDs. Looking at the board, today seemed quite quiet, the first aircraft due in was at 11:00 a Hercules from UK on route to Hong Kong, then nothing else until the daily VC10 at 13:00. So I just went to the crewroom made a cup of tea and started to get to know my new working colleagues a little better. There was one other Flight Systems guy working with me, so that would make things very easy for me, chatting with him, I was by far the most experienced on transport aircraft, he had worked on ground attack aircraft before and had just done a TASS course before being posted to Singapore, but working together we would be fine I felt.
Out on the 'Pan' (our term for the aircraft parking and manoeuvring area) the VC10 that I had arrived on was still there, some of the airframe guys from our section were still working on it and still trying to fix the undercarriage problem. The Hercules aircraft that was due in arrived on time and at crew debrief they had no problems with my equipment, so nothing for me to do yet. All of the other trades had after flight checks, turn around checks and before flight checks to do, but Flight Systems had none of these to do, with the exception of the Belfast aircraft which had an autoland system fitted and that had to be checked and a simulated autoland run before flight. So my first day at work in Tengah and nothing to do yet, I just sat in the crewroom drinking tea, smoking and playing cards with some of the other guys.
After a little while 'the boss' Flt. Lt. Kerrison came into the crewroom and asked me to join him in his office, so I went with him. In his office he asked me to sit down at his desk and then he made us both some tea. He gave me a large brown envelope and asked me to read the contents, this I did and it was the documents for my first RAF married quarters accomodation and it gave the address as 16 Preston Road, Gillman Barracks. He then told me that this was quite close to Singapore city itself, he said that it was a very nice house and in a good area, he went on to tell me not to be mislead by the address, Gillman Barracks was a singapore army base, but I was not physically on the base, Preston road was the name of the road leading up a hill behind the base. He told me that he had arranged with my driver Singh to come and pick me up earlier at 15:00 and then I could go and look at the house that day and be ready to officially inspect, sign and move in the following morning at 09:00. After my talk with the boss, I went back to the crewroom and started asking the other people where they lived and everyone seemed to live in many different places around Singapore, very few people lived on RAF Tengah base itself. The daily VC10 arrived on time at 13:00 and at the crew debrief, again they had no problems with my equipment, so again I had nothing to do that day.
After an afternoon of just playing cards and drinking tea, eventually Singh arrived, so I said goodbye to everyone and left with Singh. On the way to Gillman Barracks, Singh was telling me how lucky I was, he said that my house was probably the best house that the British military had in Singapore, I took all of this with a pinch of salt, I thought that Singh was just trying to cheer me up by exaggerating and just being polite. But when we arrived at Gillman Barracks and drove up the road that was Preston road, I started to believe him a little, driving up the hill, to the right was the army base, but that was 400 yards away and downhill, between the army base and the road was secondary jungle, so you could not really see the base properly. On the left were these very large cream coloured colonial style houses with red roofs and they were about five feet higher than the road with lawns leading down to the monsoon drain at the side of the road, they were all very well taken care of and had tropical plants and bushes around them. We kept driving slowly and I could see the end of the road approaching, the road continued up the hill from there only as a small footpath through the jungle. We were now at the very last house on the road and this was it, 16 Preston Road.
Singh parked the car and we both got out, I took the keys out of the envelope, I opened the door and went inside this big house. Inside, the floors were all teak parquet tiled, upstairs there were three bedrooms and a bathroom and again everywhere was parquet floored. Downstairs again, we went through the kitchen at the back of the house and out into the rear garden, outside there were some outhouses for washing, storage and a room for a maid to live in. The rear garden was thirty feet deep and about seventy five feet in length, it was totally surrounded by jungle that continued up the hill from the rear garden. I could see Singh was grinning and watching me and he just said to me "Now do you believe me?" and I smiled and nodded to him. Inside again, the house had some very basic furniture supplied by the RAF, but it was in keeping with the style of the house, it was all rattan furniture, I immediately felt so at home in this beautiful old colonial style house that I couldn't wait to show it to Myra and move in.
Then the next important thing for me, I asked Singh if there was anywhere nearby where we could get a beer and he said that he would show me, so I locked the place up and followed him to the taxi. The house was so isolated and quiet which was exactly what I liked, we turned around and drove back down the hill, went through some small housing area and then arrived at a main road, Singh parked the taxi and we both walked to a small cafe nearby for a beer After a couple of beers and a good long chat together, I paid the bill and Singh and I left the cafe, we got in the taxi and he took me back to my hotel which from there, was only about two miles away. On arrival at the hotel, Singh said that he would pick me up at about 08:30 the following morning, then he waved and drove away. When I walked into the hotel, Myra was sitting in the cafe, so I joined her at the table. She asked me how my first day at work went and I said that it went okay, not too much work to do, just routine. I asked her what she did and how she was feeling now and she said that she felt quite good now and that she had just wandered around the local shops for something to do. I then told her that the RAF had got a house for us now and that we would be moving in the next morning at 09:00. She asked me what the house was like and I just replied, lying through my teeth, that it was just a standard RAF married quarters and nothing special, I didn't want to take away from the surprise that she was going to get the next morning
I suggested to Myra that we just stayed in at the hotel that evening and put the food and the beers on the RAF's bill, then I called a waiter over and ordered a beer. So we did just that, we stayed in the hotel that night and for dinner I ordered the fried rice that Myra had for breakfast and we had a quiet night just sitting, eating, drinking and talking about what we would do after we moved into the house the next day. All evening I was just picturing in my mind what that house would be like after I had added some of my own personal touches to it and I am sure that Myra must have seen me smiling to myself at times and may have thought that I was going a little crazy, the next day though she would understand!
'My first day at work in Singapore'
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