Just before Christmas I was assigned to act as a guard on the railway travelling between Singapore, Kuala
Lumpur and Penang. The old coal burning steam engines needed to stop often to take on water. These stops were tense moments, usually occurring in darkness and deep in the jungle. They were tailor made to launch an ambush. Bands of communist Guerrilla’s were known to roam the Malayan jungle. Standing guard on the open platforms at each end of a carriage was dangerous. We couldn’t see anything in the dense vegetation, yet we were visible to anyone hiding out there. I was armed with an old 303 Enfield rifle and five rounds of ammo, not what I’d call a formidable defense. I stood several guard duties travelling between Singapore and Penang, fortunately all of them were without incident.
Christmas of 1957 was celebrated alongside in Singapore, and it was a quiet affair compared with the Auckland adventure of the previous year. Christmas dinner was served by the Captain of the day, the youngest member of the crew. It was a reasonable meal as Navy meals go, but supper was awful some sort of cheese dish. I remember my shipmate Phil Carroll confronting the First Lieutenant over the tray containing this dreadful dish, finally, getting no success from the 1st Lt he threw the lot over the side tray and all. Wished the Jimmy a Merry Christmas and returned to the mess deck. In1958 we returned to patrol the area around Hong Kong. The weather was foul, rough seas with winds reaching force eight. I spotted a few Chinese junks under sail and was amazed at the seamanship. Chinese junks were crewed by the whole family, including grandmothers, young babies and often several animals. Their skill in handling these frail craft was impressive, but I would not have changed places with them.
Hong Kong was a marvellous place to visit. The harbour was alive with junks and sampans, the docks lined with freighters loading and unloading goods. Crowded and busy ferries raced back and forth to Kowloon and the Portuguese territory of Macao. Of the many places visited during my naval career, Hong Kong remains the most fascinating. Hong Kong teemed with millions of people from many different walks of life. A person could get just about anything in the tiny crowded streets and alleys. Everything was for sale, watches, china, cameras, radios, tattoos, tailors and girls and girls and girls. The Royal Navy provided two ‘Naval Personnel Only clubs, The China Fleet Club and the Union Jack Club, the only places where we could escape from the constant pressure of people trying to sell you something.
God Bless and Merry Christmas.