On August 20th 1956 I flew from Stansted airport in London to Singapore, it took four days. I still have my original Skyways airline ticket sixty years later. Wonder how many others can say that?? I was billeted in seat seven an aisle seat. This was the first time in my life that I had ever taken to the air. Below is a brief account (well maybe not too brief) of my exciting trip to Singapore
The flight to Singapore was estimated to take four days with two over-night stops in Karachi and Calcutta. There were some other refuelling stops. In London we were instructed to wear civilian clothing for the flight. If we landed in a place hostile to British intentions (Suez crisis) we’d not be recognized as military personnel. Well, that was the theory though I doubt we’d have fooled anyone.
The question of wearing civvies created a problem for us Ganges boys. Civilian clothing had not been allowed at Ganges. Consequently we only had uniforms.
I no longer remember who solved this dilemma but I’ll never forget that ill fitting, over-sized and worn out grey suit that was issued to me. I had to turn up the trouser bottoms and gather in the waist and hold it in place with my pusser belt. The white shirt draped my diminutive upper body like a huge robe. I didn’t even attempt to wear the jacket. The only article of clothing that fitted properly was my highly polished uniform boots. I wasn’t alone. Poor Jamie, even smaller than me wore equally ill-fitting clothes. We were certainly a motley crowd boarding the aircraft that morning. But who cared. We were about to fly to the other side of the world.
Racing down the runway bumping and rattling was unnerving to us first time fliers. Nevertheless, we did our best to look cool and unconcerned. Finally airborne, we didn’t exactly soar into the great blue yonder. It was more like a slow lumbering crawl that just managed to clear trees and buildings. I have no idea what height we levelled off at but the experience was amazing. The first leg to Brindisi took about four hours and we landed there to refuel. After experiencing a successful landing we were allowed off the plane to stretch our legs. We were not allowed inside the terminal building though.
Much later we landed in Karachi and were bussed to a local hotel. The heat was oppressive and the only cooling in our room came from a slow moving overhead fan. Jamie and I shared a sparsely furnished room of two single beds a mirror and a shower stall. We were fascinated having mosquito netting over our beds.
Trying to shower the next morning was a failure because we only managed to squeeze a few drops of rusty water from the shower head.
The following night’s accommodation was much more classy. Landing in the early afternoon at Calcutta we were driven to the Great Eastern Hotel. It was located somewhere near the city centre. It was definitely the finest hotel I’d ever seen. Our room was furnished in traditional Indian style complete with a very ornate bathtub that actually worked. The following morning to took off on the final leg of the journey to Singapore. Wonderful memories of a time now long past. HMS Cockade was the best ship and crew that I ever sailed in. Still remember my shipmates fondly and often wonder where they ended up.
God Bless and keep reading