At the request of Chun See, I would like to share my memories about my army life in the First Queens Own Highlanders (Q.O.H.) For readers who don’t know who the Highlander were, on the 15th of February, 1961 by amalgamation of two great regiments, the 1st. Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, and the 1st. Battalion Queens Own Cameron Highlanders, a new regiment, the Queens Own Highlanders (Q.O.H. ) was formed.
I am standing in the back row, 3rd from the left.
I joined the Camerons as a regular soldier and had to do 14 weeks training. It was very hard. I thought I was in hell - up in the morning at 6 am, breakfast at 7 am and muster parade at 8 am. The corporal was always shouting at you. Drill parades, weapon training, three mile runs with full battle order on.
After I had done my training, my pals and I were sent to the battalion station in Dover, south of England. When I got there, half the soldiers were doing national service. I asked myself; “What the hell have I got myself into?”
Anyway, things got better because the UK government were doing away with national service. After a year in Dover, we moved to Edinburgh, my home town. Then we were all told, “You lot are going to Singapore for three years.” I said Wow!
After a little while in Edinburgh, we were put on a train to Southampton, and then onto a troop ship called T. T. Navasa. It was to take six weeks to Singapore. The year was 1961. I was 19 years old.
This is the ship that brought me to Singapore
When we got to Singapore, we were told the dockers were on strike for more pay. Then the company sergeant major said; “One platoon will unload company kit from the ship.” We were not used to the weather. The sun was very hot. I said to my self, “No wonder the men are on strike. The weather is too hot, and pay not good.” Anyway, we loaded the kit onto the waiting trucks and onto Selarang Barracks in Changi.
What I remember most of Singapore at that time when we came out of the docks were:
- The smell coming from the river,
- Seeing trishaws for the first time,
- The were rows and rows of washing hanging out,
- The streets were very busy, and
- The girls giving us a wee smile as we passed along the streets.
Next time I will tell you, about my life in Selarang Barracks and Singapore.
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