Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Charles Jordan remembers Singapore

Charles Jordan writes from England to share with us about his trip to Singapore, when his father, who was a RAF (Squadron Leader) officer, was posted to here. He also remembers his time here at the RAF Changi Secondary School as well his life after returning to the UK.

Thanks Charles, for your story and the photos.


When I was about 14.8 yrs, my dad was posted to RAF (Royal Air Force) Changi, Singapore and the family, excluding my elder brother Keith (Boarding School) went too.

RAF Changi Sec School Sep 1957 - Apr 1960

We sailed aboard the SS Nevasa 20,000 Ton Troop ship (P&O Line) from Southampton 23 Aug 57 via Suez. It was a very rough passage across the Bay of Biscay & I recall there were many sea sick persons, but not I.

After several days from passing Gibraltar, we finally stopped and temporarily anchored near to the entrance to Port Said, Egypt. I recall there were masts of sunken vessels sticking out of the sea at obscure angles. I noted several elongated concrete structures that that been built on rocky outcrops forming a type of man-made barrier. These had beacons on. We may have stopped for about 24 hours, well it seemed to me to be for ever. According to our Captain, we were the 2nd ship to navigate the Suez Canal since the end of the (fifties) Middle East conflict [as Pat Bramwell states, I now recall there were Tanks and other Army units along both sides of the canal and we were given strict instructions by the Captain, to stay below deck, in case we caused an International incident!! I recall just how very hot it was below deck. Everyone had their port-holes open to let in what little waft of cool air we could get. I also recall that we had to stop about half way along the canal to allow another vessel steaming north, to pass us before we were allowed to continue. It was very hot below deck. By that time, there were no more tanks and infantry along the canal banks and we took advantage of the warm breeze on deck. I also recall that during this period whilst we waited to continue, a number of Arabs in canoes called from below and held up wooden carvings and such like. Several seamen appeared and tied lengths of rope to the ships railings and dropped lengths of rope to these Arabs. Quickly items were tied to the ropes and the Arabs would call out for us to haul them up to see if any wanted to buy. I recall one adult lady shouting down to the boatmen and then drop coins into the water beside their boats. I saw a young boy dive into the water and retrieved the money. It was noticeably cooler when we continued south towards the Red Sea and finally the Indian Ocean. During our virtually uneventful passage across the Indian Ocean, I witnessed Flying Fish, Porpoises/Dolphins and a quantity of sea birds. On one occasion a few of the Army lads gathered on the aft deck and inflated large balloons from a gas canister, tied knots and released them. There were riflemen who would try to shoot them down. There was very little to do apart from play cards or table tennis. There was a ships NAAFI shop, where we purchased crisps and lemonade etc. My dad knew the Head Waiter, I forget his name, but he was a middle aged man with dark receding hair. He was okay I suppose & I started collecting the ships menus as an interest. Ship menus are collectables these days.

We arrived in Singapore on 14 Sep 1957

Having disembarked, leaving some of our friends on board (going on to Hong Kong), our family were driven to temporary accommodation in the name KATONG GRANGE near Geylang. A few days later, another family arrived with 2 sisters, Sonia & Elaine. [I have been in touch with Elaine (Beckham) who currently lives in California, USA]

During my time at Changi, I joined the Scout Group at Changi and attended the Scout Jamboree at Geylang during 1958 and met with Lady Baden-Powell and Prince Philip.

Later I joined the Malaysian Air Training Corps (MATC), based at Kallang (see photo below) Incidentally, the officer I believe became the Air Chief Marshall of the RMAF based at KL.

16 MATC ID, Aug 1959

During my time with the MATC, Singapore became Singapura and an independant state of Malaya during April 1959 and I along with the MATC was on that parade (see photo below)

Back in the UK

Having returned by a 'Whispering Giant' (Brittannia) to UK on 12 APR60 moved to RAF Rudloe Manor where I found great difficulty in finding a pupils place at any of the local BATH schools and colleges.

I found myself employment with the Bath Co-operative Society as Stockroom Boy, general dogsbody and tea maker. Whilst in the Despatch Dept one day, I found evidence of a rodent and lay a non maiming mouse trap. Having caught this LARGE mouse, I placed it in a vacuum tube bound for the Accounts Dept run mainly by female staff. The mouse was obviously petrified and as the tube was recovered and opened, it leapt out, crapping as it went, all over various accounts and other important paperwork. I could hear the screams from four floors down. Oh, how I laughed! I was sacked! Good though....

I sat an entrance exam for the RAF. I visited RAF Cardington, Bedford and went to RAF Cosford 23SEP60 as a Boy Entrant. Became a Telegraphist (Morse Cade, Teleprinters & general telecommunications in Signal Offices, etc) and was posted to:
- RAF West Raynham (JUL62-OCT63)
- Northolt(FEB63-AUG63)
- Bahrain (Muharraq & Juffair OCT63-OCT64)
- Upavon (NOV64-JUN65)
- Changi (JUN65 - DEC67)
- Rudloe Manor (FEB68-AUG69)
- Medmenham (MAY69-JUL69)
- GAN (Addu Atoll AUG69-AUG70)
- Annual Leave at Changi and later HQFEAF Sailing Champs at Seletar
- Kinloss
- Pitreavie Castle
- Mount Wise (Mount BattenHQ18 Maritime GP)
- Manston (OCT70-NOV73

I married Sep 1972 and was blessed with a beautiful baby girl (Josephine) 29 May 1975 During my time with the RAF, I completed an 18 jump Parachute course, Desert & Jungle Survival Courses - I was a member of the RAF Inter-Services Sailing Team

NOV73...Joined Kent Police & posted to Gillingham, Chatham, Margate, Maidstone & West Malling where I decided it was time for a change as the Police Force was not the Force I had joined...

During my time at Margate, I organised a class reunion inviting Mr Pine

I divorced May 1982.

I remarried Aug 1983. I have a Stepson, Andrew and a further 2 wonderful children. Louise & Robert.

Whilst with the Police I built my own Phantom sailing dinghy [Photo 799] from paper plans over the winter of 1979-80 and during 1983, I won the British PHANTOM National Championships at Grafham Water.

I was elected as Phantom Class Secretary 1986-89.

During 1988, I was invited aboard 'RADICAL' the Blue Arrow British Team for the America's Cup Challenge yacht, then based at Falmouth. [3 x Photo's]

I left the Kent Police to set up my own company : Nightsafe Investigations, Marine & Security Services (UK) Maidstone office in MAR94.

I now have my own 26 ft Snapdragon berthed at Oare Creek, Faversham.Plus a Moody 56 based in Falmouth. 'Jamboreee' is chartered out.

Back in JUL91 I flew to Belfast to board a 50ft Yawl 'Sally Endeavour' (sail training ship for the Duke of Edburghs Aware Scheme) to sail 10 children from families of [RUC Disabled Police Officers Association] to Cowes for Cowes week. [5 girls, 5 boys ages 12 - 19 years. 5 Roman Catholics and 5 Protestants] Thrown together - they got on!!

We sailed to Falmouth non stop and gave them a tasty meal in a local restaurant. Then on to Cowes. We moored to a pontoon in the river. We signed on for 3 races. All other yachts had been stripped out for light weight performance racing. Sally Endeavour had not been out of the water for 18 months and therefore had a certain amount of slime under the water line. She was carrying 14 persons. Skipper, 1st & 2nd Mate, and 11 landlubbers including an RUC WPC. Only one of which had had any racing experience. Me. Heavy metal masts and rigging, Heavy sails cut for cruising, fuel, water, rations, bedding and personal belongings, in other words, NOT a 'mean machine' 1st race we did not finish. 2nd race we hit the mark called 'Brambles' with a resounding clang and were disqualified. We caused mayhem at the start of the 3rd race. They still talk about us at Cowes, we finished 27th on handicap of 36 starters in our class.

I have an elder brother, Keith (67) (who later joined the RAF as an Air Traffic Controller & FltLt) who visited us at Changi and a Younger sister, Josephine (60) who was a pupil at Changi Junior now (a Solicitor) in Halesworth, Suffolk.

As I am nearing retirement age, we will be moving to a quieter UK location, but as yet not too sure where - downsizing.

I am delighted to report that I have after many years searching, I have found several class mates.


- Tony BUSH
- William FROST
- Colin FISH (located NORFOLK, UK)
- Terry CROSS & his brother David CROSS
- Denise WALKER (Believed living in M'sex UK with her 2 children)
- Jacqui WALKER (located STOCKPORT, UK)
- Marg MaKAY & her sister Liz MaKAY
- Teresa MALTBY
- John KIRBY (I believe that someone told me more than 20 yrs ago that John had been killed)
- Angela ERWIN
- Lesley STOCKOSusan GREY
- Jackie GODDARD (Deceased February 2008)
- Mo WESTWOOD (Located in Tuftley, Glous)
- Michael HURST
- Ann RAMSAY (Located BOURNEMOUTH, Mrs Pordum)
- Sandra SAUL
- Michael HOLMESMr. FOREMAN (Teacher) ... believed to reside in Sandwich, Kent

........ and anyone else who is ex Changi.


Victor said...

Thanks Charles for your very interesting life story.

Erm... "ex-Changi" has a very different local connotation - our main prison is still located there.

Zen said...

Undoubtedly Charles leads a very colourful life, participating in a spectrum of varied activites: army, family, friends, sports, university education, adventure and foreign travels which I really grasp with awe. Charles surprises me most is his forthrightness in relating his private life. This is a story that adds spice to GMY.

Lam Chun See said...

I wonder what young readers think when they read accounts of lengthy sea journeys like those experienced by Charles Jordan and John Harper, lasting up to 1 month. Anyway, I too have never travelled on such a lengthy sea voyage - not even on those 'star cruises' that Victor went on recently. I do recall when very young (probably around 1957 or 58) boarding a ship called the Chu San to send of some relatives who were going to Japan for holiday.

Anonymous said...

I too heard a similar story from my late uncle. The year was 1955. He joined Cable & Wireless (the fore-runner of SINGTEL)and was promptly packed-off to Brighton, England. Brighton at that time had a telecoms training center for its staff. he left by a steam ship from one of the Singapore Harbour berth at Tanjung Pagar Road. The whole family gave my uncle and his young family a send-off.

I would have thought he would fly via the new Paya Lebar Airport but instead he went by sea, which took about one month. After arriving in Southampton port, he made his way by train to Brighton.

My cousin and I went back to Brighton to look for his house. My gosh, the place never change (for the last 80 years) except for the driveway.

My uncle returned to Singapore in 1959 by plane, this time touching down at Paya Lebar Airport. I guessed he took a plane instead of the steam ship because that was the year Singapore gained self-independence. My uncle was quickly promoted to become the head of Singapore Telephone Board International Division for undersea cables.

Zen said...

From the fifties to sixties, air-travel was an exclusive affair beyond the reach of common folks. Therefore lengthy sea voyages were the norm in those days, despite causing hardship to travellers. A good local example was the annual pilgrimage by Muslims for haj in Mecca which could take up a couple of months for a round trip. Pilgrims would gather at the terminal hardstand by the hundreds, including well-wishers - young and old at the port, waiting patiently for the vessel arrival to pick them up. Villagers would turn up in full force chatting, well-wishing those elderly pilgrims. In the meantime women were cooking meals in large pots by using firewood. Food were shared for everyone. The carnival-like and camaraderie atmosphere were overwhelming. This large undertaking would not be over until the last pilgrim left.

Tom said...

Tom said ...
I remember the aircraft called the Brittannia, it took me home from Singapore the year was 1964, it was a very long journey , 32 hours to Scotland , now adays it only 14 hours . Charles I like all your Trophies in the photograph, I some time watch the Cowes boat race on the is good to watch.

Anonymous said...

I used to hear my father say during his business trips to Tokyo, he flew from Singapore's Paya Lebar Airport to Bangkok, then Saigon, then Hong Kong, then Taipeh and finally Haneda Airport in Tokyo. A flight with 4 stop-overs in a DC3 on-board Cathay Pacific Airlines and Malayan Airways. That year was 1961.

Today we take only 8-9 hours to reach Tokyo with "0 stop-over". We can fly to Newark from Singapore in 18 hours with "0 Stop-over". Can't imagine how long was the flight in 1961.

Anonymous said...

My journey to Singapore in February 1960 was by Britannia - with stops in Istanbul and Bombay with arrival at Payar Lebar very late at night. My journey back however was I believe somewhat more unusual. We flew out of RAF Changi in August 1962 on the very last Comet 2 flight - I recall a documentary crew recording our departure. We left in late afternoon and flew to Gan in the middle of the Indian Ocean and stayed the night there. The next day we flew on to Aden for a brief stop and then to a desert base in Libya - where again we stayed the night. I had a swim in a swimming pool in the middle of the desert! The third day we flew from Libya to RAF Lyneham in the UK, arriving on a cold wet day - so cold that our family, used to the humidity and heat of Singapore and without much warm clothing spent part of our time in a laundry drying rooom to get warm!

Lam Chun See said...

For younger readers who may be wondering where on earth is Aden, it's called Yemen today.

And this gives me an idea for another post? Want to guess what that is?

For regular readers, I want to assure you, I haven't run out of ideas of topics to blog about ..... yet. It's just that they need time to write and am a bit busy this days. Which is good news actually, considering the rapid rise in cost of living here, and I don't have an employer to hand out "inflation bonuses" (:

Zen said...

In the fifties there was this cantonese master story teller named Lee Dai Soh who ruled the radio waves. One of his serials was a talk literally meant: 'talking of heaven and earth'- meaning anything under the sun. Similarly, GMY under this broad theme, would never run out of steam.

Lam Chun See said...

I Chinese characters that would be: 谈天说地.

ayoosh alamoora said...

Your blog very interesting..

My father born in 1952 too. Used to live in Ayer Gemuruh. Do you have Ayer Gemuruh/ Kampong Darat Nenas/ Kampong Nelayan photos?

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks Ayoosh for your compliment. Sorry I don't have any photos of Ayer Gemuruh etc. I have not been there before but I have been to Wing Loong Road.