LST

In my youth I used to be a merchant navy deck officer. I started as a cadet and after passing the Second Mates ticket I was offered a job as Third Mate on an LST.

When I was interviewed for the position I asked what an LST was, and was told that it was a Landing Ship Tank. It was then that I found out that the Company had the contract, from the British Government, to supply officers for their LSTs in the Far East, Mediterranean (Malta), and Aden. I was being loaned out to the British Ministry of Defence, during the Indonesian ‘confrontation’ (Dec ‘62 to Aug ‘66) – it was never called a war, because this would have caused Lloyds insurance rates to sky rocket, and the Government had enough trouble on their hands.

The background of the ‘confrontation’ was that Indonesia objected to the creation of Malaysia, which included Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo, which was a Crown colony, and Sarawak, which was known then as British Borneo, and is now known as East Malaysia.

Indonesia used local militants, trained by the Indonesian army, to attack East Malaysia, which brought the British in to the conflict in defence of the new country. Later Indonesia committed regular troops to cross border attacks. Eventually Australia & New Zealand became involved.

My new posting was as Third Mate to LST ‘Frederick Clover’ – she was built as LST 3001 in 1945, and renamed ‘Frederick Clover’ in 1946.

Her displacement was between 2,140 tons and 4,820 depending on her cargo. She was flat bottomed for landing tanks and heavy vehicles on beaches. She had bow doors and a ramp as well as a secondary ramp within the enclosed deck to the main open deck, for driving lighter vehicles to the main deck

Because I was in the RNR (Royal Navy Reserve) I was put in charge of the oerlikon 20 mm AA gun, which was on the forecastle. The problem was, even though I was in the RNR, I’d never been trained in the use of ships’ guns, because I’d spent my time at sea in merchant ships in the Far East.

When I visited the forecastle to acquaint myself with my new responsibilities I realised that if we had to defend ourselves we would have to ask the Indonesians to return later, because the barrel of our gun was still in its wooden box bolted to the deck! I opened the box to reveal a brand new barrel covered in wax paper and grease. I couldn’t see us ever being in a position to have to use the gun. The other small problem was that we didn’t have any ammunition!

I reported back to the Captain who told me not to bother with the AA gun.

The following day we loaded troops and equipment for Borneo.

Loading

SIN Loading

Kuching river

The above shows the main deck as we sailed up the Sarawak River to Kuching, on the island of Borneo.

Before sailing we’d been given special instructions to dump various secret cypher machines in the deepest part of the channel between Indonesia and Singapore.

Dumping

The army did such a good packing job that the crates of secret machines floated away! We had to machine gun the boxes so as to allow them to sink. I had an army SLR (self-loading rifle) and it was good fun firing at the floating cases until they sank.

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Frederick Clover was ‘old’, but even so I still had to sign the Official Secrets Act. Considering that Frederick Clover had been involved in the Korean War, as well as the creation of the State of Israel (1948), and possibly the Suez Crisis of 1956, I doubted that there was anything left of the LST of which a potential enemy would not be aware. She had two engines and our maximum speed was under ten knots. I have seen Chinese junks, with a following wind, over take us, but that is a secret.

I’ll Never Go Abroad

Travel often pops up in various conversations and those who know me have suggested that I should put down some of my experiences. At first I was reluctant, because I didn’t think people would be interested in the travels of an unknown traveler. When my grandchildren started to ask questions I thought perhaps I should put a few things down before I get too old and forgetful.

Do you ever regret making a comment years ago, which proved how stupid and wrong you where when you look back over your life?

I was about thirteen at the time and ‘studying’ French. On the completion of the final examination the class results positioned yours truly second to bottom in a class of forty. I was not very good, nor was I interested in the French language. I can remember the teacher, when discussing my poor effort, asking what would I do if I ever went abroad. The thought of going abroad was so far out of my comfort zone that I remarked that ‘I’ll never go abroad’, which is why I decided on this title.

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Rayani Air

Having flown with nearly fifty different airlines I have finally found an airline that I would not wish to fly with, even if they offered free seats.

Rayani Air began services last Sunday (20th Dec). This airline is the first Malaysian Sharia compliant airline. Of course they don’t carry wine, which is not a problem, except they restrict the passengers’ choice. The lack of wine is important, but not my main consideration.

My main reluctance is that they offer prayers before take-off, which doesn’t give me the confidence that I normally have in the the guys and girls at the sharp end. If they need the help of the Almighty, and they are still on the ground, I think I’ll give them a miss.

Bird calls

Travel does broaden the mind, or so one would think. Two small incidents happened to me, each linked to the other, but thousands of miles apart in distance, but only a few months in time.

I was in Tokyo, on business, and the hotel in which I stayed had recordings of bird calls in the reception area to help sooth the tension of the guests arriving and leaving in such a busy city. Depending on the ambient noise in the reception area the sound of the birds would be increased or decreased, but the birds calls where always in the background.

Some months later I was in Cairns (northern Australia), and staying at a city hotel, which was popular with Japanese tourists. I was checking out and a Japanese tourist asked the hotel employee who was dealing with me, if the hotel could possibly turn down the sound of the birds. He complained that they woke him too early in the morning. The hotel employee’s face was a mask of confusion as he had no idea what the hotel guest was requesting. I was able to explain to the hotel guest that Australian hotels didn’t have electronic bird calls, and the sound of the morning bird chorus was real, and completely out of the control of the hotel. I don’t think the tourist was convinced of the truth of my comment. The hotel employee had a hard time keeping his face straight as he finalised my account.

Rudolph

Recently flew from Helsinki to Bangkok with Finnair, so of course they offered reindeer as a choice of meat for the evening meal. It was very lean meat with a nice texture, which went very well with the red wine.

I had to try it because I like to try ‘new’ meat having eaten kangaroo and crocodile as well as the ‘normal’ meat of cows, pigs, sheep, goats, horses, frogs (is frog meat classed as meat?).

I only hope my grandchildren don’t find out about the reindeer meat, because I am sure I will be accused of eating Rudolf, if Santa is late this year due to being a reindeer short to pull his sleigh.

Santa’s traditional reindeer Dasher, Dancer, Donner, Vixen, Comet, Prancer, Vixen and of course the new one, Rudolph, which is thanks to Robert L. May in 1939, who wrote the story of Rudolph. May’s brother in law, Johnny Marks, turned May’s story in to a song that we now know.

Who remembers Gene Autry, the singing cowboy, who made Rudolph famous in 1949?

 

Christmas wishes

Please don’t wish me Happy Holiday, because I am not going on holiday, but I will be in March, but then I would prefer Happy Easter.
If you want to wish me anything this week may I suggest that it is Happy or Merry Christmas.
If wishing me Happy Christmas is offensive to you, then accept the fact that not wishing me Happy Christmas, and wishing me Happy Holiday, is offensive to me.
I do hope that I haven’t offended.
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Swap

Last week I received information that a local author of The Sleepwalker Legacy The_Sleep_Walker_Legacy_Front_Coverwould be available at our small shopping strip to sign his latest book. I introduced myself to him and we chatted about writing and publishing in general. When he realised that I’d also had a book published he suggested that we should swap books, which we did, and I am now reading his, and hopefully he is reading mine!