The ship arrived at Colombo on February 15. The rest of the squad went ashore and there, as they later told me, treated themselves to a meal at an authentic Chinese restaurant that offered a choice of 89 courses. They returned with tinned fruit and fresh pineapple, the first I had ever eaten. It was a welcome relief to the terrible food on board.
On to Singapore
Being fit I was returned to duty and continued watching the sea go by as we made our slow and stately progress across the Indian Ocean passing the Andaman Islands and toward the East Indies. As we did the sea took up a greenish hue. Then began the most delightful run up the Straits of Malacca in calm seas with on either hand the coasts of Malaya and Sumatra running up to mountains with their heads in the clouds and covered with trees and a lush bright green vegetation. We saw many islands on this approach. Everywhere were native sailing craft, and here I first had sight of Chinese junks. It was all so different from the harsh stark heat, color and light of Aden and the Arab countries. So much more gentle, as the people – the Malays and others from these parts – themselves seemed to be.
Port of Call – Singapore
We reached Singapore early in the morning of February 22. It lies just above the Equator which unfortunately I was never to get to cross. It was very hot and humid and softly raining. It was so different to our departure from Liverpool. On the dockside was the band of a Scottish Regiment playing a welcome. Here a lot of troops got off. At this time the war against the Communists in Malaya was being fought and these troops were destined for ‘up country’ to help fight it. It was a proper military welcome.
We got shore leave from 930 am until 2.15pm. And so began my second foray on foreign soil finding our way from the docks through the Malay and Chinese areas to the world famous Raffles Square. I experienced such contrasts in the buildings, living conditions, the sounds, sights and smells of an overcrowded and thriving tropical city. It was so different to Aden and even more to the England we had left behind.
The bazaars and shops here were again full to overflowing with all the ordinary and luxury items difficult to get or still unseen in the austere and rationed England we had left. Our eventual destination was a forces club, the Shackles Club. To find it and avoid more walking in the oppressive humidity we hired trishaws, powered by a Chinese coolie, and in a convoy of these we arrived. There we had a proper meal served at a table covered with a cloth and served by waiters whilst we sat on a veranda looking out over the sea-it seemed luxurious. Returning to the ship we brought fresh fruit and the like and after a rush through the dock area and in intense humidity were the last back on board.