I formed a very good impression of Singapore and the way of life it offered and then resolved if opportunity in civilian life offered an occasion to participate I would take it. I liked the Malay people and the life style. The English seemed to live in very agreeable circumstances not withstanding the heat and humidity. The war being fought on the rubber plantations and jungles seemed a long way away. Singapore, although, a ‘pukka’ place, we as squaddies, were treated there well and civilly.
On to Hong Kong – A Typhoon
The ship then got out toward the South China Sea and headed northward. To the west below the horizon were Sarawak, Borneo and the Philippines, to the east Indochina (now Vietnam) where the French were fighting and losing their own colonial war against the Communists and others who sought independence. In this Sea we met the worst weather conditions we encountered on the whole voyage. It was a typhoon, the seas rose, the wind blew, and the ship rolled and pitched and waves broke over the ship. Below decks the watertight doors were closed and dead lights secured over the portholes. It was not at all comfortable below.
We got out on deck (that we were allowed to was surprising) and I relished this storm. It was these kind of seas that I had read about in the books of Percy Westerman – a writer of sea stories for boys popular in the 1930’s – and I enjoyed the experience, for once finding things lived up to my expectations. We got right up into the bow and as the ship plunged into the trough of a wave so the bow would drop down steeply to meet it. Then as the wave passed the bow arose high above with the forefoot out of the water. As the bow sank so the stern rose until the propeller would be out of the water and the whole ship shuddered and shook. Going up and down the companion ways became an art; for as the ship rose and you were going up you never got anywhere. It was the same peculiar sensation descending.
The roll the ship developed, far beyond her normal roll, was a little alarming and without hanging on to the ropes that were provided you could slide from side to side of the decks. We could not sleep on deck and it was quite amusing at night to see all the hammocks swinging with each roll and up and down in unison as the ship pitched into a sea. I spent one or two nights sleeping under the mess deck table. Conditions below decks were bad. Many were sick but I was not and of that I was proud.
Getting through this typhoon we approached Hong Kong. The weather turned cooler and we changed back into our heavier serge uniforms. The ship was full of rumors as to what awaited us, and where we were to be stationed. For us it was said to be in the New Territories and in a tented camp. So that was something to look forward to.