My Next Move
Perhaps it all seemed worse because the end was approaching. But my morale certainly was not very high. We did however, have one thing to look forward to in the foreseeable future, the end of our National Service. Toward that end things began to happen and I began to consider what I wanted to do next. This was true of many of the other squaddies.
For us thousands of miles from the UK we were out of touch with the job market, what was jobs were on offer and how much they paid. We were at a distinct disadvantage. Those with home or British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) postings in Germany could keep in touch with it, and even attend interviews. For us all that had to wait our return. We all had jobs to go back to but they didn’t necessarily appear attractive after Army life and being abroad, and that was something we had to come to terms with. At one stage I thought of applying to the Colonial Survey Office but nothing came of it. A surveyor’s life abroad, out in the sun and in interesting places is, and was an appealing one.
Another sign of approaching release were our TA postings, the unit we would be assigned to on our return in the Reserve. Both Ian and I, as had Frank Beames and others before us received postings to the 880th Forward Observation Battery RA (Airborne) TA, an unit based at Hendon in outer north London. The fact that it was an airborne parachute unit caused some consternation, and to me it was a nuisance being at Hendon on the other side of London. However whatever it all meant, it was a step in the right direction.
Watching the Ships
As our time for release got nearer we kept a closer eye on the shipping news so that we work out the ship we were likely to go home on. The Dunera was the likely candidate, and we knew when she had sailed from the UK. The Battery kept all the news of release quiet, but at 173 Locating Battery at Stanley it was different, and they were very open. We found a squaddy there in our release group, 4912, and get the information about sailing dates from him. It all started to happen quickly when the first squaddies from 98 squad who had remained at Stanley got their orders at one week’s notice, Jock Lyon and Frank Beames. We missed them, two Barons from Able Troop, a lively pair. This departure was marked by a unique event, Frank was ready and waiting, for he had always been the last on parade.
Dunera Confirmed and Leave
Eventually we did get our orders, and our ship was the Dunera, with them much to our surprise we were given three days leave. This we again spent at the Sailors and Soldiers Home in Victoria busily shopping for curios to take back as gifts, getting more civilian clothes, eating and drinking well and going to the cinema, and a first, seeing a very good amateur theatrical production of the farce ‘The Anonymous Lover’ by Vernon Sylvaine, as well as an ice show.
We also took the opportunity to visit the famous Tiger Balm Garden built by Aw Boon Haw in 1935. He was a multimillionaire Chinese who had made his fortune with quack medicines and in these gardens were the most grotesque painted figures of Chinese mythology, and of terrible tortures being inflicted. None of it was exactly to our taste, but it was very much to that of the local Chinese population. Perhaps it was an appropriate place to visit at the end of our sojourn in Hong Kong with the whole of China and all its ancient and peculiar mysteries but a few miles away.