In the spring of 1957 I was told that I was to be posted to Singapore from RAF Swinderby. In June I duly arrived at RAF Innsworth in Gloucestershire to be kitted out with my tropical uniform. At the time I hadn't much idea where Singapore was and the furthest I had ever travelled was to a RAF training camp in Wales! I spent about a week at Innsworth. They didn't seem to know what to do with us so we were employed by the permanent staff on cleaning and tidying duties until our departure date.
During a day out with friends in Gloucester we indulged in a few beers in a local pub. One of the locals on hearing our conversation about our posting said "Ah going to the war zone then? Have a pint on me". War zone I thought, what war zone? Did he know something that I didn't! Of course I knew there were problems in Malaya at the time but I never realised it was so close to Singapore!
A few days later, like so many before me, I departed on a Sunday afternoon from Black Bush airport. Our Airworks Hermes aircraft was bound for our first stop at Brindisi in Italy. The aircraft landed in the late evening and was to be dogged by fuel problems all the way to Singapore! Eventually we continued on to Ankara, Baghdad, and Bahrain. Then following an overnight stop at Karachi, flew on to Calcutta and Bangkok, finally arriving at Paya Lebah airport in Singapore four days after leaving England.
After two nights in Transit at RAF Changi, acclimatising not only to the climate but also to Tiger beer! I was told that I was posted to 656 Squadron. I found it odd that no one seemed to know anything about the Squadron or even where it was located! Perhaps the warning bells should have sounded then! The following Saturday morning found myself and five other airmen at Singapore railway station, apparently bound for Kuala Lumpur. With my kit bag, .303 rifle and several rounds of ammunition I was beginning to think things were looking serious!
Arriving at Kuala Lumpur in the early evening after the long hot journey from Singapore, watching every bush and tree on the way in case of ambush, I was amazed to see the railway station! It looked for all the world like a Sultans palace from some story of the Arabian night's. I had never seen anything like it and I was mightily impressed! The six of us reported to the RTO's office and my new friends were told transport would take them to RAF Kuala Lumpur. I apparently was going to somewhere called RAF Noblefield!
Having said goodbye I sat somewhat forlornly on a platform seat. Sometime later an Army guy came up to me and asked "are you for Noblefield Mate?". I replied in the affirmative and he said "right give me your kit bag I'll throw it into the LandRover"! While navigating through the chaotic Kuala Lumpur traffic, my driver gave me an insight into the various tasks the Squadron was responsible for. He explained that several flights made up the Squadron and individual flights were semi autonomous. They located in various places from Singapore Island, North up the Malay peninsular to Alor Star and operated Auster Mk9 aircraft. Eventually he announced "here we are, that's Noblefield where those huts are". "What about the airfield, where's that?" I asked. His reply shook me, "see that bit of Brown strip? Well that's where the aircraft land and take off". I wasn't expecting Heathrow, but this, good grief! It seemed nothing more than a dusty well used field about 400 yards long!
On arrival I was given a meal and dispatched with my bedding to the transit accommodation, an Atap Bashah! It wasn't long before I was fast asleep under my mosquito net. The following morning, I awoke early having slept fitfully during the night. It was still quite dark and as my eyes became accustomed to the gloom I was alarmed to hear strange noises and see even stranger shapes sitting on the wall of the bashah. Gradually I realised that they were huge Rhesus monkeys! I lay back in bed and thought, here I am, having travelled 7000 miles from home during the week I don't really know where I am, don't know what I am going to be doing, don't know anyone, don't even know the aircraft. It had been a hell of a week and I was just Eighteen years old!