Saturday, October 24, 2009

3 Troop in Singapore

November 196359 Squadron - Advance Party arrived in Singapore, under command of Major Bramwell.
Drivers were taken to Malaya - Terendak, to collect vehicles for the Squadron, despite the Chinese Riots, which were being contained.
The MT drivers, then had to teach the Squadron drivers, how to drive in 4 lane traffic, rather than the two lane traffic in the UK.

December 1963
Advance Party sailed to Bangkok on the Sir Galahad, sailing through rough storms, a very rough journey.

January 1965
The main party of 59 Field Squadron arrived in Singapore.

January 1966 - Exercise Lions Roar
An intensive re-training programme carried out early in the year, including: Jungle Warfare, Bridging, Combat Engineering and Field Firing.

May 1966 Operation Crown
Squadron returned to Operation Crown.

October 1966
Squadron returned to Singapore.
59 Field Squadron affiliated to 3 Commando Brigade – Royal Marines.
The Squadron undertook training and exercises with 3 Commando Brigade RM in: Australia, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

February 1967 -- Exercise CaricatureThe Squadron embarked with the Brigade for Exercise Caricature in Hong Kong.

1967 - Exercise Celto
Building a Helipad in the Jungle, plus a concrete Jetty (Penang Jetty), plus a 110ft EWBB.

May 1967 – Aug 1967 -- Exercises Firm Stride & GedgleyElements of the Squadron were sent to Plymouth, to undertake the Commando Training.
3 Troop remained with 3 Commando Brigade in Singapore.
They took part in two Major Exercises:
Firm Stride – where they supported the Brigade with Water Supply, digging of field defences and clearance of mines and booby traps.
Gedgley – where they were deployed on damage control and MACC tasks, which included a 130ft Suspension footbridge at Kampong Phon.

2nd Oct 1967 --Withdrawal from Aden3 Commando Brigade had the task of covering the final withdrawal of British troops from Aden.
A contingent of 16 All Ranks deployed with 40 Cdo RM, they completed a a very large number of Combat Engineering and Work services tasks.
This led to a series of Troop detachments to Aden until 25th March 1968.

January 1968 -- Post Crown
Sqn returns to Post Crown, along with 54 Support Sqn and 51 Field Sqn, tasked to complete the 25kms road between Leong Nok Tha and Ban Khok Klang.
Troop working alongside 54 Sqn.

11th April 1968
Saw Spr Pete Salisbury, board a VC10 at Lynham at 2pm, arrived Bahrain at 9pm (71 degrees)
arrived at Gan in the Maldives at 3am (75 degrees), finally Shangi - Singapore at 9am (90 degrees), 8000 miles flight.
He soon learned that at Cloutman Lines, trying to find someone, it was quicker to go into the Stores Romney Hut, where all the Exercise gear was stored in big whicker baskets. Just shout the name, usually answered by 'what', as a hang-over head appeared above the whicker basket edge.
He also found that Mr Lim, would would drive his snack wagon into the Lines at 10am each morning, that "Koppi Soo Soo" meant Instant Coffee made with Evaporated milk and Condensed milk.

May 1968 - Green BeretLt John Yerbury joined the Squadron, the first Troop Officer to pass the All Arms Course.
He was not permitted to wear his Green Beret, unless visiting 3 Cdo Brigade.
The next Troop Officer to arrive with a Green Beret, was 2nd Lt. Charlie Moorhouse, who took command of 2 Troop in June, just prior to ex-Lath.

Lt Yerbury took command of 3 Troop, with S/Sgt "Black Jack" Vowles and Sgt Fawcett as Recce Sgt. Outgoing was Lt. Chris "Grotty" Charlton.
3 Troop were supporting 42 Cdo RM

12th June 1968 – 12th July 1968 -- Exercise Lath.The Squadron was responsible for setting up the Services for 17 Divisional HQ and Umpire Control on Exercise Lath, 3 troop under command of Lt. John Yerbury.
The troop was deployed to Trengganu in East Malaysia, 445 miles from Singapore, to build a Pedestrian Suspension bridge 195ft long, capable of a load carrying 260 people.
Leaving early in the morning, the troop crossed the Causeway between Singapore and Malaysia, with 445 miles to travel.
By nightfall, the troop was 80 miles short of its destination, decided to call into a local town, looking for a Police Station - to leave stores and equipment. Not finding a Police Station, a couple of friendly locals were asked for "Police". A quizzical look and they trotted off, returning with a couple of tins of Polish!! Mix up over language.
Next morning, the troop continued on towards Trengganu, arriving at base camp for 10am.
Built at Kampong Penerak.

Trennganu Bridge

We set about clearing an area for the camp and leads to the bridge site.
The camp was close to the shore, set in an idylic area, where the sea breeze kept the Mosquitos away.
The Camp compossed of 6 man tents, Cook-house, Stores and the other paraphenalia that makes up a Camp site. We even set-up an outside Cinema, using a white sheet, watching films after the sun had gone down.

Steve Pretending to be dead, what a scare!
He had climbed into a previous accident and hung out of the door..Sick git!!

It took time to get stores to the Bridge area, the whole area was "wet".
First job was to dig 4 large pits, where the reinforced concrete would be poured, to support the Cable 'Anchors', that were strung over the 30ft high steel girders.
The pits being close to the river, dug in porous ground, filled with water.
These had to be pumped out constantly, to let 'Casey' Holder the Chippy, put in place the timber shuttering for the concrete.
When Lt Yerbury inspected the pit, he asked 'Casey' how he was doing, very concerned the lad was working in 4ft of water, "can you see what you are doing" states the Officer, "no problem Sir" says 'Casey', puts his head under water and continues sawing for a couple of minutes.
Shaking his head, the Officer walks away muttering "He's a nutter"!
The Girders are set in concrete, with the cables stretched over the girders, attached to Tirfir Winches that take up the slack.
A couple of Sappers are up on the wires and bolting on the support cables, then the the tightened cables are transfered from the Winches to the fixed stays in the pits. This took from 14th June to the 26th July.

Painting the Girders should be easy, plenty of paint, BUT, only one 2 inch paint brush, meant a long shift up a ladder, per person.
The decking put in place.

Completed Bridge.

A Pontoon Bridge was also built over the river Sungei Dura, to give HQ 17 Div access to the fabulous Marang Beach.

Sungei Dura Bridge

A Class 9 Timber Improvised Bridge, 138ft long with 8 spans. Designed by Lt Yerbury, it had to be re-considered, when the timber piling rig was damaged.
The resulting trestle bridge was a sound, good looking structure.

13th July 1968
The GOC 17 Divisional Major General AG Patterson, DSO, OBE, MC, flew back to the exercise area, to attend the opening ceremonies for each site, accompanied by Secretary of State - Tunku Lela Segara.

2nd to 15th August - Ex. Inner Circle
An exercise run by CRE (Ops).
Deployed to the West Coast of Malaysia - Sebawang.
This was a Tin-mine area, literally covered with small open holes.
3rd Aug - Troop inspected by Chief Royal Engineer, then Assault Course and 2 mile run.
4th Aug - Ranges and mine clearance.
5th Aug - Water Supply construction
6th Aug - Aerial Ropeway
7th Aug - Improvised Raft
8th Aug - Build Bailey Bridge
9th Aug - Cross country recce
10th Aug - Build Helicopter Pad
11th Aug - Start Improvised Bridge
12th - Finish Improvised Bridge
13th - Inspection by Chief Royal Engineer.
This involved troops from 59 Field Sqn and 11 Indep Field Sqn, moving in circles around 13 tasks, which involved Field Engineering and Infantry roles.

During this exercise, S/Sgt (Black-Jack) Vowles of 59 Sqn, unable to see an entrance, due to thick high grass, fell over 100 feet down a very narrow Tin Mine shaft, he was finally hauled out of the hole strapped to a demolition ladder, with back injury. He never fully recovered from this incident and was later flown home to England.

20th September 1968 - Ex. Coral Sands

The Squadron, less 2 Troop, boarded HMS Intrepid to support 3 Cdo Bde.
3 Cdo Bde - including 40 Cdo Rm with 1 Troop, 42 Cdo Rm with 3 Troop, 29 Light Battery,59 Sqn and Logistics of the Cdo Bde, embarked on a Fleet of Navy ships.
The Fleet sailed from Singapore, via the Torres Strait, past the Great Reef Barrier to Shoalwater Bay, near Rockhampton.
An opposed amphibious assault landing took place, with Gurkha as the enemy.
The Squadron transfered to HMS Bulwark, closer to shore near Shoalwater, then boarded 18 Wessex Helicopters to take place in the landings.
Squadron tasks included Combat support and the construction of tracks and hoverways.
Whilst Support Troop were embarked on LSL Sir Galahad and provided a battle simulation and Engineer team for the control staff.
Relaxing on the beach and in Surfers Paradise, was well earned.
After the exercise was over, the Squadron sailed round to Brisbane, for 10 days R&R.
Arrived back in Singapore, during early November.

7th - 12th October 1968 - Exercise Bridge-Lift
Return to Terrenganu to raise the bridge, which was too low during the high water season.

A series of assault boats were placed under the bridge, letting the rise of water lift the bridge, instead the boats stayed still, filled up with water and sank...........Plan B.
Put double the amount of boats under the bridge, this time the bridge rose, the cables were slackened, tightened using the Winches and re-fixed.
The boats were removed after the tide went down..Job Done!

The 3rd Green Beret Officer arrived - 2nd Lt John Wyatt on 31st October.

November 1968 - Area not known.
The troop deployed with 42 Cdo RM, to provide support in the form of a base camp and water supply near a beach site.
Lt Yerbury decided to do a Recce by helicopter, to avoid a 4 day trip.
Unfortunately, the helicopter crashed near Kulantan, writing off the Sioux, fortunately it did not catch had run out of fuel!!
Once on site, John did all the pollution tests, but not the final taste, it was still Salt Water. Having rapidly dug a new bore hole, which fortunately turned out to be good drinkable water.

After thisercise, the troop re-trained, after 6 months continuous exercises and project works.

1st December 1968 - 31st January 1970 --Bukat Mendi
The Sqn, along with 54 Sqn, 11 Sqn and 67 Sqn, participate in Bukat Mendi MACC project in Malaya.
The project was to construct a main access road, housing for Settlers and a large Oil-palm cultivation complex, totalling 30,000 acres.
It is believed that 11 Sqn built the Hut Accommodation, 3 Troop worked on the site from March - May, 1 Troop relieved them from May - July.
Living in the huts, which later became a part of the village for the Settlers.

30th May 1969 - Exercise Crash ActionKahang in Malaysia, no details for this exercise.

2nd July - 1st October 1969 - Luk Keng Road in Hong KongThe Sqn along with 54 Sqn, 11 Sqn, 67 Sqn & 68 Sqn, became involved in building this road.
Flying out of Shangi on a Hercules XV200, landing at Kai Tak
After un-loading, loading into trucks, the troop rolled out through the outskirts of Kowtoon, heading North up a hig, very twisty road called 'Route Twisk' - built by Royal Engineers in 1951/52, it was actually Route TW / SK (road linking Tsuen Wan and Shek Kong), this was a 24 ft wide road, class 70 ton, it was heavily mined, incase the Chinese attacked, a possibility.
Eventually arrived a Shek Kong - a military base with an Airfield. Accommodation in Nissan Huts. Two days to relax and get used to the very basic camp. The accommodation was simple - metal beds and tin lockers, on a concrete floor, just lovely!

Then daily drives over the Twist to Kowloon, where we built Romney Huts, to accommodate the thousands of refugees, fleeing from China during and after the "Cultural Revolution". This task took around a month to complete. It was noted that it was very hot, perched up a 30 ft ladder, fitting hot glaring calvanised tin roof panels.
Not sure how high the "twist" was, but fascinating to watch crisp packets expand to near bursting point as we reached the summit, or, one of the lads had a Chinese tea flask, that exploded near the summit, due to the altitude.
Packed lunches were exactly the same each day, supplied by the Shek Kong Camp Cookhouse - A bar of Chocolate (always melted), an Orange, a Sandwich and a packet of Crisps.

25th July - Earthquake (5.9) hit Guangdong Province, just over the border in China.
We felt the effects of this earthquake in kowloon, it transpired that 3,000 people were killed.

After building the huts, the troop was sent to Sha Tau Kok area, to build a new road and bridges, leading up to the Chinese border, this was a Frontier Closed Area, which made the Chinese a bit nervous.
The task was to cut a new road along the edge of a small mountain - which was held up a short while, the British Army had to pay compensation to the local Chinese, as the road would be " cutting the tail of the dragon".
Built to give access to Starling Inlet, in the extreme North East of the Territories, the 4 mile route requiring demanding Cut & Fill. The construction of many culverts and a considerable amount of Rock Blasting.
Dozers would make a rudimentary track, followed by the Graders and "Wobbly wheel" Rollers (these were steel boxes, filled with earth for weight and had a back row of 6 rubber wheels which actually 'wobbled') seems the wobbly wheels compacted the ground better.
Bit of excitement was had (for some) when one of the Plant-ops managed to let one of the "wobblies" slip over the side of the road and it fell a couple of hundred feet down a Ravine.
A big Concrete Mixer was set-up, mixing hundreds of tons for the road Culverts.

27th/28th July - R&R.
The majority headed straight for Hong Kong, booking into cheap Hotels, somewhere to 'crash-out' after a long, long session in the bars.
Not so Pete Salisbury, he was determined to 'stretch' the boundaries of right & wrong, by getting as close to the Chinese border as possible. This involved a train journey - first class of course - from Mong Kok to Fanling Sheung Shui, the last stop before the border, then back in time for a film show at the Roxy Theatre, costing $3.50.
Not quite happy with the train ride, Pete decided to board the Hydrofoil to Macau, a Portuguese colony, just 40 km from the border, which cost $14 and took just 70 mins. A few fleeting memories from this trip - a stone built Archway, with the Red Guard the other side of the border, Pearl River, a magnificient church which on closer view, was just a free standing wall. A number of Casinos and most striking was a Bull Ring, where they held Bull fightsc each year.
Back to Hong Kong for his final night rest, before everyone returned to duty on the 'Twisk'.

At the end of the day a 6 man Guard was left on site, to guard the equipment.

1st October
Fly back to Singapore in a Hercules XV198 at 28,000ft at 315knots 9 yep, Pete nicked the flight plan, yet again).
The work continued for 3 years, though 54 Sqn remained the Heavy Plant Support Sqn, it was re-titled 54 (HK) Support Sqn.

November 1969 - Exercise Forest Friend - Malaysia
3 Troop was sent off with 42 Cdo RM, to the area of Perak, to assist the Orang Asli, on small bridge repairing projects and deep penetration patrols in the remote jungle.

4th February 1970 - Brigade Commander Inspection - Brigadier PJF Whitely OBE
Lt. John Yerbury, S/Sgt Dick Barton and Sgt Fawcett, paraded their troop for inspection.

1970 - Exercise Bersatu Padu.
Whole Squadron deployed for 3 months on this exercise.
This was a Large Exercise, which brought 16 Brigade - Commanded by Brigadier George Cooper (who was an ex-Sapper himself) out to the East Coast of Malaya, to demonstrate that Britain could reinforce the Far East, after the withdrawal in 1972.

1970 - Exercise Square Hole.This was 59 Sqn and 3 Cdo Bde, deployed to a Jungle area - Gemas, in Central Malaya.
A large area of trees had to be cut and tracks formed, plus the very large hole dug out.
Once the hole had been excavated, rooms were built, then the whole thing covered over with earth. The Site Officer "did not hold much hope for the structure, it creaked a lot".
It involved an underground Bunker, in the form of a Cruciform - as used above ground.
The Bunker provided protection for the Joint Force HQ and when completed with Lighting and Air conditioning, the power supplied by a 27.5KVA generator, backed up by a 10KVA generator.
As the Sqn was the first Sapper Sqn dedicated to the Cdo Bde, an air conditioned bunker in the middle of the Jungle, built during heavy rain, impressed them drastically.
Just to remind them of the torrential rain above, a deliberate "leak", via a small bore pipe, was
placed by the Commanders area.

Water Supply

3 Troop took part with 42 Cdo RM, in Hong Kong in the Sek Kong Peninsula. Upon their return, 3 Troop went to assist with improvements to the Jungle Warefare School in Jahore Baru.

June to July 1970 Exercise - Bersatu Padu.The whole Squadron took part in this large exercise, which involved 25,000 troops from the Commonwealth.
3 Troop was based with 42 Cdo RM, living in a remote forest, dug-in, acting as the enemy, with Ghurka just 30 yards away.whilst the mixed Commonwealth troops tried to find them. In preparation for this exercise, 3 Troop set about digging trenches (using explosives), covering them with timber and finally with branches. The fortifications and tunnels run around a hill, plus a water supply up the hill to the camp. 3 Troop wore Black uniform.
The troop could hear troops moving in, with observation aircraft passing overhead.
Discovery -- A helicopter hovered overhead and threw down smoke cannisters, to show our position.
Time to escape, along tunnels, this would 'prove' the encirclement.
The Ghurka unit escaped, but Pete Salisbury 3 troop was caught, after 36 days on the 'Hill'.
September 1970 Trengganu.
3 Troop with 42 Cdo RM, was involved in this exercise.
Troop command handed over to Lt Roger Justice at the end of this exercise.

20th November 1970 - Operation BurlapThe Squadron plus attachments, sailed for East Pakistan with Task Group 318.2 from Singapore, for Cyclone relief operations. Around 150,000 people had drowned.
This unfortunate country had been hit by a devastating cyclone and tidal wave some days earlier and the British Government were in the process of mounting the biggest external relief effort of all time. Far East Command who were mounting the relief effort (Operation Burlap), had delegated the responsibility for the relief ashore to the Commander, 3 Commando Brigade (Brigadier Pat Ovens).
The Royal Navy, by good luck, had on station both HMS Intrepid (LPD) and HMS Triumph, converted carriers.

The Squadron also gave Construction and Engineering support to the local population.