............I arrived in very early hours of the morning while still was still dark. As the truck drove through villages and roadside wooden structures I could smell the rotten vegetable aroma of the Far East.
............By the time we arrived in Burma Camp the sun had risen and began to produce a welcome heat. The plan had been to spend three weeks acclimatization which I was sure began by carrying bedding up those long steps to the huts that rimmed the camp. We all began to sweat as never before returning to the stores and trooping like ants to our given quarters. The huts and the camp were all but empty of souls; we were told the reason was they were, over the other side. Over the other side was a euphemism for Borneo where as in Aden we went upcountry, one of those strange traditions we accepted readily. Two PTIs took us for acclimatisation that had been dramatically reduced to two weeks within the hours since our arrived. There was six if us raring to go. We began with press-ups all of us dropping after a mid thirty effort with the exception of a tall obviously fit marine. The PTIs pointed to him and said we should follow his example. We then did pull-ups on a bar grasping for breath after doing our utmost. The tall marine was still fresh and embarrassed us with another fifteen effortless pull-ups. We once again told to follow his example. Various exercises proceeded to make the tall guy fitter and the rest of us feel like we were melting in the heat and our bodies tiring. Thank fully it was lunch time and we welcomed the respite and cool drinks.
............On return acclimatisation had been reduced to one week which we were glad to hear. We were lined up for a two mile run (I think) with the dust hot under our feet. The PTIs announced we had to keep up with super marine. The run began with the tall marine sprinting away out in front and the rest of us plodding along. Within one hundred yards I saw the tall superman sway and drop like a stone. As we rush by him we pointed and shouted, “Follow him.” Here was first and one of the most important lessons to conserve energy like the old soldier. On completion of the run the PTIs took pity on us and sent us to our hothouse huts with squeaky overhead fans.
............One guy I took a liking to was from a farm where they grow apples in Gloucestershire, his name as far as I remember was Munroe. He was like western movie star with broad shoulders and swept back blond hair with a wicked sense of careless humour. “Do you have any money?” he asked. “Eighty bucks.” was my reply wondering what he had in mind. “Well, I can borrow another fifty and we can go ashore.” It seemed like a good sound idea. As luck would have it we were given lift in a Land Rover driven by an Elvis fan who thought he was Elvis’s double continually looking in the mirror as he combed his hair. The flight over the Indian Ocean had been something of a nightmare. A storm had rocked the plane, in a silence that only the imminent thought of death can produce. The passengers looked straight ahead rocking like puppets with their strings attached to their hind end. One of the Air Hostesses began to cry bitterly as the plane dipped towards the white horses of the waves. It was pitch dark and only the lights of the plane illuminated the sea giving an indication of how near we were to the fishes. Now we had this idiot combining his hair at the Rovers highest speed leaving the steering wheel to its own direction. I was glad when we reached a destination and ready for a drink. I cannot unfortunately give the experts the name of the bars as they were much the same with dim lights and clouds of smoke. Amid clinks of glasses and a roar of voices competing
with the music that had lost its way, while we sat watching the young matelots spend and spend. While they had money ladies attended them in all directions. Some of the girls whispered in his eager ears, others trying to drag them away and the remainder begging for drinks. When his pockets lightened the circle of girls thinned dramatically like insects that had just found a more attractive food supply.
............The night was glorious in the sense of hilarity and tales that flowed from each orator. We smoked and drank as each story became more dramatic and funny till the noise began to dampen down. I looked around the bar and noticed it was nearly empty. I studied my watch in a blur. Midnight had long gone and we had to get back to camp for the morning exercises.” One more and we go Andy boy.” Munroe announced as he groped into his pockets. “Have you any money left.” He asked me as his head dipped towards the tabletop. “You were the one who was supposed to keep money for the taxi back to Burma Camp. Don’t tell me it’s all gone.” “All gone.” he repeated. I was no better as I search each pocket in the forlorn hope of finding just enough to get back to camp. “See that guy over there.” He pointed in the direction of a well pressed marine uniform. It could only be a clerk so tidily presented with creases set to perfection and a shirt and tie brand new. We made our way across to him and asked if he would take us with him in the taxi back to camp. He looked reluctant but gradually assented. “The only thing is I’m going to the brothel first.” We were in no position to argue. The taxi was a comfortable German make that had a speedometer with a laminated green linear indicator. In the pitch-dark it dove over bridges and spun around twisted roads till we saw a lamp brightly shining over a door way. We got out of the taxi and followed the clerk inside. Along the long corridor were lines of men from all the British forces sent to the Far East. Most of them had too much to drink but pinned themselves to a wall to stay upright. We were the last in the queue and it seemed we were in for a long night. I still hoped we would be back in time to get ready for the morning parade. As I listened to the voices from the soldiers of Britain echoing in the corridor a young short woman appeared for a side room. She walked down the line of prospective customers examining them with a keen eye. Much to my surprise she stopped at me and looked me up and down. I wondered what the attraction was as I’m far from good looking with a pale freckled face and plump body work. She took both of my wrists and pulled me to the room. On the way there the men seemed to come awake and began to grumble.
............The room was comfortable with a large bed and lit by a blue bedside lamp. The lady smiled at me and unbuttoned the top of my shirt. I bent down and took my shoes off and flicked then on to a colourful carpet. My trousers were now at half-mast and I was preparing myself for some of the delights of fortification. “You have money, you have money?” She asked politely at first. I looked up at her and said patiently, “no one said anything about money.” I turned by palms upwards as a sign of innocence. “You got no money?” this time with a very angry voice. At this point I pulled my trousers up and held them with my left hand and picked up my shoes with my free hand. She was quick in pulling me out of the door. I stood there with my shoes in my hand holding on to my trousers looking at a baying mob. “You got money for him, you got money for him?” There are something’s that drunken soldiers cannot abide and this was one. They unstuck themselves from the wall and their faces like masks from hell. There was only one thing to do and it had to be done now. I ran like a scared rabbit down the corridor. I could see the clerk and Munroe taking in the view of Chinese men rushing out of an office some with bald heads. “Run.” I shouted at the top of my voice, while I spun passed them and plunged into the dark night. I could feel them clatter behind. The German car was still there and we jumped in like bank robbers. “Burma Camp and be quick about it.” The taxi driver seemed to be an expert at the quick escapes and we left the squabble behind. The clerk smiled at me and said politely and slowly. “A man’s foibles are what makes him loveable.” I took the advice in and replied. “I didn’t get a chance to use mine.”
............The morning came and the acclimatisation was cancelled for the last time. I had to get my kit and be prepared to leave Burma Camp by mid afternoon. Down by the docks was a tramp ship like the one in the story (The Twilight of the Gods). I was off to Sarawak across the South China Sea. As the sun went down a huge pale moon rose and the sea became dark green with luminous creatures in abundance. As I looked spellbound at the distant horizon I remembered some advice given by a kind uncle. And this was rule number two. ‘There are moments when everything goes well; don’t be frightened it won’t last.’