It's surprising how the mind plays tricks with the memory. If anyone
had asked I would have sworn on the bible that we were out there longer
than a year but my Certificate of Service says that's how long it was,
at times it certainly seemed a lifetime.
The band formed up in Deal in early September 54 under Bandmaster Winchester,
and we got kitted up for a spell in the hot and steamy stuff. It was
the first and only time I had the "pleasure?" of joining a
band forming up in Deal, for the rest of my service I joined bands already
in establishments or on ships.
We were (I think) the first band to be drafted using a new system, instead
of joining our ship, the cruiser Newfoundland in Portsmouth or Plymouth
we were going to fly to meet her in the naval base of Trincomalee in
the island of Ceylon (A Crown Colony then, Sri Lanka now). We all had
to have passports with photos taken in civvies as we weren't allowed
to fly in uniform, certain countries in the Middle East didn't approve
of British servicemen over-flying their territory. What's new!
flew out in an Avro York chartered for the trip.
fancy, no pressurised cabin, no fancy meals but the seats were comfortable
and you had room too stretch your legs. You also had to land at night,
(the pilots were off carrots by then). Another innovation was that you
could, if you asked, go up and visit the flight deck, interesting. When
I went up we were flying across the Arabian Desert and I asked the pilot
how they navigated, he pointed to the pipeline beneath us and said "I
follow that pipeline into Shaja". I suppose it's a more reliable
system than certain Sat Nav systems that are on the market now. In those
days we had RAF personnel serving in Shaja. I have a recollection that
the Brits were still controlling the extraction and marketing of the
oil in Iraq then. In fact when we later did a Gulf cruise the band Beat
Retreat on the airfield, and the local Arab Sheik laid on a meal afterwards,
it was all hands in and dig it out of a pile of rice.
It took us three (3) days to reach Colombo in Ceylon. First stop Nice
to refuel, we had flown through the Alps, you could look up to some
of the peaks, we refuelled again at Cyprus and then to Beirut for an
overnight stop in the International Hotel. In the morning, off again
and a refuelling stop at Shaja in Iraq then to Karachi for another drop
of juice before stopping eventually at Bombay for the night at the Taj
Mahal Hotel. I understand you need serious money to stay there now.
From Bombay it was one stop down the coast at Goa for fuel and then
into Colombo and a bus journey across Ceylon to join Newfoundland in
Trincomalee, the naval base in Ceylon. We didn't meet the band we were
relieving as I understand they were taking our plane back to the UK.
The two reasons for this far gone memory of over 50 years ago are (1)
when Terry Parker (Solo clarinet) and I were chatting one evening whilst
holidaying and we reasoned that he was in the band that relieved us
and (2) I found a photo of our band when we were just having a photo
session, it's a good job someone thought it was worthwhile getting us
all together. We stayed in HMS Highflyer (the shore base in Trincomalee)
in between HMS Newfoundland going home and HMS Gambia relieving her.
Bye the bye, we didn't meet the band who were relieving us as we were
using their plane to return to England and they were a day late, due
to::: but that's another story which maybe Terry or Eric Hayward of
Gambia fame will relate to one day.
of them have passed on but I wonder how many are still around
and like me,
full of memories and only just getting round to passing them on.
by David Webster of nearly all of the Band of C in C East Indies
at HMS 'Highflyer' Trincomolee, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) whilst between
ships 'Newfoundland' & 'Gambia' in 1955.
Left to right:- Ian Epps, 'Lofty'
Clark, 'Wally' Walton, Jan Snell, 'Tex' Tyler 'Olly' Smith, Brian
Douglas, 'Paddy' Fullerton, Jim Bishop, Frank Coleman, Harry Kerslake,
'Efty' Fowler, Bert Turner, Patrick the houseboy, Len Hart, -?-
thanks to all the members who have taken the trouble before and given
me many hours happy reading and viewing.