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East Indies Station
IAN EPPS - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
October 54 to October 55

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!

We flew out in an Avro York chartered for the trip.

Nothing 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.

"The Band"

Some 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.
Taken 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, -?- 'Titch' Haley.

My thanks to all the members who have taken the trouble before and given me many hours happy reading and viewing.

Ian Epps

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