HMS Terror - by Les Weddell
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I have to thank you for posting my short message announcing that I am still alive and kicking!
Consequently, I have had four old pals contact me in the last two days. But I have to thank Bill Hartland for making the initial contact with me via my website.
He put me in touch with Maxie Beare, who gave me the full website address for ex RMB members. This led to Jim Mason contacting me and I was really pleased, for he was my boss in the posting to HMS Terror Band in Singapore.
After forty years or more it was great to go down memory lane once more and remember my old friends from my youth.
Jim has no doubt mentioned the really hard times we had serving in Terror! All that free time having to sunbathe, swim, play tennis, drink Tiger beer – man, it was a hard life!
Mind you, we did work really hard every morning for we had to get out of bed and go do morning parades. That took up a valuable fifteen minutes of our holiday and when Jim was in a wicked mood he would call an hour’s band practice - and that seriously interfered with our tropical lifestyle.
Now and again a bloke called the CinC of the Far East Fleet (Admiral Lamb) would order us to leave our comfortable lifestyle in Singapore to go on his ‘Yacht’ HMS Alert, a leftover frigate from WW2.
It used to take us five days to reach Hong Kong from Singapore, and often we would be wallowing in the waves of the China Sea because the damned thing had broken down!
Of course Admiral Lamb used to fly from Changi by RAF plane up to ‘Honkers’ and come aboard for his cocktail parties and ‘din-dins’.
We peons used to sit playing music on a quarter deck that would do a Battleship proud, for in fact, HMS Alert was three quarters quarter deck and the rest of the ships company was squashed up in the front bit!
I can see the open skylights to the Officer’s mess now; smell the aroma of the wine and grub coming up, whilst we sat hoping to play a tune or two. Then the ‘ADC’ would pop his head out of a hatch and give the go ahead to Jim, but ‘you must keep it soft!”
We often wondered why the hell they wanted the whole band there if they only wanted ‘soft’! Anyway I digress.
Jim would smile and suggest something really soft, like for one clarinet! Only joking. We would play something that was not noisy and that would last for about ten minutes, with lots of repeats.
As the dinner progressed, we had to keep an ear open for the speeches, (remember those?) and just sit quietly, which is hard for a bunch of young blokes to do, me in particular.
Then after the Admiral and his guests left for God knows where, we were either free to go, or continued to play – if the ‘ADC’ re-appeared all aglow with Gin inside him and a huge smile on his face!
Then we would play what we wanted, and it was always appreciated by all the crew lurking in the side passages, as well as the officers, and after a few tunes a crate of beer would magically appear for us to quench our thirsts.
Other dinner parties in the bigger Officers Mess back in Terror would be spectacular, for we would get out the post horn and do ‘Da Gallop’! They loved it, and the tables were banged by appreciative, but slightly tipsy ‘t’ officers!
Then the beer would flow, for more than we could possibly consume would be sent up. Mind you, we all believed in non wastage so only the empties remained.
I recall the wonderful times we had in the Monsoon Season in Terror.
One day we had a visit from some bigwig, along with lots of Senior Officers, and JM made sure via his NCO’s that we looked the part, not a scruffy bunch.
We had really put our all into making sure the boots were shining, the uniforms properly ironed and the Pith Helmets pure white with a new coat of blanco. Yep you guessed it. Two minutes before the VIP’s arrived it poured down, and our gleaming helmets ran blanco all down our uniforms!
And Jim will certainly remember this incident in Hong Kong.
For those of you that don’t know me I was then (and still am) 6ft. 5ins. tall. I went ashore to the Hong Kong Fleet Club and booked in for a bed for the night, always a lovely break from the noise of the ship.
After watching the nightly ‘Cabaret show’ which was the usual punchup between sailors of different nations all drinking as fast as they could for their own countries, I made a hasty retreat before the MP’s grabbed me. Not being a pugilistic type, I got out quick and made my way to the nearest ‘watering hole’ outside the club. About 11.30pm I returned to the club and went to bed.
The next morning I mounted the gangplank and ‘chopped one off’ as I went on to the ship, and was met by a bloke wearing only a towel around his waist.
“Is your name Weddell?’ he asked.
Not knowing who the hell he was I asked, “Who are you?” (Very stroppy in those days!)
"You are addressing an Officer!” He screamed.
“Sorry” I replied, “but I did not recognize you, Sir!”
He smirked and said, “You are wanted in the wardroom – a CID officer from the Hong Kong Police wants to speak to you!”
I went down into ‘forbidden land’ and a British Detective smiled and offered me coffee. Well, it is not every day a ‘Bandy’ gets invited into the Officers Wardroom, so I graciously accepted – on behalf of the lads in the band of course,
“Where were you last night?" He asked.
"‘In the China Fleet Club asleep” I replied.
“Can you prove it?” He asked.
I produced the receipt for my booking and the bed.
He looked at it and said he would be back after checking my story.
Cutting a long story short, it turned out a Marine the same size as me had been in rickshaw and wanting to visit a 'Lady of the night’ and had a dispute with the rickshaw driver over the ridiculous fee he was asking for, and got in a fight, knocking the little Chinese guy down and hurting him quite badly.
The Marine (we never found out who he was or from what ship) was chased by a load of Chinese, and got away!
So Weddell was blamed, but of course I was innocent-for once!
Anyway, it is great to be in touch with my old mates, and if any one else wants to contact me go to my website at; http://www.Freewebs.com/authorlesliejweddell/ and we can have a nice chat.
Richard Valentine -1996 - 2008 © - All rights reserved