Saturday, October 24, 2009

2 Troop in Singapore

December 1963
Advance Party sailed to Bangkok on the Sir Galahad, sailing through rough storms, a very rough journey.
Then followed the 450 mile journey to Leong Nok, travelling in Convoy and staging at various US Air Bases.

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.

Most training was at Troop level.
Cloutman Lines was small, suitable for setting up exercises and for low level training.
Gillman Barracks, Squadron Block 'H' near the BMH, was suitable for low level training.

Range work on the Islands East of Singapore.

Watermanship Training was done at Blakang Mati.
Putting training into action, 2 Troop moved South of Trennganu, to build a heavy ferry.
A narrow and very slippery ramp was chosen, in a local village, building it at night.
Two of the ferry mains began to sink immediately, because the seals had perished.
The crane was too heavy for the ramp, which started to collapse.
The small boat poles across our view of the river, were demolished during launching of the ferry.
The village was plunged into darkness, when a 10 tonner, driven by a Gurkha, backed into a power pole, demolishing it.
A simple 1 hour job, took 12 hours.
It took another Troop more than 12 hours to dismantle the sinking ferry, to 2 Troops pleasure and sinking pride.
The instructor at Chatham who said we would never find anywhere harder than Upnor, was so, so, wrong!!

Jungle Warfare Training at Kota Tinggi, Malaysia.
2 Trp had a joint exercise with AE Troop RM, where we cut a helipad in the secondary jungle, utilising the timber to repair a track and blew up some ammunition that 40 Cdo RM wanted rid of.
On another occassion, supporting 40 Cdo RM, as usual with Support Company, elements of Support decided their loads were too heavy to carry along the winding track preferred by Cdo HQ. Collectively, it was agreed that we would "push" through the Jungle, marching in a straight line, then waiting and resting beside the track, until the rest of the Cdo caught up. The CO was astonished, reportedly stating "how did you get here so quick".

Advanced Engineering Training - Gurkha School, Kluang, Malaysia.
Training at Kluang was fun, but you had to fit into the Gurkha way of working - start work at 6am, breakfast at 9.30am, work until 3pm, then lunch. Gurkha also had a public holiday, almost 1 day a week.

Oddest Job in SingaporeLt Robin Carr and a Section leader, were called to Singapore Harbour and told to bring a mine detector.
Taken by Police Launch to a frieghter, the Police IC said " a bomb went off in the freighter last night, please see if there are any more".
The freighter had been trading with Indonesia during the confrontation period and had a cargo of rubber bales and aluminium dinner plates in its steel hull ----not a great place for using a mine detector!!

5th - 13th December 1966 - Exercise Twin Top
Objective of the Exercise - to operate very remotely (80 miles inland from the ship), relying initially on helicopter support, then later with RAF air drops, set-up a Forward Operating Base at Gemas Airfield.
The troop was split into two sections - first section going in by helicopter, second section going in by road, with elements of the Squadron and 54 Fd Sp Sqn to Asahan.
On arrival at Asahan, 2 Troop were grouped with S Company commanded by Major George Stock RM, with Officers - Bill Attwood, Arthur Stevens, Richard Persse & (FNU) Uzzell.

2 Trp Orbat HQ - Lt Robin Carr, S/Sgt Tom Hill, Sgt Smith, L/Cpl Caldwell & Spr Claridge.
1 Section - Cpl Hostad, L/Cpl Thomas, Sprs - Crowe, Evans, Hallas, McCormick, Milsom, Nutbourne and Ralph.
2 Section - Cpl Erskine, L/Cpl Hall, Sprs - Elliott 181, Gillies, Dawson 002, Margetson, Muirhead, Parker and Taylor 326.
3 Section - L/Cpl McGee, L/Cpl Davies, Sprs - Clark, Dempsey, Ford, Gray, Gorman, Martin and Whitely.
MT Section - L/Cpl Hall, Sprs - Bennett, Christie, Dawson 568, Dixon, Knappett, Lewney, McLeod, Montgomery,St Julian, Smyth, Taylor 830 and Vincent.

This was a nasty mucky exercise, in which RM & RE learned about how each operated.
RE tasks included: beefing-up protection of the Landing Zone with improvised minefields, improving mobility with trackways and culverts, supplying and supervising water supply point run by the Assault Engineers and supporting RM Company Operations.
The track became impassably muddy and Plant Op's struggled, communications were bad and the Troop harbour area was too cramped.
The Wessex helicopters were excellent, but the RAF Whirlwinds only just made it to the Forward Base - 80 miles was the limit, they saw no further action on the exercise.
One irony: on arriving at the Forward Base by helicopter, met by a small boy on a bicycle --selling Ice Creams!!

February 1967 -- Exercise CaricatureThe Squadron embarked with the Brigade for Exercise Caricature in Hong Kong.
The Exercise was cancelled, owing to the Communist Chinese Sensibilities.
Small Company exercises were substituted in its place.
One small exercise was on Lantau Island, dressed in Jungle Greens, in cold temperatures, similar to UK.
To fill-in, briefings were held by the Hong Kong Police and Civil Administrators, plus plenty of Rugby practise, followed by Tiger Beer. All in all, an enjoyable exercise.

2nd Oct 1967 --Withdrawal from Aden3 Commando Brigade had the task of covering the final withdrawal of British troops from Aden.
2 Troop split in half:
1st half deployed with 40 Cdo RM from 2nd October 1967 - Dec 1967, arriving in Aden on HMS Bulwark on 4th October.
Lt. Robin Carr (Trp Cmdr), with S/Sgt Tom Hill, joined 40 Cdo RM led by Lt. Colonel Dai Morgan, took over Garrison duties from the 1st Battalion Prince of Wales in: Steamer Point, Tawahi and Ma'ala.
2 Troop was combined with 42 Cdo Assault Engineer (AE) Troop, with Sgt Coles RM in charge, with overall command under Lt. Robin Carr.
The combined troop came under operational command of Support Company, commanded by Major Ollie Robinson RM and C/Sgt McKincey RM and were administered by 95 Light Regiment RA for Army matters.
2 Troop was based in Steamer Point.
A few who were in 2 Troop: Spr Vincent, Spr Mellduff, Spr Ulyatt, Spr Farley & L/Cpl Clark.
AE Troop - Cpl Smith and Marine Hill.
One "character" in Aden, was Padre Noel Jones - known as 'Taff the God', who would drive around Aden in an open-topped landrover on his own, unarmed and without a beret to identify him. When he was spotted leaving Steamer Point, word went round "Taff's out, look after him", he was later to become Bishop of Sodor & Man, based in Peel on the Isle of Man.

When 2 Troop arrived, 10 Field Sqn were still there, commanded by Major Peter Hutchings and Capt. "Jungly" Drake as his 2i/c. Lt Scatte - Trp Cmdr was given a fun job, demolishing a Viscount Aircraft, which was derelict at the end of Khormaksar Airfield.
The main tasks were: Cordon & Search, improving OP's, investigation of EOD's (often half-buried plates that looked like EOD's), re-building walls knocked down by 3 tonners, improving supply to the water cooled Vickers Machine-guns, building anti-grenade fencing to protect OP's.
Having erected a 12ft fence, the locals complained of a long walk to reach the Market, a gate was put in and thankfully not abused.
Other tasks included carrying out controlled demolitions. This caused concern, when Lt Robin Carr forgot to let HQ know that he was exploding old ammunition for the Commando Group. He received a bill for cleaning 642 pairs of underpants the next day!!

Final withdrawal from Aden was planned for 1st Dec, this was then brought forward to 24th Nov, to confuse the Adenis, 42 Cdo RM was the last unit to pull out, flying onto HMS Albion.
The Task Force stayed on station, within easy reach of Aden, to rescue British Citizens remaining in the High Commission or in the Refinery of Little Aden.

The first Task Force was replaced by a 2nd Task Force, with the 2nd half of 2 Troop deployed with 40 Cdo RM (Commanded by Lt. Col. Bob London RM) from December 1967 - March 1968 on HMS Bulwark.
For a couple of days, the two Task Forces steamed together, consisting of: 2 x Commando Carriers, 2 x Fixed Wing Carriers (Hermes & Eagle), County Class Destroyers, Frigates, Minesweepers, Submarines and RFA's.
It was the biggest demonstration of British sea power, since the 2nd World War.
The 2nd half of 2 Troop included: Sgt Cruickshank , Cpl Hostad, L/Cpl Allison, L/Cpl Gornall, L/Cpl Davies, Sprs Milsom, Evans, Ford, Craddock, Dawson, Clark, Brown & Pritchard.
The troop carried out support to the Marines, plus involved in Combat Engineering and Service Works tasks.
Christmas was spent at sea, with mail arriving from Sharjah by Gannet aircraft.
Troops went ashore in Masirah for Physical Exercise, culminating in a crossing of the Island on foot. An improvised fence was built for the Diplomatic Wireless Service compound and some serious rubbish was found, to try out our demolition skills on.
The regular meals were complimented with Crayfish caught in the sea around the Island, which angered the local Wali, who thought this should be his "perk" only and sent armed dhows to protect the fishing grounds against us.
Albion had to move away from the Island, due to Jelly fish blocking the water intakes, used for water desalination for drinking.

A demonstration of firepower was put on, involving Sea Vixens and Buccaneers from Hermes.
Members on Bulwark were invited to look to Starboard, to see an incoming Buccaneer; skimming the waves, it pulled up and flew 10ft above the ship, to the constenation of a USAF Colonel "Jesus" he stated whilst ducking, he had not seen it approach at wave level.
An exercise involved taking the 65,000 ton tanker RFA Dewdale in tow, using a nylon hawser.
There was the usual on-ship exercising - running along the flight deck, push-ups, sit-ups, Uckers, Basketball in the Lift well, or fishing for sharks and barracuda.
During one of the few Parades on deck, the OC of Support Company RM, suddenly disappeared from sight, as the aircraft lift he was standing on, lowered without warning, much to the glee of his company.

The Cdo Brigade were put on alert, for a planned expedition to Zanzibar, which was eagerly anticipated by all.
A mistake by a Junior Stoker, bled the lubricant from the main shaft bearings, these had to be stripped and re-ground by hand. As repairs were carried out, the ship 'drifted' 50 miles in 5 days - out of control.
The planned expedition was cancelled and the Task force returned to Singapore on the 24th 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.

May 1968
Troop supported a Life Guards exercise.

1st June 1968 – 16th July 1968 -- Exercise Lath.The Squadron was responsible for setting up the Services for 17 Divisional HQ and Umpire Control on Exercise Lath.
The Squadron set up the Camp on the beach at Marang.

2 Troop carried out Runway maintenance.

Denarek Suspension Bridge

Built by 2 Troop.
This was a 195ft span with a 100ft approach span. Designed by Captain Egglestone and the construction carried by Lt. Robin Carr.
The bridge was built for foot-traffic only, crossing the river behind the camp, for villagers to reach their fields.
It was a difficult job to do as all footings (cable anchors, towers) were in sand and the river was infested with crocodiles.
The bridge had to be completed after the exercise.
On the farside of the river was a road, it was a long way round for the villagers, hence the foot bridge. The road was used for moving plant and equipment, to the far side of the bridge construction.
As the troop found out, to their embarrassment, 12 inch timbers were eaten inside by white ants, leaving the external looking sound, but one bridge the troop used - collapsed.

13th July 1968The GOC 17 Divisional Major General AG Patterson, DSO, OBE, MC, flew back to the exercise area, to attend the opening ceremonies for each site.

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.

February 1969 - Luk Keng Road in Hong KongThe Sqn along with 54 Sqn, 11 Sqn, 67 Sqn & 68 Sqn, became involved in building this road.
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.
The work continued for 3 years, though 54 Sqn remained the Heavy Plant Support Sqn, it was re-titled 54 (HK) Support Sqn.

1969 - Exercise Crowning Glory - Singapore
The troop constructed a bridge near Tampin and a Wading Pit at HMS Simbang.

4th February 1970 - Brigade Commander Inspection - Brigadier PJF Whitely OBE
Lt. Charles Moorhouse, S/Sgt Mick Tracey, Sgt Stephen Pickles. paraded the 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 in Central Malaya.
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.

June to July 1970 Exercise - Bersatu Padu.The whole Squadron took part in this large exercise.
3 Troop was based with 42 Cdo RM, living in a remote forest, dug-in, whilst the enemy tried to find them.

20th November 1970 - Operation Burlap Hurricane HattieThe 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.


  1. Oct 67 Withdrawal from Aden you mention Sgt Cruickshank (later an RSM). He did not become an RSM but finished his service as a QMSI WO2. I should know as I am his son (also ex RE).

  2. Thank you so much Gordon will correct entry
    Hank Lawrence