Hygeine at Hong Khong Camp – Thailand 1967
For the duration of the road project Hong Khong Camp saw many young officers based with the men. In addition to being either OIC a section of the road for earthworks, forward clearance, or an improvised bridge they invariably tried to make their mark with other idiosyncrasies. One particular officer decided he would improve the hygiene of all at the camp, particularly the 54 element who he considered disgusting and living in squalor, in their aptly named line of tents called, “Skid Row.”
We were then made to improve the camp drainage, ensure the desert roses were used for pissing in, add regular doses of disinfectant to the DTL, keep dogs out, and to keep tent (160 pounders), tent flaps open, to maintain a flow of air through the bed spaces!
The latter was a great inconvenience because it exposed crates of Tiger under the beds and an all manner of other contraband. Tent inspections further added to our discomfort and we prayed for the day this interfering clown would go back to the main camp at Crown. When that day arrived we were all on morning parade when he announced his departure.
He said how pleased he was with the improved hygiene standards and that we should all be very proud of ourselves. Stating a particular area of improvement he said he had noted that on regular occasions, sometimes daily, mattresses were hung over the fly sheets of the 160 pounders to “air” them. He once again thanked us all for our efforts, saluted the parade SNCO, and sped off to Crown Camp in a Land Rover, convinced he had sorted out the infamous 54 plant contingent.
As the parade dismissed we all fell about laughing. What the well intentioned subaltern had not realised was that the mattresses were regularly aired over the tent fly sheets because the vast consumption of the Tiger beer contributed to an epidemic of bed wetting that even surpassed gonorrhoea, the scourge of the young Sapper in Thailand!
Mick Norton 1966-69
"The Major who disappeared overnight!"
Over the years many officers were seconded to Operation Crown projects from the UK, Singapore and from Foreign and Commonwealth forces. These individuals were usually “Major” in rank and spent their time hopping from one Sapper discipline, to another, increasing their knowledge of either road or airfield construction.
One particular Major arrived at the road project and made it known he had studied oriental culture, languages and Buddhism, the main religion in Thailand. This guy would appear at either the road, borrow pit area, culverts, bridges or anywhere where he could sit at tea breaks and attempt to educate the indifferent 54 Squadron plant operators.
Word quickly got around that this “weirdo” would engage you in conversation and then you would get the history of Buddhism and in particular where Buddha allegedly trekked around the world, and the associated holy sites. If you swallowed the bait he would then suggest he take you to a holy site showing you Buddha’s footprints, which allegedly, were quite close to the Post Crown project. I remember he once turned up at a borrow pit area Martin (Lew) Lewis and I were clearing to extract laterite, early in 1967. His invite to see Buddha’s footprints met with a polite, “no thank you”, and he jumped in his vehicle and sped off. in search of new converts
Over a few beers that evening, at Hong Khong camp we heard he had now based himself at the road head where forward clearance and the surveyors and soil mechanics were busy determining the alignment. Several young Thais assisted the surveyors in holding the staff at periodic chainage points, as the clearance progressed
One morning the surveyors and soil mechanics utilised the Crown resident Sioux helicopter and returned to Crown main camp leaving the Major with the young Thais. He had mentioned that he would wish to brush up on the Thai language and would await the return of the helicopter, later that day. However, the helicopter broke down and the surveyors and soil mechanics had to make their way back to the road-head by Landrover and then walk the last 3 x miles along the pilot track to where the Major had been left.
The story related to others at Hong Khong Camp later that evening was that as the surveyors and soil mechanics arrived unannounced at the clearing, to re-commence their surveying, the group allegedly came across the Major in a compromising position with one of the young Thai men!
The offending Major was never seen again at Crown, or anywhere else in the Far East and although I served on for another 27 years with the Corps I never heard his name mentioned or as to whether he was ever disciplined. The only snippet we gathered was that he was flown out of Bangkok, to the UK, that night.
And thereby hangs the derivation of the phrase often shouted from the seat of a D8 or a Grader, “Oh for the joy etc!” (As known by all plant ops).
Hut 3 Crown Camp – “Help, I’m paralysed!”
After a hard shift on the airfield the better part of 54 Squadron’s workers would head back to Hut 3 at Crown Camp, get a shower and head for the NAAFI to get on with some serious drinking.
The evening’s entertainment would centre on what cock ups had occurred that day and the merciless ribbing that would ensue if you were the guilty party.
It was a great atmosphere with a bunch of guys who were second to none. At 11pm the Orderly sergeant would appear and kick us all out. The 11pm curfew denied most the opportunity to head down the village so we would all wind our weary way back to Hut 3 and crawl into our pits, in preparation for an early start the following morning.
One particular night we were all well and truly wazzed and each struggled to get into their respective pit without disturbing or completely destroying the mosquito net which was suspended above each bed. With the customary chorus of farting, subsequent to drinking copious quantities of Tiger or San Miguel, 54’s plant operators went into their usual comatose state.
At 6am the next day the residents of Hut 3 were busy getting washed, shaved, and screaming at the Boot Boy, Koff, with the usual dawn chorus of pleasantries like, “where the fuc*s my boots” or “get me a drink from the Charwallah !”
However, on this morning a continuous moan was coming from a Plant Corporal’s bed at the end of the hut, “I’m paralysed, I’m paralysed” came the cry. Naturally many rushed to his aid fearing the worst, until we all heard one guy shout, “paralysed my arse, when you crawled into bed last night you managed to get yourself inside the fuc*ing mattress cover, that’s why you can’t move !”
Needless to say there was much mirth that morning during the shift on the airfield, all part of the entertainment that maintained our morale 1,200 miles north of Singapore.