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Char Wallah’s a couple of questions

#1
Char Wallah’s a couple of questions

During my service (62-83) we had Char Wallah’s in our unit in Cyprus, Hong Kong and Northern Ireland and good value for money they were too. In Cyprus they operated out of tent, in Hong Kong out of a two man room in the living accommodation and in Northern Ireland out of Portakabins and various tin shacks.

Thinking about them now, I wonder, did they pay any form rent or possibly donate to unit funds, and are they still performing a service for today’s Army?

Any info appreciated.
 

LIMA

Old-Salt
#2
Char Wallahs, Choggies or whatever you care to call them -

An asset to the Her Majestys Forces and saviours of many a Hungry Soldier - ready to go where no purveyor of Butties and Burgers has gone before and to serve in all Theatres of Peace and War!. Frying Pans at the High Port and with Shouldered Spatula they were a sight to Strike fear into the Heathen Masses and send them running for cover as they shot drops of hot Pork dripping in their direction!.
Although no Choggie gained the Famed Status of Wolfgang of Soltau fame, they shall be remembered affectionately by those they served -

Unfortunately, as I understand it - this fine body of feeding men have faded into oblivion thanks to the corporate efforts of NAAFI (No Ambition and F*** all interest) and PAYD (Pay as you Dine)

May the Noise of the Fat slapping in their Frying pans lighten my weary heart and increase my Waistline when I get to Heaven!!
 
#3
LIMA said:
Char Wallahs, Choggies or whatever you care to call them -

An asset to the Her Majestys Forces and saviours of many a Hungry Soldier - ready to go where no purveyor of Butties and Burgers has gone before and to serve in all Theatres of Peace and War!. Frying Pans at the High Port and with Shouldered Spatula they were a sight to Strike fear into the Heathen Masses and send them running for cover as they shot drops of hot Pork dripping in their direction!.
Although no Choggie gained the Famed Status of Wolfgang of Soltau fame, they shall be remembered affectionately by those they served -

Unfortunately, as I understand it - this fine body of feeding men have faded into oblivion thanks to the corporate efforts of NAAFI (No Ambition and F*** all interest) and PAYD (Pay as you Dine)

May the Noise of the Fat slapping in their Frying pans lighten my weary heart and increase my Waistline when I get to Heaven!!
That makes for really sad reading LIMA. I'm willing to bet they would have done a great job for the guys in the “sand” and doubled perhaps as interpreters as well? I wonder how many years of history went down the tube with their demise?
 
#4
Ah the joys of the wog shop in the Grand Central Hotel Belfast; they were great characters, Mukagee, Pershuti and all of the others. Sadly in 1973 one of their number was murdered by PIRA in Derry, it does occur to me that his name is probably not remembered officially on any memorial. (memo to self to look into this!)

Sorry I digress; I was lost in the smell of egg banjo's, burgars and onion, and that rather week nescafe coffee they used to make for us.
When 49 Fld Regt RA left in July 73 to go back to Germany I do recall they were devastated to find that the cost of their consession in GCH had gone up a considerable amount by the incoming regiment.
Great guys all of them, I think they might have all been Bengali's, anybody remember?
 
#6
One was killed on the 26th May 1973, he was the choggi at Blighs Lane, in Londonderry killed on the Lone Moor Road. He was called Noor Bazkhan aged 45 from West Pakistan.

And no he isnt remembered anywhere, well except by us on here.
 
#7
Poor bugger, he was known as "Jimmy", (I expect they all were) have remembered that tonight sat here thinking about them all.
It does bring a smile to my face when I think of Purshuti asking me, "Mr ***** do you have any magazines I can look at!?!"
Scarletto, thank you for looking that out for me.
 
#9
I have just emailed the custodian of the memorial gardens at Palace Barracks to see what channels I need to go through to get them recognised.
I shall of course keep arrsers informed.
 
#10
LIMA said:
Char Wallahs, Choggies or whatever you care to call them -

An asset to the Her Majestys Forces and saviours of many a Hungry Soldier - ready to go where no purveyor of Butties and Burgers has gone before and to serve in all Theatres of Peace and War!. Frying Pans at the High Port and with Shouldered Spatula they were a sight to Strike fear into the Heathen Masses and send them running for cover as they shot drops of hot Pork dripping in their direction!.
Although no Choggie gained the Famed Status of Wolfgang of Soltau fame, they shall be remembered affectionately by those they served -

Unfortunately, as I understand it - this fine body of feeding men have faded into oblivion thanks to the corporate efforts of NAAFI (No Ambition and F*** all interest) and PAYD (Pay as you Dine)

May the Noise of the Fat slapping in their Frying pans lighten my weary heart and increase my Waistline when I get to Heaven!!
Absolute quality post LIMA, top drawer ha! ha!
 
#11
The sub-continent tradition of ministering to the forces' 'inner man' may still be alive in the MidEast, albeit at higher social strata of cholestoral. Some of the Pakistani crew in my compound caff in Jeddah had been nicely esconced at a Sultan of Oman's Officers' Mess before their catering company gave them their periodic shunt.

I heard fond tales of Johnny Watts ('Oh yes, General Watts, sir: velly fine man!') and one Brit contract officer they clearly considered had been in the sun too long. Apparently, he kept demanding that his curry be hotter until even they couldn't oblige. It must have been disappointing to swap their like for the large number of sun-withered pool-rat compound gossip-monger wives they inherited.
 
#12
Their great value to average soldier was willingness to put things on the kattab or debt book. This then became a weapon. If CO suggested he might change things, the kattab was waved and settlement claimed which generally changed boot to last warning. There were a number of mysterious fires which were attempts to burn the book and it was guarded like diamonds.
They did not only do food and drink. They were fearsome dhobi men as well. I do not think anything was safe on the floor of my bunk without being whisked away for the ritual beating upon rocks. KD shorts and jacket were so feircely starched they stood up on their own like little suits of armour.
The Cyprus and North African (Libya/Malta) ones were all part of the same family - including the tailors. Great guys.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#13
At the UNFICYP Force Reserve Squadron camp in 76 - 77, the choggie shop was (unless my memory is very seriously flawed) co-located in the same building as the NAAFI, or if not, at least on the same square of land.

Neither am I convinced that the staff didn't swap between the two as and when their shifts (lol) required. (Is it urban myth that when they complained about doing 24 hours on followed by 24 hours on, they gained a concession to work 12 hours on followed by 12 hours on? When they asked for a day off, they always got yesterday?)

I thought it very enlightened of them, in particular NAAFI.

And ISTR the tailor's shop on the other side of the road belonged to the same franchise.

I mentioned this elsewhere already on the Egg Banjo thread: we have an Indian Industrial Trainee in our team, who tells me the choggie shop lives on in the Indian Army ... manned by Nepalese. I wonder if they are ex-Gurkhas? If so, I doubt there are many tabs run up by Tpr M Mouse et al.

And PAYD? Shock, horror!!! You mean no more F&A refunds to write out by hand in triplicate when you're duty clerk? Whatever do they do to get through the interminable boredom? Oh hang on. I suddenly remember a member of the PAMPAS team setting up a pilot Unit Microcomputer in our office in 1985 when I was awaiting my posting to the RAPC Computer Centre. I asked him how you started Space Invaders (I was dead computer-literate me: I'd bought meself a C64 cos at 30 years old I suffered severe future shock when they whispered "Computer Centre" in me ear), at which point he hit a button and up came Dambusters. What a great game that was. I suppose that's what shiny-arrses do these days when they're on duty?

What would I know? In 1971 I spent Wednesday afternoons in Sunderland Poly poking around with their "Computer" (it made Heath Robinson look simple). To this day, my comments haunt me: "Computers? They're all well and good but I wouldn't want to work on them. I mean, what would you do with one?"
 
B

Biscuits_AB

Guest
#14
They got shafted by NAAFI in Derry. 'Smiler' and his crew were dug in at the back of the Clooney Quarters for years. NAAFI insisted that they be turfed out beforehand in preparation for NAAFI's take over of their 'establishment'. 'Smiler' and the lads packed up, but lived in a Portakabin alongwith their stock, opening up shop several times because NAAFI couldn't open their 'new shop' on time. When NAAFI did eventually open up, 'Smiler' and his mates departed for the Station Road Indian Takeaway at Tidworth. I Have no idea if they are still there but I do hope so.

The NAAFI which replaced the Choggies, was crap, unable to meet the levels of service required by patrols, RUC and Ops Room wallahs alike, certainly couldn't match the prices (no tick either) and whilst they at least employed some of the wives, they just couldn't knock up a burger like the lads did.

In appreciation for their years of service, 176 Pro Coy presented them with..........a RMP Corps Plaque and tie!........each! Atrocious.
 
#15
Ah, egg banjos, corned beef and tomato banjos, Spanish omlette banjos in Hong Kong back in 74-75...

Pay Parade line-up would be Paymaster/WO - BK - Battery Barman - Char Wallah - Dhobi Wallah - Tailor and if you had anything left after that, it was yours to spend!

I'm all full of wist now... :cry:
 
#16
Bn PRIs made a fortune from the Char Wallah, as did many a QM who negotiated their contract!

1KOSB sailed from Sibu to Singapore on the MV Aubie at the conclusion of their operational tour in Borneo the Regimental Char Wallahs accompanied us.

Our arrival in Singapore attracted a lot of attention - we were known as "The Far East Regiment" being unique as the only infantry Bn to complete operational tours in Korea, Malaya (emergency) and Borneo.
Big Bill Speakman VC was an added attraction.
There was a band on the dockside the Straits Times and local TV and radio stations were waiting.
I don't know whose idea it was to dress the char wallahs in OGs and Glengarrys but that's how they disembarked, festooned with the impedimenta of their trade, first down the gang plank, to the horror of the CO and the amusement of the press who recorded the event for posterity with front page pictures of several very fat Indian gentlemen described as senior officers!!

Char Wallahs were a last link to British India and the Empire east of Suez a wonderful institution, much maligned by Tommy and Jock, they came to be regarded with a sneaking admiration by them in NI where they provided invaluable service in the conspicuous absence of NAAFI.
 
#17
Scarletto & Biscuits,

I remember Noor Baz Khan very well. He was a 45 year old 'sutler' whose family had been Sutlers to the Army for several generations. Based at Fort George, he was driving along Lone Moor road to collect groceries when his van was stopped by two men. According to his brother who was with him, Khan called "Hello Jimmy" to the men, one of whom produced a hand gun and shot him through the open window of the van.

The brother jumped out and charged towards the gunmen who ran off. The murder occured at Celtic Park.

The provos later claimed that Noor Baz Khan was working for British Intelligence. Khan left a widow and five children. His widow and son were interviewed for a BBC2 series that was broadcast in August'94. That was the last time I saw them.

On 22 April 1974 Mohammed Abdul Khan, another canteen worker was murdered by the porvos (Slab Murphy branch) at Ford's Cross, between Newry and Crossmaglen. The 18 year old boy was shot thirty times. PIRA claimed that he was a member of the SAS and a 'justifiable' target. His father was the camp barber at (?) sorry can't immediately recall, in South Armagh and his son's body was taken back to Pakistan for burial.

To the best of my knowledge these are the only sutlers murdered by 'Macker and his ilk'. I've had a friend check the roll of the dead in the 'troubles' and he can find no others. I don't believe that there are any memorials to these brave guys at all. Incidentally, there were here because NAAFI refused to operate a service west of the Foyle or in South Armagh.
 
#20
When we were in HK 76/77 we spent the first year in Kowloon then handed over to the Gurkhas when 51 Bde was disbanded and we became the only UK Bn in 49 Gurkha FF. We then transferred to Stanley for the second year of the tour.

On arrival, the CSM of D Coy heard the cry 'baggy' and a wizened, grey haired chogie came across to him. It turned out he had been the batman for the section the CSM had been a young Pte boy soldier in in the Somersets in India before they left after Independence!

Wonder what the odds are on that happening! :wink:
 

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