Ship me East of Suez

Discussion in 'Old & Bold' started by jph369, Dec 3, 2010.

Welcome to the Army Rumour Service, ARRSE

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial military website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. Ship me East of Suez

    Kipling's words "When you speak of gin and beer quartered safe back here" could well have applied to the desolate sin pit that Nee Soon the former British Army transit camp in Singapore comprised of in the mid nineteen sixties. Perhaps not the gin and beer bit which was quite abundant but definitely accommodation wise where the nearest thing to a barrack room was a ragged tattered line of Indian army pattern tents on concrete bases. It must have been the most dismal camp site in the British army run by an equally transient permanent staff culled from every regiment that had misfits to farm out on extra regimental employ. The ablutions were corrugated iron shelters which appeared to have been retrieved from former Japanese Prisoner of War camps and identical to the Malaysian Other Ranks facilities which they abutted in a truly egalitarian expression of mans equality, so much for white supremacy. Mind you the indigenous had a point having seen the cream of the British army marched off to lingering death by the troops from the Empire of the Sun a couple of decades previously. Much like the French and Dutch military excursions to re-occupy their former colonies the British attempt to regaining esteem in the inscrutable east after WW2 was a lost cause.
    France's effort to expunge the shame of Vichy France by its military adventure in the Far East ended in disaster even after pouring close to one million troops, mostly colonial soldiers, into what was then termed Indo China which all came to a complete standstill at Dien Bein Fu. Encircled, outwitted and outgunned by General Giap. The wily North Vietnamese General agreed to a partition of the country knowing well that the puppet government in the South had a finite existence.
    The Dutch and British had barely returned to Indonesia when Bung Sukarno raised his ugly head and told them in no uncertain terms to sling their respective hooks as he had seen at first hand what short work the Japanese had made of their previous colonial administration.
    The British faired better in Malaya eventually to become Malaysia incorporating North Borneo and Sarawak which thankfully mitigated the SEATO commitment to Vietnam as we were ostensibly defending the southern flank of South East Asia against the spread of communism in the region. A confrontation situation between Indonesia and the nascent state of Malaysia committed around 50 000 British and Commonwealth troops at the height of that conflict, culminating in the deposing of Sukarno after the miserable failure of a token invasion effort by Indonesian paratroops at Labis on the Malaysian mainland.
    American Cold War foreign policy dictated that after the Korean debacle the other countries of South East Asia would fall one by one to communist domination leading to a loss of western influence in the region. A theory fuelled by the reds under the bed panic which had caused domestic mayhem in the USA and was then successfully transferred to their military by way of the need to curtail the global expansion of communism in the far east as portrayed by Dean Aitcheson and known as the Domino Policy.

    Undoubtedly Great Britain, a nation coming to the terms with the loss of Empire had little to offer by way of men or material and equally a distinct reluctance on the political scene after the shambles of the Suez campaign. The Foreign Office still smarting from Eisenhower's rug pulling act which de facto gave the Egyptian's under Colonel Nasser control of one of the world's major strategic waterways and remains a conundrum to this day. Britain had in fact embarked on a policy of retreating from East of Suez and was busily divesting itself of a vast colonial empire in Africa with ungainly haste.
    Once the Americans had assumed the mantle of global policeman in Vietnam they successfully duplicated every mistake the French had made. Even to the level of troops committed to a lost cause albeit they had sufficient manpower in the form of a black underclass and did not need to rely on colonial troops like the French.
    In hindsight the French had been far better served during their sojourn in Indo China by reliance on elite Algerian colonial units than the Americans would be by a policy of conscription. President Kennedy threw American forces into Vietnam on a sacred crusade that over a decade of mindless body counts and increasingly voluble wave of public opinion at home put paid to any desire on the part of the Black cannon fodder to achieve the much sought after victory. A victory that would have salved the monumental disaster and stench of purification that hung over American foreign policy following the Bay of Pigs disastrous attempt at invading Cuba. Far from being the great leader JFK comes across in many eyes as the Ivy League playboy that very nearly plunged the world into a nuclear Armageddon. He implemented a military commitment to South Vietnam that maintained a despotic regime in power under the guise of democracy ensuring that a barefoot army of guerillas backed by the Army of North Vietnam achieved an astounding victory over the combined forces of the most powerful military nation history has ever seen.
    The American defeat was in part fuelled by a massive internal drug problem which eroded command and control of the field army by its unit commanders. The situation had become far worse that its armchair generals would admit and had reached a point towards the end of the war that NCOs could not give orders through fear of fragging. Parallels with Vietnam can and are being drawn with the current situation in Afghanistan.
    The British public has been told by a series of governments of every shade and colour that we are in Afghanistan to prevent terrorism post 9/11. All the threats to the United Kingdom to date have come from second generation immigrants educated in British universities. There is absolutely no need for our own jihadists to travel to Afghanistan or Pakistan to learn the chemistry required to make liquid or shoe bombs, this information is available in every UK university laboratory or can be culled from the internet. Even the procedure required to manufacture a dirty bomb can be obtained without leaving these shores.

    Therefore for successive governments to reiterate that sending our young men and women to Afghanistan to defend our Island thousands of miles away from Kabul is patently untrue. A bunch of local tribesmen riding around on scooters with RPG's strapped to their back hardly pose a threat to an island with a regular standing Army that has nuclear submarines sailing around it. However the sons and daughters they have sent and which our bleeding heart liberal do gooders allow in by the boat load without let or hindrance do constitute a very real threat to the British public.
    Any potential Muslim Jihadist who has been convicted of a petty crime is wide open to radicalization in our prison system which does not have a coherent de-radicalization program for convicted inmates and under the current political correctness regime such a program is not likely to be introduced.
    Most recently Mr. Gorbochev has advised that Afghanistan is un-winnable and he speaks with some considerable experience of the topic. The Wikileaks revelations of the last few days starkly illuminate the contempt that Karzia the Prince of Darkness, drug baron extraordinaire, holds our forces in. Put quite simply our troops do not die quickly enough for him and not in sufficient numbers. This despot finds nothing unusual in having a cock related foreign minister turning up in one of the Gulf States carrying millions of US dollars in cash.
    If the Americans duplicated the French mistakes in Vietnam there is nothing more certain than history repeating itself by employing the same tactics that led to the downfall of the former USSR's effort in subjugating Afghanistan. This is the fourth British attempt at ensuring the road to Kabul is littered with British dead when will someone in out leadership stand up and be counted. Ring fence that medieval sink hole of a country and allow the rabid inhabitants to bite themselves to death.
  2. I find your views refreshing and would like to subscribe to your pamphlet and/or newsletter.

  3. I'd subscribe too .............. if I could work out what the purpose behind another post regurgitating someone's take on history was!!
  4. I'd subscribe - but only if you throw in a few more commas, full-stops and paragraph breaks.

    I don't have the aeroboc capacity to get through your sentances without going a bit blue round the lips.
  5. Try sight reading and use your inner voice . Helps a lot if you don't move your lips :)
  6. ancienturion

    ancienturion LE Book Reviewer

    But they tend to get upset if I don't move my lips.

    What's this all about anyway? I was hoping for sandbag tales from the Devonshire, the Somerset, Otranto, etc.
  7. There was me getting all warm & glowy thinking of Kiplings writings like this :-
    "A canter down some dark defile
    Two thousand pounds of education
    Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.
    The Crammer's boast, the Squadron's pride,
    Shot like a rabbit in a ride!"

    Or this

    "Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
    Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
    But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
    When two strong men stand face to face,
    tho' they come from the ends of the earth!

    Kamal is out with twenty men to raise the Border-side,
    And he has lifted the Colonel's mare that is the Colonel's pride:
    He has lifted her out of the stable-door between the dawn and the day,
    And turned the calkins upon her feet, and ridden her far away.
    Then up and spoke the Colonel's son that led a troop of the Guides:
    "Is there never a man of all my men can say where Kamal hides?"
    Then up and spoke Mahommed Khan, the son of the Ressaldar:
    "If ye know the track of the morning-mist, ye know where his pickets are.
    At dusk he harries the Abazai -- at dawn he is into Bonair,
    But he must go by Fort Bukloh to his own place to fare,
    So if ye gallop to Fort Bukloh as fast as a bird can fly,
    By the favour of God ye may cut him off ere he win to the Tongue of Jagai.
    But if he be past the Tongue of Jagai, right swiftly turn ye then,
    For the length and the breadth of that grisly plain is sown with Kamal's men.
    There is rock to the left, and rock to the right, and low lean thorn between,
    And ye may hear a breech-bolt snick where never a man is seen."
    The Colonel's son has taken a horse, and a raw rough dun was he,
    With the mouth of a bell and the heart of Hell
    and the head of the gallows-tree.
    The Colonel's son to the Fort has won, they bid him stay to eat --
    Who rides at the tail of a Border thief, he sits not long at his meat.
    He's up and away from Fort Bukloh as fast as he can fly,
    Till he was aware of his father's mare in the gut of the Tongue of Jagai,
    Till he was aware of his father's mare with Kamal upon her back,
    And when he could spy the white of her eye, he made the pistol crack.
    He has fired once, he has fired twice, but the whistling ball went wide.
    "Ye shoot like a soldier," Kamal said. "Show now if ye can ride."
    It's up and over the Tongue of Jagai, as blown dustdevils go,
    The dun he fled like a stag of ten, but the mare like a barren doe.
    The dun he leaned against the bit and slugged his head above,
    But the red mare played with the snaffle-bars, as a maiden plays with a glove.
    There was rock to the left and rock to the right, and low lean thorn between,
    And thrice he heard a breech-bolt snick tho' never a man was seen.
    They have ridden the low moon out of the sky, their hoofs drum up the dawn,
    The dun he went like a wounded bull, but the mare like a new-roused fawn.
    The dun he fell at a water-course -- in a woful heap fell he,
    And Kamal has turned the red mare back, and pulled the rider free.
    He has knocked the pistol out of his hand -- small room was there to strive,
    "'Twas only by favour of mine," quoth he, "ye rode so long alive:
    There was not a rock for twenty mile, there was not a clump of tree,
    But covered a man of my own men with his rifle cocked on his knee.
    If I had raised my bridle-hand, as I have held it low,
    The little jackals that flee so fast were feasting all in a row:
    If I had bowed my head on my breast, as I have held it high,
    The kite that whistles above us now were gorged till she could not fly."
    Lightly answered the Colonel's son: "Do good to bird and beast,
    But count who come for the broken meats before thou makest a feast.
    If there should follow a thousand swords to carry my bones away,
    Belike the price of a jackal's meal were more than a thief could pay.
    They will feed their horse on the standing crop,
    their men on the garnered grain,
    The thatch of the byres will serve their fires when all the cattle are slain.
    But if thou thinkest the price be fair, -- thy brethren wait to sup,
    The hound is kin to the jackal-spawn, -- howl, dog, and call them up!
    And if thou thinkest the price be high, in steer and gear and stack,
    Give me my father's mare again, and I'll fight my own way back!"
    Kamal has gripped him by the hand and set him upon his feet.
    "No talk shall be of dogs," said he, "when wolf and gray wolf meet.
    May I eat dirt if thou hast hurt of me in deed or breath;
    What dam of lances brought thee forth to jest at the dawn with Death?"
    Lightly answered the Colonel's son: "I hold by the blood of my clan:
    Take up the mare for my father's gift -- by God, she has carried a man!"
    The red mare ran to the Colonel's son, and nuzzled against his breast;
    "We be two strong men," said Kamal then, "but she loveth the younger best.
    So she shall go with a lifter's dower, my turquoise-studded rein,
    My broidered saddle and saddle-cloth, and silver stirrups twain."
    The Colonel's son a pistol drew and held it muzzle-end,
    "Ye have taken the one from a foe," said he;
    "will ye take the mate from a friend?"
    "A gift for a gift," said Kamal straight; "a limb for the risk of a limb.
    Thy father has sent his son to me, I'll send my son to him!"
    With that he whistled his only son, that dropped from a mountain-crest --
    He trod the ling like a buck in spring, and he looked like a lance in rest.
    "Now here is thy master," Kamal said, "who leads a troop of the Guides,
    And thou must ride at his left side as shield on shoulder rides.
    Till Death or I cut loose the tie, at camp and board and bed,
    Thy life is his -- thy fate it is to guard him with thy head.
    So, thou must eat the White Queen's meat, and all her foes are thine,
    And thou must harry thy father's hold for the peace of the Border-line,
    And thou must make a trooper tough and hack thy way to power --
    Belike they will raise thee to Ressaldar when I am hanged in Peshawur."

    They have looked each other between the eyes, and there they found no fault,
    They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on leavened bread and salt:
    They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on fire and fresh-cut sod,
    On the hilt and the haft of the Khyber knife, and the Wondrous Names of God.
    The Colonel's son he rides the mare and Kamal's boy the dun,
    And two have come back to Fort Bukloh where there went forth but one.
    And when they drew to the Quarter-Guard, full twenty swords flew clear --
    There was not a man but carried his feud with the blood of the mountaineer.
    "Ha' done! ha' done!" said the Colonel's son.
    "Put up the steel at your sides!
    Last night ye had struck at a Border thief --
    to-night 'tis a man of the Guides!"

    Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
    Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
    But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
    When two strong men stand face to face,
    tho' they come from the ends of the earth!"

    And instead we have a diatribe on the West's post colonial decline! Your point is??
  8. Or, "The desert sand was sodden red,
    The Gatling jammed and the Colonel said..............
    "Where's that ****ing gun-fitter?"
  9. Made me chuckle!! :)
  10. ancienturion

    ancienturion LE Book Reviewer

    High flown discourse on the balance reinforced by Kipling and....

    .....heigh-ho - back to normal.
  11. Personal interest......................I was the 'Queens Bays' Gun Fitter!

    Attached Files:

    • 711.jpg
      File size:
      25.6 KB
  12. Any pictures with this tract? :?
  13. When the thread started about Nee Soon ... I thought Ah! a missive about my old stomping ground of the '60's and '70's. Personally I loved the place as an NCO in the blocks and later married and living on the loop in the camp in a nice bungalow. Never did a duty and free to come and go as one pleased barring being away up country or on visits to Hong Kong/ThailandPhilippines/Australia. Good gym, golf course next door at Seletar Airfield and a great swimming pool and cinema. Good infants school. Dhobi done and boots and rooms/house cleaned by a wallah/amah. Charwallah for a tea and wad at any time of the day or night. Plenty of bars down the end of Transit road just outside the gate. ... I could wax lyrical for hours ..............
  14. As you can see, I am still East of Suez, having returned about 16 years ago to re-estalish an enjoyable working and social lifestyle, not possible in Blightly nowadays, unfortunately. My first trip to the Far East was to join Ordnance Services Singapore on New Year's Day 1975, just as the final withdrawal of Brits was announced. This meant we, as blanket-stackers, were ram-rodding the final run-down of the Base. It was definitley a case of "will the last person out please switch the lights off!". We were located in the Naval Basin in Sembawang, or Woodlands as it is now known, and Nee Soon, a few kms away, was often visited for business and pleasure - and definitely shopping in Transit Road. Was it not Semabawang Golf Club located next to the barracks in Nee Soon? I may be wrong. Anyway, it is now a full 18-hole course and very expensive to join.

    I have many happy memories of an extremely busy year or so, interspersed with some fantastic, hard-drinking social activities. A great example was the illegal all-ranks unit bar "The Lot, Stock and Barrel" established by Major (QM) Bert G. located in a screened-off security cage in the Disposals Section, where the auctions selling off the residual garbage of 150 years of British and Japanese mis-rule were held. There were 28 pictures of the Queen on the walls which had been returned from the various Messes around the island. Entry by any non-OSS/35 Regt RCT commissioned rank was by strict invitation only and they had to promise to keep "stumm" about it, on pain of excommunication and no more beer. A frequent, popular visitor was Captain Thomas Augustus Clack R.N, the Senior Resident Naval Officer, among others. I can still see Sgt B prodding him in the chest and telling him to "Shut the **** up and buy a round" which he did with excellent grace!

    I re-visited the MOQ Patch there about 10 years ago, and was astonished to find that it had not changed a bit from when we lived there, which is more than can be said for just about anywhere else in Singapore. I could hardly recognised any landmark on the trip up there, but when we turned into the lower gate where the Sembawang Strip bus stop and taxi rank used to be, it was like going back in a Time Warp. All the JOQ apartments and the SOQ were well-maintained, being occupied by SAF and, apparently, attached foreign military about whom we shouldn't talk. Even the Royal Cyphers over the entrances to the apartments were picked out immaculately in black paint. The old Naafi building where we used to go to ease hangovers (very frequently) in the only available air-airconditioning was still very recognisable. Invariably, the wives would be shopping whilst we had our heads in the chilled and frozen food cabinets.

    I travel to Singapore now about once a month on business. Singapore is now regarded by long-term exiles as "Asia 101" and is like living in a hospital. Bugis Street where the Kyties (Katoey in Thailand) were to be found was closed early on by the puritanical Singapore Government, but is now reopened under control as a tourist attraction. Somehow it has lost its appeal since there are no longer visiting submariners vomiting over posh-frocked officer's wives enjoying a look at a bit of rough on the other side of life. Ex-Patrons of the fantastic shop-house restaurant "Fatty's" in Albert Street will be pleased to know that the establishment name continues, run by the original Fatty's nephew, I believe.

    I am sure there will be many ARRSE contributors who were there at that time and can add to the history. I hope so! In the words of our esteemed colleague "exile1": I could wax lyrical for hours.............! Anyway, that is what I enjoy about Bangkok: it is a modern city but has retained the exotic air of being East of Suez. You know you definitely ain't in Europe or anywhere else! Long may it remain so!
  15. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    Ship arrives in Auckland, 1968. Local paper is running a column 'Famous Streets of the World'. This week it's Bugis St. Illustrated by a picture of a group taking their refreshment, one of them clutching a giant cuddly rabbit, surrounded by Kyties. The Brits are our Captain and his officers. But not me as fortunately it had been my duty night, so I am not eternally famous for that one.