The Peterman of JB Det

Willie Lawson
The Johore Bahru (JB) CI Det was the only Malaysian-based detachment attached to 8 Coy in Singapore.   The unit was responsible for security surveys on north Singapore army units and other units based in south Johore state, as far as (but not including) Kluang.   In the late 60s the Det had 4 personnel, a Ssgt, 2 Cpls and an MOR Sgt.   On one particular day, the unit had a call from the Adjt at Jungle Warfare School (JWS) at Kota Tinggi.   He told Ssgt Ken Cooke that he was in the process of altering the CO's 4 wheel  combination safe lock as instructed by a recent Det survey and the new numbers weren't working.

Ken Cooke was on his way down to Singapore and he instructed one of the Cpls (who had attended a locks course whilst in Germany) to go and sort the safe out for the Adjt.   On arrival at JWS the Adjt was in a bit of a state as the CO had a meeting with a visiting Brig that afternoon and the Adjt had the necessary file in the safe.   "Just take the file with you, Sir and I'll have a look at the lock" suggested the Cpl.  "I can't, you bloody fool" replied the Adjt, "The safe's locked!".

The Adjt explained that he had changed the combination numbers as instructed and then locked the safe without testing them, when he tried the numbers they didn't work!  The Adjt handed over the new numbers. The Cpl was about to comment that the idea is to check the new combination before relocking the safe, but one look at the Adjt's face was enough to dissuade him.   "That's no problem to you chaps, is it?" said the Adjt, "don't you use stethoscopes or something?"

The Cpl was by now, wishing he was somewhere else.   "How long will it take you?" asked the Adjt, "We'll need that file pronto".  "Well, I've 14 months left on this posting, Sir" replied the Cpl and immediately wished he hadn't.   "Don't be F****** cheeky to me", exploded the Adjt, "I'm off the Mess and I'll be back in 45 minutes, just f****** sort it out!"   He stormed out with such a noise that the RAOC Conductor Chief Clerk came in to see what was going on.   The Cpl explained that the possible combination options were enormous and the odds of opening the safe were about 10 times the chance of getting all six winnings at Bukit Timah races.   "Why didn't you tell the Adjt that?" said the Chief Clerk and for the life of him, the Cpl couldn't explain why.   "I'll get one of the lads to make you a tea, best get on with trying at least"  said the Chief Clerk.   A fruitless half a hour had gone by when the Chief Clerk returned to check on progress, for most of that 30 minutes the Cpl was thinking of ways to gently break the news to the soon to be returning Adjt and he hadn't come up with anything to prevent a possible lynching.

"I'll show willing anyway" said the Cpl spinning the wheels back to zero for the umpteenth time, as the Chief Clerk left the office.   Until this point in his life, the Cpl could not be considered a deeply religious person, despite being baptised and confirmed into the Church of England and he had in fact been a choir boy for 5 years.   However, at the sound of a very unlikely and unexpected Click, he became a dedicated Christian of the first order.   The handle was turned and the safe door opened.   His unco-ordinated dance around the Adjt's office was interrupted by the JWS CO and Adjt who both entered the room.   "Get me that file, Jeremy and I'll get cracking on it now", said the CO to the Adjt, totally ignoring the slightly sweaty Cpl and he left the office.

"Right Cpl" said the Adjt, "now show me what I did wrong".   The Cpl took the back off the combination and turned the wheels to show the Adjt that he was one digit out on three of the turns and he watched from the other side of the office as the Adjt re-set the combination and tested it twice with the door open!!   "Now what to do with you" said the Adjt "You were bloody cheeky to me when you knew what to do all of the time", he said "But as I was at fault initially, I'm not going to say anything to Staff Cooke, now f*** off !!"   The Cpl duly f***** off as ordered.

There must be a moral to this story but it's hard to think of it - despite his bollocking, the Cpl got to hear that the Adjt had put the word around the area that in case of difficulties with safes, just call JB Det and they would sort it out with their own Peterman and as in the final line of the song Deck of Cards.....................I know, I was that soldier.