Virgin Soldiers

Mick Conway
In late January 1961, myself, Tony Yanick, Johnny Graham and Lou Adamson set sail from Southampton on the SS Nevasa bound for Gibraltar, Malta, Aden (by way of Port Said), Colombo and finally Singapore.   After a leisurely three week journey we finally cast our eyes on the jewel of the Orient – Singapore Harbour.   Only 16 years since the end of the Second World War, the harbour and city had  changed little in the intervening years, but we saw little of it as we were immediately bussed to Nee Soon Garrison in the north of the island.   That night we were all paraded in the dining room for a lecture given by a tall, imposing officer of the RMP, ably assisted by numerous, even larger, SNCO’s, who were obviously there to put the fear of God into these miserable squaddies who had just arrived on the island.   Interestingly we were all immediately issued with our own personal copies of a map of Singapore Island.   Stated the said RMP Officer, “the areas marked in red are out of bounds”....................!!   “Well that’s saved us a lot of searching” muttered someone nearby, “now we know exactly where to go for a good night out”.

You may think that such official stupidity could not be matched or bettered; well three days later we young soldiers were to experience even greater folly.   Before being bussed from Nee Soon Garrison to Singapore Railway Station we were each issued with a Lee Enfield .303 rifle.   Once again we were subjected to a lecture – this time by the OIC Train.   He commenced his dialogue by stating the dangers of the journey that such a train trip encountered, particularly as the train moved so slowly through the jungle. “In the event of the train being attacked by CT terrorists” says he, “form an orderly line in the train’s corridor and the Train RSM will issue you with 20 rounds per man......................” Oh the joys of the empirical British Army.

I think Leslie Thomas must have been on our train and got his inspiration for the book and film The Virgin Soldiers!