The move to Rowcroft Lines, Singapore


At the end of 1968 we moved from the wooden huts of Ayer Rajah Road, which had occupied by the Corps since 1951, into Rowcroft Lines.  Many of those who did not wish to make the move put the blame on Mick Conway’s complaints to Maj Rory Walker about his room flooding during monsoons, but the truth is – the huts had had their day.  

One of the major changes forced by the move was the loss of the 8 Int Coy WO’s and Sgts Mess.  SNCOs were now members of the REME Rowcroft WOs and Sgts Mess, but a new Int Corps All Ranks Club was also introduced.

WOs' & Sgts' Mess
The first regimental dinner in the Sgts Mess after the move of Corps personnel was not to be forgotten.  Not previously having to bother with the delicacies of mess dress, the Corps WOs and SNCOs quickly had to contact their favourite local tailors for this new requirement.  As the night of the dinner arrived the Corps personnel stood at the bar enjoying pre-dinner drinks and basking in their new found sartorial elegance.  The mood was instantly destroyed by the arrival of RSM Harry Dunn, who took one look at the assembled members and declared, ‘Just look a t you! There aren’t any two of you dressed the same!’  It had to be admitted, the variance of tailors and our own lack of experience regarding mess kit had produced a variety of styles – the green stripe down the trousers varied from pin stripe to 1 inch wide, trousers themselves were skin tight or baggy, bow ties came in every shape and size imaginable and the white tropical jackets appeared, with or without epaulettes, and with varying lapels.    It was true – we looked a mess – but all was saved by SSgt Terry Hagan, who declared ‘You may be right RSM, but at least the rest of us are wearing collar dogs!’  Harry nervously looked down at his own jacket – sure enough the tailor had not made holes for the collar dogs and Harry had not realised the omission.  It could only happen in the Int Corps!

Another highlight of that first evening in mess dress was the impressive sight of the miniature medals adorning the chest of SSgt Al Horne.  When questioned about the medals Al, in his typical cockney accent, gave a brief description of each one – coming  to one none of us had ever seen before – ‘Got that one in Korea’ announced Al, ‘Everyone who was in Korea got that’ he told us, then quickly adding ‘Cept the Chinese of course – they didn’t get it’.  Al’s accidental humour was legendary – once asked by his OC Maj Keith Wilkes whether he was a man of decisions, Al replied ‘Well, yes and no sir’.

The Int Corps Club
The grand opening of the Int Corps Club was a festive affair.  To the delight of some and chagrin of others, members arrived to find free bingo cards on every table.  Those wives who were  bingo fanatics were to be seen surreptitiously moving around the room collecting unclaimed bingo cards and sitting down, pen at the ready for the off.   Unfortunately the ‘off’ never came and, to their continued consternation throughout the evening, the cry of ‘Eyes down’ was never uttered – another twisted mind at work on the organisation committee.

Tony Byrne had recently completed the projectionist course and was therefore eminently capable, at least in his eyes, of producing a short film for our entertainment.  It is claimed by some that Monty Python learned much from this venture which, for the most part, left the audience speechless.

The highlight of the evening was to be a magic act featuring Bob McCrindle and Dave Peaks.  It was Dave who took to the stage first and produced a white handkerchief which he placed in his fist and pulled out into a peak which he then cut off with scissors.  Surprisingly when he opened the hankie up it was whole again.   There was polite applause but, from the back of the room came the cry ‘That’s easy – anybody can do that’.  All eyes turned towards Bob McCrindle. The conversation then continued along the lines of:

     Peaks – ‘Yeh, could you do it?’
     McCrindle – ‘Course I could’
     Peaks – ‘Well come up here and do it then.’
     McCrindle – ‘OK.  Lend me your hankie.’
     Peaks – ‘Use your own hankie.’
     McCrindle – ‘I haven’t got one.’
     Peaks – ‘Then borrow one.’

At this point Bob surveyed the audience looking for someone prepared to lend him their hankie.  So he selected someone at random and asked to borrow their hankie.  With the eyes of the room on them it was difficult to refuse.  Bob returned to the stage and then proceeded to copy the trick with the hankie – only when he opened the hankie up there was a large hole in it.  He sheepishly handed the hankie back to its owner but still confident in his own ability, declared ‘For my next trick I would like to borrow a gentleman’s watch!’  After the hankie, there were no volunteers.  Bob again surveyed the room and moved towards the OC’s table.  There he asked Maj Mike Liley, ‘Could I borrow your watch please?’  Extremely reluctantly the watch was handed over with the comment ‘I want it back!’

Bob returned to centre stage to stand behind the mandatory trestle table covered with a sheet.  He place the watch onto a cloth which he then folded over and pronounced he would make it disappear.  Having achieved this act, but without demonstrating its success, I will now make it reappear and opened the cloth to reveal the watch.  To hisses and boos Bob declared ‘OK if you don’t believe it disappeared I will do it again’.  He covered the watch with the cloth and repeated the magic phrase for the disappearance.  Silence around the room and then Bob declared, ‘If it had not disappeared, I would not do this!’

At this point Bob was supposed to bring a hammer from under the table and pound the watch in the cloth.  But Bob was never one to do things by half – from under the table he produced a two handed tent mallet – the kind used to show your strength in funfairs – and struck the watch.  Bob had underestimated the effort required and after, striking the watch, the mallet continued to smash through the table and to the floor.  Bob picked up the cloth containing the watch and declared ‘I will now put this empty cloth into this waste bucket’.  As he released a corner of the cloth, pieces of metal could be heard tinkling into the bucket, overshadowed by the cries of Patience Liley ‘Mike what has he done to your watch?’

(It was noted that, at this time, several junior members of the audience were seen to produce their personal copies of the Corps seniority roll and, with exaggerated strokes, delete the names of McCrindle and Peaks.)    

Although this was the end of the hapless magician act, it was not the end of the entertainment.  Mike Liley pursued McCrindle and Peaks for the rest of the night, spurred on by Patience, for the return of his watch.  The chase producing great hilarity around the room but more than a  little concern from the CSM.

The secret, as there is any magic act of course, is that the hankie and watch had been planted by the hapless magicians, before the start of the act, with the willing accomplices.  Its fantastic success was due to Bob’s inability to do anything by half, and to the acting skills of Mike Liley – who even had Patience fooled. Mike and Patience were also the subject of the fixed raffle draw (see Why the duck) in winning a duck meal for two at a place of your choice. 

Music for the evening was provided by that ace DJ Willie Lawson, assisted by Dave Ovens.   Memories of popular 60s hits have recently been circulating on the website, led by Willie, in an attempt to remember the most popular at the time – I remember a lot of Moody Blues, but also ‘Michael and the slipper tree’ (an ‘in’ joke).