I was very happy at Seletar, but in December of 1966 I was
offered the opportunity of transferring to Gan Island. It was a small Island,
part of the Maldive group of Islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, some
2130 miles from Singapore. The vacancy arose as
the Police Flt/Sgt. on Gan, (there was only the one) had to be repatriated home
through ill health, and it would have taken far too long to get a replacement
from the UK. The job was offered to me as I was unaccompanied, and Gan was a
strictly unaccompanied Island. It would also cut down my time abroad, as
Singapore was a two and a half year tour, and Gan was only one year.
Gan turned out to a lovely place. There was a Flt/Lt
in charge of the RAF Police, and I was his deputy. We had
about 12 men and 6 police dogs. We also had a number of Pakistanis on the staff
who were mostly used as guards. There was a large labour force of about 100
hundred Pakistanis, who were on a 12 month contract to the RAF and a number of
Sri Lankans, mainly employed by the NAAFI and about 150 RAF personnel.
The length of the Island was a concrete runway, and the role of
the base was simply a staging post for aircraft en route to the far east, for
refuelling. No aircraft were based on Gan with the exception of a
Shackleton, which was on attachment from Singapore, on a monthly changeover rota. This was there as
a safety/rescue aircraft in case of a ditching. The Island was very small, just
a mile and a half long, and a mile across, and although we had a Landrover on
the section, mostly we cycled around the Island on RAF issue cycles.
was a special Gan tie, available to personnel who served on the Island. It had a
very subtle emblem woven into it, which consisted of a circle, with a small + at
the bottom, which is the medical symbol for woman, and across the circle,
diagonally, was a red band, which, without the + would indicate a "no entry"
traffic sign. Gan was a male only Island, (with the exception of one WRVS lady,
who was there as a Welfare Officer)hence the symbol, get it?.
We had a
small 9 hole golf course on the far side of the runway and as the normal working
hours were 7am till 1 pm in the afternoon, it was on the golf course every
afternoon. The temperature on Gan was a constant 80F all the year round, it
rained occasionally, but it was warm rain, and if we got wet playing golf, we
dried out before we had finished the round.
Police had their own Golf Championship Competition in
Singapore, for the whole of the Far East, and I was invited back
there to play in it, not that I expected to come anywhere in the competition,
but it was nice
to renew old friendship, and visit some of the old haunts. It was nothing in the
RAF to fly 2000 odd miles each way for a game of golf. There were plenty of
aircraft passing through, so transport was no problem.
We had two
Education Officers on Gan, young fellows, and quite characters. We often played
golf together, and the whole unit was a very close knit community, and a very
easy going lot. The Education Officers used to publish a weekly Gan News Sheet,
with just general information and lighthearted matter in it. On the front page
they had a column, which they called "Have You Heard" under which heading they
would publish any scandalous or amusing titbits they could get hold of, about
any of the personnel on the unit. They would not mention the actual names, but
it wouldn't take much working out who they were referring to, for instance when
I got back from my visit to Singapore, and they
had chatted to me about life over there, in the next weeks news sheet, it read "
Have you heard that a certain RAF Police Flt/Sgt has had to hand his tie in'?"
quite friendly with the WRVS lady who was called Joy. She always came over to
the police office in the mornings for a chat and a cup of cocoa, which was
something we drank a lot of there. She was accommodated in the Officers Mess and
I used to get my leg pulled about her, but I enjoyed her company, and it was all
quite innocent. I went on a visit to Cyprus, during my spell on Gan, as 150
Squadron, who I was with in France, were being presented with their Colours, and
ex members were invited to attend. On returning to Gan, I bought a box of
chocolates for Joy. We had no chocolate on Gan, because of the heat. This
gesture got to the ears of the Education Officers, so in the next issue of the
Gan News Sheet, under the heading, "Have you heard," it read, "That a certain
RAF Police Flt/Sgt. had brought a box of chocolates back for a certain WRVS
lady." with the added punch line "You'll get no Joy there Frankie!"
The Pakistani workers did a 12 month contract, then went back to
Karachi, in Pakistan, for a months
leave, in which time they could renew their contract if they wished, or newly
recruited stag would take their place. This change over was staggered so that a
12th of the work force was always away. An Argosy Aircraft used to come into Gan
monthly from Singapore to take one lot to Karachi, and bring the other
lot back. I often did this trip, as I was responsible for Customs oil (Jan, and
I could do the paperwork and search their baggage, whilst on the way back. We
were not treated too well at Karachi Airport, always a lot of unnecessary
hanging about. I found out that the head Customs Officer there was a Pakistani,
by the unlikely name of McGregor, (some Scotsman in the distant past must have
got lucky with a female in his family).
Being a Muslim country, liquor was not readily available there,
but I knew from experience that a lot of them were partial to a drop of the hard
stuff, so on my next trip, I bought a bottle of whisky from the NAAFI. It was
about 10/- (50p) a bottle then, we wrapped it up well, and on arrival in
Karachi, asked to see Mr. McGregor, the Chief Customs Officer. I was shown into
his office, and he wasn't particularly
so diplomatically I told him, that the crew who were there last month were
so pleased with their treatment at the airport that they had asked me to take
him over a little present. I let him think that I was unaware of the contents of
the parcel, as I didn't know what his reaction would be. He opened the parcel
and his eyes lit up, and his attitude changed completely. He was delighted! I
told him we could bring, one over every month, and asked if he could get the
crew through the airport a bit quicker, as they liked to have a look around the
city before it got dark. No problem! He came out of his office, all the crew
were still waiting in the lonely queue, he waved his arm and called out "All
RAF. this way," and that was us through, with no problems in the future either.
We used to night stop there in a Hotel, it was quite good, and quite
interesting, wandering around the shops etc. but generally a dirty, smelly
was the largest of a group of Coral Islands, surrounding a large, deep Lagoon,
and the whole was known as the Addu Atoll. Some of the other Islands were
inhabited, and we used quite a few of the males for general labour on the camp,
but they had to be off the Island by 4pm every day, they travelled by sail boats
called "Dhonies." If the winds weren't right it could take them 6 to 8 hours to
get hours, then leave about 4 in the morning to get back, poor devils, and they
worked for a pittance.
There was a
wonderful camaraderie amongst all the personnel on the unit, from the CO down.
We had a jetty on the lagoon side, and an Air Sea Rescue Launch was permanently
stationed there. On the far side of the lagoon, about a distance of 6 or 7 miles
could be seen a small island. with a lot of trees on it, it was known to us as
"Bushy Island." It was uninhabited. When a new bunch of fellows came out from
the UK to start their 12 months stint on Gan, and still quite green. a large
notice would go up in the airmen's mess, stating that there would be a dance at
the nurses home on Bushy Island that evening. and anyone wishing to attend
should be on the jetty by 6:30 that
smartly dressed. It was surprising how many turned up and it was a good laugh
for the lads, many of whom had fallen for this themselves on arrival.
Another leg pull on a much
grander scale in which the whole station took part. An RAF aircraft was going to
be visiting for refuelling etc. It was doing a navigational exercise around the
world, and on board was the Chief Navigator of the RAF, an Air Vice Marshal. The
scam was to change every thing we could to disguise the place as one of the
Cocos Islands, which was about 1 800 miles away from us. Buildings were
disguised, RAF vehicles and equipment were put out of sight, the airmen blacked
up and wore home made grass skirts over their shorts, and a large sign was put
across the Control Tower saying, "WELCOME TO THE COCOS ISLANDS" It went down
well with them, as
joke, but we don't really know
if they were fooled or not, but this was typical RAF type humour.
The waters around Gan were shark
infested, and many were caught, at night, by the airmen on rod and line. In
October of 1967 my time was up and I had a posting come through to go to the No3
Police District, based at RAF Spitalgate, just outside Grantham in
Lincolnshire. 1 didn't mind this at all, it, at least it wasn't back
on that dreaded "V'' Bomber base.