- Contributed by
- CSV Media NI
- People in story:
- William McMaster
- Location of story:
- Far East
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 14 June 2005
This story is taken from an interview with William McMaster at the Ballymena Servicemen’s Association, and has been added to the site with his / her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions. The interviewer was Matt Morrow, and the transcription was by Bruce Logan.
A normal day’s work? Well, you couldn’t go out in, when you went over there to start with you couldn’t go out at midday. They wouldn’t let you out at midday. It was 120 in the shade. So it was pretty hot. And their job was to get them settled into the procedure of Squadron life. A bit rough at the time, but that was it. When we arrived there, they already had the huts made for us. There was windows like that there, but with no glass in them. Just open windows. They couldn’t close them anyway. The heat. 120 degrees isn’t cold. Everything came in at night — snakes, rats, lizards and you name it. All round the rafters of the hut. You could have quite often seen a snake on the top of your mosquito net.
You had a mosquito net which you rolled up during the day. And you let it down at night, you had to tuck it under your, what they called biscuits in those days, wee squares of a mattress. So you had to tuck it under, and make sure there was no mosquitos inside it before you got in. and you got in, then you tucked the bit under again to make sure no mosquitos got in. They was the one which brought so much malaria. Malaria carriers, the mosquito. Ach, there was so many experiences that you could talk from here to tomorrow..
One thing we all caught out by. The cookhouse was here, for instance. The dining room was way back, maybe about 200 yards away. There was space between the 2 … and you got whatever you wanted from the cook-house, and you walked across this dining area. First thing you knew was, what they call Kite-hawks, came down and grabbed the whole thing off your plate, and away. Kite-Hawk, just like a big hawk. They were experts at grabbing things, and they came down and grabbed everything off your plate. Which wasn’t very much.
They only did that the once. To us. Nobody ever told us what to look out for. It just happened to you.
It was completely different. You couldn’t say they were good times. Some of the conditions we had were cruel in a sense, but not so many things were a complete change from everything we had here. They stopped nearly at every railway station. That was every half hour, there was a railway station. And the vendors came along, serving this, that and the other thing. And there was a tray of Lemonade bottles, with Lemonade in them. And there was a glass cork, and it was inside the bottle, not outside. I think they had a way of sealing it. The gases in the lemonade pushed the bottom of it up, and it sealed itself at the top. But you had to push the thing down in again before you could get any out of it. The first thing you knew, the whole thing was up. There was nothing left in the bottle by the time you got ... Things like that, you know, were so completely different to everyday life here.
Yes, but they were scattered so much, you didn’t know whether they were there or not. You’d have started off maybe in the training camp, and you met friends there. Then you were posted. That meant you weren’t sent to the same place together. You kept in touch as best you could, just to write to each other. But when I was writing home, there was some letters that was well over 2 months before they got home. So any news you got from home was outdated, and any news you had was very little.
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