23180586 Sapper Michael Warren

Just to add to Rogers comments regarding the Singapore Engineer Regt, it did not disband in 1954, I joined it when arriving in Singapore on the " Empire Orwell " in March/April 1956. Worked as a clerk in the Regimental Pay Office, which also at times meant working at Singapore docks checking off unloading goods for Singapore and Malaya forces depots, which also included when unloading ammunition from a quiet deserted area. I also played cricket for the regiment, the team being captained by the then CO, Colonel Nichols or Nicholson. I was big mates with a corporal Jim Lyons ( from Crainlarrick, a small railway junction in Scotland ), who worked in the transport office and was responsible for the movement of Sappers into and out of Gillman Barracks Nr Pasir Panjang. On nearing my de-mob he had booked a berth on the cruise ship " Chusan " for the voyage back to the UK, unfortunately it broke down with engine trouble in Hong Kong, and as I preferred not to take the then laborious flying route home, was able to get me at the last minute on the troop ship " Empire Fowey " which left mid August 1957 for the " 4 week cruise " so SER was still in operation then. We were in fact due to return via the cape as all ships were having to do due to the 1956 Suez Canal crisis,but at the last minute as we were sailing through the Indian Ocean the Captain got the word that the Suez Canal was going to be re-opened for shipping, we happened to be part of the first south to north convoy, and could still observe many ships that the Egyptians had sunk to form part of the blockage of the canal during the crisis.
So as I say, SER was still operational in August 1957, although there was always a Regiment of Malayan Royal Engineers based there. and did.nt we know it during Ramadan when they noisely marched to the cookhouse for their only meal of the day, at 02.00am.
Also in Gillman Barracks at that time were a detachment of Singapore District Engineer Squadron, and some CRE people and a REME Workshop. In another part of the camp was the barracks for the Royal Military Police, who apart from us all sharing the on site swimming pool had their own facilities, but god bless them they usually got the word to us for when-ever they were going to raid Bugie Street and from what direction.
I have been back to Singapore twice since my National Service days. In 1980 whilst working for the Electronic Company Texas Instruments, I was assigned to visit their factory in Kuala Lumper for 3 weeks, on completion I flew down to Singapore for 3 nights, and was amazed then at the transformation the whole island had took those 23 years since I had left. Although the entrance to Gillman Barracks was there almost all the surrounding area had been built on, and no longer could you see " The Tiger Brewery " from the camp, or recognise Bugie or Lavender Streets. Then on returning again in September 2003 during our 44th wedding Anniversary 3 week tour of Hong Kong, Kuala Lumper and Singapore, I found a completely different place altogether. What a smart, clean, civil place it has become, a credit to all that made it so. We did manage to complete a long promised stay for 3 nights at the Raffles Hotel, followed by a further relaxing 8 night stay at the Shangri La hotel on Sentosa Island, which I am told has now become so commersialised that there is hardly any room left on there to relax.
The promised stay at the Raffles, came about because on Saturday Nights during my service days on the island they always had a dance, and it appeared there were always more civilian ladies there the gentlemen to dance with them, so the info was that the Hotel owners asked the OC Singapore at Fort Canning if he could help out with the situation. So apparently the order was given that some camps would assign so many squaddies ( not Officers ) to attend these dance nights at the Raffles, to which I was made to attend a couple of times in between duties. So there you are drinking bottled Anchor beer at about $5 a half pint, and trying to make some civilian old dears happy by dancing with them, when all your off duty mates would be knocking back draught Tiger beer at 45 cents a pint either in the camp NAAFI or the Britannia NAAFI club opposite the Raffles. Hereby I had always promised myself that if I ever got back to Singapore I would have a proper stay in the Raffles, it was an expensive experience but a satisfying one.

If I can help anybody who is looking for info reading SER let me know. Or maybe there are still X sappers about who were there in the mid 1950s who would like to recall those hectic and trying days