Interview with John Dyer (Served 1965-1968)

b) What was Jalan Kayu and singapore like back then?
At that time Jalan Kayu was a mixture of Shop Houses and rather more temporary timber and corrugated iron buildings. The road was tarmac but the sides were earth and gravel where there was a regular pasa malam which extended for a considerable distance. The stalls were lit by Tilly Lamps which hissed loudly when pumped up to give off a brighter light, and some had electric light. There was a Rubber Plantation further down towards the Yio Chu Kang Road, where there was a Post Office on the corner. The Yio Chu Kang Road was a twisting road as far as the roundabout near to Upper Serangoon.

c) What were your feelings and sentiments about being sent to a place so far from home?
I was very happy to be in Singapore. In fact I volunteered to go there because I wanted to travel and see some of the world, and because my father had been in Singapore in 1945 having fought the Japanese in Burma. He had been billeted at the Chinese High School in Bukit Timah Road.

d) What was a typical day like at the base?
We worked a full day from 08.00 to 17.00 hours Monday to Friday and also 08.00 to 12.30 hours on Saturdays. We often started work with a short 'Working Parade' outside our place of work. I was employed as a Clerk in the old Sunderland Hangar on the Waterfront overlooking the Yacht Club and the Johore Straits.

e) What did you all do after work?
In the evenings or at weekends I would sometimes go to the Camp Cinema 'The Astra' or to the 'Malcolm Club' or to the Yacht Club where I used to Row competitively in Racing Eights, Fours and Pairs. Sometimes we rowed at Changi or at the Royal Singapore Rowing Club. I used to enjoy exploring Singapore, the wharves and Godowns on the Singapore River (now the Clarke Quay area) and into Chinatown which was very large and much more interesting than the very small and modernised Chinatown of today. I also used to enjoy going into Malaysia to Kota Tinngi and to Jason Bay for swimming and a day out. Sometimes I would go to the 'Britannia Club' which had a swimming pool, opposite Raffles Hotel.

f) What do you all know about the Singapore Flying Club which was set up by the British forces?
I was aware of the Flying Club but knew very little about it. Also of course, as a young single airman, it was far too expensive for me to use!

g) What do you think about the locals back then?
I enjoyed the company of locals and of discovering new food, customs and a way of life so different to my own. I used to visit local people in their houses and socialised with them. Eventually I married a Singapore Chinese Girl (who lived just off Jalan Kayu (in the Kampong at the bottom of Tong Lee Road) and who worked in the same Headquarters with me as a Clerk). We have now been married 41 years and have one son aged 33 years.

h) Did you make use of the services that Jalan Kayu had to offer?
I used the shops and restaurants in Jalan Kayu, and of course the stalls at the Pasa Malam. I would buy clothes, shoes, haircuts and food there, and after I was married I purchased a Camphor Wood chest there. Probably my most 'memorable' experience of Jalan Kayu was of getting food poisoning after a Keema Roti at Pops Curry Shop! My two favourite memories of Jalan Kayu were definitely of the Pasa Malam, and of Doris's Fish and Chip Shop.

k) How do you think that the locals react toward the servicemen?
The reaction of locals to British Servicemen was mixed, but generally favourable. A large number of locals were employed by the British Forces so many people depended on us, and of course there was a Community of local civilians living within RAF Seletar at Seletarville, housing provided by the Royal Air Force.

l) What was your favourite local food when you were serving at Seletar?
My favourite local food was Satay and I would often go to the 'Satay Club at Beach Road near Princess Elizabeth Way.

m) What activities do you all engage in to bond together?
For 'bonding' The Yacht Club, Rowing Club, Theatre Club were the main places and activities for me.

n) What was the level of discipline like in the camp and how was it enforced?
Discipline was mainly self-discipline, but of course Military discipline was there if it was needed. Officers and NCOs excercised discipline over the Junior Ranks, and of course there was the RAF Police, based at the Guardroom at the Camp Gates.

o) What do you like most and least about your time here?
I enjoyed the whole expereince of my time in Singapore, but occasionally the climate got a bit oppressive - and of course there was very little air conditioning in those days. I never lived or worked in air conditioning - we just had a ceiling fan. The worst thing was having to leave at the end of my tour of duty in Singapore.

p) How would you like to have your services to be remembered?
I have not considered having my Service in Singapore remembered!