My Unfinished Father – A Life Lived to the Full
A Life Lived to the Full
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
Part 10 – Pages 89 – 104 Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4
1971 – My sister Jenny at 3, myself aged 8 – attending ‘communion and school’.
The flights back to Butterworth were not uneventful. The aircraft we were on was not long afterwards to crash into a mountain near Barcelona, killing everyone aboard. We stopped at Ankara for refuelling and later at Colombo in Ceylon. I also have a feeling that our aircraft suffered an air conditioning failure in Colombo which meant that we missed our connecting flight to Penang.
I had been amused when the Dan Air crew were trying to fix the air con; they sought the help of a Walls Ice Cream engineer who was travelling to Singapore. During the evening in Singapore I made contact with the RAF’s Air Movement Officer (AMO) to see if he could help. He did and we got a flight to Kuala Lumpur arriving at KL about ten in the evening. It was apparent that we could go no further that evening.
After some conversation with the AMO at KL, it was decided that the only way to get to Penang by the morning was to take a taxi. This presented a further problem as there was a curfew on all travel between one and three in the morning due to violent clashes between Malay and Chinese demonstrators.
Nevertheless we set off about 2300 in an Austin A55 Cambridge. All went well for the first part of the journey, with Gerry and the kids sleeping, and my worrying. We were stopped several times by the Police who saw a European family in the car and waved us on.
Then we ran into a greater problem. We were stopped by a Royal Malay Regiment patrol led by a second lieutenant who appeared to be about nineteen. He came to the rear door of the car and wrenched it open. He glared at me. “Get out of the car” he ordered.
It was at this point that I remember watching James Roberson Justice in a film where he played a British POW of the Germans and he had just been slapped across the face by the Camp Commandant. His response was straightforward. “How dare you! I am a British officer.”
I thought I would take a chance.
“Certainly not,” I replied, “I am a British officer.”
The change in the young man’s attitude was instant and complete. He pulled himself erect and saluted. “I beg your pardon, sir.” He spoke to the cab driver. “Drive on, driver.” Our driver drove on.
My wife turned to me. “You won’t get away with that one more than once.”
As it turned out, once was enough and we slept until we arrived at Butterworth and Robina Park. We paid off the driver with a large tip and the family went to bed.
Our electricity was cut off. I had asked for a bill before going to England and had paid it in full. The residual power used when the system was off amounted to a couple of dollars and as this had not been paid when it was demanded, the Company had cut off our supply. Later that same day, full of apologies, an engineer had come and reconnected us. And the days slipped easily into their normal pattern.
At work I was granted a day out by orders of the RAAF and courtesy of the RAF. I was directed to be pay officer to some airmen who were stationed on a group of small islands to the north and west of Penang. The way to get there was by sea and I had a lift from a crash boat of 1175 Marine Craft Unit based at Minden on Penang Island. I was happy to oblige.
The islands were not inhabitated and were used as a safe area for target practice for aircraft. The airmen went ashore after the aircraft had departed to note the scores on the target and to clean up and re set things for the next action. The RAF operated a target towing squadron made up of aircraft no longer in the front line. The only one I remember seeing was a Fairey Gannet.
All concerned lived under canvas on a ‘safe’ island for a given period of time and seemed, to me, to have a hell of a time.
It was the first, and last time, I was ever on one of the RAF’s boats and I have to say I enjoyed it enormously.
In the meantime, Rory went back to school where he seemed to perform well and to enjoy it. One day he came home from school with what would today be called a ‘spliff’.
“Where did you get that?” I asked him.
He mumbled something about buying it at school.
“How much did you pay for it?” I asked him
“A dollar” was his mumbled reply.
“You were cheated” I told him, taking the ‘ganga’ away.
Jenny and Rory continued to spend their time at the pool or on the beach. Rory could swim pretty well and increasingly Jenny delighted in swimming, getting better each day. Both the kids found new friends to play with, on the beach with an adult or in the street.
We also found ourselves the owner, or custodian of a tabby cat with a bend in her tail, called kinky. She was spoiled rotten, of course.
At work a number of matters occurred which kept me busy. The first was a ‘tiger’ hunt. I was sitting in my office one morning when i received a phone call from my CO, Group Captain ‘Snow’ Joske.
“G’day, Brian. Are you busy?”
“Good morning, sir. There is nothing which can’t wait.”
“I have had a call from the Civilian Employment officer. He is north of here on the Alor Star Road. One of the local Tamils says he has spotted a tiger. They refuse to work until someone has checked it out. I would like you to take a couple of your SP’s to go up there and see what you can find. OK?”
“There are no tigers in Malaysia, sir.”
“Just get up there and have a look.”
“Yes, sir, will do.”
I called at the Guardroom, collected Warrant Officer Verity and Corporals Crompton and Stewart, drew out four 9ml Brownings and climbed into the Land Rover. About a mile north of the base, on the main Alor Star road we came across a milling crowd of about thirty Tamils and one European, Chris, who was in charge of the civilian work force.
A quick word with Chris indicated that one of the Tamil labourers had reported seeing a tiger on the edge of the road. At this point there was about a mile of jungle between the road and the sea. The reported sighting of the animal had him entering the jungle. The grass cutters refused to go back to work until they could be reassured that the animal had gone.
I spoke to the interpreter. “Ask him to describe what he saw.”
There followed a long intercourse between the Tamil and the interpreter. “He saw a tiger, sir.”
“I understand that. How big was the tiger?”
More discussion followed. “It was a tiger, sir.”
“How big was it?”
The man indicated about three feet off the ground.
“What did it look like?”
“It had spots.”
“Tigers don’t have spots, they have stripes.”
“This man sir he says, with respect, he doesn’t give a fuck what you say. The Australian Government pays him to cut grass, not be a breakfast for tigers.”
“Good point,” I said “and well made.” I was very well aware that the few tigers left in Malaysia were in the central highlands and did not visit the coastal regions.
There followed a lengthy conversation about tigers and the jungle and we agreed to go hunting the tiger. After a certain period of time, if the animal was not found, it would be assumed he had gone, and the boys would go back to work.
So, at this point, all four of us sloped off into the jungle. We were in the middle of the rainy season and the growth was soaking wet. Small streams had become torrents, some uncrossable, others with a log across to serve as a bridge.
At one of these we were halted, gazing at the log with some doubt. Corporal Crompton went first and made the other side safely. Warrant Officer Verity followed, got halfway over and slipped into the stream. He sat there with the waters up to his waist, as his cap parted company and began floating towards the South China Sea. Beside me I felt Corporal Stewart stiffen.
“Corporal Stewart, “I hissed, “One giggle out of you and you’re on a charge. Collect Mr Verity’s hat. Corporal Crompton, help the warrant officer out.”
Between the three of us we rescued Ken from the possibility of a watery grave and sent him back to the Sergeants’ Mess to dry himself off. As soon as he was safely out of hearing, the three of us collapsed in tears.
We continued the hunt for the tiger for another thirty minutes without success and duly reported back to Chris. The labourers were satisfied and all went back to work.
The net result of our ‘tiger hunt’ was a lot of cheap laughter at Ken Verity’s expense and a few drinks for the other members of the hunting party.
A lot of our activities were concerned with visits to our base by various VIPs including the Crown Prince of Japan, the son of the Emperor. There was much polite conversation and a lot of bowing and another day had passed.
At home, life was passing quickly and apparently without any problem. The local traders were anxious to sell you pretty well anything you could possibly want, including clothing and your weekly groceries. Margaret became interested in painting and met with a local man, Arshad, who was a teacher and a painter. He was quite good as well with some wonderful paintings of sunsets. He was subsequently to demonstrate he had a few tricks up his sleeve as well.
Living in Malaysia presented a number of people with problems which were strictly nothing to do with my policemen. But the local Malaysian Police had long decided that, as far as they could, they would avoid dealing with Australian or British servicemen. The assumption was if you were a ‘European’ you were a subject of her Majesty the Queen or Uncle Sam and were therefore the responsibility of the RAAF/RAF police.
Generally, this position suited all sides. If a white face, or sometimes a black one, got drunk or was otherwise misbehaving, that was a matter for the Service Police. If you were not involved with the armed forces you could explain that to the Guardroom sergeant.
Early on after our return, an incident occurred which demonstrated this point. A European was observed swimming out to sea from Penang Island. The local police contacted the Service Police and Corporals Stewart and Crompton were the local men who were on duty on the island at the time. It seemed that they were frequently available for bizarre situations.
They arrived on the beach to see the European several hundred yards out to sea and a small bundle of clothing piled up on the sand. Among the clothing was a clerical collar. The two policemen commandeered a power boat and took off after the swimmer whom they caught up with in a few minutes. It was the RAAF’s padre.
Cpl Stewart opened up a conversation. “Good day, padre; how are you.”
Padre Pilgrim glanced over his shoulder. “Good day, Cpl Stewart. I’m fine, thanks.”
Stewart noticed that the padre was a strong swimmer and did not appear to be in any danger of drowning. “Where are you going, padre?”
“I’m swimming back to Australia. I’ve had enough of this bloody place.”
This caused both Stewart and Crompton to look at each other in concern.
“Do you mind if I join you, padre? It looks like a nice day for a swim.”
“No problem, mate; jump in.”
Stewart discarded his shirt and shoes and socks and dropped into the water and swam for a couple minutes alongside the Padre for a few minutes before he gave him a smart right hander and, with Crompton’s help, dragged him into the boat which then reversed back to the island where an ambulance was waiting to rush him to hospital.
It should be noted the brave conduct displayed by both Crompton and especially Stewart. Looking back I feel that their bravery merited their being awarded some recognition for their actions. I failed to recognise what I might have done.
The following day the RAAF was a man short ion the Padre’s department.
The next incident involved the doctor and the dentist. They were basically good mates but when they had a few drinks taken, their behaviour became a bit rowdy and the Service Police were often called to split them up.
One day, as the evening shadows lengthened, our two heroes were celebrating something in the course of which the doctor hit the dentist in the face causing a nasty wound which bled a lot. The doctor reassured his colleague that he was a doctor, and could deal with a little thing like a cut on the chin. He thereupon proceeded to insert four stitches. The procedure, simple enough when sober, provided an impossible task when drunk. The net result was a ‘w’ shaped scar across the dentist’s face.
Their departure from Butterworth was not long coming after that.
Sometimes the non police incidents provided a tragic conclusion to certain events. One day I arrived to play football to find one of my policemen, Corporal Brian West in the dressing room in tears.
“What’s the matter, mate?” I asked him.
It took some time to get it out of him, but that morning he had been to a married quarter on the island where he had found that the wife had hanged herself. She had been having an affair with her next door neighbour and her husband had found out. In her confused state of mind she had hanged herself.
“It must be terrible to come home and find your missus just hanging around.” His attempt to turn all happenings into black Police humour did not work.
“Come on, Westy, let’s go and play football.”
In truth playing football did deliver some relief from workaday stresses. The Air Force provided all the equipment needed and the ground to stage the game. When we were playing away, they laid on the transport, so all I had to do was to get the blokes on to the ground. I played my first game since returning from leave on 29th June before plunging full on into the season. Between then and the Christmas break I played 26 games, winning 9.
It was about now that I began to think that Arshad, the teacher and painter, was spending too much time in my house, especially when he wasn’t doing very much painting and I was not at home. I tackled Margaret about this, accusing her of having an affair. She denied this of course, and accused me of ignoring her. In truth, she had become quite gaunt and her face showed signs of being unwell.
I decided to visit Arshad at his home and confronted him. To my astonishment he admitted that he was having an affair. I told him if I ever saw him near my house again I would knock his head off his shoulders.
This produced a very bleak period for the pair of us, a period from which we took a very long time to recover.
There were brief periods of light relief amongst all the gloom. Sharon was serving dinner one evening and she asked what we would like for dessert.
“Paw-paw, please Sharon,” I replied. Whereupon Sharon began laughing and ran off into the kitchen. When she came out she said “You mean papaya, master”
“Do I Sharon? What is paw-paw then?” More giggling followed and it took some time to get the answer out of her.
The Malay language, Bahasia Malaysia, had no way of forming plurals except to repeat the word. Therefore, man is ‘laki’ and men are ‘Laki laki’. i was beginning to see where this was going.
“What is ‘paw’ then?”
More giggling followed but she eventually answered. “Paw is a lady’s breast”
I had been asking for a pair of lady’s boobs. From then on we called the fruit ‘papaya.’
There were a couple of incidents which involved crime. In the first, I was in bed when I received a call from Sergeant John Jeffries. They had been called to the hospital where they detained a youth in the act of breaking into the hospital. He was a kid called Henson and he was, unfortunately, the son of a policeman, Sgt Derek Henson. When I arrived I watched Sgt John for a little while and then began to interrogate the boy myself. He immediately put his hands up to two further breakings.
I was viewed as some kind of ace detective but in truth I was nothing of the kind. It was just another sad story from Butterworth.
Another incident involved an airman who had a car and while driving in Butterworth had knocked down and killed a Chinese. Why the local police had not dealt with it puzzled me but here I was talking across the desk to someone who had killed another human being and who appeared unconcerned.
At one point I noticed something in the breast pocket of his shirt. “What is that” I said pointing it out.
He removed the item from his pocket. It was a piece of glass. “It’s part of the windscreen. I picked it up as a souvenir. I was truly horrified. I called out to John Jefferies. “Take him away, “I said. After he had gone I went outside to sit down beside John. “Do you have a cigarette?”
Jeffries stared at me. “You don’t smoke, Sir.”
“I do tonight, “I replied.
Roundabout this time, I got promoted. It was a temporary promotion and it only lasted a few weeks but it gave me a great deal of pleasure for a while.
I didn’t normally eat in the Mess at lunchtime but on this occasion I popped in for lunch with Squadron Leader Longland. I did not like the man and would not ordinarily choose to dine with him. However, when your direct superior asks you to lunch, you usually go along.
While he was tackling a steaming Madras curry, he suddenly emitted a sharp cry and his face became buried in his curry. I pulled his head from the curry and noticed that this face was a purplish colour. I called out “Doctor, doctor, I need a doctor here, quickly.”
One of the RAAF’s doctors immediately rushed over and laid the squadron leader out on the floor calling for someone to call the hospital and get an ambulance. This was done and Longland was carted away. Ten minutes after it had all started people were eating their lunch again.
I was unable to visit him that day, or even the next, but in the meantime I was promoted to acting squadron leader to take Merv’s place. A couple of days later I called at the hospital to see him. He was in a private room.
“Who are you visiting?” asked a nurse.
Sqn Ldr Longland,” I replied.
“And you are?” queried the nurse.
“Sqn Ldr Matier” was my honest reply.
The nurse made this announcement. Was that a spluttering I could hear?
We had a short meeting and we discussed some outstanding business matters.
He did not choose to see me again and after a few weeks all went back to normal. The extra higher duty pay was welcome.
It was also around this time that I met the Harbour master for Prai Harbour. Prai was the town on the mainland opposite Georgetown, the bigger and more important town on Penang Island. He was an Indian gentleman and not in the best of moods. It was not a matter that either of us recalled with any great pleasure, I’d imagine. It came about because of his dog, a black and white bitch of uncertain parentage.
One afternoon, a New Zealand Maori soldier was admitted to No 6 RAAF Hospital foaming at the mouth and talking complete nonsense. He was a member of the Company which rotated on a monthly basis to help protect the Base. The medical staffs were able to extricate the information that he had been bitten by a dog as he left the Ferry at Prai.
The doctors requested that the Service Police go down to Prai and capture the dog. As a result the ubiquitous Corporals Stewart and Crompton joined me in the Holden utility. We very soon met up with a furious Harbour master. He blamed the Kiwi for annoying his dog, which led to the attack on the soldier.
Nevertheless, I had a job to do. I told him I was to take his dog into custody while the soldier’s condition was monitored. To my surprise he did not argue the matter but issued threats against the Australian Government should we ‘harm one hair of the dog’s head?’
The power of the military in those days was immense. We wanted the dog and no arguement we could not take it. We led her out to the Ute on a lead and with the aid of a long pole with a loop of rope on the end managed to get her into the back, where she immediately broke free and ran all over the car underneath the cover.
We watched her hidden but energetic progress for a few moments, shrugged and took off after giving the harbour master a receipt. I had written ‘received one terrier dog.’ He made me cross out ‘dog’ and write in ‘bitch.’
We made our way back to Base and drove up to Dog Section where the Police dogs were under the control of Flt Sgt Noel Narotsky and Sgt Fred Bassett. Noel saluted smartly and then joined us in inspecting the dog, or bitch, scampering around underneath the cover.
“Do you need any help, sir?”
“I think we do, flight.”
Narotsky carefully pulled back the cover until the terrier popped his head out, whereupon Noël gave her a smart blow on the snout, reached in and hauled her out, grabbed the scruff of the neck and chucked her into an open dog cage which Bassett slammed the door shut.
“There you go, sir.”
What could you say except a pretty abject “Thanks, Flight Sergeant?”
The story was not quite finished there. About ten days later, the same three took the dog, in booming good health, back to its owner, who inspected it closely, including lifting its tail, before giving me a receipt for the animal.
As we drove away, Stewart, amid the general laughter said, “The things we do for Australia.”
During my second spell in Malaysia we met Sir John Kerr, a judge of the Australian High Court. He was leading an enquiry into Service pay and conditions. He had requested during his visit to Butterworth to be given the opportunity to spend time talking to servicemen in their homes. I was the officer chosen to talk to him from among the officers,
He stayed about an hour and most of the talking was done by Margaret. She told him, over a cup of tea, of some of the problems we all faced. In 1975 Sir John, as Governor General of Australia effectively dismissed the Whitlam government. When this was mentioned at the time, she was able to recount her story of serving tea to Sir John in Malaysia.
I also managed to get some travel in at this time. There was a flight to Singapore for a Provost Officers Conference which was attended by Group Captain Alex Smart, the Command Provost Marshal. Also present were the eight or nine Provost Officers from Singapore, Malaysia and the splendidly exotic Gan. I also bumped into my old ‘bête noir’ George Quintrell.
George took me out around Changi Village to do some shopping. For reasons which now escape me, I had developed a great desire to have a wrist watch with a blue face. I spotted such an item in a jewellers and went in to enquire the price. While negotiating with the owner, George came in and began speaking to me. The owner appreciated that we were friends and dropped his price by forty dollars. I bought the watch instantly. Outside the shop I thanked George profusely.
He was totally dismissive. “No problem” was what he said. Some years later, in 1977, when I was back in England, I met George Quintrell, when he was working for Shell and I had applied to them for a job. George told me in no uncertain terms that my method of applying for a job was all wrong and that I would never find work. When I was employed by Mobil I sent a message to Mr Quintrell informing him of the news and advising him I had been offered £1000 a year more.
I also met up with Longland’s son who was an Army pilot and flew helicopters. He was a different person from his father and offered me a ride in his aircraft. It was only for about fifteen or twenty minutes above Changi Air Base but it was fascinating.
I had sufficient time in Singapore to have a good look round, taking in Raffles, the Padang and Change Alley. In the latter place they said it was possible to have your wrist watch stolen as you went in to the Alley and to buy it back before you reached the other end.
The other travel was to Kuala Lumpur to carry ‘safe hand mail’ to the Australian High Commission. This involved having the briefcase locked to my wrist with a pair of handcuffs and then to the seat in front of me. This struck me as very strange. At KL I was picked up at the Airport and taken to the Commission offices where the whole thing was removed.
I was then free for the rest of the day, having a good look round at KL and visiting the Malaysian War Memorial.
The following day I was strapped up again and flew back to Butterworth with correspondence for my betters. It was a fascinating way to carry on.
At home, Margaret was becoming more and more depressed. This depression had its effect on her physically and she lost weight and became more and more gaunt. She did not want to be in Malaysia and I became increasingly worried about her. Perhaps stupidly, as a man, I could not understand what was going on in her head but it was a difficult position to be in.
The kids were in good health and appeared to be enjoying their lives. Rory went to school every day and seemed to like it. He joined the cubs which he also enjoyed and it was a movement with which he was associated well into the time we returned to England.
We all became hugely fascinated by the sunsets and spent time on the beach simply watching the sun slip into the sea. We took loads of photos.
Meanwhile, at work, I was kept increasingly busy. An interesting situation developed which involved the Legal Department after we had arrested a local employee of the Officers’ Mess for theft.
The RAAF was governed by the Air Force Act of 1940. At the start of the Second World War the then Australian Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, realised that Australia was wholly unprepared for War, as indeed were most countries involved, with the exception of Germany.
So, Bob Menzies asked the British Government to help out. The Australians borrowed the RAF Act, and presumably the Navy Act and Army Act as well. The Australian parliament then passed an enabling Act taking the British legislation into Australian law.
We still used the Air Force Act in 1970 and 1971. Section 40 of the Act states ‘And any conduct prejudicial to good Air Force order and discipline.’ This was the great ‘catch all’ section to cover all kinds of conduct. In addition there was a Section 41 which stated ‘And any other conducts contrary to the laws of England.’
This meant that anything against the law, of England, not Australia, but of England applied in the Air Force Act. And the law, against which this was wrong, were the laws of England at the time. This caused us some consternation as we were accustomed to using the Larceny Act of 1916. This Larceny Act was replaced by the Theft Act of 1968. So it was determined that we simply used the earlier Act.
It was decided that in Malaysia, in 1971, we had a Malaysian citizen, who had never been to either England or Australia, was being charged under an obsolete English piece of English legislation, over an alleged act in Malaysia.
After very long discussions and much legal debate, the man was acquitted.
While in Malaysia in those years, 1969 to 1971, we became friendly with a number of local people. One was a chap called Eddie who became particularly friendly and we spent time with his family and his family with ours.
Despite having two children of his own, Eddie had an interesting theory about the sexual act. He was mostly celibate as he believed that each time a person made love, they gave up an hour of their life. It was not a theory I could support.
Meanwhile my football went on, and on and on. In 1971 I played 42 games, winning twenty one and losing fifteen. During my time in Malaysia I had a total of 93 games, winning 39 and losing 41. I had my football and had become at the age of 32 a half decent player.
Interesting enough, in my 93 matches, I played in all games in every position except left back. My favourite position was right back where I played 63 times. What gave me a great deal of pleasure was scoring four goals. The most impressive footballer I encountered was Keith Barnard who was a doctor in the RAF and played at centre half.
I remember one particular game against a Royal Naval team. At one point Keith went up with the opposite centre forward. They came down together in a heap. I heard the naval guy’s arm give a fearful crack and his scream went right through me. Keith said “Don’t worry, mate. I am a doctor.” That must have been a great comfort to him.
Somehow I had changed from being a cricketer into a footballer, due mostly to a lack of opportunity to play cricket. After my early game in Brunei, where I simply made up the numbers, I had three further games of cricket during my time at Butterworth where we won all three games. I scored 9, 5 and 7. I was not disgraced.
We still had our two domestic servants, Choy, who looked after the children, and Sharon who made the meals and kept the house tidy.
We had two service events to get through in my final year in Malaysia. The first was the presentation of colours to 75 Squadron where the entire unit paraded before families and friends. It was a splendid occasion. There was a fly past of Mirages to keep everyone happy. The second was the anniversary of the RAF Police Auxiliary and their Farewell parade. They were a good loyal group.
It was at this stage that a huge trauma occurred in our lives which shaped the future.
Around midday one day I was in my office when the phone rang. It was Margaret. She did not often ring me at work and she was in a great state of anxiety. At first I could not even understand what she was going on about. It was about Jenny who was about three. She had been walking on the beach with Choy, our domestic, when she had been taken away from Choy by two men. Margaret was weeping down the phone.
“Stay there,” I instructed. “I will be home immediately.” I rushed to the guardroom to get a car and over my shoulder told the guardroom sergeant I would contact him.
The married quarter was reached very quickly. I rushed upstairs where my wife was beside herself with anxiety. Choy was also there.
“What happened, Choy?”
“Two men, master. They came up on the beach and took the little girl away from me.”
I noticed that she held her hands up in a defensive pose as if she expected me to strike her.
“Did you know the men? What were they like?”
“No, I did not know them. They were two Chinese men.”
I questioned her further without getting any more information. Margaret was still weeping. I went to comfort her but she pushed me away. I do not believe that I have ever seen such a look of hatred as I saw in her eyes as I saw in that moment.
I went to the phone and called the Guardhouse explaining what little I knew to Sgt Bruce Frese. “Get everyone out, having a look round. She was taken from the beach, round about the Hospital. Get the blokes in who are off duty. Get the warrant officer in charge of the CID to come to my house, and now.”
I then phoned the local police station. “It’s Flight Lieutenant Matier at the Air Force Base. I want to speak to Superintendent Harban Singh, urgently.”
“He’s in a meeting sir.”
“Tell him it’s urgent. Get him to call me.”
Harban rang me back within five minutes. “Brian, its Harban. What is it man?”
I tried to explain but kept tripping over my words. “Someone has taken my daughter, Jenny. She is only three.” I explained what had happened.
“Do you think your servant was involved?”
“I don’t think so. You are close to an arrest on the corruption case involving the Chinese guys.”
“Yes, we were going to move tomorrow. We need to have a look at that lot.”
“I have the officer in the case to report to me at once. I will get him to call you.”
What was I to do now? Go out and join in the search? Stay at home and co ordinate the efforts being made? I decided to stay. The next few hours were the longest in my life. I fielded phone calls to my house and dealt with the various visitors. Margaret and Choy went to carry out a search on to the beach with one of my policemen but returned within thirty minutes.
And the minutes dragged into half hours and then into increasingly difficult hours. Where was she? I hope to God they won’t hurt a three year old child. My mind was assailed by images of what could happen and my thinking centred about how the Chinese and Malays had treated each other in last year’s race riots. With an effort I drove those thoughts out of my mind. I looked at Margaret. It was bad enough her thinking bad things without my joining in.
We were all in the house at about five thirty when I heard a police siren and a car pulled up outside the married quarter, The massive figure of Harban Singh came bounding up the stairs and ,Glory be’ he was carrying Jenny. We took turns to hug and kiss her even while she remained in the policeman’ arms.
“Is she all right?”
Harban nodded. “I think so. We have a doctor coming from the hospital to check.”
The doctor called, checked out the little girl and declared her unharmed.
I spoke to Harban. “Was it who we thought it was?”
He nodded. “Yes, but they were not intending to do your daughter any harm. They just wanted to frighten you.”
“It wasn’t even my case. “
“They knew they couldn’t frighten the squadron Leader. He has no kids.”
“Did you deal with them, the ones you caught?”
“They were nobodies, Brian.” He looked at me. “You know, when the British came to Malaysia, you taught us a very great deal. But there were some things we knew before you came and we remember those things.”
We shook hands. “Thanks mate. Now I had to deal with the aftermath.
Jenny could not remember much about her ordeal. All she could recall was ‘two men.’ She was not especially upset and in a day or two had recovered. Choy took it all very seriously and after a week or two handed in her notice. We now had only Sharon but she was enough.
Margaret did not recover. Her hatred for the Air Force as being responsible had increased. She did not want to stay in Malaysia but refused to return to Australia on her own. She absolutely refused vehemently to consider going to England. She went to the hospital where she was prescribed some tablets, which had absolutely no effect on her.
I went back to work but alerted my neighbours in the married quarters to keep an eye open.
As we were coming to the end of my period in Malaysia I awaited on a daily basis for my new posting. It was the worst possible news, a posting to be in charge of the recently established ‘Dog Training School’ which was now at Toowoomba in Queensland. I applied for a posting to Melbourne on compassionate grounds. I pointed out my wife’s ill health as a reason.
I pointed out that Toowoomba would be my sixth posting in six years which made it almost impossible to buy a home. All was in vain, so I did what was, to me, the only course open to me, resign my commission. I did and it was accepted.
All of these things occupied the last weeks in Malaysia and in September I was attending my own farewell party. I was deeply distressed at leaving but I felt that I had to choose between my marriage and home and the service. I choose my wife and home.
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