My first taste of Singapore

My first taste of Singapore

September 1962

By John Wilkins, Stoker, Royal Navy

With a mounting feeling of excitement, I stood on the upper deck viewing the harbour. One of the first things I noticed was the smell. An exotic smell of spices mixed with an aroma like rotting cabbage emanating from the jungles across the straits in Malaysia.

Coming onboard were some local tradesmen such as Taylors, cobblers. Offering a full wardrobe ready to wear in 24 hours. One individual was known as Peanuts ran a dry cleaning business. He had the memory of an elephant and a brain like a computer. He would spot a sailor who he had not seen for years who had not paid his dry cleaning bill when he sailed. Immediately he would corner that individual demanding payment for the outstanding bill from years ago.

Before we were allowed ashore, we had to attend a presentation given by our Chief Stoker

covering all the dangers of fornication. Accompanied by some graphic movies on STD’s

The R.P.O. (resident policeman) gave a lecture on where not to go areas out of bounds.

He went into some detail about Kai Tai’s/ katoey (Lady Boys) and risks of being filmed and left open to blackmail. We mainly paid attention-taking notes on where to go.

We are now on tropical harbour routine. Turn too at 07:30, secure at 12:30, shore leave 13:00.

Eventually, we went ashore it was too hot to do much so we made our way to Aggie Weston’s in the Sembawang dockyard

We spent the hottest part of the day lazing around the swimming pool. Once it cooled down, we got some scan in the dining hall.

After being fed, we wandered down to Sembawang village. That consisted of block of buildings with shop, bar shop bar totaling about 15 bars with an alfresco restaurant type of stall at the end the galley part was a barrow with a charcoal fire using a large wok. Not exactly hygienic but great tasting food no less. Here we were introduced to Tiger beer with a lemonade top. The bars all were table service served by Bar Girls/hostesses. They got a token if you brought them a drink (cold tea) that they redeemed at the end of their shift. They also offered other services sometimes, for a price. They would say things like “U WAN JIGY JIG ME NO 1 VELY CLiN ME LUV U LOOONG TIME” We stayed in the Ville until they closed around midnight. Then a fast black into singers and Buigis Street until the early hours. Being fascinated by the katoeys. Then staggering back onboard in time to turn too




By Garland Davis

If you get locked up a friend will bail you out,

A shipmate will be sitting in the cell beside you saying, “That was fucking awesome, Dude.”

A newly enlisted young man was sitting on his front porch the day before he was to leave for San Diego and the Naval Recruit Training Depot. He was sipping iced tea while he talked with his grandfather, a retired Chief Petty Officer. As they talked about his life, becoming an adult, the obligations, and the adventure that awaited him, the grandfather rattled the ice in his glass and cast a clear sobering look at his grandson.

“Never forget your shipmates”, he advised, “they will be there with you through bad times and good and become more important to you as you grow older. Regardless of how talented and efficient you are, regardless of how much you love the girl you will someday meet, and the children you will have with her, you will always need friends and a shipmate is more than just a friend. Keep in contact with them.

“What strange advice!” thought the young man. “I just enlisted in the Navy for four years, primarily for the educational benefits. I’ll be getting married after boot camp. I am an adult and surely my wife and the family that we will start will be everything I need to make sense of my life. After all, I will only be in the Navy for four years.”

Yet, he obeyed his Grandfather; kept in touch with his Navy shipmates. Although he had civilian friends, he didn’t seem to have the same connection with them as he did with the group of men whom he had suffered through endless days and hours, through tedious hours at General Quarters on the gun line, through midnight unreps and refueling, through sweaty nights when the ventilation was down, through monotonous meals, and through glorious times on liberty in myriad Asian ports. Over the years he realized his grandfather was a very wise man.

Time carries out its design on a person, friends become a bulwark of life. A shipmate is a brother with whom bonds are stronger than the concept of mere friendship. After sixty or seventy years, we learn that time passes, life goes on, and children grow up and go to their own life. You can no longer do physically that which you did when you were young.

Your parents died but you moved on. Colleagues, relatives, and acquaintances forget favors you did them. A friend will be there for you if it doesn’t cost too much in time, effort, or money. They’ll go to church and assure you that they are praying for you. They’ll sometimes visit with you for a while. Often grudgingly.

Shipmates you haven’t seen in twenty years are known to drive halfway across the country to visit you at home or even in the hospital. He will show up with a case of cold beer and a hundred stories about all the good times. He will even make the bad times sound good. Welcome him with open arms for he is a true blessing in your life.

We started this adventure called the Navy without knowing of the incredible joys, hardships, and sorrows that lay ahead. We did not know what we would need from each other. Love your parents, cherish your wife, take care of your children, and keep a group of shipmates. Stay in touch with them, but do not impose.


Cause or Effect

Cause or Effect?

By Garland Davis

I’ll not use his real name. You will understand by the time I finish this.

In 1963, I reenlisted, at the age of nineteen, as a CS3, on the STAR program for a guaranteed school. I was ordered to the sixteen-week CS ‘B’ School course at the Naval Training Center, San Diego. The STAR program enabled automatic promotion to either PO2 or PO1 providing the person graduated in the top ten percent of his class.

I met Randall upon arriving at the school in February 1964. He was also a CS3 and a Star student. There were fifteen students in the class. Randall immediately figured that ten percent of a fifteen-man class was one point five people. He deduced that only the Honor Man would be advanced, and he determined it was to be him. The Senior Instructor, a CSCM, told us that if we did well we would both become Second Class Petty Officers. Randall was twenty-three years old and had made CS3 on his third try. He became very incensed when he learned I was nineteen and had made PO3 on the first try. He called me “Rate Grabber.” Randall treated our relationship as a competition.

I graduated from “B” School as class Honor man with the second highest grade ever attained by a student. Randall had the third highest grade, just two one-hundredths less than mine. We were both advanced to CS2 on July 2, 1964.

We both had orders to Submarine School in New London. But because most students from previous classes had gone to submarines, COMCRUDESPAC had complained. Those of us going to Sub School had our orders canceled. Both Randall and I had asked for Japan when we filed our dream sheets. Because of the circumstances, we all expected orders to Cruisers or Destroyers. I received orders to the Navy Commissary Store, Yokohama and Randall to a can out of Yokosuka. He often said that I got the cushy orders because of two lousy hundredths of a point.

During the next two years, I saw Randall from time to time. We both took the exam for CS1 in May of 1966. He assured me that I didn’t stand a chance because it was my first time and I had barely four years in the Navy. I made CS1 and he didn’t. The day I put it on, he took a swing at me in the club. He made CS1 about a year later.

Randall made Chief in 1972. I was on a Bureau Hold because I had aced the February 1971 test. I was finally advanced in February 1973 with a date of advancement of May 16, 1971. When Randall learned of it, he got into my face at my initiation and said, “I just can’t beat you Mother Fucker.”

I went to another ship in Pearl and a tour of shore duty at the Pearl Harbor Commissary Store. During this time Randall went to San Diego. In 1979, I went to an FF out of Yokosuka and in 1980 Randall retired from the Navy and went to work in the fast food industry in San Diego. I stayed in the Navy and went to USS Midway in 1981 as the Leading MS. Midway was awarded the Ney Award in 1982 and 1983.

In early 1984, Randall came home from work, went into the bathroom and shot himself to death leaving a wife and two daughters. He left a note on the mirror in lipstick that said, “It didn’t go the way I planned it. I could never come out ahead.”

I read a story once about a guy who killed himself. Some shrink was going on about the futility of trying to understand it. It’s impossible, makes no sense at all. Once a person reaches that point, he’s in another world, one that his survivors will never understand. If you do figure it out you might be in trouble yourself.




By Ken Ritter

Sangley/Cavite was different… it was a small base, no ships, one Seaplane Squadron, and a few crews from VQ-1, (usually the same guys), and periodically a crew or two from VW-1, (the “Typhoon Trackers”). I never did figure out exactly how the system worked, and how they decided who got who… but if you were a “regular”, especially if you lived in town, a Shoeshine Boy, a Flower Girl and a Jeepney Driver would soon attach themselves to you, (sorta adopt you as it were), and they would look out for you and take care of you… You could literally pass out in a bar, with money on the bar, the “Bamboo Telegraph” would spread the word to one of them, and they’d take care of you.

The next morning you’d wake up in your house, with your change stuffed in you pocket, and no idea how you got there… It was a great system, wouldn’t have worked in Olongapo, or about anywhere else in the world for that matter, but in Cavite it worked fine… I could probably write a book on Cavite during the mid 60’s, it was so different from what you all knew… For instance there was a 0100 curfew for E-4 and below, unless they had an overnight chit signed by an E-5 or above, (great system, if you had a squared away, hard charging 3rd or Seaman working for you, you could reward him with an occasional overnight without a bunch of questions and paperwork).

Bars all closed at 0130 to 0200, and anyone with authorized overnights had to be off the streets by 0200. Beer was 40 to 80 centavos, the ladies drank beer, but theirs were ₽1 or ₽2, depending on the bar… hardly anyone ever paid a “Bar Fine”… if you went in a bar, saw a girl you liked, you treated her right, bought Mama and her a few “Ladies Drinks”, and she liked you, when the bar closed, if she didn’t have anything else to do, she’d take you home… This was truly the home of the $5 Liberty… you could change $5 to Pesos, go out, get smashed, take a young lovely home, wake up late the next morning, take a Jeepney to the main gate, (10 centavos), grab a quick breakfast of hot Pandesal and ice cold San Magoo from the little Sari Sari Store just outside the gate, get an on base taxi to your hut, (5¢), and still have change…


Shoe Shine Boy

Shoe Shine Boy

By Ken Ritter

Sort of reminds me of when I was stationed in Sangley Point, all the regulars had sort of their “personal” Shoe Shine Boys, Flower Girl, and Jeepney Drivers, who kinda adopted you, monitored your movements when you were out in town, and took care of you… was having a party at my house in town, and since most of us Sailors had spent time in Japan, it became common practice for everyone to leave their shoes outside the door… this time, someone got ready to leave, and all the shoes were gone… total panic, they had stolen all our shoes… I heard a noise from downstairs, looked over the railing, and “my” Shoeshine Boy had recruited several of his friends, and they were down there shining everyone’s shoes… needless to say, he got a big tip that time…


Submarines: “from a boy to a giant”


One of my favorite pastimes is discovering unique stories about the United States Submarine force and the development through the ages.

There is no better witness to the phenomenal growth than that of one of the most profound influences on submarine operation and development: Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. The most fascinating thing about this man was that he came from such a humble beginning in Fredericksburg, Texas where he originally desired an appointment to the Military Academy. Fortunately for the world, he failed to gain entry and instead went to the Naval Academy where he graduated  with distinction in his class.

His service record is covered elsewhere but one thing was common throughout was his understanding of the potential for a submarine force even when the very idea was being kept in check by the Admirals.

The Navy published a series of submarine brochures but these quotes come from the…

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