Thursday, November 12, 2009

17th June 1965 - Official Opening of the Airfield
As with all Official Grand Openings, a table of events was produced, the programme was written in English and Thai, to mark the Ceremony.
In honour of this occassion, the Scots Guards based in Terendak, came over, providing a Guard of Honour, plus the Bands from the Scots Guards / Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. Adding to this, the Thai Band and Guard of honour joined in the parade.
The Parade area and around the Salute Dias, was swept by Mine Detectors.
The Airfield Apron became very busy with 22 Aircraft sitting on it.

Out on the Airfield, 11 Saffron Robed Monks were blessing the Runway.
After lunch, an ex-RAF Pilot (ex-Battle of Britain) flew an Argosy with 50 passengers, on a flight around the Airfield, in a very "hairy" fashion. The Argosy is a large aircraft, not really designed to do Loops and Barrel Rolls. Photographs were taken from the forward observation windows.
Peter Woods heard a loud noise and the felt the floor vibrate, so running out of the Battery store to investigate, he was amazed to see this Argosy, almost at ground level, flying straight at him.
Diving to the floor, the aircraft roared overhead, climbing to miss the building, but narrowly missing the roof. The Monks must have blessed that aircraft!
That day it poured heavily, an inch of rain fell in 12 hours.
It was noted that the Tarmac became soft, aircraft taking off, just reached the speed required to take off. The tarmac also showed signs of wheel-ruts, with small pot-holes appearing.
After the Ceremony finished, the workforce was informed that the Tarmac would have to be lifted and replaced by concrete.
Looking at the Workforce, the CRE could see that a collective feeling of tiredness, had encompassed all.
The Reason for the failure was simple, Lt Robin Carr and other Junior Officers on the 'Young Officers Course' at the RSME, were given the reason for such failure:-
The initial Recce used sandbags, to collect samples from the local laterite sites, these were transported back to the UK, for the TRRL to design the laying mix.
Unfortunately, the the Recce Officer had failed to notice that all the fine particals had escaped from the sandbags and what was left, was pure laterite nodules, so the design was based on that.
The real laterite was simply too "dirty" with silt and fines to make satisfactory earthcrete, when the laterite was mixed with cement.
A very expensive mistake.
When Lt Carr arrived in Singapore during January 1966, he assured 2 Troop that they were not to blame, or indeed, the Squadron.

18th June
The CRE decided to let the workforce party, before starting to strip the tarmac.
Many went to the Sowardi Bar in Ubon, where the partying got under way.
A large built Sapper walked up to the local guitarist, who smiled and offered his guitar to him, the bar went silent, wondering what was coming. The Sapper then started to play The Shadows tune - Apache, followed by a wide repertoire of music, including: The Rolling Stones, Elvis and Nancy Sinatra to mention a few.
The Partying lasted for two days.

Disaster (that was waiting to happen)
As the Scammell approached the bridge, with Paddy driving, John decided to leave sitting in the D8 and climb into the Scammell roof, near the cuppola..
Sitting on the roof, John noticed the Bridge was moving, being pulled away from the Bank, by the trailer wheels.
Swinging into and dropping through the Cuppola fast, John landed on top of Paddy, just as the bridge fully detached from the banking.
The Scammell swung about in various angles, before finally settling, with the nose facing upwards.
When everything came to a halt, both climbed out through the cuppola, neither were injured, or even scratched.
The Scammell was being held up, by a 12" piece of angle iron (toolbox lid), jammed against the concrete bridge parapet.
It took 3 days to finally recover the Scammell and its load.

Even the Coles Crane, heading for the bridge site, had problems of its own, it slid of the planking
whilst crossing the river. After being recovered its self, the crane then set-up and recovered the Scammell and D8.

Once the Scammell and D8 was recovered to the bank, 54 Squadron moved in and built a new wooden bridge, alongside the old one.

Considering the Scammell had sat an angle for 3 days, it was surprising that it started up on the first attempt.
The only damage was a broken king-pin on the trailer and a broken fuel injector pipe on the Scammell.
The recovered Scammel then crossed the new 10 ton bridge, once lined up, it was put the foot down and pray. The bridge sank 8" as the Scammell crossed, just like the other wooden bridges.

After un-loading the D8, his next job was to collect a Starmixer from Bangkok.
Normally no problem, but it was the wet season and roads were very bad down South.
On the way back, John found one bridge had been washed away; a long detour would take much too much time, delaying the Airfield work.
Finding a fairly shallow point,, not too far off the road, he tried to wade through, only to become stuck on the far bank.

Un-loading the Starmix from the trailer, to reduce weight, which allowed the recovery of the Scammell to dry banking. The Starmix was then towed across and re-loaded.

The main communal toilet became 'over-powering', so the Australians, billetted close by, decided to set up a new toilet, being in their interest to do so.
They dug brand new deep holes, set up a toilet block, which they sectioned into individual cubicles, with seating.

When the Monsoon started, washing away bridges and roads, it also washed away the holes (probably too close to each other), causing a major collapse, which finished with the seating and the hut, following into the hole. Good try though!

August 1965
Due to the volume of vehicles, especially Tippers and due to the expected long delay in completing the Airfield. a Fuelling Station was set up.

Camp Radio
This was located in a corner of the Church.
Cook "Lenny" would double as a DJ.
The Padre used a C42 - based local radio station, for the amusement of the camp, when they were not working or down at the brothels. (When the VD rate exceeded 100%, someone in Singapore asked what the percentage sign meant, so it was not as bad as the rate appeared to suggest)
Every week, the Padre put on his version of "The top of the Pops", aided by other DJ's.
After a time, the Padre started getting requests in from Ubon, Saigon and other areas; the Americans were picking-up his broadcasts and relaying them all over the far east.

The Thais love the Global game of football and so did the Crown men.
If they were not playing, they were watching, cheering and drinking.
The picture below, shows the Start of the Official match between British and Australian teams.
This game seems to be a pretty formal affair, for it starts with an Official opening.
The game was played by Brits, Aussies and Thais.
The majority of the teams, were made up from Op. Crown.
Miss Ubon 1965-1966 kicked off the game, what a lovely girl!
Standing to her left is an Australian Airforce Officer.
To her right, Storky has his eyes fixed on the ball, instead of Miss Ubon, lack of concentration no doubt!

302 Postal Service Unit
No Soldier would be happy without mail from home, these lads made sure Crown lads received letters and parcels from home, as well as sending mail back.
Postal Services
Crown Camp Lament
Just off the Loa Border,
Crown camp is a desolate spot,
Slap in the middle of no-where,
In a land that God forgot.
In among the snakes and chit-chats,
Up where the men get blue,
Stuck on this ruddy Airfield,
Ten thousand miles from you.
We sweat, we swear, we blister,
We don't think life's so grand,
We're not a bunch of convicts,
But, defenders of the land.
Late at night, the mossies bite,
The rain comes tumbling down,
To bed we wear a poncho,
To ensure we don't drown.
In this our Thailand Paradise,
There is no time to play,
All we seem to do is work,
From day to endless day.
And when we get to Heaven,
St. Peter he will yell:
"Let in the men from Crown Camp,
They've had their share of Hell!!"

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