We arrived at
Singapore on the 7th June and berthed alongside the wall ahead of HMS Glory, she
had arrived some time earlier. She had been undergoing a short refit. The next
day was spent getting our ship ready for entering the dry dock to have her
bottom cleaned. During this period, we were to disembark and go ashore to HMS
Terror, the RN Barracks that was quite near the dockyard.
We were surprised to see many compounds in the dockyard area, filled with about 10,000 Japanese prisoners of war awaiting repatriation back home. Whenever we walked past them they would growl and snarl at us, from behind the fence, like caged animals; it’s a good job they were safely locked in.
Singapore was very large, modern, and heavily populated. We had plenty of ‘runs ashore’ and we all had an extremely good time. The Union Jack Club was a very large servicemen’s ‘haven’ where good food and drink etc, could be had very cheaply.
The ‘New World’ was also a popular attraction. It was a type of Theme Park that never seemed to close. It attracted thousands of people, with entertainment of every description. As in all major ports, Singapore had its fair share of ‘street girls’, all quite legally plying their trade everywhere. Apart from plying their trade, they were also quite happy to sit on a wall and have a friendly conversation in relatively reasonable English. I particularly remember one beautiful looking girl, affectionately known to all as ‘Dum-Dum’. This girl could not speak, but just made guttural noises. Her friend explained that she was not dumb, she was unable to speak because, during the Japanese occupation, she wouldn’t co-operate with them, so they cut out her tongue.
15th June 1947 was the day that I was automatically promoted to Air Mechanic (Engines) 1st Class, for which I received a very welcome pay rise.
With the ship painted and her bottom cleaned, she looked a magnificent sight and all ready for our forthcoming tour of Australia and New Zealand. We re-embarked onboard on the 19th June to prepare for going to sea. Next day we undocked and moved out to take up another berth alongside the wall.
Theseus put to sea early on the morning of 23rd June in company with HMS Glory, Cockade, and Contest, en route for Hobart, Tasmania, and the start of our tour of Australia. During the journey south, the emphasis for flying exercises was to be on formation flying which had to be perfect for the forthcoming flag flying tour.
At 1915 hrs a short ceremony was held on the flight
deck when King Neptune’s emissary stopped the ship and came aboard. After the
customary palaver, he announced that King Neptune would be coming aboard
tomorrow, personally, at 1345 hrs to initiate all ‘greenhorns’ in the
traditional style. Perhaps I should explain here that we were about to ‘cross
the line’ (equator) and, in true naval tradition, everybody who hadn’t done this
before had to go through an initiation ceremony.
Also my pilot, Sub/Lt Butterworth and two more
Sub/Lieutenants, had cause for further celebration as they picked up their
second ‘ring’ (promotion to Lieutenant).
True to his word, the next day all hands were piped to muster on the flight deck to receive King Neptune and his Court. They arrived up on deck via the forward aircraft lift and were greeted by a guard and the Royal Marine band. The Admiral and Captain were first decorated as ‘Old Shell Backs’ and then the initiation started.
A temporary pool and a platform had been erected on the flight deck. The initiation ceremony consisted of being placed on a stool on the raised platform with one’s back to the pool. King Neptune’s barbers then got to work with brush, lather, and a large imitation razor. Then after the shave, one was quite unceremoniously tipped backwards into the pool. Everyone let their hair down and as the day went on a free-for-all developed. Hosepipes appeared from nowhere and everybody got a drenching.
The ship officially crossed the equator at 2143 hrs on the 23rd June 1947.