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Later, meeting folk with parallel histories, found out first-hand how modern myths and legends are created.  I.e. dining with some Brits in southern Italy was surprised to hear my name (prefixed by the unique nickname used by earlier Army colleagues) being mentioned as they talked of Singapore a decade or so earlier - yet none of them knew the very young soldier (me) who supposedly did those crazy and maybe risky things.

Actually, I had done most of those things, although usually not for the reasons attributed, except for when a strong-minded woman was involved:
For instance, and maybe for the wrong reasons, got a street-rep. for damage-limitation.  I.e. one night, down Bugis Street - which, apart from its pavement cafes and restaurants, had degraded to a place of assignation & pickups, almost a brothel - was drinking a beer outside my regular cafe when an altercation broke out further down the street:

a `business girl' - a strikingly tall and well-built Chinese girl about 20 years old - had run amok (probably snapped by the crass behaviour of her `clients' and the fact she was trapped as a `tall oddity' prostitute by an unjust social system).

She'd already hit some people and was threatening anyone who came near - think she'd got hold of a cleaver from the cafe behind her.

As she was maybe 6ft tall, well bodied and now armed [at the time most Chinese in Singapore were relatively short and spindly; English rule & taxes ensured they were malnourished], nobody wanted to go near - the cafe owners were scared and upset about their takings.  So the little Chinese owner of my cafe asked if I could intervene (think he'd seen me act as peace-maker before).

Rather unwillingly I got up and walked the thirty or so yards to the beleaguered cafe, where she stood alone - it was surrounded by a wide arc of scared onlookers farther out in the street.

Going toward to her I looked (up) into her eyes, said "Hello" and sat down at a table, keeping eye contact with her (she was a very attractive girl, so that wasn't difficult really).  My friendly vibes seemed to come across, because she also sat down at the table.

[ Think she already knew, from street-talk, that I was a fairly honest bloke who wouldn't trick or betray a girl - and besides, I have these blue eyes, and most women seem to like my voice. ]

Still keeping eye contact I asked (respectfully) how she was.  In a few moments she was talking, and soon I was holding her hands, to comfort her and to encourage her as she tried to express her feelings.

After an emotional while she was talked-out and cried-out and seemed at peace with herself - so eventually I could let go of her hands and we stood up, managed a weak smile to each other, and said goodnight; with her going home, and me going back to finish that beer.

Much later,
returning to UK as a civilian after the Saudi job, a girl, whose older relative had served with me when I was working in a rather specialized Army group (which had installations from eastern Mediterranean to the northernmost Scottish islands - of which I had eventually become an inspector / maintainer), was able to surprise me with stuff I hadn't known about.

F'rinstance, she told me that my nickname in that group had been "the Prof" or professor.  Maybe that was because I might've been somewhat absent-minded during those tours of duty, of indoor work devoted to finding solutions to various technical problems;  I'm usually more alert and aware when outdoors `in the field', with plenty of movement.

A rather different myth-making had happened earler, during middle and later Army service, sometimes in a military setting:
For instance - one afternoon was sitting, in a wide circle of assorted European military colleagues [from junior rank techies to warrant-officer admin types], in a NATO coffeee-shop / restaurant, when, from behind me, a slim pair of hands fell over my eyes and a female voice whispered "Guess who".

[ Flashback to Germany about ten years before, as a young corporal sitting with a bunch of mates at lunch-time, when slim hands dropped over my eyes and a sweet voice whispered "Guess who" in my ear.  It was a friendly gesture, from a pretty woman (working for the NAAFI - and the wife of a bigwig) - which probably caused my abrupt posting away from Germany. ]

Back to the present - in the NATO coffeee-shop - I faced a circle of shocked-looking military men; because most, maybe all, Euro militaries forbid intimate relations between officers and noncomms - and these slim hands and sweet voice belonged to a young woman wearing the uniform of a Captain in the US Air Force.  However she (the Captain) seemed unaware of Europe's military shibboleths and blithely came around to sit beside me, looking to join a (suddenly muted) conversation.

Or, different again, in an off-duty setting in Central America.

Or, different again, dealing with a `murder-threat' on duty in a stuffy UK Army base.

Probably most myths arose because I would arrive alone at places, do my job and then depart - so some folk would speculate that it was `secret work' etc.   Mostly it wasn't - just not much known about.

[ Mind you - there was a period, in a lonely location where I was the only military, when, in an emergency it would've fallen on me to shred all documents and destroy (by explosion if possible) all hardware.  Luckily that didn't happen. ]

Not secret - but not much known about:-  After a noisy and sweaty half-a-day of live-firing, closed-up in the forward gun-turret of the frigate HMS Leopard during Atlantic exercises (as their Army `guest & observer'), was very happy when the ship stopped and `hands to bathe' was piped.  Jumped off the starboard side - which turned out to be much higher than I'd thought - and swam a long way west, until the folk on the bridge were losing sight of me.HMS Leopard

After some time enjoying the solitude of being apparently alone in the ocean (could only get an occasional glimpse of the ship when an Atlantic roller lifted me up) - I think the Skipper lost patience and said `Let's scare him back - call SHARK ALARM' - which they did.  Didn't realize for a while (that visibility problem), then turned and accelerated towards the ship, which had scramble nets hanging down the side - close to which the Navy lads had been swimming and playing water-polo.

Swimming fast, got back before all the lads were on the nets, and even beat a few climbing up.

A day or so later got dropped off at Gibraltar, where there was time enough for a `week-end', a short break before flying back to UK or elsewhere.


A bit later was sent to do the same thing aboard HMS Blake - a larger cruiser - with the added task of expediting a planned radio link with Army units ashore.  The ship was going to be operating in the English Channel and approaches, and I expected to be busy.

HMS BlakeThe radio department was crowded and noisy but we all got along fine; with `traffic' - plain text or coded messages - soon passing through as arranged.

However at midday (approx. IIRC) there was a sudden klaxon or hooting sound from a far part of the compartment - which turned out to be an automatic sensor for maritime distress signals.  After investigation we (they) found that a lone yachtsman had set off from the English coast that morning intending to sail home to India (so we were told), and hadn't got more than a few miles before he somehow broke the mast and the yacht was now adrift somewhere not too far away from us.

A decision was taken (or an order received) to pick up the craft, and I went up-top to see the operation.  The yacht was lifted high above the deck level by the ship's davits or cranes, because the only place to put it was on the superstructure amidships (that white `shelf' just back of the ship's code number - C99).

That small excitement gave us something to talk about, while the ship turned about to make a slightly early return to port.  Again was finely treated by the various messes (some were way down below decks and I had to make the rounds - getting a drink pushed on me at each one), so was thankful that a car and driver from my regiment was waiting at the dockside.

Ace High Dishes Much later, working as a travelling inspector of NATO's military radio stations - most of which were atop remote and sometimes spectacular hills or mountains - would find that same human tendency also creating myths about them.

So, quietly arriving in civilian gear and having a drink in a local pub would sometimes find myself talking to a conspiracy theorist or UFO sleuth who was convinced those massive `space-age' aerial-dishes and other antennas were engaged in nefarious and sinister operations.

It seems that if we don't know what a thing is, we humans are inclined to make up explanations and believe the worst.  So obsessive gov't secrecy creates bad effects in the citizenry.

However, because our self-appointed `rulers' - politicos, judiciary, financiers, security/cops and media - are notoriously ignorant of reality (the working world, how to think constructively, and even of real science *), those rulers get more and more paranoid - and more obsessively secretive.

That's a vicious circle.

A working life of travel and trouble-shooting (maybe coupled with "No-TV"), had maybe prepared-for and even helped-with ongoing investigations - and appreciations - of modern life.

Some results of those investigations are featured in these grouped pages - hopefully more to come.

Ray Dickenson
(June, 2012)

Most of the details above are available - if you have `access' - at UK Army and other M.o.D records, along with more which hasn't been featured here - some for modesty's sake. - Ray D

This page is a frame within Personal Biographical Notes

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