Returned from front line service in Borneo, already wearing my hard won GSM medal ribbon, and now a hard-bitten decorated veteran of the laundry and bath unit, I launched myself with unbridled enthusiasm onto the fleshpots of Singapore.
The rich cultural heritage of a noble island race was as nought to the likes of me and many other newly arrived squaddies. For us, Singapore was a great steaming and erotic rice bowl of bars and brothels. And cheap watches. In hired rickshaws we raced past the temples and mosques, the historical sites, the gardens and colonial architecture, the reataurants and makan stalls, urging our exhausted drivers ever onwards, smashed on tiger beer, onwards to the next bar, the next brothel, and the next bar and the next brothel, and the next bar….
There were hundreds of bars and nearly as many brothels. It is quite impossible to remember them all, but deep in the Geylang district there was a bar that bore the satisfyingly onomatopoeic name of the Wanky Wanky bar. Almost all Singapore based soldiers and sailors availed of its facilities at least once, (it had a most irresistible pull) and some found in the Wanky Wanky bar their idea of heaven on earth and visited continuously throughout their Far East tour. Mostly, it has to be said, Officers.
And the brothels! From crumbling memory I recall their names. The Jasmine Gardens; the Lotus House; the Forbidden City; Emerald mansions – enough! ( If you can remember other names then add them to the thread – we are discussing serious military history here). It’s true of course that they sound like they are named after your local town’s Chinese restaurants, or maybe your local town restaurants are named after Singapore Brothels – whichever is the case it is highly unlikely that now, after all these years, you will ever take your loved one for a meal at any establishment bearing the name of the Wanky Wanky restaurant.
They were staffed, these brothels by the most gorgeous, and largely imported girls who had bodies that quite frankly, we were just too young to properly appreciate. We were mostly drunk and behaved appallingly. No wonder we were so despised for we deserved it well. They had little English, these girls but most could and did say something like, “Oh Johnny, what a big one”. Now this may have been true in one or two cases but generally speaking it was just sales patter designed to relive you of more of your Singapore dollars. More bucks for your bang so to speak. I once conducted a little experiment to test whether they used different patter for different nationalities. I put on my best Scottish accent expecting to hear something like “Och Jock, W’at a whopper” First thing that happened was that no one could understand a word I was saying – proof, if proof was needed, that my Scottish accent was perfect. But I must report, based upon personal research, that every client, regardless of ethnic origin or nationality, was called Johnny. And they all have big ones.
Around this time my father, also an RAOC man was stationed up in Johore Barhu at a great vehicle depot located in those parts. He was in married quarters in the town of Johore Barhu and naturally I would visit my parents quite often. In the estate of fine high quality detached houses provided for Senior NCO’s as married quarters, was an equally fine high quality “massage parlour”. It was incongruous, anonymous, you could not tell it apart from the married quarters and almost certainly most of the happy families thereabout were unaware of its presence and role. So I visited home often, via the massage parlour. And my visits home were particularly invigorating. Poor Mum and Dad, they must have thought Singapore was awful and that I was missing them such a lot, which was, I’m afraid, far from the truth.. How they never twigged is beyond me, for after being duly oiled and perfumed I would arrive home smelling like, well an oriental massage parlour – and with a slightly stupefied grin on my face. By the time my father was posted out, back to Chilwell, myself and the girls were on first name terms. They all called me Johnny.
Of course by the time you had done six to nine months in Singapore the novelty of all the bars and brothels wore off a bit and your unbridled enthusiasm would be much happier with a pint of tiger down at the NAAFI, or exploring the other delights of such a plum posting. But it has to be said we were a pretty dreadful lot. Not nice to know. It was perfectly understandable why the natives were so glad to see the back of us. But give me my youth back and would I do it all again?. Not bloody likely, not like that anyway!
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