The Making Of The Man Page 7

The build-up continued and the runway was duly completed. The ancillary buildings were built together with more permanent structures. The Royal Navy built a Sea Water distillery plant and the water that we all took for granted tasted sweeter and not so brackish. Showering was still a luxury, but we were issued with salt-water soap that did eventually give a lather but still took a fair time to rinse off During the rainy season, a heavy downpour would occur between 16.00 and 17.00. Not only did your ablutions become a pleasure. but it laid the dust. However, it also brought all the crabs from the undergrowth, which were killed in great numbers on the roadways. The sun on the remains would then attract the flies, and the stench was great.When it became too much the Graders were brought in to move the carnage to the sides of the tracks. The surface was then fresh for a few days when the whole procedure was repeated. It wasn’t the ideal solution, but it did improve matters a great deal. The planes that were arriving indicated the Atomic Tests were imminent. The scheduled date was to be the 15th May 1957 and the dubious privilege fell to 49 Squadron RAF. More of that later. These included Shackletons used for weather reconnaissance, Canberra bombers for taking samples of air readings to Christmas Island and the United Kingdom, an Auster monoplane for Camp Disinfection and DDT spraying, Vulcan Delta Wing Bombers, Valiant Bombers and Dakotas (the supply planes used to and from Honolulu Air Base). It was a very busy air-space above and around Christmas Island. The build up of ships was also taking place. In addition to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Supply ships there were two New Zealand Royal Navy weather ships. H.M.N.Z. Rotoiti and H.M.N.Z. Pukaki. They played an important role in forecasting and onward transmitting climatic conditions at sea level. The recording of the upper levels were monitored by the British Met. Office representatives. Part of their many methods of collecting data was by Radio-sonde Balloon, released at regular intervals, sending back information until the balloon burst at its upper limit of its range. The work at the Field Post Office continued to build up, with no increase in staff, but a team that worked closely together from top to bottom. We operated a counter service at Port Camp three evenings a week for the use of personnel on the island, as well as allowing pursers from the visiting ship to transact their ships’ business. Each ship would could buy £400 worth, sometimes more. Cash in excess of F.P.O. needs was deposited with the Royal Army Pay Corps. (Paymaster) who acted as our Banker, Conversely. when we required some cash we could collect it from his department. However, this did not happen very often, we were mostly self-sufficient, except maybe for change. There were facilities for local hobbies which, as I have already said, included the cinema and fishing. In addition, the rock pools were of great beauty. there was ample opportunity for bird photography and there was a good library. It was also possible however, to have Rest and Recuperation Leave in Honolulu on a regular basis, and less frequently to Papeete, the capital of Tahiti. This was by courtesy of the New Zealand Air Force who returned to New Zealand when their scheduled flying hours were exhausted for engine services etc. They never broke down going home, but the return journey usually included a 3 or 4 day stop over in Tahiti. If it was good enough for Paul Gauguin, then why not for us? He lost an ear, and whilst I was there I lost all sense of distance. An 18 year old in the middle of the Pacific — it was unbelievable, and an experience that would stay with me for all time. The A.P.O. was co-located with the Island Fire Service (RAF). the RAF Police, the Administration Clerks and Cooks. We were a pretty close-knit group and got on well ('Posties' always do, world-wide). The RAF Police decided that a new pastime was needed, so they created Coconut Crab Racing. Page 7


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