Warries and Stories
UBON ANECDOTES 1963-65
Our amiable Met man accompanied a group from the Mess one night to the late ‘floorshow’ (after the mandatory Police/military curfew) at one of the ‘clubs’ in town. (I wasn’t present, of course, lol.)
But on the way home about 1AM in a couple of pedalled samlors, the group saw the lights of a jeep approaching. They knew that this had to be the MPs patrolling the curfew, and our "Met Man" thought he’d hide in the ditch beside the road. So he dived into it - only to find that the green grass he’d seen in the moonlight was actually waterweed floating in the ditch’s 3-4ft of water.
The RAAF SPs had, of course, seen him dive in, and met him emerging covered in waterweed, with a torch beam and ‘can we help you Sir’!
Henceforth he was always known as ‘Klong’ which always preceded his surname.
I can’t remember who the other 79 Sqn culprits were that night ... the normal consequences of such violations of UROs were a relatively mild confrontation in the OC’s Office, and a ‘Don’t do that again!’
(I was ‘matted’ before the CO one morning, after unfortunately mis-judging my demonstration of placing my shoe’d foot on the rattan bar ceiling. I overdid the somersault and pushed the ceiling into quite an attractive dome that wasn’t readily correctable... ‘I’m very sorry sir, I won’t do that again....’)
Other stories that come to mind include the famous URO that listed all the many Ubon "Night Clubs" that were out of bounds; that one was copied widely around the Air Force at the time. (At least two of the major "Night Clubs" were owned by local police or Thai Army officers, I believe.)
Then there was the terrible screaming late one Saturday night that kept us all awake next door and continued for several hours, when a Brit soldier from the Crown A/F construction camp was having his life saved in our Medical Section via a stomach pump-out, after he’d apparently drunk a full bottle of the local Mekong whisky. He survived.
(We kept a bottle of Mekong behind the bar, the main use of which was as a penalty for losing at that wonderful bar game ‘Liar Dice’, where the winner nominated the penalty drink that had to be downed by the loser.
‘Flaming Drambuis’ were also a popular late night competition that I’m sure I don’t need to describe. I soon learned the trick of grabbing and downing it a second after it was lit, because ‘Drambui Lip’ burns were very painful! Once - (only once!) I dared to do it with a brandy balloon: very dangerous indeed unless it was downed within two seconds of ignition! That may have been the night one of our group waited a few seconds too long and tossed the ignited drambui at his mouth. Unfortunately he splashed some of the flaming highly inflammable alcohol that burned with a bright blue flame on his nylon shirt, which lit up spectacularly - with painful results, but he was saved by quicker thinking colleagues....
Then there was the poker game late one Wednesday night, when several of us ran out of cash. One of our quick thinking players said to the Accountant Officer participant: ‘Hey Mick, it’s now after midnight on payday, how about it?’ Mick the Accountant looked at his watch, and said ‘Well....OK’, so we all trooped over to his nearby office; he extracted the already prepared pay envelopes from his safe, and Pay Parade was duly conducted - so the game continued....
I was proudly deputised one day to fly to Don Muang International Airport at Bangkok to pick up the wine from the American BX for a long-planned full-dress Dining-In night with the USAF. A/OC Ubon my next-door neighbour and 77 Sqn A Flt Cdr briefed me: ‘stay below 15,000 ft, and make sure the ammo bin heat is OFF’, the implication being that I’d be paying if any mishap occurred to the wine. All was well, but I don’t think we thought the Californian wines were really ‘up to scratch’....
Another popular late-night spectator sport was ‘Moriarty’, (drawn from Sherlock Homes), where volunteers were blind-folded and positioned on the floor, each grasping the other’s left hand, with the other hand gripping a rolled-up newspaper. Each attacker in turn calls out: ‘are you there Moriaty? - to which the opponent has to reply ‘Yes’, while then moving his head away from the sound source. The attacker then tries to estimate where his opponent’s head now is, and strikes the spot once. Impact with the head determines a ‘win’.
(I once saw a bout with National Geographic magazines, resulting in some blood being spilled....)
Overall, I remember my 8 months in four tours as a very educational 8-month experience over 2.5 years for a Pilot Officer - and much tougher for my wife and infant daughter back in Penang than for me, in retrospect..
We received graphic briefings about the district being the worst leprosy area in SE Asia (the beggars in town with limb stumps were a very sad sight); the worst area in Thailand for rabies ‘if you get bitten by a dog, you’d better catch the dog for testing, because otherwise you’ll have to have several stomach injections that are themselves very dangerous, because rabies is invariably fatal if you contract it’; and last, but not least, the doctors showed us graphic films about the incidence of VD locally, including a strain of the worst of them that was resistant to all known antibiotics, as I recall...