Working Class Girl in Singapore in the Late 1960s
Our Adventure Begins
The adventure begins
In March1967 I got married to my husband who was a Petty Officer in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy. Three and a half months after we got married we flew out to Singapore on a married accompanied posting.
When my fiancee told me he had been posted to Singapore and that it was a married accompanied post I was so happy. Happy because I was not going to be separated from my new husband so soon after we got married.
But, I wasn’t particularly excited because although I had heard of Singapore I hadn’t got a clue where it was. Nor did I have any idea of how different my life would be when I went to live there.
My husband had to show me where Singapore was on a map. I don't know where I thought that it was but I didn’t think that it was in the Far East. Nor did I think that it would be so far away and so exotic.
I was 20 years old and I had only been out of the UK once before. That time was a two week European package holiday. This was a bus tour taking in seven countries in fourteen days..
Up to this point I had never been anywhere in an aeroplane. Now here I was preparing to fly more than 9000 miles in a plane that was going to be in the air for a total of twenty seven hours.
This journey was to result in my life changing in ways that I could have never dreamed of. Of course, this meant that I changed along with it.
Our New Home
Met at the Airport
We landed at Paya Lebar Airport in the early hours of the morning. It was still dark as we walked down the steps off the plane. I cannot tell you how glad to have my feet planted firmly back on solid ground at last.
Considering that this was my first experience of flying it turned out to be a real baptism of fire. It was a horrendous journey that included engine failures and electrical storms.
The doors of the aeroplane opened and we exited the plane. I stood at the top of the step and breathed the warm moist air of Singapore for the first time. There was a rich smell of damp vegetation and the sound of insects, both very strange and foreign to me.
The man my husband was here to replace met us at the airport. He drove us to his home where we stayed until his family left for the UK a few weeks later. My husband not only took over his position at Kranji Wireless Station but we took on their home as our own.
Our first house was on Jalan Labu Ayer. This was a road of privately owned houses not a Naval letting. So most of the residents on our road were Singaporean residents.
Only the house opposite had another service family in it. They were to become firm friends and were very helpful and supportive to us.
Jahor Bahru and our new home
A Move to Dragon Gardens Estate
After living at Jalan Labu Ayer for a few months our friends and neighbours from across the road moved. They found a newly built house fully furnished. and at only two-thirds the cost of the rent in their present house. They decided to save money and move.
Their new place was in Jahor Bahru in Malaysia, which is joined to the Island of Singapore via the Causeway. They told us that there was a vacant house a few doors down from theirs on the new estate. Because this house was much cheaper and nicer than the ours on Jalan Labu Ayer, we decided to move too.
The new estate was called DragonGardens. The building of these new homes was a work in progress when we moved in. We were the first people to occupy this newly built house and we loved it. The building of this estate was on going and continued even after we completed our tour of duty in 1969.
Most of the people on the Estate were British servicemen and their families. In fact I cannot think of anyone on the estate that was not British. There were only about twenty-five houses on the estate at that time.
Because this was a brand new estate most people were like us and had only just moved in. It was not long before everyone pretty much got to know everyone and our social lives were full and rich.
The place and life I left behind
From the old life
Living out in the Far East was so different from the way I lived back in England in 1967. Nothing I had done in the past prepared me for those differences.
In England I was an ordinary working class girl with a nine to five clerical job. Where I worked I earned a wage not a salary.
I left this job at the age of twenty to go to Singapore when I left I was earning about £10 a week before stoppages.
As you can imagine the princely sum of £10 a week didn't leave much over once we had paid the bills.
This sum of £10 was the adult wage for a female office clerk at that time. So even if I had stayed on there were no more wage increases for me to look forward to.
In 1967 where I worked we got an increases in pay on our birthday until we reached the age of 21. from then on your wage was pretty much fixed.
My life varied very little, each day was pretty much the same. I went to work, came home, cooked my tea, ate it, washed up, watched TV then went bed. Then did the same all over again the next day.
Boring and repetitive as this sounds I was content with my life at that time. It was already better than I expected it to be and I loved my job.
Little did I know that Singapore was to change everything and in ways that I could not have begun to imagine.
My New House
My New Life
The house I left in the UK was a small terraced house that had no bathroom and an outside toilet.
The house I moved into in Jahore was a large semi detached house with two bedrooms, and a bathroom. Down stairs there was a room for the servant to sleep in that had its own entrance and its own shower and toilet. It was a different world, with indoor plumbing and servant’s quarters.
At the age of 20 I was living the life of a lady of leisure. Not only that but I was living it in another country with a servant to do all my washing ironing and cleaning.
To say this was a culture shock is an understatement and that I suppose is where I should have started this hub.