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10 Port Squadron Royal Engineers - Part III

So, Jim Balmer arrived in Singapore in 1960 ready to tackle the job of keeping some tugs and boats shipshape so that vital supplies could reach those fighting the terrorists 'up country'.

The 'craft' were there and, as we saw in part II, so were the people who were willing to give their all to the task in hand. And so to the necessary program of repairs. Jim's story continues ....

Contract Repairs

We undertook a major hull repair program in 1960-61 and this meant supervising the work in local shipyards. Z23 was the first to go, the hull being down to 1/16th of an inch of steel at the aft end. It was repaired and re-decked at the Singapore Slipway.

The Slipway

At a slipway, the vessel is placed on a large cradle which has been prepared with blocks to take the shape of the hull (flat in this case!) and is then hauled out of the water on the trolley.


The Diver

The man in the water is a diver. He feels with his toes where the hull is in relation to the blocks and signals instructions to the men on the winches and pulleys. When it is firmly on the first blocks, the cradle and vessel can be pulled clear of the water. The diver could stay under the water for unbelievably long times - and still had all his toes.


Z23 leaving the water. Cpl Parkin, the bo'sun, is on the right.


Corrosion - Happening in the wrong place!

The corrosion at the aft end is mainly electrolytic action between the bronze propellers and the steel hull. Zinc blocks should be fitted to protect the steelwork but these had been removed or painted over 'because they were corroding badly' - exactly what they are there for! It's either them or the hull, and they are a lot cheaper.

Phil Servante - at 10 Port Sqn RE

We have now received some fascinating images from Phil Servante. He writes:

"Jim Balmer's pictures of Z Craft at Tanjong Berlayer have certainly brought back memories to me. I was at Tanjong Berlayer with 10 Port Squadron at the beginning of 1958 until the end of 1959. I was there when the hard ramp that Jim describes in one of his pictures was under construction.

"I can remember the pile driver hammering away to be hastily stopped when it was discovered that the hammer was narrowly missing shells and other bits of ammunition that had been left over from WW11 I cannot believe how the Z Craft had deteriorated.

"I remember helping to unload Centurion Tanks at the Port of Singapore onto Z Crafts 22, 23, 24 and 25. The Z Craft took the weight and carried the Tanks to Tanjong Berlayer for them to be mothballed. Looking at the same craft in Jims photo’s only a few years later it appears they wouldn’t have been able to carry a car. "

Here are Phil's pictures:

Thanks very much for those evocative images, Phil. They will be of great interest to our readers ... and to Jim, methinks!

Brian butch Harris

We have received more fascinating images from Brian Harris who also served in 10Port Sqn and recognises many of the names mentioned. Here are two of his pictures with Brian's comments:

RPL 01 Avon - the first boat to be posted to 10 Port Sqn. Brian took theboat to Singapore late in 1961. She then went to Brunei where - she was there to supply the troops on the border.

RPL 04 Dart taken in Hong Kong in the early 80's having spent 1962 to 1967 in Sarawak.

Thanks very much for those evocative images, Brian. They will be of great interest to our readers.

This is not the end of the story. Let's hope that everyone will find time to write with more of this fascinating saga, and perhaps send us more photographs. If they do, we'll post them here very soon.

Go to the Port Squadron Story Page I

Go to the Port Squadron Story Page II


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