Article from the RAF News, 1 April 1961
submitted by Kenneth Baylisss

As a national serviceman, I was drafted into 5003 Sqn. - Airfield Construction, Wellesbourne Mountford in Warwichshire. After some 'special' training' I 'volunteered' to a place unheard of called the Maldive Islands.  I was a Cpl/Tech and was seconded to Air Ministry Works Dept. together with a character W/O Bushill (Bush).  Our task was to build the first runway (PSP) on Hulele using local labour.

We had a month in Singapore to organise and procure the supplies needed to build the runway and to renovate an existing 'villa' together with the re-assembly of an aluminium bungalow to be used for communications or something after we vacated the island of Dunidu. The 'villa' was to be used by the UK Representative, Humphrey Artington Davy of the FO.

Our 9 -10 months stay in the Male Atoll is an amazing story in itself and I should have written a book.

After a month or so in Singapore we flew onto Gan for a week or so awaiting a RN Frigate to take us up to Male/Dunidu.  Yes, a frigate - we had one day in the Navy! 

Most of our supplies were coming from Singapore by cargo ship.

My few memories of Gan going out were:- the 'termites' in the bread.  When I said that I was not prepared to eat the bread I was told that the only alternative was to starve.  Another recollection was whilst having a drink in the bar I was asked as a newcomer whether I had  noticed anything different about some of the blokes - I said not really, but evidently because there were no women the obvious was evidently happening, even with nude bathing on one of the beaches.  I visited Fedu/Maradu and after mounting the rusty old lorry to cross the causeway.  I met an Irishman whose name I can't recall but it could have been Pat, who was supervising the building of huts or small prefabricated houses for the locals - can anyone recall his actual name? 

After completing the runway on Hulele the plan was for us to fly back to Gan on the first plane that landed.  Unfortunately, most RAF planes seemed to make excuses that there was too many coconut trees for safety.  We kept chopping them down, to the disgust of the Maldivian Government and after several weeks the New Zealand Air Force landed their Bristol Freighter to pull us out.  We flew back to Gan on an extremely stormy night but somehow landed safely.

Next day I had been beckoned to the CO's office (I had shoulder length hair, a mouldy cap badge and for some reason that I can't recall, carrying a bunch of 3 coconuts).  We were known on Gan at the time as 'the Male Men'.   Upon leaving the CO's office, he said "Oh, Bayliss would you mind calling in at the barber's sometime today".  

We spent a few days on Gan awaiting a Comet back to UK. On the day of departure the MO asked me if I had had a Yellow fever jab to which I replied, no.  He said that I couldn't leave Gan without it but it couldn't be administered on Gan but in Singapore.  With the plane waiting the MO told me to clear off, but don't let it happen again.  I was relieved.

Though we only spent a short time on Gan it was certainly memorable, as most of your contributors have reported, even though it was only a lump of concrete.

I attach an article that was in the RAF News, 1961.
Click on Article below for larger image.


I also made an 8mm film of our 'expedition' which I may now try and put onto DVD.

Ken Bayliss (5074144)

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