Sir Arthur G Lawrence FBE FIBA
The answer is yes – sometimes.
I served with the RAF as Inventory Officer for the Combined Services Nuclear Testing Unit at Maralinga Range from 1958 to 1960. I was fortunate enough to have a Commanding Officer whose finely tuned sense of humour and capacity for getting into laughable situations often relieved the boredom of the relentless
My journey out from RAF Lyneham also provided a great deal of fun. The transport was an old Lancaster bomber. No soundproofing ; no air conditioning. It broke down three times; in North Africa, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka ) and Singapore. Spare parts had to be obtained from Germany! Thus it took me seven weeks to get to Australia.
I had great fun in Ceylon where on my second day I acquired a manservant for nine old pence per day. A meticulous chap with good English and an infectious giggle. We went to most parts of the island and the greetings from the locals were often hilarious. Three weeks and then on to Singapore another breakdown and another three weeks delay. Here the first big laugh was that my quarters were amongst those being refurbished and redecorated, so I was billeted at the Brittania Hotel in the centre of town.
I may have been unlucky not to get the Raffles which had recently been gutted by fire. There was an afternoon Tea Dance daily at the Happy Garden. Ten cents a dance to dance with a friendly pretty girl; but I do mean dance only. Good fun though.
My tour of duty at Maralinga was set at twelve months; but with the Squadron Leader reluctant to let me go I actually served sixteen months. One Nuclear Test ; and the only protection I got was being told to turn my back, expect a loud explosion and wait for the all clear siren. Little was understood of the effects of radiation in those days.
Despite many humorous experiences with the Squadron Leader I have to say Maralinga was an unpleasant experience and was influential in my decision to leave the RAF when my regular service was completed.
In “civvy street” I worked as a Senior Executive for three of the largest PLC’s in Europe. Later I formed my own companies in the property, security and film industries. In 1992 I was awarded Title.
In my retirement I have enjoyed writing. I have been fortunate to be a published author. My second book “Maralinga Man. Tales of the Squadron Leader” is a series of anecdotes connected to my service before, during and after Maralinga.
Late in life I developed Skin Cancer; which was attributed to my service on Maralinga Range. The Veterans and Service Personnel Agency were understanding and helpful and awarded me compensatory sums. But they are handicapped because most of the medical records of personnel at Maralinga have been destroyed we are told. This should never have happened. Many of my peers will tell you that Christmas Island and Maralinga also should never have happened.
Sir Arthur’s new book Maralinga Man: Tales of the Squadron Leader
is available from Rowna Vale Books: https://www.rowanvalebooks.com/book/maralinga-tales-of-the-squadron-leader
Or all good bookstores ISBN: 978-1-911240-78-5