Thursday, 2 February 2012

Aden: Random Memories 6: Steamer Point / Chapel Hill Primary School

Across the road from the apartment I was to get the bus which would take me to take me to my new school.
School was a long way off from our flat. Every day we were collected by bus and driven there. Back in those days, there was none of the modern parental smothering and being driven individually. In those days you had to be there in time for the bus. It was mostly uneventful.
Then one morning, something was different. Armed Military Police were there with the bus. The windows were covered in what looked like chicken wire. When I got home I asked my mother about this (the other kids all seemed to be taking it all in their stride, and I didn’t want to appear stupid). For the first time in my life I discovered that because of an accident of birth, I was most unwelcome to some people. Hatred that drives anybody to kill somebody just because they represent something I have never been able to understand since that day. My mother told me the escort was for our protection (obviously) and the chicken wire was to stop grenades getting thrown inside the bus.
Whenever this happened again in the future, I can’t say I was scared. After all, what does one’s own death mean to a child? I was uneasy, and on part of the route to school we went past a graveyard at the end of Ma'alla Strait. I still remember the sadness I felt knowing among those buried there were service personnel who never went home. I also had morbid thoughts, not something I discussed with anybody, nor have I ever mentioned before now.
On a much brighter note, there were two individuals at Chapel Hill I remember with great affection. The first is a teacher, Mr. Bounty. I really enjoyed his lessons. The following year when I changed class and we were on the next floor up and at the other end of the building our teacher was Miss or Mrs. Wright. I realised what a difference a person can make to learning and understanding. I shall say no more about my time under her care!
The second person who meant a lot to me was Colin Birch. He was my best friend ever. Nobody could ever be as great as him. He showed me the word ‘fart’ in the dictionary. We made up crosswords together. We were at a birthday party at the other end of Ma'alla to where I lived, and everybody apart from me and him were doing the twist. I thought it was rather a silly thing to do and was very embarrassed when a grownup encouraged me to try it. That sort of thing has never been of much interest to me since, making a fool of myself, as myself, in public. Making a fool of myself other than as myself is a different matter!

© 2012 Gwailo54

Class photograph. I am on the back row, fourth boy from the right.

My school badge.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I was at Chapel Hill primary School in 1966-67. My dad was Royal Pioneer Corps 1955-69. We left Aden during the evacuation in 1967 and stayed in the UK after that.

Do you have any photos of the school?

Tim The Nomad said...

Hi Anonymous. This is the only photo of the school I have. I remember walking from the classroom to have our photo taken and how dusty my sandals were after. The rest is a bit of a blur!

What I don't know is what happened to the other school photo I"m sure I had while I was there. Another of life's unsolved mysteries that will follow me to to my grave!

Tim

Anonymous said...

I was at Chapel Hill Primary from 1964 to 1966. I was aged 11 when we left. My father was in the Royal Navy & I remember those trips in the armoured buses - people can't believe me when I describe it all. We lived in Maalla a first the moved to Tarshyne. I can remember the balconies and a music teacher called Mr James. Gillian Ditch

Anonymous said...

I was at Chapel Hill Primary from 1964 to 1966. I was aged 11 when we left. My father was in the Royal Navy & I remember those trips in the armoured buses - people can't believe me when I describe it all. We lived in Maalla a first the moved to Tarshyne. I can remember the balconies and a music teacher called Mr James. Gillian Ditch

Anonymous said...

I was in Aden 1965 and evacuated 1967 I remember the white coaches with chicken wire and the armed escorts.
We lived in Isis House, Ma'am last.
People always ask why my parents took us along.....

Nick Oliver said...

As a boy born in 1954 I guess I'd have been in the same year as you were, in Chapel Hill Primary school. I can't remember the names of any other children, but I do remember my teacher, a Mr. Hunter-Hardy. And a Miss Hulse. Your recollections of the school buses wired up against attacks I certainly recall. I lived on the Maalla Straight, and remember a bazooka attack on a block of flats opposite. I was sent back to England some six months before the end of my father's posting, to a boarding school in Essex.

Anonymous said...

My name is Malcolm Paul, I was also at Chapel Hill Primary from 1964 to 1966. I was 6 when I started and 8 when I left. I can remember the balconies and also standing on them on the two occasions that it rained in the two years. I also remember the first assembly where we had a lecture about the dangers of grenades. Oh yeah, and I won a Brownie box camera in a school raffle once. Then there was the blown up Bedford RL we went past one morning in Ma'alla. Much more fun than living in the UK!

Tim The Nomad said...

Firstly, apologies to Nick Oliver and Anonymous Malcolm Paul, I've not been picking up the mails for this site as gmail isn't as friendly to me as I would like it to be.

Nick, I can only remember my teacher Mr. Bounty. A name not easily forgotten. We too lived on Maalla Cherry Tree Buildings, number 6 I think it was. Just 2 or 3 doors down from the Stim factory.

Malcolm, I remember going on the roof of our apartment building with the other residents after the rain to sweep it off the flat roof. The real troubles began after we left, not that it was a picnic while we were there, but I think my parents protected me from knowing about some events.

I'm glad to have met you through this blog and I hope you find some happy memories of your own to share.

Tim The Nomad said...

Firstly, apologies to Nick Oliver and Anonymous Malcolm Paul, I've not been picking up the mails for this site as gmail isn't as friendly to me as I would like it to be.

Nick, I can only remember my teacher Mr. Bounty. A name not easily forgotten. We too lived on Maalla Cherry Tree Buildings, number 6 I think it was. Just 2 or 3 doors down from the Stim factory.

Malcolm, I remember going on the roof of our apartment building with the other residents after the rain to sweep it off the flat roof. The real troubles began after we left, not that it was a picnic while we were there, but I think my parents protected me from knowing about some events.

I'm glad to have met you through this blog and I hope you find some happy memories of your own to share.

Tim The Nomad said...

Firstly, apologies to Nick Oliver and Anonymous Malcolm Paul, I've not been picking up the mails for this site as gmail isn't as friendly to me as I would like it to be.

Nick, I can only remember my teacher Mr. Bounty. A name not easily forgotten. We too lived on Maalla Cherry Tree Buildings, number 6 I think it was. Just 2 or 3 doors down from the Stim factory.

Malcolm, I remember going on the roof of our apartment building with the other residents after the rain to sweep it off the flat roof. The real troubles began after we left, not that it was a picnic while we were there, but I think my parents protected me from knowing about some events.

I'm glad to have met you through this blog and I hope you find some happy memories of your own to share.

veel said...

Me too...I was in aden 1966 to 1967! Went to chapel hill school in chicken - wired windows, an armed soldier in stairwell by door! I remember teacher and playing chess for the first time. Also excited about school only being for half a day! I remember lisa hind from school. I think we lived in daktari mansions in maalla strait. We also went to the lido in elephant bay and remember ice cream soda and doughnuts!

David McCarthy said...

Hi, after reading your article and people's comments on Aden and chapel hill school it brought back memories.We were posted out there from January 67 till November 67 when we were evacuated out, my father was in the RAF ( he stayed on till about the June 68 ) We lived in a block of flats opposite to grenade corner t where the laundry shop was, I remember going to school on the bus with mesh on the windows and an armed escort. My mum was a bus lady I think that's what we called them, to make sure the kids behaved as I said going to chapel hill. I remember our flat and the next door getting hit with Mortar bombs One hit roof of the flats next door the other went through the steel shutter door of the shop at bottom of our block, neither of them went off But the dust filled our hole flat. We used to collect grenade shrapnel (we I've still got ) and hitch lifts on the army land rovers to the beach or pool, I was born in 1955 so I'd have been about 12 my eldest sister was 14 and my kid sister about 9 or 10. My name is David McCarthy

Christine Fraser said...

Hi, Tim.. I'm 4 years younger, so I doubt we were in the same class at Chapel Hill. I was there from 65-67. My dad was RAF, working in Little Aden. We had a flat in Ma'alla, Tulakhan Building. I remember the buses with wire mesh at the windows and armed soldiers in land rovers in between. My father also put wire mesh up on frames around our balcony, as we were on the 1st floor. I remember the Christmas lights hanging from them.

At school, I remember Mr Hunter-Hardy, and (I think) a Mr Tidy? A memory that particularly stands out is taking part in the school play one year.. 'The Dragon Who Ate Cake'! I played a fairy and my dad made a huge pair of wings for me. And I loved it that we only went to school for half a day, and would spend many fab afternoons at Tarshyne beach.

And we had the most amazing holiday at the Silversands leave centre on Nyali Beach in Kenya. We would never have done that from the UK. Very happy memories.

Thanks for the nostalgia!

Tim The Nomad said...

veel, David McCarthy & Christine Fraser, I'm sorry I've not responded earlier. I'm glad my little memoir has brought back memories, hopefully mainly happy ones.

veel, where were Dakar Mansions? Cherry Blossom Building was only a short walk from the Stim factory and grenade alley. We lived in number 6 so would have been on the third floor. No lifts there in those days!

David McCarthy, I missed the "excitement" of the more active attacks. We left just before it all kicked off. I never thought I would ever be nostalgic for Ma'alla, but I am.

Christine Fraser, yes, wasn't Mombassa brilliant? And it was all free!

Hamish. said...

My father was in the RAF, and we lived at 5 Grays House, Ma'alla , until evacuated in 1967. Grays House was next door to the block hit by a bazooka rocket on the Harbour side of the dual carriageway. The flat hit was occupied by friends of my parents, Louis amd Gwen Campbell. I don't remember much about school except that we travelled there daily in white buses called 'Garrys' escorted by army patrol Land Rovers. Swam at the Lido at Steamer Point surrounded by shark net. I collected shrapnel, spent bullets, and cap badges of patrolling soldiers which I traded for filling their canteens with ice cold drinks. The whole lot was missing from packing cases when we eventually got them back in UK. Remember seeing a fire fight late on night when macnine gun posts on top of blocks of flats opened fire on back streets. Was lying on the bedroom floor watching through balcony doors at the tracer bullets flying out of the guns. Remember saying to my father you could dodge the bullets, not realising there was a steady stream of nose to tail dark bullets between the tracers. Also remember the night 2 guards outside the block opposite were caught in a grenede blast which had been thrown over the wall diving main road from arab quarters. Saw far more than a 8 year old should have to. One of the happiest days of my life was being woken up during early hours of the morning, dresses, taken by bus to airfield and flown out on a VC10 and arriving a Brize Norton on a freezing cold day.