Ralph Stobart Robson, signalman, life in the British Royal Navy World War Two, sinking of Prince of Wales and the Repulse, Singapore
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  1. Chatham to Gourock
  2. The Messman Discovered
  3. Life on Board
  4. Crossing the Line
  5. The Sinkings
  6. H.M.S. Sultan
  7. The Signal Office
  8. Left to Our Own Resources
  9. Colombo
  10. Drafted to Mombassa
  11. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
  12. Sharks, Lobsters and Going Dutch
  13. Askari Skirmishes and Tea Making
  14. Tramp Steamer
  15. Molo
  16. Deer Hunting
  17. Ralph the Italian and off to Bombay
  18. Arrival in Bombay
  19. Vultures and Buffalos
  20. Poona
  21. Swimming Motorcycles and Monsoon Storms
  22. The Royal Corps of Signals
  23. 'Trixie' Vaughan Lewis and Drowning Men
  24. On Leave in the Himalayas

    Ralph as a telegram boy before the war

20. Poona

A few weeks after my arrival we were told to be ready to travel to Poona. Great excitement. The following day we fell in and after gathering all our signalling gear were transported to Bombay, Baroda and the Central India Railway Station ready to be taken over the Western Ghats from the coastal plain to the considerably higher inland plains. These seemed like a series of narrow shelves separated by steep cliffs. The station was the ornate building that I had mentioned before.

After stowing our gear the P.O. was left in charge as we strolled along the train. This was where I had a good look at the four classes of compartments, or at least three as there was no fourth class - this train was too posh for the rubbish. She was powered by a huge Cammell Laird British loco, a beauty.

The station concourse was a teaming mass of people who wandered around or lay about. It was like a parrot house gone mad. Finally we closed the windows as the train set off. The train thundered north before finally turning east.

The boys passed the time at first leaning out of the window shouting insults at the natives they passed, but this soon palled as they were greeted by a cheery wave or a "namaste"; a greeting given with the hands together and a bow of the head. I must mention in passing that the only navy thing we were allowed to wear was our hat. This always awoke enormous interest which disappeared when they were replaced by Australian bush hats.

The train ascended by wide swoops and turns and a marvellous vista would have been in sight if a heat haze had not covered the whole of the lower plains. At last the train reached the top to stop at a little station called Escarpment.

By now the boys had spread out and were standing in the train doorways. Suddenly, as the train started to draw out of the station a very loud Liverpudlian voice shouted, "Geordie, look at that moke on the right hand side!". All hands, including the civilians, looked out. A donkey was standing there all right, braying like billy-ho. We were all looking out of the windows, civilians and all. The moke looked as if he was just about to mount a jinny. Everytime he brayed his penis jumped to attention. I could have disappeared through the floor.

The train steamed on across an arid plain and I wondered how anyone could make a living in such a place. Eventually the train reached Poona and we disembarked from whence we were taken to an army camp on the outside of the city. Poona seemed to be a typical army town as there were soldiers everywhere. The camp however was a typical Indian Army barrack and seemed to have been there for evermore. It seemed to be very well run and had its own cinema, swimming pool, etc.

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