Saturday, December 8, 2012

75 Squadron Sumpies 1971 - 1974

I arrived in Butterworth on the 22nd September 1971 - four days after my 21st birthday - and spent the next two and a half years as a 75 Sqn Sumpy. Those sumpies were a great bunch of blokes. Those that spring readily to mind include John Mantel, Bob Anderson and Shorty Messer (19 intake), Jack Clarke (21 intake) Curly Knight, Butch Connolly, John (Hoot) Gibson and Des Walker

75 Sqn flight line. Sumpies - and possibly a few
others - hard at it.
It was shortly after I arrived that I bought my first bike - a 1964 500cc Norton Dominator. Less than a week after I took possession of this - I had not attempted to ride a bike until I arrived in Butterworth - I flipped it end for end. There are two different versions of how this happened and I don’t know which is the truth. The first is that I hit a mound of dirt in the road and the other that I went into an uncovered manhole. All I remember is being flung from the bike and then a couple of mates picking me up. It was night, I had been on the turps and because the alternator was not charging I decided to go for a ride with only the parking light on. All I was wearing at the time was a pair of toweling shorts, a toweling shirt and pair of thongs. Fortunately I still had enough sense to put my lid on properly. I ended up with a broken collarbone, a large toenail mostly worn away, and multiple abrasions. For weeks after I was covered with Mercurochrome from head to foot.

One day shortly after this happened John Mantel said to me ‘You bastard, you cost me money. The blokes were running a book on how long you’d last before you came off and I bet you’d go more than a week’. He must have forgiven me because he and his wife Lyn made me welcome in their home on many occasion after that.

Butch Connolly and Des Walker would often go to the mess for lunch. For weeks I’d hear Hoot Gibson call out ‘Can you bring me back something to eat?’ ‘What do you want?’ Butch would ask. ‘A dog shit sandwich will do’. After fetching the daily sandwich over months Butch and Des had decided they would teach Hoot a lesson. There were a number of Kampong Terriers on the base which hung around the mess, so Butch had no difficulty gathering the ingredients for that special "dog shit sandwich . Nicely wrapped in a mess serviette Hoot Gibson got in position to devour this special mates supplied meal when Des Walker started spewing and shouting " Don't eat it its got dog shit on it" 

Hoot failed to see the humor in this. The reprisal ensued for months and some very horrible things happened to Butch Connolly's locker and his boots.

My best mate at the time was Zeke Behm off 23 intake. Zeke arrived shortly after I did and for most of the time we were the only singlies (single) in the section. I had the privilege of being best man at Zeke’s wedding to Angel in September 74 shortly after we both returned to Australia. Coincidentally Zeke and I shared the same birthday although I was 3 years older.

Most of the baggers (married blokes) lived on Penang Island and many of these relied on chartered buses to get them to and from work. If they missed the bus at stand down (cessation of work) they would have to wait for an hour for the next one so Zeke and I would usually do the mopping up at the end of the day to let them get home on time. And they reciprocated. Fridays were usually non-flying days and so the time was spent catching up on maintenance and general clean up. Often we were told on Thursday afternoon that we weren't wanted on Friday, or if we did come in we would be the first to stand down. This had been the practice before I arrived for I remember Bill Noble (20 intake), another singly, cluing me up just after I got there.

And they looked after us in other ways. Many were the times we spent enjoying the hospitality of them and their wives. This, even after they had their Christmas rudely interrupted at 3 or 4 in the morning with a group of drunken singlies singing Christmas Carols on their doorstep and looking for a reward for our caroling efforts - a donation of beer to keep us going.

Sadly for us things started to change towards the end. These blokes started returning home and those that replaced them took it for granted that we would do the mopping up at the end of the day. When it came to Fridays they did not have the same generosity towards Zeke and myself.

I have many happy memories of Butterworth, especially my first trip. And the blokes I served with in 75 Sumpies played a big part in making it a great time.


  1. Hey swampy - good story about the "Dog Shit Sandwich". the story is not quite correct - Butch Connolly - Des Walker and Hoot Gibson could refresh your memory on this one. Des Walker ( and Hoot Gibson ( . Nevertheless thanks for the 75 Sqn Sumpy Story.

    Your right though 75 Sqn Sumpies did have a great crew of blokes and some good Senior NCO's like Ron Fuzzard, Ned Kelly, Peter Coleman.

    Couple of other blokes I remember were Zoomy Hayward, Bob Twoomey.

  2. Swampy, Great stories here. I arrived at Butterworth on the same charter as Johnny Mantel and his wife. On the bus ride to our new married quarters Johnny's wife was google eyed as many of us were on arrival. We passed several Kampongs on the way to the Penang Ferry. I said to Johhny's wife (I think Lyn) when passing a Kampong " that's our new married quarters. A short but offensive to some ... exclamation rang out - Dont worry I said they are the Officers Quarters. There were immediate tears and 'take me home"

    Any by the way - I don't eat many sandwiches any more. wouldn't it be great to catch up with some of those blokes from 75 Sumpies Section
    Rgds Hoot Gibson

    1. John, yes, it is John and Lyn. I ran in to them at a mirage era reunion at Williamtown a couple of years back. Great evening organised by 76 Sqn association. Graham Oxley who you may remember was one of the chief organisers.

  3. hi all - just a quick hello from my Father - Lindsay Ball who was a sparky with 75 at Penang - i'm on facebook if you want to say Hello

    Kieron Ball