As I sit here in the heat on a lovely hot day in the Gambia I close my eyes and it takes me back to my first days in 6 GR in Brunei in 1972. This is where I first met Tim, who was my Company Commander in D Company.
Tim had been commissioned into 10 GR, but the CO and he did not see eye-to-eye Tim was a square peg in a round hole and so they decided that a transfer to the Sixth would be a good idea. The best decision 10GR ever made as we were a much more laid-back regiment with a fair few eccentric, but very professional, officers.
On first meeting, Tim struck me as being everything a British Officer in the Gurkhas should be. Smart, dare I say rather dapper. Sporting a very regimental moustache and always smartly turned out, he had that easy rapport with the boys, who he plainly loved. The feeling was reciprocated by the Officers, NCOs and Rifleman who he commanded. The words “a friendly father” spring to mind. He was fluent in Gurkhali and intimate in his knowledge of “the kaida” or ways and customs of the Nepalese and those peculiar to the Regiment.
I was his “sano Saheb” or young officer and he took me under his wing straight away. He accepted my eccentricities but always steered me on the right path. Many is the time he covered up for me when I had made a cockup of something or had upset a senior officer. He did not have to do this, but I was “one of his boys”, just like all his beloved Gurkhas in Dangerous Don Company, as we styled ourselves!
The thing I loved about Tim was that every day was an adventure. Unlike a few BOs in the Brigade, who could be terribly predictable and somewhat boring, Tim’s style seemed to be one of most things almost, but never actually, turning into a minor disaster! I loved it!
The drive from the officers’ mess in Brunei, the lovely old ex-Palace of the Sultan, to the battalion lines was about 15 minutes. But Tim had a Mini Cooper 1275 GT that was very fast and could knock a few minutes off that time.
I remember one day that we were cutting it a bit fine to fit in breakfast before being on parade at 0800 hrs. We sat down in the dining room at about 0740 and only really had time for a quick cup of tea before we had to leave. Tim decided that there was plenty of time for breakfast, pointing this out to me by proudly showing me on his new Omega diver’s watch, of which he was immensely proud.
“Titters old boy, we have got time for some eggs at least. Must have breakfast before we work”.
He called the mess orderly in and the conversation went something like this: “Dil Bahadur, I would like some eggs please”. Dil replied “Huncha Saheb, how would you like your eggs”. “Mmmm, good question” says Tim.
I reminded him that time was passing rapidly and now was not the time to dither.
“Dil, I think I’ll have boiled eggs please, soft boiled, two with some toast and butter…. Actually, no, cancel that, make it two fried sunny side up….on seconds thought I think eggs rumble tumble (scrambled) would be a tad quicker to cook”.
“Bloody hell Tim, look at the time” I said. “Eggs rumble tumble it is Dil” came the order from Tim.
Needless to say, by the time the eggs arrived we had about 5 minutes to get to the office. As soon as he finished his eggs he looked at his Omega watch, tapped it, shook it and said, “bloody hell Titters, look at the time, we’re going to be late, why didn’t you warn me!”
With that he broke the world record from the Kota Istana Mangelela to Tuker Lines in his Mini, burning rubber the whole way! Disaster, just, had been avoided again.
The Panaga Club in Brunei had a late-night bar called the ACB (short for Air Conditioned Bar) which would shut at midnight unless there were three or more customers. At about 2330 hrs one mid-week evening in the officers’ mess Tim decided that he and I needed a change of scenery so we raced up there in his Mini.
Arriving with about 10 minutes before closing time, we found an empty bar apart from the barman, who had the unfortunate name of Lee Kee Kok. Needless to say, he was nicknamed “Dripping Dick”. He was not well pleased at our arrival just before he was due to knock off and go home. However, with only two customers, his exit strategy remained safe. With only two minutes to go, a head poked around the door and Tim said, “Titters, drag him in”.
A rather startled Italian diver from Sub Sea was immediately bought a beer and the barman’s face dropped. We had secured a drinking hole into the early hours. The diver, who spoke only broken English, told us had had been in the Italian Commandos and kept apologising for the fact that our two countries had been at war. He kept repeating the phrase “Gurkha – Italiano Commando – friendly pockstable?” and then embracing us both in a manly hug.
Neither Tim nor I had a clue what “friendly pockstable” meant, but he kept saying it and hugging us. Eventually Tim said, “Titters I think pockstable means basketball, damn well sounds like it. Maybe a lot of the Sub Sea divers are ex-Italian Commandos like him and he wants a friendly basketball game with the Gurkhas”. We finally left the bar, the worse for wear, at about 0300 hrs, Tim having told the Italian to be at Tuker Lines at 1600 hrs where “Italian – Gurkha friendly pockstable” would take place.
That day at the appointed time Tim and I were on parade with the whole of D Company lined up, ready for Tim to dismiss them before they changed for afternoon sport. At 1600 on the dot, a taxi arrived at the main gate and said Italian, sporting skin-tight trousers, open shirt displaying a bronzed hairy chest adorned with gold chains and a beach-blond mullet haircut, immediately rushed over to Tim, who was standing ramrod straight in front of his troops. He threw his arms around Tim and ecstatically yelled: “Italian Commando – Gurkha, friendly IS possible”! Good old Tim had interpreted “pockstable” as the word “basketball” not the word “possible”!
I was falling about in stitches with laughter and the assembled ranks of D Company broke into ecstatic applause! It is those memories, of ridiculously funny things, that will always remind me of dear Tim Bahadur.
When I was running a team of Gurkha ex-servicemen in Mozambique I took time to go to Bahrain with a view of trying to get some security contracts for GSG Ltd. Tim and Liz very kindly put me up in their married quarter. Tim was working for the Bahrain Public Security Bureau as an Intelligence Officer at that time, with the rank of Lt Col. He met me “airside” at the airport and, carrying a .38 revolver discreetly hidden in a holster on his belt, he wafted me swiftly past immigration and customs. All very James Bond-ish!
I next met him in Knysna, South Africa, where I was living at that time. In typical “Thunder” style he had found himself at the end of his contract in Bahrain with nowhere to move to. He said, “Titters, we are coming to live in Knysna”! Having never done a recce of the place or even been there before, I suggested he take a look before committing himself and his family to a place that was totally unknown to him. He replied that he trusted me, and if I said it was a nice place to live, then that was good enough for him!
There are few people on this earth that would put the future of their family in the trust of another man’s word. That is truly the mark of a man of great stature.
I knew that Tim had been unwell for some time, but he was a fighter to the last.
The Regiment has lost a fine officer and I have lost a true friend.
Thunder old chum, you left us too early. I am sure you are now safely in that place where all of us end up. The Final RV in the sky. Knowing you, you probably got lost on the way and had a few adventures but got there in the end!
Say hello to my old Gurkha mate Guy Pearson and all the others who were taken too early and reserve me a bar stool for when I arrive. Make sure the Tigers are cold!
Rest In Peace now, mate.
Your Duty is Done and we now have your Watch.
You will never be forgotten.
From your D Company Officer and your old mate.
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