Regimental pay day was the most looked forward day. It was more so in Taiping and in the sixties, when pay was paid in cash. Every regiment had an officer Paymaster seconded from the GSC Corps, assisted by a pay sergeant and each Bty had a pay corporal. But soldiers in the gun Btys were paid directly by Bty officers, and for a good reason too. Monthly pay days were the best days for bonding young officers and ORs. As a young officer we knew every soldier by the way he spent his pay and more so what debts he had incurred. The regimental paymaster paid HQ Bty and all the wives on pay day. Pay for the wives was twice a month. Bty officers, except the BC and BK took turn to pay the men in the Bty. The pay corporal would prepare the monthly nominal pay roll for the Bty. The BK prepared the list for deductibles for Bty funds, PRI, canteen and other utangs.
Pay day, which usually took up the whole morning or the afternoon, would be held along the corridors of the Bty lines. Two desks would be placed, one for the Bty paying officer and one for the BK. The soldiers would be given their pay book by the pay corporal, checked against the nominal pay roll. The soldier would march up to the paying officer, smartly salute and with a wide grin stretch out both his hands to receive his pay. He would count the money and put it into his pocket. He would salute again, would do a left turn, march a couple of steps to the BK desk. He would salute the BK who would tell him his of dues to be paid, which in most cases would be more than half he had just pocketed.
The nominal pay roll was prepared to the last Sen. And because we had to pay to every individual, the actual monies would have to be in the correct denominations of 50s, 10s, 5s and 1 Ringgit notes. And also a large amount of coins would be needed. The nominal pay roll must be balanced to the last Sen.
It was my turn to pay. I had checked through the nominal pay roll with our Bty pay corporal. Fully satisfied we set off to the bank in town to collect the pay roll. We returned to pay the soldiers. As some of the soldiers would not be able to collect their pay on the same day, special arrangements would be made to pay them separately. Officers would keep the balance of the money until all payments were made and the final amount verified. All should be fine and routine at the end of the pay session, carried over three days. But it was not to be.
I panicked. The pay corporal panicked. THE NOMINAL PAY ROLL DID NOT TALLY. We checked again and again over several times. We sweated over the pay books and nominal pay roll and ensured that all soldiers were paid in the exact amount. They were. We even paraded the soldiers again, but nobody was paid short. AND we still had a surplus of RM20,000.00 in neat 50 Ringgit notes. My troubled mind was sure that somebody was not paid yet. But it could not be as everybody was paid. Do I see the BC? Do I see the BK ? or the regimental paymaster? No. I would have to sort it out myself.
As I had received the money directly from the bank officer, I went to the bank to see him, and was he glad to see me. He was short of EXACTLY RM20,000.00 and he had sweated more than me for the past three days. He had paid me extra in error. What an error and I had panicked and lost sleep over it. I had returned the money to the bank officer, in the presence of his manager, like a true officer and gentlemen.
The CO and all the other officers came to know of it later, and they were lost for words. I had always had thoughts about it throughout my career and had good feelings for it. I had often wished it to happened again. Would I have done otherwise? RM20,000.00 was a lot of money? Would you ?