Tuesday, March 1, 2011



LT JOHN HAINES (seated 7th from left)
The communications started last year in 2010. John Haines and his lovely wife Ann were keen to visit Malaysia. John was a National Service Officer who served the RA as a Lt. in the 50's. He did service in Malaya in 1954/55 in Batu Cantonment with the 11 Independent Light Troop RA.
According to John, the troop was equipped with 4.2 in. Mortars and also searchlights! Strangely, not much information is available on the exploits of this organisation, but with fond memories, John filled in the blanks over many casual conversations over the period of his visit. John was born in Penang and his father was born in Malaya too. A Cambridge science graduate, who ventured into business, related to the agricultural field later, he always had a sentimental wish to walk memory lane. It is no wonder that Ann, taking this cue, put it all together.
Ganeson and I met this lovely couple at their hotel on Saturday February 12th, and over breakfast became quick friends. And, why not? with such great demeanour and sense of humour, they seemed such nice visitors.


As the Secretary of the Gunners Club, Ganeson took it upon himself to play the perfect host. A quick ad hoc plan was put together, but little did John and Ann know that being a Gunner means membership has its privileges.
The first stop without question was of course Batu Cantonment. An overview was done from the newly built commuter station, before a drive around. John could recall some features of his old "home" for a little over a year, but time and extensive development had changed many aspects of the camp he once knew. The dead giveaway, however, was the chimneys at the MQs and the Officers Mess. They were the standard features of most buildings of those days. A staff officer from the Artillery Directorate accompanied us during this short tour. It was nostalgic for John but it was near to impossible to locate specific features due to the many changes over the years. Since Batu Caves was nearby, a quick trip was done there too.
Next on the plan was a slow drive to Bentong.This was an attempt to trace the old operational areas of Triang that John was familiar with whilst with the RA. A short stop revealed a spanking new camp at Bentong in place of the old one near the golf course, that we used as an LP.Throughout the journey, conversation floated along about the life of the kampung people in the old days, the development now, and how close the CTs operated to Bentong town then. One funny thing though was how John felt that the signages were wrongly spelt in Malay today. We had to enlighten him of the revised spelling system. John also did a short exercise of remembering Malay words and phrases, and I think he did rather well, given the long absence. We decided to have a spot of lunch at a decent halfway point on our return journey which lasted till late afternoon. After the Chinese fried rice meal it was back to the hotel for a rest. There a tea time discussion took place and John's treasured collection of memorabilia was revealed with much enthusiasm. Ann, meanwhile was watching all this with amusement. It was an eventful day, but only the beginning of more things to come. The evening came to a close with a defined plan for the next day. It was lunch with Gen Tan Sri 'Jack' Yaacob (our former Chief of Defence Force) at the Selangor Golf Club, and fate had its way as we shall see.
Ganeson, the very next morning planned to pick up Ann and John and proceed to the Selangor Club (not the golf club you see). He thought that before lunch he could take them to the St. Mary's Church nearby for a look see, and then go across the road to the Selangor Club where the lunch host was expected to be. At the church there was a very unbelievable incident, where by sheer coincidence it was discovered that John's grandfather was the first Chaplain there - FRANCIS WILLIAM HAINES from 1890 to 1899. Now, was that a coincidence, or simply a calling?  Deja Vu, you might say, but I say that it was an act of providence.Then on realising the error of the lunch location, they proceeded on to the golf club, where Gen Yacob and another gunner general as in Brig Gen Dato' Hadi were there. Gen Yaacob was instrumental in passing the message for John's visit (which he received through his friends in the UK) to the Gunners Club. Lunch was a casual affair with much discussion of nostalgia. As it was a Sunday and some rest was in order, John and Ann decided to abort the visit to the parks in KL and retire for the day.

My Grandad's legacy at St.Mary's KL

Monday the 14th of February was Valentine's Day, but the Gunners Club had a plan for John and Ann. The Director of Artillery invited the couple to drop by Mindef in the morning, and later they would be entertained to lunch at the KL Tower by Members of the Gunners Club Committee and some invited "Old Timers" as in QM Zahir and Capt (R) Ahmad Gedang. It was a meaningful lunch gathering which most of us will not forget for a while, at least.Then as all things must come to an end, we said our farewells to the Haines's as they continued their journey to other parts of Malaysia and as well as Singapore, before returning home to Devon on 27th February 2011.