Reflections of an Army Brat

Attending the annual Families in Global Transition jamboree in Amsterdam last month (#FIGT16NL) got me thinking about my own minor experience as a ‘third culture kid’ (TCK for short) – children and young people who are raised in a culture different from that of their parents for a significant part of their developmental years. For good or ill, we live in a world of mass migration and the term can apply to anyone along the #TCK continuum – a child desperately fleeing a war zone clinging to a hopelessly overcrowded dinghy or children flying business class riding the coattails of an executive parent. Such things present their own emotional challenges, though I’m sure we all agree the plight of a refugee child is way off the scale.

I was born in married quarters and was an army brat for the first ten years of my life. My Dad was posted here and there and I attended four different primary schools, three of which are still molding young minds to this day. The fourth, Mountbatten Primary School, Terendak Camp, Malaysia, is long gone. Malaysia was my one and only experience of living abroad as a child. I have no deep or wise words about our semi-colonial tropical idyll except to say I had a ball. I ran around Mowgli-style half naked and shoeless, climbed exotic trees (and fell out of a few), got stung by nasty red ants, crashed a homemade go-cart into a concrete monsoon drain (I still have the scar to prove it), played Chinese hopscotch with our maid, built a den out of army-issue packing crates under lofty coconut trees, learned to swim and got all my badges, tasted my first vanilla milkshake and played I’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours with the girl next door. The only cultural dislocation I remember feeling was when we arrived back at RAF Northolt in West London. It was a cold and wet November day and I didn’t like it one little bit. And I never got to play Chinese hopscotch ever again.

Here are some old, well-worn and torn snaps – Mum in her best sequined frock and Dad looking dapper in his dress uniform, me with my little sister just after she was born, an undersized me posing with my oversized scooter, me with my best friend and a strapping Aussie lad (right) who tried to mug me out of my pocket money and made me cry (but relented when he saw my tears and befriended me), and a really hazy image of Mountbatten School I found on Digger History.

All in all, not a bad gig.

17 thoughts on “Reflections of an Army Brat

  1. I travel south of the (US) border quite a bit, and the only time I have had culture shock is when I return home. My time in Mexico and my past times in Guatemala are so more real, intimate, beautiful.


  2. Came across this through google search for Terendak. I was there (lived in Tanjong Kling) for about 5 years in the 1960s as a teenager. Great memories. I have been back a couple of times and visited Mountbatten in 2011 – well it is not Mountbatten anymore as the camp is a Malaysian camp now but the layout was recognisable. I have hundreds of photos of those years.


      1. Might have known them! My father was head of Mountbatten school and we were there for 5 years. I have loads of photos of Mountbatten. Who knows, you might be in one. There is a Terendak Facebook group and there have been several reunions in Malacca and another one planned for next year. How lucky we were to see that part of the world at that time.


      2. We were so very lucky. It was a magical time. My eldest brother, John, visited a few years back as part of a group – maybe the same group! I’ll have to ask him.


  3. Hi Jack When did your brother visit Terendak – I went to the 2011 reunion. My sister has been to several. There is another next year in April.
    have to read about your experiences in Turkey – I lived in Greece for most of the 1980s and went over to Turkey quite a few times. Loved Turkey then but I will never forget the heat in Diyarbakir in August! The good old days when we were all a lot younger.


    1. Hi, I don’t know exactly but it could well have been 2011. I’ll have to ask him. His name is John Fenwick (Jack Scott is my pen name). Diyarbakir is an interesting choice for a visit. Why there? And, yes the hairdryer August heat – a nightmare! 😀


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