When the jungle was cleared, it had to be burned. On one occasion, after it was fired a breeze sprung up, and drove the flames down towards a little thatched building near the canteen. I saw the flames almost touching it, and high over it. If that building caught, the canteen would go too, and then, if the wind increased, the whole barracks!
I had ordered the bugler to sound the assembly, and then I prayed, ‘Lord, change the wind.’ Instantly – it was a marvellous sight! – the wind changed and turned the flame right round.
After the ground had been levelled, the re was one thing more wanted for a good cricket-ground –good turf. This I had discovered about half a mile from the barracks, when carrying out my routine inspections – the only real turf I saw in Singapore. It belonged to an elderly Chinese gentleman, who very kindly gave it to me for the cricket-ground. This turf was cut and brought to barracks, the men using ammunition carts.
Last of all there was the rolling of the ground. This was done by means of a large Government roller, which had been used with bullocks for the parade ground. My men soon got it on the cricket-ground, and a company at a time rolled it along to the accompaniment of fife and drum. Thus this work was complete. ‘No-one but you ever thought it would be finished,’ was the remark one of my brother officers made to me! Except the Lord had put it into my heart, and given me the wisdom, I should never have done it. It had been a great pleasure to me, working with the men, especially as the occupation of their minds and bodies had done their whole morale a great deal of good. They all looked much healthier and brighter. The number of cases of drunkenness fell dramatically.
The cricket-ground was only a part of the work. We after wards cleared a space twice as large, and made three more practice-grounds. The whole barracks were surrounded with flower-gardens. The laying out and arranging of these was a delightful relaxation for me and the men. Then, on the other side of the barracks, we built a gymnasium. It certainly made a very great change; and when it was all finished, I felt that the Lord had given me the desire of my heart in that particular. He had given me command of a body of British soldiers, and by His blessing and guidance, He had enabled me to do as much as any man could for their comfort.
The men themselves took very great interest in their gardens. The once gloomy barracks were now brilliant with color.