Stephen Goodall, of East Charleton, writes:

On Christmas Eve, 1954, I was the duty officer at the headquarters of 18 Brigade, stationed in Kuala Lipis in the state of Pahang, Malaya.

At about nine o'clock in the evening the telephone rang and a very cheery voice said: 'Sergeants' mess here, sir, we have an elephant in our compound.'

Now as it was Christmas Eve and the sergeants' mess was celebrating, I was a bit suspicious of such a message, so I told him to calm down and have a good evening and put the telephone down.

Three minutes later the phone rang again.

This time the voice was somewhat startled and said: 'It really is an elephant, sir, and he is waving his trunk around through one of the mess windows.'

I am afraid my patience gave out – we were celebrating in the officers' mess at the time.

I wished them all a merry Christmas with their elephant and put the telephone down again.

A few minutes later the phone rang again and, before I could express my irritation, a very sober voice said: 'Guard commander here, sir.

'I have to report an elephant has just come through the gate and walked past the guardroom, marched through camp and disappeared on the other side.'

An inspection proved this to be the case and no trace of our Christmas visitor could be found.

A week later, on New Year's Eve, I was duty officer again. At about the same time in the evening our phone rang.

This time it was the officer of a battalion station about five miles down the road.

He said: 'The Lincolns here. I have to report that our festivities have been disturbed by an elephant that visited the camp.

'However, no casualties and no damage was done except he did take a mouthful or two out of the attap (thatch) out of the officers' mess roof.'

I wondered what could happen next? Was it the same elephant?

To my surprise, a week later at a new Chinese village 10 miles away the celebrations there had been joined by an elephant.

We then learnt from the district officer that the animal concerned was found to be a retired working elephant from the state of Perak which had recently been released in to the Pahang National Park.

The elephant had obviously missed human company and, on hearing of our celebrations, had hoped to join us.

He was later taken back to Perak to join his friends.

Sadly we did not have another elephant come to visit at Christmas.