RAF Seletar 1970-1971 by Brian Williams
In Summer 1970 I was stationed at RAF Chivenor, Devon with my family. We used to enjoy the seaside sessions at nearby Saunton Sands and this obviously acclimatised us a little for the intended posting to Singapore.
We departed to RAF Seletar from Brize Norton in August 1970 – the journey initially delayed: we took off and then circled over Bristol for a considerable period before returning to Brize where we discovered that the aircraft had a minor problem. Eventually, we headed for the Far East.
The flight on the Britannia took 22 hours including stops in Bahrain (smelled of camels) and Gan (120 degrees – oh how hot!). We arrived at RAF Changi and were conveyed on the RAF coach to our transit hotel (not quite as luxurious as the standards today) somewhere between Singapore City and RAF Seletar – not too far from MacRitchie Reservoir.
Our first weekend we had a trip to the reservoir but got caught in a tropical downpour – without umbrellas. Yes you guessed it: the whole family returned to the hotel in a taxi wet through – everyone thought it a big laugh. From that moment, everywhere we went the umbrella accompanied us.
After a few weeks in the hotel we moved to a hiring in Jalan Kayu before later settling in 13 Oxford Street married quarters within the camp area.
I was a corporal at the Station Sick Quarters employed on administrative duties, but on occasions being on duty to cover services to RAF personnel and their families. Several times being called out to emergencies in the various married quarter locations and the inevitable fast trips to RAF Hospital Changi. Although we covered quite a few duties we did have recreational time, most of it spent at the fabulous swimming pool just past the old yacht club and a bicycle ride past the wild monkeys!
We were short toured because of the political decisions taken at the time but still found time to visit the usual locations within Singapore. These included: Tiger Balm Gardens; MacRitchie Reservoir; Botanical Gardens, Serangoon Markets, Mount Faber and of course the seafront in Singapore City and China Town. All this in temperatures of 100 degrees. We travelled by black cabs or the local bus services – remember them, crowded like sardines in a tin! We also found time to buy the usual carved lamp standards and a camphor wood chest – which we still have.
One of our highlights of our tour at Seletar was being guests of Group Captain Maisner at the Fairwell Ceremony in March 1971. I think about thirty members of RAF Personnel and their families remained until October 1971.
Prior to departure, we formed the last RAF Seletar football team which if I recall correctly never lost a game against opposition which included civilian teams as well as the occasional match against an Army Unit. (40 and 42 Commando were in Singapore at the time) based at Sembawang.
Near the end, the swimming pool and the sports field was handed over to the Singapore Army. Australian and New Zealand staff took over the Sick Quarters.
In March 2004 our daughter and son-in-law took us to Singapore for our 40th wedding anniversary. What a difference we saw. We had the opportunity to go round to our old married quarters which now has air conditioning and glass windows. It is now part of an estate where properties are being leased out. We walked around Jalan Kayu – no wood carving or linen shops now, but one or two cafes.
We were amazed how the waterfront has changed. Gone is the large harbour, replaced by reclaimed land and a new road, modern hotels and shopping malls. How clean everywhere is.
Boat Quay: how dirty and crowded with junks in 1970, now a venue for eating out and sampling all the wonderful foods of the East. We obviously recognised several venues that we visited. It was quite an emotional visit especially that our daughter who was three years old when stationed there now had the joy of filling a part of her life she could not remember. In fact a picture taken of her on the stairs in the married quarters (1971) was duplicated by us this time with her and our grandson sitting in the same position.
Very happy memories!