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-   -   RAF Seletar - 1950s (https://www.pprune.org/military-aviation/540888-raf-seletar-1950s.html)

ScrewballScramble 1st Jun 2014 12:46

RAF Seletar - 1950s
I'm trying to put some meat on the bones of my grandfather's history, and wondered if anyone can add clarity to the history Wikipedia gives?

My grandfather was born in 1931, and joined the RAF in 1945 through national service. He stayed in the RAF until he retired as a Warrant Officer in 1971 after 26 years service. When he retired, he was a SWO and Chief Clerk, and I know he was always dealing with pay and expenses.

However, he tells us tales of flying in Sunderland flying boats from RAF Seletar and dropping bombs by hand on the rebels in the jungle!

Is this feasible? Did such things happen? Did Chief Clerks in their younger years even fly?

All help appreciated.

Davita 1st Jun 2014 13:48

I was at RAF Seletar when they had Sunderlands but I was on the other side where we flew Chipmunks from the runway. I was seconded to the MAAF (Singapore Wing) as a ground engineer instructor.

It is entirely possible the Sunderland would have RAF Admin members fly with them and probably drop bombs in the jungle against the communist guerillas, but I think it would be an ad-hoc basis and well before my time there.

The Sunderland took off and landed on the patch of water between Singapore and Johor Baru, but were usually towed up a ramp for parking on land. There was also a float-station off Penang which used an army base as HQ.
Any engineer who worked on Sunderlands used to have his tools on a long string!!!

btw I doubt if your gramp started National Service when he was only 14...most that age, like myself joining RAF Halton at age 15, had to be a Boy Entrant or Apprentice.

NutLoose 1st Jun 2014 14:28

Yes I knew someone that was at Seletar, sadly no longer with us, google RAF Seletar and select images, you will find lots on the Sunderlands there.

Wwyvern 1st Jun 2014 15:29


Check PMs.

Lordflasheart 1st Jun 2014 15:41

Also until 1960 or thereabouts, lots of PSP and a couple of Beaufighters (for target towing) LFH

Whenurhappy 1st Jun 2014 17:58

For details of Sunderland operations during the Malaya Emergency, see Malcolm Postgates 'Operation Firedog' - the official history of the air campaign. I don't have my copy to hand, but I don't recall reading of the Sunderlands being used offensively, but as ever, stand by to be corrected.

Saint Jack 2nd Jun 2014 03:20

RAF Seletar
RAF Seletar, as many remember it, is long gone and is now known as Seletar Aerospace Park. Only two of the old hangars remain, the 'Beverly Hangar' and the 'Andover Hangar'. I understand that the original Station HQ is being kept as a historical building while the fate of the still-existing Main Gate is in doubt as a new dual-carriageway access is almost ready. Perhaps more relevant to this thread is the fact that the seaplane ramp is still there.

Tankertrashnav 2nd Jun 2014 08:37

One man who would have been at Seletar when the OP's father was there was Mr Wee (and he was a small chap) one of the Officers' Mess stewards. Apparently when the mess was reopened after WW2, during which it had been commandeered by the Japanese, they assumed that all of the mess silver had been stolen and would have to be replaced from scratch.

Along comes Mr Wee with a couple of sacks - he had taken the silver away before the Japanese arrived and buried it! I think that guaranteed him a job for life, as he was still there in 1967, dispensing the gin and tonics with a perpetual smile!

Brian 48nav 2nd Jun 2014 09:53

Lion in the Sky
The above is a history of RAF Seletar published in 1968.

On Pg 139 the then CO of 209 Sqn in 1949, Peter de Le Cheminant refers to 20 pounders being dropped by hand. He also mentions this 'technique' in his autobiography. 'The Royal Air Force - a personal experience' - ACM Sir Peter Le Cheminant, Ian Allan 2001.

Krakatoa 2nd Jun 2014 12:27

I was a Flight Engineer on one of the Sunderland squadrons until tour ex. in 1953.
Without going into details of the bombing tactics the basic idea was to bomb the selected area and drive the terrorists to the waiting troops.
The Light Series Carriers could only take a small number of bombs at any one drop. After the drop the carriers were brought inboard (electric motors) to be loaded again. To keep up the momentum while the carriers were reloaded other crew members would unpack more bombs, pull the pin and throw out the open bomb doors. On one sortie we had a cook from the Sergeants Mess throwing bombs out !

Aircraft were normally moored and only came out of the water for maintenance.

Topcliffe Kid 2nd Jun 2014 22:45

Indeed, my father on 209 squadron at that time tells of bombs bouncing back inside the aircraft during the rush to get them out of the hatch!

Warmtoast 2nd Jun 2014 22:52

I was at Seletar in 1957 and had a trip in a 205/209 Sqn Sunderland on a "Firedog" bombing raid over the Malayan jungle. It was at night and I don't remember much about it apart from the bombs being loaded on moveable bomb rack rails with the bombs being "railed" out from the fuselage to underneath the wing and then released.

Sadly at that time Sunderlands were on their last legs and being broken up for scrap as seen below. The fuselage hatch though which the bombs were moved on to the wing is clearly visible under the wing.


Christmas 1957 and some men got a bit "bolshie" and overturned this instructional airframe of a Harvard on the Seletar parade ground:


On a trip from Seletar to China Bay we overnighted at RAF Glugor (Penang) and this photo shows the aircraft being refuelled there:


Lovely panoramic windows:


The only photo of a Sunderland that I took in colour was this one that I took at Gan in 1958 as it was moored in the lagoon.


lauriebe 4th Jun 2014 07:01

"There was also a float-station off Penang which used an army base as HQ."

, the Sunderbusses used the old Imperial Airways refuelling stop at Glugor, on the east coast of Penang Island. AFAIK, at the time, it was always a small, self-contained RAF unit. Not aware of any Army involvement there. The Pongoes used Minden Barracks, just down the road. Glugor later became a marine craft unit until handover to the Marine branch of the Royal Malaysian Police in 1970.

Sadly, the only thing that remains on that site now is the old watch office/control tower. Everything else was recently demolished to make way for "re-development"!

As mentioned by others, bombs were indeed hand thrown from the aircraft during Firedog ops. The .50 cal machine guns were also used to "stir up" the bandits in the jungle.

Davita 4th Jun 2014 08:11

Thanks lauriebe for the info...I'd forgotten what the names were but your post has recalled.
I had to stay at Minden once to help out at that RAF Unit. I was sent over from RAF Butterworth where I worked on transiting A/C (TASS).
I think we used the army barracks for accommodation but my memory is faded...I do remember a feature where we had Indian curries sent to the club by taxis...my first but not last intro to hot spicy food.

Krakatoa 4th Jun 2014 10:56

Lauriebe re. Glugor
Last March I was on a cruise ship that called in at Penang. I was determined to visit the jetty at Glugor that we used on our detachment to the armament practice range north of Penang. The last time I visited Penang was 1985 which made it difficult to give directions to the taxi driver. We found where the jetty used to be, now about half a mile inland ! It is called reclamation.

For a brief time in 1952 Aquila Airways flew some trooping/families charters through Penang between the UK and Singapore. One Solent on a tech stop from Seletar to China Bay was holed by the refuelling barge. Fortunately a patch held and it returned to Seletar where it went into the hangar for repairs. Years later the Captain of that Solent became the Operations Director of a major UK airline.

lauriebe 5th Jun 2014 02:26

Krakatoa, The first part of that jetty disappeared under a six-lane highway that feeds traffic to/from the original Penang Bridge. BTW, there are now two bridges onto the island. The second, which was opened a couple of months ago, comes onto the island east of the airport at Batu Muang.

The outer portion of the jetty survived until around late-2006/early-2007 and was still in use albeit in a very dilapidated state. The historical images on Google Earth (GE) show that.

The beaching ramp survived until around 2010 but was then swallowed up by the reclamation work which is still ongoing. The latest GE photo of the area is only a few months old and shows the extent of that work so far.

Apologies to the OP for the thread creep.

Krakatoa 5th Jun 2014 10:29

Many thanks

ScrewballScramble 6th Jun 2014 22:13

No need to apologies for the thread creep, it's all very interesting for me, thank you everyone who's contributed.

It sounds as though his tales of dropping bombs as a pay clerk were true, but perhaps more interesting are the photos people have posted and the name of the history book mentioned as well.

Thank you everyone, and please keep contributing your tales of Seletar.

ScrewballScramble 7th Jun 2014 16:02

My last reply didn't seem to make it, so apologies for the delay.

The information you've all shared on this thread has been priceless for not just my own family history, but for completing some of your memories as well by the sound of it.

Please keep posting and don't worry about thread creep on my behalf.

Allan Sidney 9th Aug 2016 12:48

lobbing bombs out of Sunderlands at v low level
Afternoon all,
What an interesting thread!
My dad used to tell me the story of lobbing bombs at anything that moved as they overflew the jungle at low level in a Sunderland!!! He said he has no idea of how many monkeys/deer/ other wildlife he musy have wrought havoc on! :)

Dad was Ossie Sidney and was eng fitter with FEFBW at Seletar 53-56, and was scrounge rides as often as possible but said this was one of the few times he saw 'action' !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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