Seletar Boy

Inset to main story at Straits Times 30 March

RETIRED Major Yeo Kuan Joo, 72, who is coordinator and guide for the RAF Seletar Association members on tour here, has a special relationship with Seletar Airbase.
After losing his father in World War II, the middle child of three children, then aged about 11, met some RAF servicemen who became his unofficial guardians.

One of them is Dr John Bright Willis, now 80 and a retired mathematics lecturer from the University of Southampton. He was then 18 and serving in the RAF at a camp in Paya Lebar.

In a phone interview from the UK, he recalled, ‘Kuan Joo was a small boy wandering around the camp. He looked very intelligent and charming. He used to come and stay there from time to time at the camp cinema.’

The group of four to five servicemen, including Dr Willis, thought it was a pity if the boy did not receive an education and pooled together money to send him to a boarding school here.

When Major (Ret) Yeo was schooling, he would visit his guardians at Seletar Airbase where they were later posted, during his weekends and school holidays.

He became known as the only Chinese boy in Seletar, wandering around the camp and going to the hangar where the radar fitters worked.

‘He made friends very easily,’ added Dr Willis.

After Dr Willis returned to the UK, Major (Ret) Yeo went on to stay with RAF serviceman Mr Stan Peirce and his wife, Molly, now both deceased, on their married quarters in Seletar, during his school holidays.

The servicemen continued to pay for his education after their return to UK.

Major (Ret) Yeo was involved in trade but eventually joined the Singapore Armed Forces in the 1960s, rising through the ranks and was posted to Seletar to be Camp Commandant in the early 1980s.

‘I never asked for my posting but providence put me as camp commandant of Seletar,’ he said, saying that his life has come full circle. He was also president of the RAF Seletar Association from 2001 to 2006.

One of the organisers of the ‘pilgrimages’ back to Seletar, he hopes that the main gate of Seletar will be retained and the guardhouse will be converted to a small museum.

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One thought on “Seletar Boy”

  1. I am David Chua, also 72 this year like Major Yeo, between 1953 and 1960 I too spent many hours at the Seletar airbase, especially on
    saturdays matinee at the camp cinema. I had many friends whose fathers were stationed here, many whom are around my age. I even attended some classes at the School with them. After some years after their return to Britian we lost contact but very often I still think of them and wonder if any of them has returned for a visit/ People like Michael Yates and his sister Ira, Barry Roper and sister Janice whose brother died in Sinigapore and buried in .Kranji. There were Dorothy and Valerie Ford, Dorothy Kelly and many more.

    David Chua : davidchuahp@g.mail

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