The Flora & Fauna edition of Postcards from Seletar is off at the printers, and it is time to start research for the Heritage edition. Browsing through the BBC website, I came across a section packed with personal memories.
Lieutenant General Tomoyuki Yamashita had driven our armies out of Malaya, and on 31st January 1942, all who survived were now on Singapore- well over one million people crammed on an island about the size of the Isle of Wight, separated from the mainland by the waters of the Jahore Strait.
At the moment I was attached to the RAF at Seletar Airfield in Singapore as a Liaison officer, and we were under continuous bombing raids by the Japanese. Our Hurrican Fighters which had recently arrived from the UK and which I had helped to assemble, had flown away to Java, and the RAF were preparing to evacuate the base.
Earlier in the year we had been joined by 10 Wrens who had been diverted from Alexandria and contingent of 20 Royal Air Force personnel. At the end of November all leave for Army and RAF personnel was stopped, and on the 6th December 1941 all leave was stopped for us and we were confined to station and the telephone removed from the mess. On the 7th December Japan declared war. Rich and others were sent to Khota Bahru on the 6th and the Japanese landed there next day. However, Rich and colleagues arrived back at RAF Seletar safe and sound.
So we flew a large number of mercy missions bringing out of Singapore and back to Madras British and Indian Prisoners of War and Internees on the first stage of their journey home. Our first of 21 trips between Madras and Singapore was made on the 19th September 1945 about five weeks after the atom bombs were dropped. The ex-POW’s were very thin and some of them were on stretchers. On the outward trips to Seletar near Singapore we carried mainly RAPWI personnel(Relief of Prisoners of War and Internees) We took off at night on Redhills Lake so as to make our landfalls in Malaya or on the Nicobar or Andaman Islands in the daylight.
letter from ‘Babe’s Uncle Ron to the latter’s parents Arthur & Daisy Collins, written a few days after the RAF entered Singapore in 1945. 110 (Hyderabad) Squadron, Seletar Aerodrome
Well, since I last wrote you, as you can see I have left Burma behind, and am now in a more or less civilised part of the world. We came down here two days before the Japs officially surrendered, and as you can imagine the people were absolutely delighted to see British uniforms again, after three and a half years of occupation…..