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.