Unit History: RAF Seletar

RAF Seletar
RAF Seletar was a Royal Air Force station in Singapore between 1928 and 1971.
Plans for establishing an airfield, flying boat and naval base in Singapore were first agreed by the RAF in 1921. In 1923 two sites in the northern region of the island were approved. The first planes to arrive at the base were four Supermarine Southampton seaplanes on the 28th of February 1928.
RAF Seletar served as a civil airport from 1930 before the opening of Singapore’s first civil airport at Kallang on 12 June 1937 (to the late 1940s).
The air base was briefly host to Amy Johnson during the May of 1930 on her UK - Australia flight in her Gipsy Moth named ’Jason’.
As war clouds gathered over Singapore the RAF started building up their forces in the Far East in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Seletar airfield was the target of Carpet bombing when Japanese navy bombers conducted the First air raid on Singapore, sometime after their ground forces invaded Kota Bahru. It was abandoned when the Japanese took Johore Bahru, which brought their artillery in range of the airfield.
When the Japanese launched their invasion of Malaya and Singapore, Seletar housed the RAF’s 205 Sqn with PBY Catalina Flying boats and 36 and 100 Sqns with obsolete Vickers Vildebeest torpedo bombers, along with 151 Maintenance Unit. These units stayed until Jan-Feb 1942, soon before the surrender to the invading Japanese.
During the Japanese occupation Seletar was under the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, and a number of IJN squadrons were based or transited through there mainly, for training. Among the units known to be based there during this time were 936 Kokutai (B5N Kate, D3A Val and E13A1 Jake), 381 Kokutai (A6M Zero and J2M Raiden). The 601 Kokutai was also stationed there for training in early before its destruction on board Japanese aircraft carriers during the Battle of Philippine Sea (Marianas Turkey Shoot) in June. Seletar’s present runway was built during the Japanese Occupation
After World War 2 the base went back to the RAF, and in the late 1940s and 1950s the base was heavily involved in the Malayan Emergency, with Beaufighters, Spitfires and Mosquitos based there while operating against Malayan Communist insurgents. Among the many squadrons based there during this time were Nos 60, 81 and 205 Sqns of the RAF.
During the 1960s RAF Seletar was home base to No’s 103 and 110 Squadrons both of which were equipped with Westland Whirlwind Mk 10 helicopters and to 34 Squadron which was equipped with Blackburn Beverleys. All three Squadrons (among several others) were involved with support of operations in North Borneo during the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation. The helicopter squadrons provided a search and rescue service for the Singapore area. The station was also at that time home to 209 Squadron, RAF equipped with Single and Twin Pioneer aircraft. In December 1966 three Andover CC Mk1 arrived to replace the ageing Twin Pioneers. 52 squadron was later reformed in March 1967 after the arrival of a further three aircraft. By now Confrontation had finished and with no purpose the Squadron moved to Changi in 1968 before being disbanded in January 1970.
The RAF station closed at the end of March 1971 and Seletar was handed over to the Singapore Air Defence Command (later the Republic of Singapore Air Force) by 1973, after the British pullout.
Among Seletar’s claim to fame was the fact that several classic aircraft type flew their last RAF Operational sorties from there including the Short Singapore flying boat (Mk.III K6912 of No. 205 Squadron RAF 14 October 1941, aircraft transferred to No. 5 Squadron RNZAF), Supermarine Spitfire (PR.XIX PS888 of 81 Sqn 1954) De Havilland Mosquito (PR.34 RG314 of 81 Sqn 1955), Short Sunderland flying boat (ML797 205 Sqn 1959) and Bristol Beaufighter (TT.X RD761 Station Flight 1960).

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