Unit History: RAF Butterworth

RAF Butterworth
RAAF Base Butterworth was a Royal Australian Air Force base located near the town of Butterworth in modern Malaysia. RAAF Butterworth was transferred from the British Royal Air Force to the RAAF in 1957 and was home to numerous Australian fighter and bomber squadrons during the Cold War. While RAAF Base Butterworth was closed on 30 June 1988 the base remains active under the control of the RMAF.
Still an active military airfield, now operated by the Royal Malayan Air Force.

Memories of RAF Butterworth

(Memories written by members of Forces Reunited)

Malaya. RAF Butterworth in 1955

Written by Ken Garner

We were very busy at RAF Binbrook, we were getting prepared to go RAF Butterworth in Malaya to relieve 101 Squadron with our Canberra's. Our stint was to be six months. This was in May 1955 and we were due back in November.
The route was, Idris in N Africa. It used to be called Castel Benito (Mussolini's christian name. It was renamed Idris ,after King Idris. Then came the fun. The route was to be, Idris, Habbanya in Iraq, Karachi in Pakistan (It was still part of India then I think.) Negombo in Ceylon (Now Sri Lanka. After the first stop, were starting to take bets on how many bounces on touch down! We bottonholed one of the crew at Habbanyanabout the bumpy landings and he said."He's a great pilot, we'd go anywhere with him, but the b----r can't land a Hastings
The stop over in Sri Lanka was interesting. One of the Canberra's developed a faulty radio compass and RAF aircraft were'nt allowed to over fly the Indian Ocean without full nav gear. It was the one spare that had'nt been thought of. We had a lovely holiday, a week on a tropical isle, no duties, just daily servicing, we all felt sick when the spare finally arrived. There were a few choice remarks from 101 Sqadron when we arrived a week late!!
On with 617 Squadron's private war against the C.Ts (There were a few others fighting them!) We were all told that we were in a "White Area" and was clear of terr's for twenty miles inland and thirty miles north and south. Now, get this, on the second mission a couple of days later, nine Canberra's were loaded up with 1'000 pounders and they took off, flew out to sea, formated, flew over our heads and dropped their bombs half a mile past a red flare which mysteriously appeared in the roof of ther jungle. White area be B------d.
The Canberra's used what was called datum bombing. The Army AOP Austers used to find a cultivated patch in the jungle, a CT camp would be close by. The Squadron was given an approximate course to the camp and radioing to the Army as they neared the dropping zone and were given the correct compass nearing to turn on to as the flare was ignited in the jungle roof. On passing over the flare a timed drop was started and at correct point 81x1000pounders dropped in approx. a half mile square.
It was'nt all work and no play, we did get time off and there was an excellent NAAFI at Butterworth. The manageress used to organise launch trips to Paula Rimmau (Tiger Island) no tigers though. A typical tropical ideal, a beautiful lagoon, we would tip two of the locals to do shark watch on the two arms of the lagoon, A barbeque was organised, two locals were tipped a few dollars to shark watch on the arms of the lagoon. It was beautiful and some Sundays, the NAAFI manageress would come with us, she was a cracker and it added to the local beauty!
November arrived and we started looking forward to going home. It would have been a straight forward run home but by the time we got to Karachi the Canberra's were having flame out in flight but they were having no trouble relighting in flight. On take off, the Canberras went first and we took off slightly later. We were about half an hour into the journey when someone shouted, one of our planes has juso passed us, going the other way. We knew something was wrong when one of the aicrew came to the rear with radio gear on and started to watch us dump fuel for a landing back at Karachi. When we got back to Karachi, the Canberra was still circling using fuel, they had no dumping system. There was a very gusty wind blowing and the pilot bent the u/c when he landed. It was given over to the local RAF lads to look after and we were on out way again.
When we got back to Habbanya in Iraq we were told all the Canberra's were grounded for engine changes. The Hastings could'nt wait, he was needed in Cyprus, trouble was brewing up there. Incidentally, we did'nt have bouncing billy the bumpy pilot. This chaps landings were smoothies. We went home via Malta, had a look round Valetta and went back to Binbrook the next day, Sunday. The whole thing was something to look back on. I often stir up my memories. This little story has revived them. Ken

RAF Butterworth, in 1954

Written by john james lowe

I remember Ava Gardiner visiting Butterworth.
I went to Frazers Hill in Malaya for Jungle orientation training which led on to Jungle patrols in pursuit of the Commies in the Red Zones in Penang
Tanjong Bunga Leave Centre in Penang was a great place to spend leave at. I learnt to swim in the Sea there. I have been back several times and its not there any more.

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