ROYAL AIR FORCE CHIA KENG SINGAPORE

ROYAL AIR FORCE CHIA KENG SINGAPORE
 
RADIO RECEIVING STATION
   
Recreation
 
Organised trips
Many organised trips off camp took place and were arranged by a dedicated few. The means of transport was the faithful RAF Bedford truck which was on the camp registry. Visiting places of interest in Singapore itself was the aim. One trip enjoyed very much was to the Tiger Beer brewery. Free booze after the tour resulted in a merry RAF wagon heading back to camp full of well lubricated airmen singing their heads off. Other visits were to the Union Jack club, Lord Nuffield Centre, Raffles Hotel, shops in Singapore and many other places. Another interesting tour round a factory was to Fraser & Neaves who produced cordial drinks. Samples after the tour resulted in sober chaps this time heading back to camp. There were many other trips during the time I was there and too numerous to mention here.

Sports
The only outdoor sporting facility on camp in 1958 was the badmington court. By 1962 a tennis court and football pitch had been added. Sport was arranged with camp personnel taking part against many teams, local as well as other forces camps around Singapore. Soccer was the favourite and there were just enough personel on camp to make up a team. The camp teams played all over the island with varying results. We were all budding Manchester or Liverpool stars in the mind. We played many games against Changi teams and I enjoyed these as much as any. This was due to the fact that the sports field was close to the outdoor swimming pool. It was so refreshing to plunge into the water after the game had finished. Cricket and badmington were two other sports well practised. Many cricket matches were against personnel at Woodbridge Hospital just down the road from the camp. If darts can be classed as a sport it had a large following both on and off camp. Many times Burt and myself played for pints and we were good at the game as well. I sometimes wonder how we managed to stagger back to camp and bed when we had a good night. Badmington was played on the camp as we had an outside court. We played each other mainly with the best few dominating. These sporting activities helped to occupy off duty hours and help to keep us fit.

Christmas Parties
There were many parties organised at Christmas, Easter and other times. The first one for me was in 1957. As was the excepted norm in the RAF the officers served the mid-day dinner. Officers from Changi came down to do the honours for Chia Keng. Beer was laid on for all and the meal duly served. As I have already mentioned our cooks served us proud. I can safely say that after an hour most chaps were pretty tispsy and others more so. After the officers had left a water fight developed with hoses and all sorts of water propellent coming into action. Soon tiring of that it was back to the pit for a recovery period. That evening most of us and sobered up so it was off to the city to do it all over again. That is the only time in my life that I have been mildly drunk twice in one day. There were plenty of sore heads the following day.

Christmas Parties On Camp
That same Christmas a big party was organised with invites going out to friends on other camps. Invitations to the WAAF's and other ladies organisations were most important. The presence of the opposite sex was most important for the success of a party. I remember the lovely Singapore telephone exchange ladies putting in an appearance on this occasion. The badminton court became a dance floor and the number 2 billet became a bar and dining lounge. Coloured parachutes were obtained from either RAF Changi or RAF Seletar. These were used to decorate the billet and badminton court making them very different to their everyday use. The whole camp would be galvanised into action days before these events with groups going about their delegated tasks. Palm tree leaves were collected from the surrounding area to be used as decoration. Food was organised by the cooks. Alcohol was organised with tables and chairs appearing as if by magic. I can safely say that this party complimented the Christmas dinner and were both enjoyed by all.

Off Duty To Seletar
Many camp personnel spent time at RAF Seletar for their leisure where there was a splendid swimming pool. We would often meet up with Johnny Egden and spend the day there. Later, a meal and maybe watch a camp show to finish the evening nicely. The camp cinema was another attraction. Personally I often used to wander to where the Sunderland Flying Boats were and chat to personel servicing them. It was quite a thrill to see them taking off through the spray they created. The village outside the camp was where many Indian shopkeepers sold their wares. Jalan Kayu was a village with many shops. These were mainly owned by Indians. It is said that wherever the British forces set up camp in the world they would be closely followed by Indian shop keepers. The Seletar Photo Store was a favourite where many chaps equipped themselves with camera gear. Another favourite was the eating places where one could enjoy good food. Two spring to mind. The Seletar Bar & Restaurant and the High-way Bar & Restraurant. Both served excellent meals with cold beer. Watches could be bought from Enfiled Watch Store. Seletar was indeed a regular place to visit from Chia Keng.

Off Duty To Changi
Changi was another favourite destination when off duty. The camp there had an excellent swimming pool as well as the village being equipped with many shops like Seletar. I used to buy all my clothes from an Indian tailor at Changi village. He used to make shark-skin shirts made to measure. When we emigrated in 1977 we stopped off in Singapore. Shopping in the new Change Alley I went into a tailors there. Imagin by suprise when the tailor turned out to be my old Changi taylor. Small world and he was still there in 2000 when we called again. Many spent long hours on Changi beach swimming and sun bathing as well as seeing shows and all that. I do remember a Christmas do in the NAFFI there and remember a chap on a banjo singing. He was just like George Formby and I have often wondered who he was.

Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty
My eighteen months there flew by and I was soon to be leaving that small camp in the middle of the Island. It was with sadness that I took my leave of everyone and found myself once again at Changi RAF camp doing the rounds signing off. I did some last minute shopping buying presents for family in the UK. Said goodbye to the the many shop owners I had made friends with. I was due at the airport the following day. I finished that last day sitting on some rocks at Changi beach and watching small yachts sailing in a race. Many of them had red sails and a song on my small portable radio was playing “Red Sails In The Sunset” by Tab Hunter. If I hear that song today it transports me back to that spot at Changi all those years ago. I think the second Changi airport runway would now go over that very spot. Soon I was in another Hermes aircraft lifting off the runway at Paya Leba leaving behind a very pleasant posting. Two weeks later I was a civilian again trying to adjust to technical college life and a drawing office routine in a factory. My thoughts have often drifted back to that small camp in the far east and the chaps I knew there. The comradeship we all enjoyed was special and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. We emigrated to New Zealand in 1977 and stayed over in Singapore for three days. We took time out to have a look at the old camp. It was still there and guarded by the usual local guards. However. It was all deserted and dusty. The once small palms were now four times the height I had known. The buildings were all empty. Just dust everywhere. My wife, son and I explored all the buildings and I explained what it had been like. I would like to say that the voices of past occupants came drifting back at that moment but it would have all been in the imagination. A nice thought but in reality it was all in the past. The days of empire had vanished into history. The RAF and British forces had all left leaving Singaporeans with the remnants. I enjoyed that visit but never bothered to have another look in 2000 when we passed through again. It would all be under new buildings now and I just want to remember the place as I knew it. That then is the story of RAF Chia Keng as I remember it. Information I have received says it was built in 1951 but I have no idea when it closed. Its final days must have been in the sixties when the UK withdrew from the far east. Chia Keng was a good posting for me and one I look back on with fond memories. Derek Lehrle. SAC 5041216. SIR

Serangoon & RAF Chia Keng Area. 1960





In Memoriam

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Singapore. 1958

Later Camp Use. 1979

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