Latitude 01°25'31"N Longitude 103°48'46"E

   
ACQUISITION Transferred from Air Ministry 1939.

 

COMMISSIONED October 5th 1945 as 'NABROCK'

December 15th 1945 as 'SIMBANG'

 January 16th 1950 as 'SIMBANG'

April 1957 On books of TERROR

September 4th 1963 as 'SIMBANG'

   
PAID OFF December 15th 1945 as 'NABROCK'

December 31st 1947 as 'SIMBANG' - to C&M as tender to TERROR

April 1st 1957 as 'SIMBANG' - to C&M as tender to TERROR

September 1st 1971 as 'SIMBANG'

   
C.O. and O.I.C. Captain J.S.C. Salter D.S.C., O.B.E Oct 45 - Sep 47

Captain P.W. Burnett, D.S.O., D.S.C. Oct - Dec 47

Commander C.E. Eckersley-Maslin Jan 50 - Oct 53

Commander W.H.N. Martin Oct 53 - Mar 56

Commander S.. Laurie Apr 56 - Apr 57

 

As O.I.C. & Fleet Aviation Officer on the staff of C-in-C Far East Station

Commander S.. Laurie  Apr 57 - Nov 59

Commander (P) S.H. Suthers  DSC, DFC,   Nov 59 - Mar 60

Commander (P) C. V. Howard, DSC,  Mar 60 - Sep 62

 

SIMBANG

Lieutenant Colonel M. A. Wilberforce RM Sep 62 - Sep 71

   
FUNCTION [1945 -47]

Support of 2 disembarked squadrons

791 Fleet Requirements Unit/Communications Flight

Aircraft Holding UNit

 

[1950-62

RN Air Repair Yard and Holding Unit capacity 80 a/c

Support of 1 Disembarked Carrier Air Group

11 Flight, 656 Light Aircraft Squadron AAC

Fleet Photographic Unit

 

[1962-71]

Far East Fleet Amphibious Forces Base

H.Q. No. 3 Commando Brigade RM

No. 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron

847 NAS

Far East Helicopter Holding Unit

Naval Aircraft Support Unit

Support for disembarked squadrons

 

ADDRESS R.N. Air Station,

Sembawang,

Singapore

 

LOCALITY

The airfield is situated in the N. of Singapore Island, in the B. T. Sembawang Estate, 10½ miles NNW. of Singapore railway station, 3 miles S. of the Naval Base and 1½l miles N. of Nee-Soon village.

 

LANDMARKS Causeway across Johore Strait 32' miles NW.
S. Seletar 3 miles E.

 

ROAD AND RAIL ACCESS First class roads N. to Naval Base and S. to Singapore. Railway station at Naval Base, terminus of branch line from main Singapore—Alor Star railway.
   
   
CONTROL Control Building, with ground signals, on S. side of landing area in front of hangars.

 

ELEVATION  90' above M.S.L.

 

RUNWAYS One, pierced steel planking.


14/32 QDM. 140° 320° .... 1,400 x 50 yds. 

 

A second runway

04/22 QDM. 044° 222° .... 2.000 x 50 yds. (Later realigned 340°/160°) was approved but not constructed.

 

TRACKS 50' perimeter track with cut back from runway to apron- close to Control Building

 

OBSTRUCTIONS Navigation None.
Circuit None.

[1955] SSW. block of flats 150' distant 3 miles

Approach None.

 

APPROACH Recommended sector, mean QDM.:

 

WIND INDICATOR Two: One on the NW. of boundary and a smaller one 100 yards N. of  control.
   
   
HOMING - VISUAL By day None.
By night None.
HOMING--RADIO D/F  
Beacons  
APPROACH - VISUAL By day None.
By night  
APPROACH - RADIO  
COMMUNICATION EQUIPMENT M/F & H/F  transmitters,  receivers.
VH/F   transmitters,   receivers.
CALL SIGNS R/T  
W/T  
Identity letters  
   
GROUND RADAR

None.

   
   
ACCOMMODATION

Living accommodation in buildings to S. of landing area.

 

Capacity:

  1948 1955 1962
Officers: 96 70 ?
Chiefs, P.O.s and ratings: 1,362 498 ?
W.R.N.S. Officers: None. None. ?
W.R.N.S.  Chiefs, P.O.s and ratings; None. None. ?

 

ARMOURIES To 4-6 Squadron scale.

 

COMPASS BASE Two with rotatable shoes.

 

DISPERSAL One concrete apron 1800' x 1S0' and 6 hardstandings

 

HANGARS To S. of landing area.
Number /Type Size Door Height Door Width
4 Bellman I85' x 105' 25' 105'
1 Type "C" 300' x 150' 35' 150'
 
MEDICAL Not known

 

METEOROLOGICAL Flying conditions in the vicinity of Singapore are generally good. Bad flying weather is mainly associated with heavy showers, thunderstorms and squalls, which, although common, are not usually long lasting. Rain, generally in the form of heavy showers, falls on 10-12 days per month throughout most of the year ; it is most likely between about noon and 1800.
Squalls are common in all months. They do not often reach gale force, which strength V; reached on about 7 days per year. From June to October thundery squalls, known as "Sumatran" occur—most often by night. Tliev approach from some westerly point, their frequency being about 7 per month at the height of the season.
Thunderstorms occur on 4-7 days per month in most months and thunder is audible on nearly 50% of days except in January and February. Cloud amount shows a large diurnal variation with skies often nearly cloudless by night and usually T'10 to 8; to or more covered by day. Visibility during the day is always good except when reduced by heavy rain. Fog occurs during the night and early morning on 2-3 days per month from January to May and occasionally in other months. It almost always clears by 0800 local time.

 

FUEL AND OIL   1948 1955
Aviation - 72,000 gallons. 48,000 gallons.
Kerosine  -  -
M/T - 3,000 gallons. 35,000 gallons.
Oil - Not known.  Not known.
   
TEST BASE Not known.

 

TEST BUTT One suitable, and 25 yd. range.

 

WORKSHOPS To 4-6 Squadron scale.

 

EXPLOSIVES Explosives area on NE side of the runway.

 

BOMBING AND FIRING RANGES

 

 
Air to sea and R. p. Firing  North China Rock
DIve bombing  Range at Seletar
   
 
Information taken from  BR. 1807 Admiralty Handbook of Royal Naval Air Stations Home and Abroad, March 1949 & 1955


 

 

List of first and second line squadrons, station flight and other flying units based at this location

 
791

 

Fleet Requirements Unit

Disembarked from H.M.S. SMITER 27.12.45. Disbanded here 16.06.47

Equipped with: initially 6 Corsair, 6 Vengeance and 1 Harvard, later 2 Seafire XVs, 2 Expeditors and 3 Auster Vs were received in 1946. Several Sea Otters (ex 1700 'C' flight) were absorbed in January 1946.


800 Single seat Fighter squadron

Disembarked from TRIUMPH 03.10.1949. Re-embarked 01-11.1949

Disembarked from TRIUMPH 09.12.1949. Re-embarked 04-02.1950

Equipped with 12 Seafire FR.47


802 Single seat Fighter squadron

Disembarked from GLORY 24.08.1946.

Embarked in VENERABLE 14.11.1946

Equipped with 12 Seafire F.15
804 Single seat Fighter squadron

Disembarked from THESEUS 07 - 21.06.1947.

Equipped with 12 Seafire F.15.

 

Disembarked from GLORY 08 - 11.10.51

Equipped with 21 Sea Fury FB.11
806 Single seat Fighter squadron

Disembarked from GLORY 18.11.1946. Re-embarked 06.12.1946

Disembarked from GLORY 17.05.1947. Re-embarked 19.06.1947

Equipped with 12 Seafire F.15


807 Single seat Fighter squadron

Disembarked from THESEUS 12 - 20.09.1950

Equipped with 12 Sea Fury FB.11
811 Single seat Fighter squadron

Disembarked from WARRIOR  12.05.1954 Re-embarked  02.06.1954

Disembarked from WARRIOR  09.08.1954 Re-embarked  23.09.1954

Equipped with 14 (later increased to 19)  Sea fury FB.11
812 Two seat fighter-reconnaissance  squadron

Disembarked from THESEUS 10 - 21.06.1947.

Equipped with 12 Firefly FR.1


813 Torpedo, Spotter, Reconnaissance Squadron

Arrived on station (ex EAGLE) from RAF Kallang 17.03.19490

Embarked in EAGLE 08.05.1940

Equipped with Swordfish Mk.1


814 Anti-Submarine Squadron

Disembarked from HERMES 31.12.1960. Re-embarked  12.01.1961

Disembarked from HERMES 07 - 18.02.1961.

Disembarked from HERMES 21.12.1962. Re-embarked  05.01.1963

Disembarked from HERMES 25.02.1963. Embarked  HMAS MELBOURNE 20.04.1963

Disembarked from HERMES 13 - 28.06.1963.

 

Disembarked from VICTORIOUS 25.09.1963. Re-embarked 16.10.1963

Disembarked from VICTORIOUS 08.11.1963. Re-embarked 14.01.1964

Disembarked from VICTORIOUS 23.03.1964. Re-embarked 08.04.1964

Disembarked from VICTORIOUS 23.09.1964. Re-embarked 21.11.1964

Disembarked from VICTORIOUS 01 - 14.04.1965

Disembarked from VICTORIOUS 10.08.1966. Re-embarked 05.09.1966.

Disembarked from VICTORIOUS 09.12.1966. Re-embarked 10.01.1967

Disembarked from VICTORIOUS 15.02.1967. Re-embarked 06.03.1967

Disembarked from VICTORIOUS 24.04.1967. Re-embarked 02.05.1967

 

Disembarked from HERMES 30.08.1968. Re-embarked  16.09.1968

Disembarked from HERMES 12.12.1968. Re-embarked  13.01.1969

Equipped with Wessex HAS.1 and HAS.3


815 Anti-Submarine Squadron

Disembarked from ALBION 12.04.1960. Re-embarked 16.05.1960

Disembarked from ALBION 13 - 28.07.1960.

Disembarked from ALBION 17.09.1960. Re-embarked 03.10.1960

 

Disembarked from ARK ROYAL 12 - 23.04.1962.

Disembarked from ARK ROYAL 27.06.1962. Re-embarked 11.07.1962

Disembarked from ARK ROYAL 26.07.1962. Re-embarked 06.08.1962

Disembarked from ARK ROYAL 04.09.1962. Re-embarked 29.09.1962

Disembarked from ARK ROYAL 11 - 24.07.1963.

Disembarked from ARK ROYAL 14 - 26.08.1963.

 

Disembarked from CENTAUR 12.02.1964. Re-embarked 01.03.1964

Disembarked from CENTAUR 30.04.1964. Re-embarked 14.05.1964

Disembarked from CENTAUR 15 - 24.07.1964.

Disembarked from CENTAUR 15 - 31.08.1964.

Disembarked from CENTAUR 16 - 25.11.1964.

 

Disembarked from ARK ROYAL 15.07.1965. Re-embarked 03.08.1965

Disembarked from ARK ROYAL 04 - 17.09.1965.

Disembarked from ARK ROYAL 20.10.1965. Re-embarked 06.12.1965

Disembarked from ARK ROYAL 08 - 27.01.1966.

Disembarked from ARK ROYAL 15 - 24.03.1966.

Disembarked from ARK ROYAL 081 - 13.04.1966.

Equipped with Wessex HAS.1


816 RAN Anti-Submarine Squadron

Disembarked from HMAS SYDNEY 02 - 05.11.1953

Equipped with 12 Firefly Mk.6 - these were exchanged for Mk.5s at Sembawang.


817 RAN Anti-Submarine Squadron

Disembarked from HMAS MELBOURNE ? - ?.03.1965

Disembarked from HMAS MELBOURNE ? - ?.06.1969

Equipped with 8 Wessex HAS.31A
820 Anti-Submarine Squadron

Disembarked from CENTAUR 04 - 20.04.1956.

Equipped with 9 Gannet A.S.1.

 

Detachment (5) from ALBION 01 - 11.12.1958

Disembarked from ALBION 26.03.1959. Disbanded here 08.05.1959

Equipped with 6 Whirlwind HAS.1

 

Disembarked from EAGLE 14 - 26.01.1965

Disembarked from EAGLE 06 - 20.04.1965

Disembarked from EAGLE 12 - 19.10.1965

Disembarked from EAGLE 12 - 28.02.1966

Disembarked from EAGLE 10.05.1966. Re-embarked 02.06.1966.

Disembarked from EAGLE 01 - 11.07.1966

Equipped with 8 Wessex HAS.1

 

Detachment (2) from BLAKE 11-15.05.1970

Disembarked from BLAKE 15.05.1970

Detachment (2) & (2) embarked in RFAs OLMEDA and TIDESPRING 15 - 27.06.1970

Re-embarked BLAKE 16.07.1970

Equipped with 4 Wessex HAS.3


824 Torpedo, Spotter, Reconnaissance Squadron

Arrived on station (ex EAGLE) from RAF Kallang 17.03.1940

Embarked in EAGLE 08.05.1940

Equipped with Swordfish Mk.1


825 Anti-Submarine Squadron

Disembarked from WARRIOR 12.05.1954.

Moved to RAF Tengah 16.08.1954.

Equipped with 8 Firefly A.S.5

 

Detachment (4)  from ALBION 10 - 15.03.1956

Equipped with 8 Gannet A.S.1.

 

Disembarked from VICTORIOUS 29.03.1961. Re-embarked 11.04.1961

Disembarked from VICTORIOUS 09.05.1961. Re-embarked 14.06.1961

Disembarked from VICTORIOUS 15.09.1961. Re-embarked 04.10.1961

Equipped with 9 Gannet A.S.4.


826 Anti-Submarine Squadron

Disembarked from HERMES 07 - 14.07.1967.

Equipped with 8 Wessex HAS.1

 

Disembarked from EAGLE 20.09.1971. Re-embarked 05.10.1971

Equipped with 6 Sea king HAS.1


827 Two seat fighter-reconnaissance  squadron

Disembarked from TRIUMPH 03,10.1949. Re-embarked 01-11.1949

Disembarked from TRIUMPH 09.12.1949. Re-embarked 04-02.1950

Equipped with 12 Firefly FR.1


837 Two seat fighter-reconnaissance  squadron

Disembarked from GLORY 18.11.1946. Re-embarked 09.12.1946

Disembarked from GLORY 17.05.1947. Re-embarked 19.06.1947

Equipped with 12 Firefly FR.1


845 Commando Helicopter Squadron

Detachment (?)  from ALBION 10.01.1963 to  12.02.1963

Disembarked from ALBION 12.02.1963. Re-embarked 17.04.1963

Detachment (4)  from ALBION 07 - 17.03.1965.

Equipped with 12 Wessex HAS.1 and 3 Hiller HT.2.

 

Disembarked from BULWARK16.09.1966. Re-embarked 03.10.1966.

Detachment (4)  from BULWARK 25.11 - 03.12.1966.

Disembarked from BULWARK 13.01.1967. Re-embarked 03.02.1967

Disembarked from BULWARK 04 - 08.03.1967.

Disembarked from BULWARK 17.03.1967. Re-embarked 14.05.1967

Moved here  from RAF Kuantan 27.07.1967.  Moved to RAF Terendak 13.09.1967

 Moved here  from RAF Terendak  20.09.1967.

Embarked in BULWARK 29.09.1967.

Disembarked from BULWARK 23.10.1967. [A, B & C flights re-embarked between 06 and 17. 11.1867] Re-embarked  27.11.1967.

Disembarked from BULWARK  02.02.1968. Moved to RAF Changi 09.02.1968

Equipped with 16 Wessex HU.5


846 Commando Helicopter Squadron
Disembarked from ALBION 10.01.1963. Re-embarked 01.02.1963

Moved here from RAF Kuching 18.05.1963. Returned to RAF Kuching 01.06.1963

Disembarked from BULWARK 19.10.1964 and disbanded here.

Equipped with  6 Whirlwind HAS.1


847 Commando Helicopter Squadron

Disembarked from BULWARK ??.04.1964. Disbanded here 02.12.1964.

Equipped with 12 Whirlwind HAS.1

 

Reformed here 14.03.1969. Embarked in ALBION  16.05.1969

Disembarked from ALBION 28.05.1969.

Detachments (5)  embarked in FEARLESS and & (3) in RFA SIR GALAHAD 14 - 19.07.1968

Detachment (3)  embarked in FEARLESS 13 - 25.08.1969

Detachment (4)  embarked in RFA SIR GALAHAD 15 - 21.10.1969

Detachment (4) embarked in FEARLESS 21.10. – 08.11.1969

Detachment (5) embarked in FEARLESS & (3) in RFA SIR GALAHAD 04 - 10.12.1069

Moved to RAF Gemas 10.12.1969. Returned to Sembawang 15.12.1969

Detachment (3) embarked in FEARLESS 9 - 12. 01.1970

Detachment (1) embarked in FEARLESS 19 .01.  – 05.02.1970

Embarked in FEARLESS 26-02.1970. To BULWARK 01.03.1970

Disembarked from BULWARK 09.03.1970. Re-embarked 04.04.1970

Disembarked from BULWARK 11.04.1970. Re-embarked 11.05.1970

Disembarked from BULWARK 29.06.1970.

Detachment (5) embarked in INTREPID 21.08. - 12.09.1970

Detachment (3) embarked in INTREPID 21.08. - 12.09.1970

Detachment (3) embarked in RFA SIR GALAHAD 04. 09. – 12.09.1970

Detachment (3) embarked in TRIUMPH 23 - 28.09.1970

Squadron moved to RAF Kai Tak 28.09.1970

Disembarked from INTREPID 23.10.1970.

Detachment (3) embarked in TRIUMPH & (5) embarked in INTREPID 20 - 28.11.1970

Disembarked from TRIUMPH & INTREPID 15.12.1970.

Detachment (2) embarked in INTREPID 25.01. - 19.02.1971

Detachment (1) embarked in RFA STROMNESS 17 – 18.02.1971

Detachments (?) embarked in INTREPID & RFA SIR GALAHAD from 10.03. - 12.04.1971

Detachment (4) to Asahan 15- 1805.1971

Squadron disbanded into 848 NAS 22.05.1971

Equipped with a maximum strength of10 Wessex HU.5


848 Transport Support Squadron 

Disembarked from PERSEUS 08.01.1953

Detachment (3) [Tiger Flight] operated at Kuala Lumpur 21.01 – 20.05.1953

Squadron moved to Kuala Lumpur 20.05.1953

Detachment (4) from Kuala Lumpur 26.03.1956

Detachment (3) from Kuala Lumpur 14.05.1956

Detachment (4) from Kuala Lumpur 31.05.1956

Equipped with 10 Whirlwind HAS.21

 

Commando Helicopter Squadron 

Disembarked from BULWARK 07.06.1960. Re-embarked 15.07.1960

Disembarked from BULWARK 16.09.1960. Re-embarked 03.10.1960

Disembarked from BULWARK 22.10.1960. Re-embarked 29.10.1960

Disembarked from BULWARK 02.12.1960. Re-embarked 03.01.1961

Disembarked from BULWARK 22.03.1961. Re-embarked 18.04.1961

Detachment (4) from BULWARK 08.05. – 12.06.1961

Disembarked from BULWARK 12.06.1961.  Re-embarked 20.06.1961

Disembarked from BULWARK 13.07.1961.  Re-embarked 10.11.1961

Disembarked from BULWARK 22.03.1962.  Re-embarked 18.04.1962

Disembarked from BULWARK 19.05.1962.  Re-embarked 10.07.1962

Disembarked from BULWARK 04.09.1962.  Re-embarked 12.09.1962

Equipped with  16 Whirlwind HAS.7

 

H.Q., ‘B’, ‘C’, & ‘D’ flights disembarked from ALBION 28.04.1965.  'A' Flight disembarked from RFA SIR LANCELOT 19.06.1965

H.Q. Flight remained at Sembawang; the 4 sub flights were detached to operate from jungle bases.

Entire squadron re-embarked in ALBION 05.08.1966

Disembarked from ALBION 16.12.1967.  Re-embarked 19.01.1968

Disembarked from ALBION 27.05.1968.  Re-embarked 03.06.1968

Disembarked from ALBION 21.06.1968

'B' & 'C' flights embarked in INTREPID 23.06 – 05.07.1968

Remainder of squadron embarked in ALBION 02.07.1968 (joined by 'B' & 'C' flights on the 5th) Disembarked from ALBION 0508.1968. 

'B' & 'C' flights embarked in ALBION 29.08 1968 remainder embarked 18.09.1968

Disembarked from ALBION 05 – 26.11.1968.  Re-embarked 05.06.1968

'A' flight disembarked 13 – 17.01.1969

Disembarked from ALBION 12.02.1969. Re-embarked 14.03.1969

Disembarked from BULWARK 09.03.1970. Re-embarked 04.04.1970

Disembarked from BULWARK 16.05.1970. Re-embarked 10.06.1970

Disembarked from ALBION 22.05.1971. Re-embarked 24.06.1971 ['B' flight on the 28th]

Disembarked from ALBION 23.08.1971.  

'A' Flight embarked in INTREPID 27.08 – 01.10.1971

Squadron embarked in ALBION 17.09.1971

Equipped with 18 Wessex HU.5 [+1 Wasp HAS.1from AUgust 1967]


888 Photographic Reconnaissance squadron

Disembarked from H.M.S. SMITER 27.12.45. Personnel departed for U.K. 29.01.1946, aircraft retained at Sembawang.

Equipped with 8 Hellcat PR.II


1700

C Flt

 

Air Sea Rescue

Moved here from RNAS Katukurunda  08-20.11.45

Moved here from RNAS Katukurunda 15.12.45. Absorbed into 791 FRU 27.01.46

Equated with Sea Otter I.


3 BAS 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron Royal Marines

Formed here 12.08.1968. Moved to Coypool, Plymouth 19.07.1971

Equipped with 14 Sioux AH.1


 


Origins

     In 1934/35 a part of the Bukit Sembawang Rubber Estate on Singapore Island was purchased by the Air Ministry for construction of a grass airfield for the Royal Air Force. Approval for the construction was given in 1936, and British Army engineers started work in the following year. The station was planned for the operation of two RAF bomber squadrons but the airfield was transferred to Admiralty control in 1939 under the command of Captain P.G.L. Cazalet RN. It was planned to develop the site into a Naval Air Station and Air Repair Yard to support a proposed Eastern Fleet with up to four fleet aircraft carriers. The landing ground had three prepared strips running N/S, NE.SW, and NW/SE with a max run approx. 1,100 yards : the shortest, N/S was little used and the other two were to be lengthened by 300 yards in March 1940.

The course of the war in Europe and the deteriorating situation in the Far East meant that these plans were put on hold and the station, by now basically complete as an operational airfield, was again transferred in May 1940, this time to the Royal Australian Air Force under the command of Group Captain J. McCauliey RAAF. There are only two RN squadrons recorded as operating from RNAS Sembawang during this period, 813 and 824 Naval Air Squadrons arrived on the station on March 17th 1940, each equipped with nine Swordfish Mk.1. They had moved from the nearby RAF Kallang after disembarking from HMS EAGLE the day before when the ship arrived for a refit in the Naval Dockyard. The two squadrons remained at Sembawang until re-embarking on May 8th.

 

RAAF Station Sembawang
     The first operational units arrived in July and August 1940 when No. 1 and No. 8 squadrons Royal Australian .Air Force arrived, each equipped with 12 Lockheed Hudson medium bombers, the later leaving in November. Early in 1941 No. 21 squadron R.A.A.F. moved in from Seletar to re-equip with Brewster Buffalo fighters and briefly operated from Sembawang before being deployed in Malaya. No. 453 squadron R.A.A.F., also operating Buffalos, arrived in August 1941 and operated here until they were deployed into Malaya in mid-December 1941.

On December 8th 1941 the Japanese Army invaded Malaya and on this date the Netherlands government placed several squadrons under operational control of the British Far Eastern Command under the mutual defence assistance agreements with Great-Britain. On the same day VLG-III was ordered to Singapore’s Sembawang airfield. VLG-III, comprised of three Bomber squadrons of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force, operating 22 Glenn Martin 139 bombers. None of the crews had been trained in night-flying, so one squadron was sent back to Java the same day to train. On their return a second squadron could be sent back for training. With the worsening situation on the Island and squadron losses in action the remaining Dutch bombers and fighters were recalled to Java on January 22nd 1942.

No. 1 Squadron had five serviceable Hudsons left by Christmas Eve and by the end of January 1942 had moved to Sumatra. After suffering serious losses on December22nd, No. 453 Squadron, now with only three serviceable aircraft, remaining, withdrew to Sembawang on Christmas Eve and was merged with 21 Squadron, which had also withdrawn to Singapore with six aircraft; the new unit, 21/453 Squadron was brought up to strength with an allocation of replacement aircraft. The amalgamated unit continued to fight on, until late January when, with precious few aircraft left, they were separated again. No. 21 Squadron personnel were then sent to the Netherlands East Indies, while No. 453 continued to operate the remaining six Buffaloes. In early February, only four serviceable aircraft remained operational they were flown to Java while the squadron's ground crew were evacuated by ship. Singapore surrendered to the Japanese army on February 15th 1942.

While occupied by the Japanese Sembawang came under the control of both the Japanese Army and the Japanese Navy, these two forces surprisingly despised each other, and the Island of Singapore became divided North/South, the Navy controlling the North and the Army the South.


HMS NABROCK

Following the Japanese surrender in the colony, a naval advance party, under the command of Captain H.A. Traill OBE., RN, (formerly commanding Officer of the escort carrier HMS EMPRESS), arrived to take control of the airfield and prepare it for reopening. They found about 90 Zero fighters on the airfield and some 700 Japanese officers and men. The station was honeycombed with tunnels and foxholes and in a state of considerable disorder. The Japanese had been working to establish a north/south runway, using British prisoners of war, and there were at least a dozen Public Works Department steam rollers abandoned on what came to be called the Jap runway.

Work on restoring the station to working order was started immediately and Japanese prisoners of war were employed filling in foxholes and tunnels as well as the laying of a 1,400 x 50 yard pierced steel planking runway. In order to provide the necessary equipment and infrastructure to operate the station Mobile Naval Air Base No. 9 (MONAB IX) was allocated to occupy the station and initiate naval flying and aviation support facilities for the region. The personnel were already in Australia while the transport carrying the unit's heavy equipment was still at sea, this was diverted whilst still en route to Sydney. The personnel were split into 4 groups for the move to Singapore; the 1st, 2nd and 3rd phase advance parties were to travel by RAF Dakota transport planes via Moratai, in the Dutch East Indies. The remaining group, comprising of the main body of the unit were to travel by sea and were embarked in the Australian troop ship the HMTS LARGS BAY for passage to Singapore. The advance party commissioned Royal Naval Air Station Sembawang as HMS NABROCK, on October 5th 1945, Captain J.S.C. Salter DSC, OBE in command. The LARGS BAY docked in Singapore on November 1st.

     MONAB 9 was equipped to support Fighter aircraft, namely Corsair Mk. II & IV, Seafire L.III & XV and Hellcat Mk. I & II but this role was revised after arrival at Sembawang; its Air Department was primarily employed in the seemly fruitless task of assembling crated American aircraft, many of which were Hellcats. Once assembled these brand new aircraft were ferried out to sea by aircraft carriers and dumped into the ocean; under the Lend-Lease agreement with the United States, under which these machines were supplied, the UK was required to return them or pay for them once the war was over; destroying them was the solution employed.

    On November 8th 'C' flight of 1700 squadron arrived from RNAS Katukurunda, Ceylon for a brief detachment with a number of Sea Otter aircraft, returning to Katukurunda on the 20th; they were to return on December 15th for a longer stay.

 

Re-commissioned as HMS SIMBANG
     On December 15th 1945 HMS NABROCK and MOANB IX was paid off. The station re-commissioned the same day as HMS SIMBANG. This was a paperwork exercise, effectively the MONAB ceased to exist but Captain Salter remained the station’s commanding officer and the ship's company remained to form the complement for the new Naval Air Station.

     The equipment of the now decommissioned MONAB IX was however to be retained at Sembawang as the nucleus of an enhanced reserve MONAB, held in storage on a care & maintenance basis for reactivation should it be required. Its existing components were supplemented by extra equipment and vehicles recovered from other MONABs recently paid off in Australia. It is believed that this reserve unit was maintained in storage at Sembawang until at least the mid nineteen fifties.

     On December 27th 1945 two squadrons arrived on board HMS SMITER to operate from Sembawang; No. 791 Naval Air Squadron to operate as a Fleet Requirements unit; equipment comprised a mixture of 6 Vengeance target tugs, 6 Corsairs and 1 Harvard, it was Sembawang's resident flying unit until it was disbanded on June 16th 1947. Also disembarked were the six Hellcats of 888 Photographic Reconnaissance squadron, these were to undertake peacetime aerial survey work in the area.

     By the end of January 1946 only the station’s Fleet requirements unit remained; on January 26th 791 absorbed 1700 squadron 'C' flight, and on the 29th 888 squadron personnel departed for the UK to disband on arrival, their aircraft were retained at Sembawang. Once the aircraft assembly and disposal task was completed the station’s function was that of an Aircraft Holding Unit to support carriers operating the Far East and disembarked squadrons.

     The station’s main flying function was to provide aircraft for exercises and calibration work with ships in the area and, from May 1946 to operate a communications flight using two Beech Expeditor aircraft. The first disembarked squadron arrived on October 2nd 1946 when the 12 Seafire XVs of 802 flew ashore from the Light Fleet Carrier GLORY. They stayed until November 14th when they embarked in the Light Fleet Carrier VENERABLE. Four days later 806 with 12 Seafire XVs, and 837 with 12 Firefly FR.1 disembarked from GLORY, these stayed until December 6th and 9th respectively, when they re-embarked. Both squadrons returned on May 17th 1947 when GLORY put into Singapore again, they re-embarked on June 19th when GLORY sailed for the UK after being relieved on station by THESEUS. THESEUS disembarked her two squadrons beginning on June 7th when the 12 Seafire XVs of 804 flew ashore, followed by the 12 Firefly FR.1s of 812 on the 10th. At this time the station was running down to possible closure, on June 15th 791 squadron was disbanded and THESEUS re-embarked her squadrons on the 21st.

     On October 1st 1947 Captain P.W. Burnett, DSO, DSC assumed command of HMS SIMBANG ; the station was paid off and was reduced to Care & Maintenance status on December 31st 1947.

 

RAF Station Sembawang

The station was transferred to the RAF on loan on January 16th 1948 to relieve pressure on other RAAF stations on the Island. No. 60 squadron was the first RAF unit to take up residence; an advance party arrived on the station the same day. RAF Station Sembawang opened for flying on January 27th 1948, Wing Commander J. Dudgeon RAF in command. The Spitfire F18s and one Harvard of 60 squadron flew in the same day; they were followed by No. 1914 Flight operating Auster 6s [elevated to squadron status July 1948] and 28 squadron with Spitfire FR18s. The two fighter squadrons were engaged in operations up-country at Kuala Lumpur, detachments from Sembawang striking at Communist Terrorists, or insurgents, beginning in July 1948. By the late summer of 1949 the RAF was running down operations at Sembawang, 28 squadron moved to Hong Kong in May and 60 squadron to Tengah at the end of August after receiving new Spitfires delivered by HMS OCEAN earlier in the month. The station was then prepared for return to RN control, the RAF presence being reduced to care and maintenance status on September 15th 1949.

RN returns to Sembawang: Second Commission 1950 - 1957

At the start of October 1949 the first RN squadrons had returned to Sembawang when the 13th Carrier Air Group (12 Seafire FR.47s of 800 NAS and 12 Firefly FR.1s of 827 NAS) disembarked from HMS TRIUMPH on October 3rd. They were to make the Royal Navy’s first air strikes against Malayan Insurgents during the month; one of the largest air strikes was mounted against targets near Gemas in Negri Sembilan on October 21st and involved 62 sorties by Spitfires, Beaufighters, Tempests and Sunderlands of the RAF and the Fireflies and Seafires of Nos 827 and 800 Squadrons.

At the end of October 1949 the maintenance Carrier UNICORN arrived at Singapore and disembarked an advance party to Sembawang to establish a small Aircraft Holding Unit and test flight to ease pressure in UNICORN’s hangar. The ship was in the Far East to provide aviation support for TRIUMPH which had been transferred to the Far East Fleet and was currently engaged in operations off the Malayan coast. Thirty aircraft, a mix of Seafires and Fireflies, some embalmed for storage, where disembarked to the quayside in the naval dockyard, some 5 miles away, and transported to the airfield by road on the 29th. The party of maintenance personnel was under the charge of Lieutenant R. Hallett, the Test Pilot. Any aircraft repaired aboard UNICORN in the dockyard had to be towed by road to Sembawang for test flights and the AHU was also tasked with addressing any issues the flight may have turned up. The 13th Carrier Air Group re-embarked in TRIUMPH on November 1st, returning to Sembawang on December 8th. UNICORN departed for the UK in early December.

The airfield at Sembawang was returned to RN control on January 12th 1950 and re-commissioned as HMS SIMBANG on the 29th, Commander C.E. Eckersley-Maslin in command. The aircraft of TRIUMPH’s 13 CAG made further strikes against targets near Gemas in Negri before re-embarking on February 4th. UNICORN arrived back in Singapore in February and delivered a second batch of aircraft for the AHU before beginning operations alongside in No. 8 berth in the Naval Dockyard. It soon became apparent that UNICORN was unsuitable for operation as a static aircraft repair factory; air maintenance ratings tended to be used for ship's duties reducing manpower for the repair programme; the flight deck was not always available, or suitable for running engines, the heat in the hangars coupled with poor ventilation was not conducive to aircraft maintenance. The need to conduct test flights ashore also tied up additional personnel at Sembawang since it was not known what defects would be thrown up and therefore what tradesmen would be needed to rectify them, the tendency was to play safe and have a large number of maintenance personnel at the airfield when they could have been used in the ship. Productivity suffered as a result, about a third of the work that could have been achieved ashore in an airy hangar and with no interruptions.

These issues identified in UNICORN resulted in the decision being made to forgo afloat support and to establish an Air Repair Yard at Sembawang in June 1950. The entire Air Engineering Department (AED) was to be landed to Sembawang and the ship would return to the UK and pay off. The unloading was nearly completed when North Korea invaded the South on Sunday, June 25th 1950. UNICORN's return home was cancelled and stores, ammunition and aircraft were hastily re-embarked when she was ordered to sail at short notice to ferry reserve aircraft and stores for TRIUMPH. As a result of this relocation of resource Sembawang’s workshops were scaled to that of a full Air Repair Yard with a throughput of 20 aircraft per month, the AHU now had storage for 80 aircraft and test flying. The station could also support 1 disembarked Carrier Air Group.

Heart of the Korean War aviation support organisation

Having decided to leave the majority of her AED ashore UNICORN would be used primarily as a ferry/replenishment carrier transporting aircraft and supplies to the Royal Navy and Commonwealth aircraft carriers operating in Korean waters. After embarking aircraft and stores from Sembawang she sailed on July 11th for Japan, and rendezvoused with TRIUMPH at Sasebo on July 20th. On the 24th UNICORN sailed for the British Commonwealth Air Group (BCAG) base at Iwakuni to collect the unserviceable aircraft left by TRIUMPH and to deliver spares. She next sailed for her first round trip voyage to Singapore, via Hong Kong to exchange aircraft and stores; on average these trips would take six weeks. At Hong Kong she embarked troops of the Middlesex Regiment and the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders for passage to Pusan.

The aviation support organization now spanned 12,000 miles from the UK to Singapore and on to Japan; consignments of aircraft were ferried out from the AHU at RNAMY Abbotsinch to the AHU at Sembawang. Aircraft from the Operational Flight Pool were then issued to UNICORN or one of the Light Fleet Carriers directly on visiting Singapore. The first such ferry trip left the UK in August 1950 when Firefly, Seafire and Sea Fury were shipped  on board  WARRIOR, after unloading in September a reciprocal consignment was loaded for return to the UK.

On September 12th 1950 807 squadron disembarked from THESEUS with 12 Sea Fury FB.11s, the first of their type to visit Sembawang. Sea Fury squadrons were to replace the Seafire ones from now on and a consignment of 15, along with 15 Firefly, arrived on WARRIOR during the month to establish a stock at the AHU. 807 re-embarked on the 20th when the carrier sailed to relieve TRIUMPH on station.  UNICORN had arrived back from her trooping trip on September 2nd and underwent a short refit in Sembawang Naval Dockyard ending on October 27th; after loading stores and Replacement Sea Fury and Fireflies she sailed again for Sasebo.  With the departure of 807 squadron Sembawang settled into its role as a repair yard and aircraft holding unit.

On her arrival back in Singapore on January 15th 1951 UNICORN's AED complement was increased by transferring Lieutenant (E) R.B.L. Foster and about 25 ratings from the AHU at Sembawang. This was done in the hope that in addition to acting as a ferry carrier a limited amount of aircraft repair work would be done on board. Experience had shown that quite a number of aircraft discarded by THESEUS required 14 to 21 days work and it was uneconomical to send them on a 14 day passage to Singapore, have the work done at Sembawang and the aircraft then wait four to six weeks for UNICORN's next round trip. In June 1951 this party moved ashore when a small Aircraft Holding Unit (AHU) and Aircraft Repair Section (ARS) were established at RAAF Iwakuni under Lieutenant Foster to hold 24 aircraft for local issue.

WARRIOR had arrived back in Singapore during March 1951 to exchange consignments of reserve aircraft, returning to the UK at the end of the month. She was to make two further visits in July and November 1951, before undergoing a refit in the UK during 1952. During her July visit she delivered two Westland Dragonfly helicopters as spares for the carrier ship’s flights and air sea rescue duties; one further machine was delivered in November.  In October 1951 GLORY arrived in Singapore to replenish between tours in Korean waters; she had relieved THESEUS in March and in turn she was relieved by HMAS SYDNEY. 804 flew ashore on October 8th to exchange aircraft, their 21 Sea Furies re-embarked on the 11th.

The next consignment of airframes was delivered by VENGEANCE which arrived in Singapore on February 18th 1952 carrying aircraft, stores and troops. She sailed to return to the UK in early March loaded with airframes for return to AHU Abbotsinch. She made a second round trip arriving at Singapore in late July 1952 to exchange a consignment of airframes and deliver a further 3 Dragonfly helicopters. The aircraft ferrying task was next passed to PERSEUS which arrived in Singapore in January 1953. In addition to the usual consignment of reserve airframes she also brought 2 more Dragonflies and the Royal Navy’s first Transport Support Squadron, 848 NAS which disembarked their 10 Whirlwind HAS.21s to Sembawang on January 8th. This unit was in the Far East to help in the continuing fight against Communist insurgents in Malaya. They were joined on February 2nd by No. 194 squadron RAF which reformed at Sembawang out of the Far East Casualty Evacuation Flight which disbanded on the same day; they were equipped with 9 Westland Dragonfly HC.2 helicopters as a short range transport squadron. Together with 848 they formed 303 (Helicopter) Wing, the UKs first operational helicopter wing. The Wing moved to RAF Kuala Lumpur on May 20th and operated there until it was disbanded on February 15th 1954 its two squadrons then came under the control of RAF Kuala Lumpur Flying Wing.


Post Korean War operations: 1953 - 1957

UNICORN arrived back in Singapore to exchanged aircraft in March 1953 before returning to Japan. Sembawang airfield was returned to Admiralty control on July 1st 1953 just prior to the Korean War fighting ending on July 27th 1953 when an armistice was signed. Carrier patrols were still maintained however until the following May. PERSEUS continued to deliver aircraft to Sembawang; her next load arrived in September 1953, and included a final consignment of 2 Dragonflies. A new commanding officer arrived in September; Commander W.H.N. Martin took over on September 20th 1953. UNICORN was released from operational duties on October 15th 1953, after a final delivery of airframes to Iwakuni at the start of September she sailed for the UK for a refit, PERSEUS also departed during the month. The next arrival at Sembawang was 816 squadron RAN which disembarked from HMAS SYDNEY on November 2nd to exchange their 12 Firefly Mk.6 for Mk.5s, this was a straight swap and they re-embarked on the 5th when the ship sailed for Japan to relieve OCEAN on station at the end of the month.

Commonwealth operations off Korea ended on May 4th 1954 when SYDNEY’s tour ended: she was not relieved by another carrier. Before leaving Japan for Australia she disembarked her unserviceable aircraft to the AHU at Iwakuni; her departure marked the end of the commonwealth participation in operations off Korea, and the end of the RN Aircraft Holding Unit at Iwakuni;. The final stocks of aircraft were loaded aboard UNICORN in the second week of May 1954 and the RN AHU was withdrawn, it was off loaded to RNAS Sembawang on the 18th – 20th May 1954. PERSEUS was already in Singapore having made her third delivery to Sembawang at the start of the month, she would ferry home many of the airframes that had been withdrawn from the RN Aircraft Holding Unit at Iwakuni and others in June.

Meanwhile WARRIOR, on a tour of the Far East, had disembarked her two squadrons on May 12th 1954, 811 with 14 Sea Fury FB.11s and 825 with 8 Firefly A.S.5. 811 re-embarked on June 2nd having increased in strength to 19 aircraft but 825 remained at Sembawang, it relocated to RAF Tengah on August 16th. 811 disembarked from WARRIOR again on August 9th when the ship was ordered to Vietnam to assist in the evacuation of refugees from Thaiphong. The squadron re-embarked on September 23rd. GLORY arrived in Singapore and exchanged aircraft before sailing to return to the UK. The station was now essentially only supporting 848 squadron with reserve airframes and engines; a number of which had been retained at the AHU to enable replacements for any damaged or lost in the field or withdrawn for scheduled maintenance. However the station’s AHU still maintained a small stock of reserve fixed wing aircraft for issue to visiting carriers.

In March 1955 No. 1911 Flight, 656 AOP Squadron RAF arrived to take up residence operating Auster AOP Mk 9 aircraft. Their main role is communication and liaison flying for G.H.Q. and 99 Gurkha Brigade, Internal Security duties supply dropping and support of the troops in the field. However, they frequently assisted the Navy by carrying out P.R. sorties, radar alignments and gun shoot spotting. The only other activity in 1955 was the arrival of VENGEANCE in June to exchange consignments of aircraft; she sailed in July for UK. Beginning at the end of March 1956 detachments of 848 squadron began visiting the station; 4 aircraft called in on March 26th, 3 on May14th and one final one if 4 on May 31st. On March 10th 1956 a detachment of 4 Gannet Anti-submarine aircraft of 825 NAS flew ashore from ALBION for a short stay before re-embarking on the 15rth. They were followed by the 9 Gannets of 820 NAS from CENTAUR which disembarked on April 4th; they departed on April 20th. In December 1956 the last operational unit in the area, 848 squadron, was disbanded and the station was put on notice to be placed into Care and Maintenance.

On March 19th 1956 Commander (P) S. S. Laurie, R.N., was appointed as commanding officer HMS SIMBANG and Fleet Aviation Officer on the staff of C-in-C Far East Station; by this time the downsizing of the station had reduced the officer compliment by two thirds, from 26 to 12. One year later on April 1st 1957 SIMBANG was paid off as an independent command and became a tender to the Royal Naval Dockyard Sembawang, HMS TERROR on ‘Care and Maintenance by operation’; Cdr. Laurie remained as Officer in Charge. The Aircraft Holding Unit had been closed by this time; with the introduction of jet aircraft operating from the strike carries the station could no longer support all fixed-wing aircraft in service. Jet equipped squadrons were accommodated at RAAF stations Changi, Sleltar and Tengah when disembarked; the first was 801 squadron from CENTAUR which disembarked 12 Sea Hawk FGA.4a to RAF Tengah in April 1956.

 

Care & Maintenance and station refurbishment: April 1957 - September 1962

Aalthough now in Care and Maintenance status the station retained its repair yard and workshop facilities but in future would almost exclusively support rotary-wing aircraft. The airfield remained open for flying for the RN, RAF and Army; on 1 September 1957 the station’s only resident unit 1911 Flight, 656 AOP Squadron was transferred to the Army as part of 656 Light Aircraft Squadron Army Air Corp. While the station could still perform its role of providing accommodation and support for Fleet Air Arm units in the Far East it was November 1958 before any returned; 820 NAS returned for a short 10 day detachment on November 1st 1958, this time disembarking with 5 of their 6 Whirlwind HAS.7s form ALBION. The Fleet Photographic Unit took up residence in during December 1958. All 6 Whirlwinds of 820 NAS squadron flew ashore on March 28th 1959 and disbanded here on May 8th.

Commander Laurie departed at the start of November 1959 to take up the post of Commander (Flying) at RNAS Hal Far, Malta, Commander (P) S.H. Suthers DSC, DFC, took over from him until he was relieved by Commander (P) C. V. Howard, DSC at the end of March 1960. Meanwhile plans were in the pipeline to develop the station for a base for Royal Marine Commandos and a supporting helicopter squadron. Work began to expand the galleys and accommodation at the start of 1959 and an advance party of 42 Commando arrived on station in January 1960. A second longer runway, 04/22 of 2,000 yards was to have been constructed during the stations first commission but was postponed when the station was paid off to Care and maintenance status at the end of 1947. In 1958 the idea was revisited, but now re-oriented 32/16- almost a replacement of the original steel planking one, but this too appears to have been cancelled.

 RN aircraft began using the station on a more frequent basis starting in March 1960 when the Wessex HAS.1 helicopters of 815 NAS disembarked from ALBION on the 12th. They stayed for just over a month, re-embarking on May 16th. In June the main body of 42 Commando, and a reformed 848 NAS, now equipped with 16 Whirlwind HAS.7s disembarked from BULWARK, the RNs first carrier to be converted for the role of a commando carrier; the squadron flying ashore on the 7th.  the squadron flying ashore on the 7th. This squadron was to operate afloat from BULWARK returning to Sembawang when the ship was in Singapore; they re-embarked on July 15th. 815 NAS flew ashore from ALBION for another short stay on July 12th, re-embarking on the 28th. 815 and 848 both disembarked again during the second week of September, before re-embarking on October 3rd. 848 returned for seven days on October 22nd but where back on the station at the start of December to spend Christmas 1960 ashore. On New Year’s Eve 1960 the Wessex HAS. 1s of 814 anti-submarine squadron was disembarked from HERMES.

 The airfield was in constant use from 1960 by the three Services for training including parachute jumps by students of the RAF Far East Parachute Training School at Changi, and supply dropping exercises, conducted as a joint RAF/Army operation dropping supplies as large as Land Rovers on stressed platforms to small ration packs utilizing RAF Beverley, Twin Pioneer, Hastings and R.N. Whirlwind aircraft. The semi-resident 848 NAS settled into a pattern of periods ashore followed by time afloat in BULWARK, having re-embarked again at the start of January 1961; 814 also departed to rejoin HERMES during the month but returned again on February 7th for an eleven day stay before rejoining HERMES on the 18th.

 The necessary works required to accommodate the Marines were completed by March 1961 and the H.Q. of 3 Commando Brigade moved into the station. On March 22nd 848 flew ashore from BULWARK and on the 29th  fixed-wing flying returned to Sembawang when 825 NAS disembarked from VICTORIOUS with 9 Gannet AS.4s for the first of three periods ashore; after a two week stay they re-embarked on April 11th. 848 re-joined BULWARK on the 18th.

 825 returned for a month’s stay on May 9th, they re-embarked on June 14th; 848 flew ashore from BULWARK on June 12th but only stayed 8 days before the ship sailed again. On their next return to Sembawang on July 12th they would spend four months ashore while the ship underwent a refit. 825 disembarked from VICTORIOUS for the last time on September15th, the departure of their Gannets on October 10th marked the end of fixed wing naval flying at Sembawang.

 848 next embarked in BULWARK on November 10th 1961 for an extended deployment, they did not return to Sembawang until March 22nd 1962. The station had been quiet during this period with no naval flying but a second squadron arrived on April 4th when the Wessex HAS.1s of 815 disembarked from ARK ROYAL, they re-embarked on the 23rd. 848 re-joined BULWARK on April 18th for a short deployment, returning to Sembawang on May 19th.

 in June 1962 a new unit arrived on the station, 66 Squadron RAF took up residence in two of the Bellman hangars for assembly and flight testing of 2 crated Belvidere Helicopters; they increased in strength to 8 aircraft  over the following months.  At the end of June 815 disembarked from ARK ROYAL on the 27th for another short stay; they re-embarked on July 11th but returned to the station again on the 26th.  848 also re-embarked on July 10th for a one month deployment, returning on August 6th. At the end of August 1962 the stations longest serving resident, 1911 Flight, 656 Light Aircraft Squadron AAC, relocated to RAF Kluang.

 
Re-commissioned as HMS SIMBANG: Third Commission 1962 - 1971

RNAS Sembawang was re-commissioned as HMS SIMBANG on September 4th 1962, as a unique command which combined both a Naval Air Station and Royal Marines Barracks with Lieutenant Colonel M. A. Wilberforce RM in command.  Both 815 and 848 squadrons flew ashore on the same date, 848 only stayed for a week before re-joining BULWARK, 815 re-joined ARK ROYAL on the 29th. During October and November1952 there was no naval flying, the work to refurbish the Control Tower was completed in November as the station continued to be updated.

 Flying resumed in December when 814 NAS disembarked from HERMES on the 21st; they remained ashore through the holiday season and re-embarked on January 5th 1963. The New Year also brought the first elements of 845 and 846 squadrons to Sembawang when 846 disembarked their 6 Whirlwind HAS.1s and a detachment from 845 (possibly the squadrons 3 Hiller HT.2s) flew ashore from ALBION, now in her new role of a commando carrier, on January 10th. 846 re-embarked on February 1st while the remainder of 845 (12 Wessex HAS.1s) were disembarked on February 12th. 814 also flew ashore from HERMES again on the 25th.

 During March 66 Squadron departed for RAF Seletar having completed their work-up and training with heir Belvideres. On April 17th 845 re-embarked in ALBION and 814 flew out to join the Australian carrier HMAS MELBOURNE on the 20th. With the departure of 66 Squadron space became available for the RN Far East Helicopter Holding Unit to move back into the station from RAF Tengah in May; the unit which employed 30 ratings maintaining reserve airframes and engines was part of the Naval Aircraft Support Unit and Holding Unit at Tengah. The Fixed- wing NASU was itself relocated to RAF Changi in 1965.  846 also returned to Sembawang in May, arriving from RAF Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo on the 18th for a short stay before returning on June 1st. The only visitors during June were 814 which flew ashore from HERMES on the 13th, rejoining the ship on the 28th.

 ARK ROYAL was in the area during the summer of 1963 and her anti-submarine squadron, 815 spent two periods ashore, the 11th to 24th July and 14th to 26th August. VICTORIOUS arrived in the autumn and she too disembarked her anti-submarine squadron, 814 on September 25th, re-embarking on October 16th. The squadron returned on November 8th and remained ashore until January 14th 1964 when they re-joined VICTORIOUS.

 In February 1964 815 squadron arrived on the station again, this time disembarking from CENTAUR on the 12th before re-embarking on March 1st. Their place was taken by 814 which disembarked from VICTORIOUS on March 23rd for a 10 day stay, embarking on April 4th.  Later that month ‘B’ flight of 847 squadron flew ashore from BULWARK with 6(?) Whirlwind HAS.1s, to provide aircraft for training and exercises with the Royal Marines in the area; the rest of the squadron was based at RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall until its disbandment in December 1964. 815arived back on the station on April 30th for another fortnight ashore, re-joining CENTAUR on May14th. They were to have two more short stays during the summer, the 15th t0 the 24th of July and the 15th t0 the 21st of August. Next to arrive was 814 when VICTORIOUS returned to Singapore on September 23rd for a refit. On October 19th 846 disembarked from BULWARK for the last time and was officially disbanded, their aircraft remained at Sembawang AHU.

815 disembarked from CENTAUR for one final period ashore on November 16th, re-embarking on the 25th when the ship sailed for the UK. Her refit complete VICTORIOUS re-embarked the aircraft of 814 on November 11th. At the start of December 847 ‘B’ Flight, the last operational RN unit on the station was disbanded on the 2nd when their parent squadron was dissolved in the UK.

 At the start of 1965 a reformed 820 returned, this time disembarking from EAGLE with 8 Wessex HAS.1s on January 14th, they re-embarked on the 26th. The station was quiet again until early March when a detachment of 4 Wessex of 845 disembarked from ALBION on March 7th for a 10 day spell ashore.  The first commonwealth naval air squadron to visit the station since the Korean War arrived in March when the 8 Wessex HAS.31As of 817 disembarked from HMAS MELBOURNE. At the start off April 814 returned for another two week spell ashore, re-embarking in VICTORIOUS on the 14th, they were soon replaced by 820 which returned on the 20th. Towards the end of the month a reformed 848 NAS was disembarked from ALBION on the 20th; still a commando helicopter squadron but now re-equipped with 18 Wessex HU.5s.  Initially only H.Q., ‘B’, ‘C’, & ‘D’ flights arrived on the station; 'A' Flight was at sea operating from RFA SIR LANCELOT and did not arrive until June 19th. H.Q. Flight was to remain at Sembawang but the 4 sub flights were to be detached to operate from jungle bases in Borneo and at Labuan in the Malaysian Federal Territories beginning in May 1965.

815 disembarked again on July 15th, this time from ARK ROYAL which had relieved CENTAUR when she sailed for the UK to be paid off to reserve. They re-embarked on August 3rd only to return again on September 4th for another two week stay. 820 spent a week ashore from October 12th, re-joining EAGLE on the 19th; 815 arrived the following day and stayed until December 6th.

 

Fleet Amphibious Forces Base established

In 1965 plans were put in motion to further develop RNAS Sembawang into a base for the support of commando operations, a second RM Barracks was under construction to house a second Royal Marine Commando and the station was to become a Fleet Amphibious Forces Base.

The station continued to provide support for disembarked anti-submarine squadrons and 815 arrived in the New Year for a nineteen day stay, disembarking from ARK ROYAL on January 8th 1966. During February 820 disembarked again from EAGLE on the 12th, re-joining the ship on the 29th 815 flew ashore again on March 15th, staying until the 24th before re-joining ARK ROYAL.

The new accommodation, Dieppe Barracks, located northeast of the airfield was completed in March 1966 and along with the existing Kangaw Barracks to the south, formed the new Far East Fleet Amphibious Forces Base. 40 Commando moved into Dieppe Barracks from their previous home at Burma Camp, West Malaysia, and 7 & 8 Batteries, 95 Commando Light Regiment, Royal Artillery, was also established at Sembawang.

815 was the only visitor during April, staying for a week; 820 disembarked again on May 10th and stayed until June 2nd. They made one last stop-over at the start of July before re-joining EAGLE on the 11th when the ship sailed for the UK. VICTORIOUS was the next strike carrier on station and she disembarked the Wessex HAS.1s of 814 NAS on August 10th; they re-embarked on September 5th. 848 NAS H.Q. also departed on this date, joining the four sub-flights already embarked in ALBION to return to the UK. BULWARK relieved ALBION and disembarked the 16 Wessex HU.5s of 845 Commando Helicopter Squadron on September 16th; they re-embarked on October 3rd. A detachment of 4 aircraft returned on November15th, they re-joined the ship on December 3rd.

On December 9th 814 disembarked from VICTORIOUS and remained ashore over the holiday period, re-embarking on January 10th 1967. Three days later 845 disembarked from BULWARK, re-embarking on February 3rd. These two squadrons were the stations only visitors until July 1967, both disembarking twice more during this period. On July 7th 826 arrived on the station with 8 Wessex HAS.1s, disembarking from HERMES, they re-embarked a week later. At the end of the month 845 arrived from RAF Kuantan, Malaya on the 27th. They briefly moved back up country to RAF Terendak on September 13th but returned to Sembawang on the 20th and re-embarked in BULWARK on the 29th. BULWARK landed her charges again on October 23rd but ‘A’, ‘B’ & ‘C’ flights re-embarked on November 6th, returning on the 17th. The whole squadron re-joined the ship on November 27th.

When ALBION arrived back at Singapore in December 1967 848 NAS disembarked to Sembawang on the 12th, the squadron now included a Wasp HAS.1 for use as a Royal Marine liaison aircraft. They re-embarked in ALBION on January 19th 1968. 845 flew ashore from BULWARK on February 2nd for a short stay before moving to RAF Changi on the 9th’ this ended the squadrons association with Sembawang as they re-joined BULWARK on the 17th and the ship sailed for the UK. ALBION disembarked 848 again on May 27th but they only stayed ashore until June 3rd; they returned again in less than three weeks on June 21st but 'B' & 'C' flights embarked in the landing platform dock  (LPD) INTREPID two days later. The remainder of the squadron embarked in ALBION again on July 2nd.

848 disembarked again on August 5th; ‘B’ & 'C' flights embarked in ALBION on the 29th, the remainder embarked on September 18th. Meanwhile on August 12th 1968 No. 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron was formed at Sembawang to support the marines, initial equipment was 14 Sioux AH.1s. 814 also arrived back on the station at the end of August, disembarking from HERMES on the 30th and re-embarked on September 16th. 868 spent another 3 week period ashore in November disembarking on the 5th and re-joining ALBION on the 26th. 814 squadron returned on December 12th and remained ashore until the New Year, re-embarking on January 13th 1969.

With the departure of 814, 'A' flight of 848 NAS operated ashore from January 13th till the 17th and the whole squadron was disembarked on February 12th. The squadron was to lose 8 of their aircraft while ashore at Sembawang to make up the 10 Wessex HU.5s required to re-form 847 on March 14th 1969; the leaner 848 re-joined ALBION on the same day. The new 847 also embarked in ALBION on May 16th for a short cruise returning to the station on the 28th after which the ship and 848 sailed for the UK. The 8 Wessex HAS.31s of 817 squadron RAN paid a second visit when they disembarked from HMAS MELBOURNE during June. Beginning in July 847 operated various short detachments on board the LPD FEARLESS and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary logistics landing ship SIR GALAHAD.

By the end of 1969 the station was settled into the routine of 847 and 3 BAS as resident units; at the end of February 1970, 847 embarked in FEARLESS, transferring to BULWARK at the start of March. The carrier arrived back in Singapore on March 8th and both 847 and 848 disembarked to Sembawang. 847 re-embarked on April 4th for a seven day sortie on board BULWARK disembarking again on the 11th.

The Helicopter Cruiser BLAKE was also in the Far East at this time with the Wessex HAS.3s of 820 squadron embarked and 2 of these were disembarked on May 11th, the other two aircraft arrived on the 15th when the ship entered the Naval Dockyard for boiler repairs. 847 were to re-embark in BULWARK again on May 11th for one last sortie before the carrier was due to return to the UK. Four days later 848 arrived back on the station for a three week stay before re-embarking in BULWARK on June 10th.  While adhere at Sembawang 820 squadron’s aircraft were briefly detached to operate as two flights of 2 aircraft embarked in the RFAs OLMEDA and TIDESPRING from June 15th to the 27th.  

847 disembarked from BULWARK for the final time on June 29th leaving 848 on board for the passage home to the UK. 820 squadron re-embarked in BLAKE on July 16th. During August and September 847 began operating detachments on board INTREPID, RFA SIR GALAHAD and the heavy repair ship TRIUMPH before the squadron relocated to RAF Kai Tak on September 29th. 847 returned to Singapore on board INTREPID and arrived back at Sembawang on October 10th 1970. There was no Commando Carrier on the Far East station at this time; both ALBION and BULWARK were in the UK so the squadron resumed operating detachments in INTREPID and TRIUMPH until February 1971 when they switched to INTREPID, RFAs SIR GALAHAD and STROMNESS.

 

Rundown to closure

The rundown and eventual closure of British bases in Singapore had been on the cards for some considerable time; as part of defence spending reviews conducted by the new Labour government of the mid-1960s. At this time the British economy was vulnerable following the sterling crises off 1966 to 1967 and the devaluation of the pound in 1967; huge savings were to be achieved by a total withdrawal of its troops “East of Suez” by the end of 1971. This policy was announced on January 16th 1968.

On May 22nd 1971 848 NAS returned to Sembawang, disembarking from ALBION, three days later 847 Squadron was disbanded into 848 which now operated 22 Wessex HU.5s. The squadron re-embarked at the end of June, returning on August 23rd.   On September 1st 1971 control of RNAS Sembawang was handed over to the Singapore Air Defence Command as Sembawang Air Base, the Fleet Amphibious Forces Base facilities were transferred to ANZUK Support group; HMS SIMBANG finally paid off on September 30th 1971.

Fleet Air Arm squadrons continued to operate from the station until October, 848 ‘A’ Flight had embarked in INTREPID on August 27th; the remainder of the Squadron left the station for the final time on September 17th 1971 when they embarked in ALBION. The 6 Sea King HAS.1s of 826 squadron were the last to operate from Sembawang, disembarking from EAGLE on September 20th, re-embarking on October 5th.

 

Post RN use

Little is known about the station after the RN withdrawal; it remained a of part the ANZUK force which was formed in Singapore on November 1st 1971, operated under the ‘Five Power Defence Arrangements’ between Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Singapore and Malaysia. ANZUK disbanded in 1974, when the UK and Australia withdrew; a new force, the New Zealand Force South East Asia (NZFORSEA) was formally established on 30 January 1974 and continued under the same framework as the ANZUK force. There is no evidence that the airfield facilities were regularly utilised until 1983 when Sembawang Air Base became a full-fledged rotary-wing air base, 120 Squadron Republic of Singapore Air Force became its first resident helicopter squadron when it was permanently relocated from Changi Air Base.

At some stage a new 2,000 yard 04/22 Asphalt runway was constructed and is still in use in the 21sr century. It was built a few hundred yards further North-West of the technical site than the original proposed layout, which was adjacent to the western pair of Bellman hangars as marked on the Admiralty plan dated 1947. A much shorter, narrower second runway 05/23, of 1,133 yards has been added for helicopter operations.

 


 

 

Click here for a list of Primary sources


Additional sources:

Jackson. R., (2011) The Malayan Emergency and Indonesian Confrontation: The Commonwealth's Wars 1948-1966 Pen & Sword Aviation Accessed on Google Books Dec 7 2017

 

Landsdown. J.R.P., (1992) 'With the carriers in Korea - the Fleet Air Arm Story 1950 - 53' Worcester, Square One publications

 

Web site - 656 Squadron Association - Malaya – Korea accessed 16 December 2017

 

 

Admiralty Fleet Orders:

 

Confidential Admiralty Fleet Orders:

 

 Last modified: 15 January 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unoficial design - no official badge was approved for this station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here for  a gallery of images from the first commission

 

 

 

Two ratings stood at the entrance to the station.

 

Aerial view of RNAS Sembawang looking south C.1946. The runway is in the foreground bottom left and the large parking apron can be clearly seen in front of the the hangars and control tower.

 

Aerial view of RNAS Sembawang looking south West C.1946. The central and right areas of the photo shows the accommodation blocks, administration and technical buildings are on the left. The hangars are just out of shot on the left.

 

Aerial view of RNAS Sembawang looking North East C.1946. Chief and Petty officers mess nearest the camera.

 

The station transport  office and M/T yard. Bellman hangar No.1 is visible   in the distance, right. C.1946

 

M/T section yard on left of shot, ;C; type hangar (Aircraft Repair Shop)  with its distinct 'saw tooth' roof line  behind. C.1946

 


 

The accommodation area c/1970. Junior rates messes are the long, low buildings in the centre of the image. The Wardroom is the white building with a square tower, The camp cinema and swimming pool are on the left of the picture. Most of this scene is unchanged from when it was originally built in1939. Photo courtesy Tony Darbyshire, ex RN photographer.


 

Above - RNAS Sembawang in June 1946

Below - overlay of the airfield plan from June 1946 over the station in 2017. The technical site and much of the accommodation site are still visible and many in use but the airfield has grown considerably with two new runways. The area south of the station is now a golf course and some of the outlying buildings have gone with its construction.,

Base imago copyright Google.com

 

 

 

 

 © 2018 Tony Drury www.royalnavyresearcharchive.org.uk


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