The reminiscences of Commander A.W.F. Sutton, Executive
officer of MONAB VIII at Kai Tak, Dec 1945 – May 1946.
Commander Sutton's reminiscences were received in reply to a
request for information, from officers who served in MONABs and
related units, made through the Fleet Air Arm Officers Association
Nabcatcher was a temporary airfield organisation established at Kai
Tak airfield in Hong Kong about a month after the Japanese
surrendered in 1945. Kai Tak had been on RAF landing ground
pre-world war II, and was greatly developed by the Japanese, who
demolished the Chinese houses on the landward side for this purpose.
The airfield was situated on the seashore and about one third of its
perimeter was shoreline and jetties.
MONAB (Mobile Operational Naval Air Base) was set down between the
two runways, as a deliberate attempt by the Commanding Officer,
Captain V.N. Surtees, DSO, to annexe the airfield for the Fleet Air
Arm. The RAF also claimed the airfield, and had a large tented camp
and airfield works department on the eastern edge of the airfield.
became the northern airfield for operating RAF Transport Command in
the Pacific. Thus both the Navy and the RAF occupied the airfield,
with two separate Commanding Officers, two separate airfield
organisations, two separate guard-rooms and defence organisations.
There was an uneasy joint organisation for Air Traffic Control.
appointed there as Executive Officer, in rank of Acting Commander,
in November, joining on 10th December 1945, and relieving a
reservist officer who was due for demobilisation. The whole
organisation was designed to be mobile, and most of the buildings
were canvas. After a short time it became evident that we needed
some more permanent infrastructure.
There were still large numbers of Japanese prisoners of war in
Hong Kong, and we were allocated working parties as needed for road
making (it was the rainy season, and we became bogged down in mud),
and erecting stone buildings such as an armoury, guardroom,
transport sections etc. Local buildings were requisitioned as NAAFI
canteen. The amount of stores on the airfield was most attractive to
Chinese who were trying to support families in destitute conditions.
We wired in our part of the airfield with barbed wire, but the ends
were open and the RAF did not wire their part at all.
So this led to gangs of armed Chinese
broking in at night and battles taking place with our night guard of
a double platoon. The Chinese retaliated by sniping at our sentries
by day, and we had to use strong methods to make the airfield safe,
including searching surrounding villages with armed parties.
Early in the New Year the
demobilisation programme for the British Forces was published and it
appeared that the RAF transport command was going to be last home
after taking everybody else to the UK. So all Transport Command
units mutinied. (It was called a ‘strike’ by the Atlee government).
RAF Kai Tak was in mutiny for three days. The Navy at Kai Tak
pretended it wasn’t happening,; we held a sports meeting!
Demob eventually affected us. Captain
Surtees was relieved by Commander Walters on 14th April, and I was
relieved by a Lieutenant Commander on 16th May. I took passage home
to the UK in a cruiser.