Raf Seletar April 1961 to October 1963
Late April 1961(I can’t remember the exact date) travelled to RAF Insworth which was the transit station for personal going overseas. They had me listed as J/T LEVIN. Told them I was not a Russian spy. We were issued with all our Khaki tropical uniform which consisted of baggy shorts (not too short) Trousers, long sleeve shirts, long woollen socks and tropical Pyjamas.
The next day we were transported to an airfield somewhere and embarked on a Britannia aircraft (known as the “Whispering Giant” because of its relative quiet operation and comparative large size for aircraft in those days. The journey took 24 hours with a couple of refuelling stops in the desert on the way. You can imagine how tired we were on our arrival, very early in the morning, at Singapore airport.
I and another single guy were transported to Seletar and shown to the airman’s transit block. The time was about 07.00 and we settled in and were soon in a deep sleep. The next thing I was aware of was the other guy waking me and saying it was seven 0 clock and that he was going to the NAFFI to sample the local beer. I got up and went for a shower to get rid of the stickiness caused by the heat and high humidity. Not long after I returned to the room the other guy returned and told me the NAFFI was closed because it was actually 7 0 clock in the morning. We had both slept soundly for 24 hours.
The remainder of that day was taken up by the normal arrivals procedures, which I hated at the best of times, but things were more complicated here because the station was split into two and divided by the runway. East camp was mainly the admin side of the station, which contained the main ASTRA cinema, most of the clubs, Married Quarters and Main Messes. West Camp was the technical and flying (the real air force) side of the camp. Which was virtually self contained with it own NAFFI, Airman’s mess, a small Sgt’s Mess and a small cinema.
I was issued with my bedding - blankets, sheets, pillows etc. which I had to carry from east to west camp. This was quite a distance and the heat and humidity made the journey worse. However my luck was in and as I was crossing the runway I was offered a lift in a lorry driven by a guy I had known in Boy Service. I was dropped off at ‘G’ Block which was to be my home for the next 2 ½ years. There were two large block on west camp the other being H Block. I understand that these were the largest blocks in the RAF. I'm not sure how many beds there were but there were eight to each room and about 10 room to each of the three floors ( about 240 in each block) West camp was a completely self contained area with it own mess, NAFFI, Asta cinema ans a small Sgts' mess. You could manage to survive without leaving that side of the camp, and there were some that did that. However, if you wanted to get involved in any activities you had to venture over to the big world of East Camp. You either had to walk across the runway or use the internal bus or taxi service which was reasonably priced but the cost mounted up if you used it every day.
G Block – West Camp.
Swimming & Water polo
As Swimming & Water Polo player, my sport my first port of call was the pool. I soon managed to to get into the train sessions and it wasn't long before a was in the Station water polo team. It wasn't long after I arrived that the Station swimming Gala was held. Although I considered myself to be fairly fit I had a lot of catching up to get to the standard of the guys who had been there and swimming nearly every day for months. However I did manage to get second in the 100 yards freestyle, which I was quite chuffed with. By the time of the 1962 Gala I had reached my peak and managed to gain a few medals. The swimming pool was closed down for quite a long period in 1963 and therefore no gala that year.
Swimming & water polo Medals
RAF Seletar water Polo Team
1962 FEAF Champions
Me standing 2nd right with Arthur (Eddy) Edwards to my left
Centre Front Team Captain 'Dixie' Dean.
Most of my memories of Seletar are pleasant ones, but the are a couple very unpleasant ones which I will never forget. The first one being:
The Crash of Hastings WD497.
The Hastings was doing a practice supply drop at Seletar when an engine lost power. The Aircraft stalled and crashed. A total of 13, crew & army dispatchers, on board lost their lives.
I was on duty electrician that night and have just arrived at the Battery room, the base for the night, when a CH/T phoned and was looking for the electrician who had been nominated to look after the generators for the flood light. To cut a long story shot the guy couldn't be found and the CH/T ordered me to go. Being an air electrician I didn't know a lot about diesel generators but I managed to keep them going all night. The crash was in the middle of a rubber plantation (not a pleasant smell) and they had not managed to remove the bodies from the wreckage. This was the worst night of my life.
I was originally in ASF and worked on whatever aircraft needed it at the time. I was carrying out a servicing on a meteor when I noticed that the insulation on the wiring, which, in those days was a rubber material, had become very soft – like chewing gum. I told the Cpl that I was not happy with it and he tried to explain that this was normal with the heat & humidity there. I wasn't very happy with this and told him I was not prepared to sign for the inspection. There was a lot of to-ing & fro-ing for a couple of weeks and eventually it was decided that the aircraft would be scraped. A couple of weeks later I was moved from ASF into the Electrical Components Bay – was this a punishment for doing my job?
My 'Scaly' Friends
I was the only single person in the section but my married (Scaly) colleagues were very good to me and would invite me to there parties & Outings. A couple of times we would go out to one of the deserted islands for the day and come back red as a lobster.
Seletar Theatre Club
In the Sound Box
Colin Hart, Me, Colin Bain
Gordon (Spike) Gaden
Singapore Services Drama Festival Winners 1962
Memories of Robin (Lew) Lewin