An Interview with an Ex-RAF airman

A RAF Mosquito Bomber over Seletar, not unlike the planes which Corporal Gordon would have spent his time repairing as part of the ground maintanence crew at Seletar. ( Above)

Benjamin Low crafted the following interview questions which were answered by Ex-Royal Air Force Serviceman Coporal Gordon Holland who served At Seletar Base in the 1950s.

a) Did you mix with the local population when you were stationed at Seletar?
Yes, both at work and in off duty time. My Ahma was a Hockyen Chinese lady who was employed by me for my whole time in Singapore, we got along very well with a good relationship.

b) What was Jalan Kayu and Singapore like back then?
Jalan Kayu was a very busy place, with Winstons the photographic shop, many tailors and shoe shops, a model shop and various eating houses. It was always populated with many off duty service men, as it was right at the Camp Gate and within walking distance

c) What were your feelings and sentiments about being sent to a place so far from home?
Great excitement at being overseas for the first time. At that time (the 1950's)international travel for the average person was yet to come. For many of the folk then at Seletar it was their first time out of the UK, and a very exciting adventure.
d) What was a typical day like at the base?
Divided into work and play. We worked hard and then we played hard, making the most of a very new experience.

e) What did you all do after work?
I was a married man and apart from the first two months I lived in married accommodation both off camp and eventually on camp. I was very involved with the camp model flying club. We flew models for our own interest and also put on public displays both on camp and at various venues around Singapore Island. As a married couple we joined in with other married couples at the camp swimming pool and on trips to Haw Par Villa (very popular place), Changi beach, Singapore City (swimming at the Brittania Club),also visiting the Botanical Gardens and feeding the monkeys.

f) What do you all know about the Singapore Flying Club which was set up by the British forces?
Not a great deal as it was beyond my pocket (too expensive)

g) What do you think about the locals back then?
They were very friendly and seemed to enjoy having us in their community.

h) Did you make use of the services that Jalan Kayu had to offer?
Yes, very much so, in those days we all walked much more than people do today, and to stroll out to Jalan was a popular pastime.

i) What was your most memorable experience in Jalan Kayu?
The day that locals jeered at my pet monkey scaring the daylights out of him. I didn't take him there again.

j) What type of missions did you embark on?
I was involved in maintainance work (aero engine repair and overhaul)so worked only at Seletar, though I did go out to work on aircraft at Tenga, Sembawang and Changi.

k) How do you think that the locals react toward the servicemen?
On the whole very well. We were a source of income and prosperity.

l) What was your favourite local food when you were serving at Seletar?
All types of Chinese food.

m) What activities do you all engage in to bond together?
Visits to the Malcolm Club and the Corporals Club.

n) What was the level of discipline like in the camp and how was it enforced?
Discipline was reasonably relaxed, particularly as a married man living out. Many high jinks and pranks on camp were largely ignored by the authorities, or at least given a reasonable amount of leeway.

o) What do you like most and least about your time here?
The adventure of being abroad with the opportunity to partake in another culture. On the other hand, the heat was a problem. The only air conditioning to be found was in the Pre Packing Section on camp and the Capital Cinema in Singapore

p) How would you like to have your services to be remembered?
By preserving the Camp Main gate with the Guardroom buildings and turning them into a museum recording the history of Seletar from its beginning to when the RAF left.

Gordon Holland (Corporal Engine Fitter, Seletar 1954 to 1957)

Comments

Mrs Yao said…
To the students of 3E3,

I applaud your efforts in making the Jalan Kayu Heritage Trail project an exciting and eventful learning adventure. I know you have worked hard with your teacher mentor to get the blog alive and interesting.

I read with nostalgia of things that were common during my childhood days and fond memories do flood back to my mind. I feel that you've learnt much with this project and I am glad you've all taken the brave step forward to make a difference to the community around your school.

Although it is only the beginning, I'm sure the end result will be good because I have faith in your abilities to forge ahead and chart future pathways by unravelling the past.

Ganbatte Kudasai! (Strive on!)

Mrs Yao
chinatownboy said…
Wonderful post! Reminds me of the days when I helped to run a cub-scout group of RAF families based in Pacific Mansions, off River Valley Rd.

While local cub scouts trekked in MacRithie reservoirs, we trekked in the forests of Kota Tinggi. (^^)
acroamatic said…
Hi there... came across your blog via yesterday.sg.

You're doing excellent work with this blog documenting our heritage and sharing your learning. It's a wonderful example of how blogs can be used in education.

I really like the old photos. Do remember to give credit to the photographers!
Thank you for the comments and encouragement!