656 SQUADRON
        RAF Noblefield
        Kuala Lumpur
                 
The "Basha" accommodation.
The occupants
Approach to Noblefield runway from the tin mine area.
Duty crew
A single engine Pioneer takes off
The disused tin mine area used for swimming.
I found this beautiful building while walking on my own in the old tin mine area behind Noblefield in 1957.  I always thought it was a Chinese temple and uncertain whether I should be there I took a few quick photographs and left!  No one ever seemed to have any knowledge of it but 54 years after taking these photographs I discovered it is called the TSUI LAN MEMORIAL HALL. The area is the burial ground for the LOKE YEW family. Wong Loke Yew was a famous businessman and philanthropist, one of the richest men in Malaya. He died in 1917 and subsequent members of his family are also buried here. Although the area was very well kept at the time, it is now overgrown and in a restricted military area. The memorial hall still stands in all it's splendour today and it is hoped that the whole site can be restored as part of Malaysia's heritage.  For more about the Lok Yew story and a comparision of my photographs with those taken recently see the link below. Please copy and paste the URL in Google for access.
Don Pagel & Clive Riley at the "Blue Lagoon"
near Port Dickson in 1957.
WZ 675 landing
RAF Noblefield was located just off the Kuala Lumpur Northern ring road. As can be seen in the photograph below it was a small non descript airfield little known in the wider Royal Air Force. Non the less it was the Head Quarters of number 656 Squadron which operated Auster AOP Mk 9 aircraft in the "Recce Liaison" role. The Squadron was made up of several semi autonomous flights, each with their own area of responsibility located between Singapore and the Thai border. Consisting of a mixture of Army and RAF personnel, the flights undertook a wide variety of tasks in support of ground forces during the Malayan "Emergency".  Typical of those tasks was locating terrorist camps, target marking for rocket and bombing attacks, supplies and leaflet dropping and providing communications. The aircraft frequently operated from small jungle airstrips and rubber plantations. During the period of the Malayan Emergency 656 Squadron Austers flew over 150,000 hours. More than any other squadron involved in the Emergency.  
(The RAF Noblefield site is now almost unrecognisable because of the expansion of the Kuala Lumpur suburbs. During a visit in 2001 I found that the Malaysian Army Museum was located there. Strangely the curator and staff of the Museum had no knowledge that it had ever been the location of an airstrip and 656 squadron Headquarters!)
Members of 656 Squadron Association at the Army museum in 2001.
(Myself far left front)
(All images on this website are copyright)
Loading for a leaflet drop
Changing an Auster's "Bombardier" engine.
RAF Noblefield from the air
VIP visit
(My thanks to Clive Reilly for the photographs marked CR)
CR
CR
CR
CR
CR
The Noblefield Flight Line
My time at Noblefield was a bit of a blur. I learned about servicing the Auster 9.  I did the usual duty crew and armed guard duties. I occasionally went swimming in the deserted tin mines behind camp, carefully avoiding snakes and assorted beasties! I also managed to spent a little off duty time in Kuala Lumpur having the odd pint of Tiger beer and "Makan" in the lake gardens with friends. Travel outside Kuala Lumpur was severely restricted because of terrorist activity. But a memorable trip was made to the Blue Lagoon near Port Dickson when four of us crammed into an old Morris Minor. Then a few weeks after I had arrived I was told to get my kit ready.  I was being posted to 1911 flight, located on a Naval Air Station called Sembawang back down on Singapore Island. I was beginning to wonder if there was anything "normal" about 656 Squadron! Departure day duly arrived and I found myself crammed in an Auster for the very first time.  My kit bag was somewhere behind me along with the long-range fuel tank fitted for the journey.  I found the take off and flight exciting, so much so that I vowed to get as many flights as possible in the future.
The Loke Yew memorial and story can be found here: http://my.72dragon.com/?p=1152
1957
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