OF KLUANG
"In addition to operations being carried out from Sembawang, 1911 flight also had a permanent detachment based at Kluang some 60 miles North of Johore Bahru.  I was detached there for the first of several visits in about October 1957. To rotate the personnel an armed convoy was formed at Sembawang consisting of  Landrovers, Bedford 3-ton trucks and a Scout car armed with a Bren gun. Apart from the vehicle drivers the rest of us carried personal loaded weapons.  I was the lucky one sitting in the back of the rear most 3 tonner on a pile of supply parachutes!  I had a Sten gun and three full magazines even though I had never fired a Sten in my life! With no means of communicating with anyone in the convoy I was very apprehensive and watched every bush, tree and vehicle along the road!

Arriving at Kluang I found that the detachment was located on a large grass airfield to the North of the town.  The accommodation which consisted of four tin huts on the airfield was usually manned by two airmen an Army driver plus a pilot for the single Auster. After I arrived it was explained to me that the detachment provided operational assistance with the Auster to the Gurkha regiment located in the nearby Garrison. It also carried out operations in support of other ground forces. Additionally the detachment provided fuel and ground handling facilities to a variety of visiting RAF aircraft.  These included whirlwind and Sycamore helicopters, also Pembrokes and Single engine Pioneers on communications duties. Because of the often-unexpected arrival of these aircraft the flight had to be permanently open for business and so there was virtually no "off duty" time for several months.

It wasn't long before I realised how busy it could get. Occasionally there would be few aircraft movements except for our own Auster. But other days would see an influx of helicopters flying in support of some operation or other.  After a while I noticed the occasional Whirlwind embarking or disembarking small groups of three or four thin pale looking individuals in jungle green carrying an odd assortment of weapons such as shotguns or Belgian FN rifles. It was a while before I realised they were the SAS on operations!

Frequent visits were made by a RAF Dakota  "voice" aircraft from Kuala Lumpur. It was fitted out with high powered audio amplifiers which fed an array of loud hailers under it's fuselage. This aircraft was used to broadcast to the terrorists in the jungle in an attempt to get them to surrender. At the side of one of our tin huts was a permanently parked lorry that seemed to be some kind of radio vehicle.  We were never allowed inside it, but on odd occasions an English civilian and a small group of Chinese would arrive, open the vehicle and go inside!  I discovered later that they were engaged in making the tape recordings for the "voice" aircraft and that the Chinese were in fact reformed terrorists who were trying to persuade their comrades to surrender!

On one occasion for a week, a battery of Artillery arrived and set up their guns just a couple of hundred yards from our accommodation. They proceeded at intervals to fire salvos of shells from 25-pound guns and what I believe were 6.5 inch Howitzers. The noise was incredible!  At one stage there was also a Radar controlled target direction vehicle set up on the end of our disused concrete runway.  Night after night Lincoln bombers flew over head and the flashes of their exploding bombs could be seen beyond  Kluang town and it's famous hill, Gunung Lambak.

Early one morning I was woken by the sound of fast jet aircraft passing low across the airfield.  Running outside I was just in time to see Five Venom fighters disappearing towards the East. Shortly afterwards I could just see them gain altitude then swoop down one after the other into a valley firing salvo's of rockets.  Obviously someone's day was being spoilt!

Operations continued at Kluang into 1958. Meanwhile 1911 flight was busy on numerous sorties over the Pengerang  peninsular in South East Johore.  Most of the small groups of communist terrorists had by this time either surrendered or been killed. However a hard core had moved into the Pengerang peninsular area and with the assistance of 1911 flight the hunt continued for some months to find them. It was eventually successful".
As the security situation improved I managed to visit Kluang town, sometimes having the occasional glass of Tiger or a bottle of Anchor beer at the Paramount Hotel. However any entertainment for us was very limited. There was no television and listening to the radio or reading were the main activities in our tin hut accomodation. Sometimes we would chat on the telephone with the operators at the telephone exchange to relieve the boredom.  

I particularly enjoyed flying and whenever an opportunity arose to have a flight I would take it. I saw more of Kluang and the surrounding area from the air than I did from the ground!  The photographs show how busy the airfield used to be, but by the end of 1958 the 1911 flight detachment had been withdrawn and the end of the emergency was in sight.

In late 1959 I paid a private visit back to Kluang for a last look at the town and the airfield.  The town was beginning to prosper but it was sad to see the derelict old detachment buildings on the airfield.  I took a few photographs as a memento and sadly took the train back to Singapore for the last time.  
(Extracts from an article written for the 656 Squadron Association quarterly magazine.)
(All images on this website are Copyright)
a very rare occasion, having a beer with friends from the small RAF Air traffic detachment Kluang 1958.                                                                            (Myself centre)
1911 Flights Kluang detachment with a visting RAF Pembroke on the right.
(Apologies's to whoever gave me this photograph and the unknown photographer. I will remove it on request if necessary. Please email me).
Home page
Home page