Friday, July 16, 2010

My only neighbour the RAAF Base Butterworth

RMAF & RAAF at Main Gate 1970

Brief history dates of  RAF and RAAF Base Butterworth.

1941 October - RAF Butterwoth was commissioned.
1941 December 20 - The 25 Army of Imperial Japanese Army captured the
         RAF Butterwoth.
1945 September - RAF resumed control of the base.
1946 May - Resuming air operation of the base.
1948 - 1960 -Malayan Emergency. RAF, RAAF & RNAF played an active role
         against Malayan Communists.
1957 - RAAF took control of the base-No3 Sqn & 77 Sqn.(CAC Sabres).
1968-1983 - No75 Sqn of Dassault Mirage IIIs.
1988 June 30 - RAAF handed over the base Butterworth to the RMAF.
2008 as October - 5 Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA),still occupies with No324 Combat Support Sqn and a detachment of AP-3C Orion aircraft from No92 Wing RAAF located at the base.In addition, the Australian Army maintain an infantry company(designated Rifle Company Butterworth).

RAAF handed over the Base Butterworth to the RMAF
30 June, 1988

RAAF Flypass 1988 

RAAF Handling over speech 1988

The Parade 1988

The Parade 1988

The eye-witnesses 
All photos taken by WOII Mohd Ismail 1988

My first posting as an airman to RMAF Base Butterworth was in 1970, and that was after graduating from my Basic Supply Course (Logistic) at RMAF Kinrara Technical School, Kuala Lumpur. On arrival at the RAAF Base Butterworth, I felt like a foreigner in my own home land and only a handful of  Royal Malaysian Air Force personnel at that time sharing the same base with RAAF. Inside the base I lived at the Airmen's barrack, one of a few allocated for the Malaysian personnel and the rest were the Australian personnel who were there long before us. The unique part was the "aromatic smell" from the RAAF Airmen's mess which I will never forget every moment I passed in front of the building. The strong smell of Australian cookings made me hungry instantly and it was a total different from the smell of Malaysian cooking. However we had our own RMAF Airmen's mess and a cook house on the base. 

I normally walked on every working day right from the airmen's living blocks to my work place, the newly established RMAF Supply Squadron. At the squadron we had an RAAF representative by the name of  Flt.Sgt McGain attached to the RMAF supply squadron and he was responsible for the handed over Sabre aircraft's documentations for the RMAF logistic. A kind of jovial person around and he was not long then and later earned a posting back to Australia.

I was young then, in my early twenties and used to have numbers of Australian friends as we were there to share the only common base facilities. We were friendly among peers and grew maturity in friendship as time went by with the Airmen's Club lighted the night after sundown, and good facilities such as squash, basket ball, dolphin's swimming club, NAAFI, yacht club with some good beaches, golf club, motorcycle club, Officer's mess, Sgt's mess, ASTRA, and free RAAF bus ride from the base to Butterworth's ferry terminal and vice versa. Last but not least the sweet fabulous "Radio RAAF  Butterworth", "The voice of Royal Australian Air Force in Malaysia" on the air reaching as far as India and Sri Lanka. It was a favourite radio station served some 5,000 Australian personnel with transmission frequency from 1445 kHz. It was established on the 1 July, 1960 and officially ceased operation  in 1987, a 27 years of radio broadcasting in Butterworth. After six months of an enjoyable staying at the base Butterworth, I was then transfered to RMAF Base Labuan, Sabah a former RAF Base.

RMAF Base Butterworth's Swimming Pool

I came back for a second posting in 1977 to base Butterworth and stayed for another three years. This time lived at the Sgt's Mess and was attached to the No.3 Squadron RMAF Base Butterworth as an Aircrew-gunner. At the Sgt's Mess I have met numbers of Australian  here, a person  like Cpl Blue a RAAF assistant mess steward as I used to call him and he was nice to the Malaysian and the local liked him too. When I revisited the mess on my third posting in 1983, former Cpl Blue was already made a Flt.Sgt then and friends like Flt.Sgt Roger and many more to mentioned had gained a long lasting friendships with Malaysian. At the mess too local workers like the late Mr Alwa, Maniam, Ahmad, and others were at their best to serve us equally under a cosy breeze from the sea. It was really a beautiful view of the Andaman sea to the north west and Penang's island to south west when looked from the Sgt's Mess especially at sunset accompanied by Sgt's Mess lawn bowls session, players in whites attires playing under the overhead flood lights with fans surrounded holding canned and glassed drinks in their hands. Probably the best lawn bowl's rink since 1970 I've known.

Sergeant's Mess Bowl Rink  

In 1990, two years after RAAF handed over the base to the RMAF, there were strong nostalgic sign of  Aussie's touch, memoir and friendship felt by both RAAF and Malaysian alike living within Butterworth and Penang. With the reduction of RAAF personnels, some businesses within the base had taken a down-turn, with the closure of NAAFIs, and the Sgt's Mess lawn bowls became a dormant. I once said to myself, "The past was still the best memoirs and the future yet to be told". That same year I was transfered to RMAF Base Kuching Sarawak, my last base prior to my retirement in 1992.

Sign off : WOII(Rtd) Mohd Ismail Bin Mohd Hashim.


Anonymous said...

tahun 80an memang best terutama di kawasan ini banyak memory yg menarik.saya berada dikitar butterworth dari tahun 1971-1982 memang menarik apa yg tuan paparkan mudahan menjadi renungan,laa ni tinggal dimana tuan ?

Mohd Ismail Bin Mohd Hashim said...

Terima kasih kerana tuan sudi membaca blog saya.Sekarang saya sudah bersara dan tinggal di Sungai Petani,Kedah.

Anonymous said...

masih tuan ingat siapa yg naik basikal tua warna kuning?tuan ada facebook ?

Mohd Ismail Bin Mohd Hashim said...

Terima kasih kerana sudi bertanya.Ramai juga yang naik basikal tua kuning kepunyaan Australian atau persendirian. Sudah lebih kurang 35 tahun yang lalu .... mungkin tuan yang bernama Murshid...maaf kalau saya tersilap orang. Ya saya ada mempunyai Facebook.

Anonymous said...

Salam Cik... just drop by and let me introduce myself.. now at PERHEBAT after 22 year service.. X WO I Mohd Nor Azmi bin Othman (Gr Radio Tech).. like ur story as a gunner... Anyway thanks 4 the story and pic.. Semoga Cik dlm keadaan sihat dan bahagia hendaknya..

Mohd Ismail Bin Mohd Hashim said...

Alhamdulillah.Terima kasih Encik Mohd Nor, moga anda pun dalam sihat2 adanya.

Mark Bourne said...

Lovely recollection of the past mate. It brought back some great memories for me. I can also smell the mess hall now. We always had to get to the mess before the Aussie Army got there as they would eat us out of all the food.

I was there between '80-late '83 in my early 20's so we might have crossed paths on the base. Married a Malaysian Chinese girl and now living in Beijing :)

CPL Mark Bourne A62583
Clerk Supplier
478SQN Maintenance, GAMS, Butterworth

Anonymous said...

Dear All RAAF Personal.
I am looking for one Sgt Donald Lumsden (006619) based either in Penang r Butterworth,left to Australia somewhere in 1969,last communication from him july 1970 from his last known address # 27,Wiluna St
Mount Lawley
Perth 6050
If anybody can locate him dead r alive.
A concerned only Daughter living in Malaysia trying to locate my father since 44yrs,pl help me to finf him.
God bless you all.