Thursday, June 23, 2011

RMAF Labuan - The Tour Of Duty From 1970 -1973.

Map of Labuan
(The RMAF Base is within the Labuan Airport)

The happy moment came somewhere in the end of 1970, when news broke up in the morning at my workplace the Supply Squadron RMAF Base Butterworth, that I was transfered to East Malaysia. This time RMAF Labuan, Sabah. My OC Supply(Officer Commanding), Flight Lieutenant Aziz Derwish and my NCO incharged WO1 Sharma and Sgt.Vikinarajah bid me farewell while signing my base clearance document. They said, "Labuan! nice place and you better save money over there". I was told that Labuan island situated in the East Malaysian state of Sabah and had a base strength of about 600 RMAF personnels there. I was a young carrying the rank of an AC or Aircraftman at that time and just beginning to think of enjoying an additional income from the Sabah/Sarawak Overseas Allowances. Thus was going to be my first time travelling by air.

RMAF Handley Page Dart Herald
(Photo from RMAF Museum)

I departed for Labuan via Kuching from the RMAF Base Old Airport Road, Kuala Lumpur in a 'Dart Herald', an RMAF aircraft of the No.4 Squadron powered by two Rolls Royce turboprop engines. It was a nice journey with a minor turbulances. On arrival at RMAF Kuching, the aircraft traveled was found unserviceable and I have to night stop. It was a procedure the aircraft luggage compartment was not to be unloaded and therefore I was  left without any night stop kit but luckily my squadmate, AC Rosli arrived to my rescue using with his so called uncomfortably tight attires and showed me around the base and the Kuching town by the night. I finally arrived in Labuan two days behind schedule on the same aircraft, after being made serviceable and the aircraft's pilot as I could remember was Flying Officer Sharkawi and I learnt that he was from Kuching, Sarawak.

At the RMAF Labuan, there are two flying squadrons in existence, the No 5 Sqn.(AlouetteIII), and The No 8 Sqn.(DHC4-Caribou). I stayed at Airmen's Barrack Block No.2 an old dark wooden barrack and it was closed to the Airmen's Mess. I could smell the foods being cooked from a short distant and the food served here at the Airmen's Mess were oftenly canned foods such as sardines, chickens, beef, cuttlefish, as for the fresh ration supply was a little slow moving and this was due to the logistic communication and the climatic factors of Labuan. Another example like the today's newspaper read was from yesterday's date and eventually got used to it and as for the food served I just love the canned food stuffs.

I was attached at the various quarters such as technical stores, electronic stores,clothing stores, and petroleum, oil and lubricant (POL) stores of the Supply Squadron, and I really enjoy my work and could still remembered my OC Supply Squadron and his name was Flight Lieutenant Haidir, Pilot Officer Mustapha (Ex AQM), and the staff like Flight Sergeant Kadir, Flt.Sgt.Christopher Columbus, Flt.Sgt Sen Gupta, Sgt.Sinniah, Cpl.Bakar, Cpl.Manaf, Cpl.Lai, Cpl.Affendi(The musician), Cpl.BJ.Chong,Cpl.Ngeau, Cpl.Farouk, Cpl.Ariffin(Alonto), Cpl Razali Ujang, Cpl.Jesudas, Cpl.Francis Xavier and many more to mention.

While at the administration side was Base Commander, Wing.Cmdr.Chua Ban Hin, Base Warrant Officer WO1 Borhan and later replaced by WO1 Rahman, the othe staffs were Cpl Wahid, Cpl Pawaid, Cpl Mahmud,Cpl Hassan and etc.The names mentioned were my superiors and instructors and I owned them a lot for guiding me through my career in the airforce especially WO1 Maheswaran(Career Examiner).

The Technical and the Flying Wing were, Sqn.Leader Nawi, Sqn.Leader Quah, Capt Ahmad Azizah, Lt.Razak, Flying Off. Kong, Plt.Off. Din Yati, Plt.Off Abullah, Plt.Off Ranjit Singh, Flying Off. Syed Wahab and others. The Flying, Technical, and Admin Wing were all in close associated to the Supply Squadron in term of their needy requirement in the supply of equipments, such as aircraft parts, foods and clothings, providing air movements facilities, fuel,oil and gas and etc.

Labuan was a free port for some times since then, things are cheaper especially electrical and electronic goods, motor vehicles, cameras, watches, sunglasses, luggages, clothings and etc. Well! foods and house rentals are a little expensive compared to Peninsula Malaysia(West Malaysia). It was in Labuan I have a passion for cameras and aviator sunglasses. My first camera was 'Canon QL' followed by an SLR the 'Canon FT' and then 'Minolta SRT Super'. I met Cpl Salim(RMAF Motor Transport), now a professional photographer, and Cpl Teoh(RMAF Instrument Section) they taught me basic photography and the photo darkroom lab facilities. Through my enthusiastic in photography, I became  an official photographer for an a dramatic presentation held at the Labuan Civic Center in 1972. As for the aviator sunglasses the 'Ray Ban' are my favorites just between RM45.00 - RM80.00 a piece here in Labuan 1970. I have several pairs but sold them all to friends whenever on leave in West Malaysia. Today the aviator class 'Ray Ban' cost around RM800++ what a terrific price jump in as much for 'Rolex Submariner' watches sold for only RM500.00 a piece in 1970, well! now at RM16,000 ++.

My Airmen's Living Quarters Block No.2 RMAF Labuan(Front) 1970-1973.
(Now totally abandoned).

Official photographer(Self) for
Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat Drama held here at the
Labuan Civic Center 1972.

My Black And White Darkroom Photo Enlarger.
(I only worked at late night when all lights turned off).

Self at the Airmen's Living Barrack Block No.2 (Rear End) 1972.
(At 7:00 am in the morning is already hot)

The Airmen's Club and Canteen RMAF Labuan 1972.
(Served foods and drinks, snookers, tv room, reading and guest room and yesterday's newspapers).

My favorite Labuan Ice Vendor 1972.
(It was nice to have sweet ice drinks here especially on a hot sunny day ).

Labuan Liberty Wharf, the Marine and Custom Offices on the right 1972.
(Those who export vehicles homeward bound would have to proceed through this point).

Ship at Liberty Wharf Labuan 1972.
( I used to stroll along this area during the weekend for a fresh sea breeze ).

My visit to Labuan War Memorial Ground 1972.

RMAF Labuan Electronic Stores 1972.
Photo of self.

RMAF Labuan Hosting Public Expo 1972.
Photo from left to right: Cpl Jesudas,and J/T Ismail(self).

I was promoted to the rank of Corporal before being posted to RMAF Supply Depot, Kuala Lumpur in 1973 and my tour of duty in RMAF Labuan lasted for three years leaving behind a long sweet memories of such as weekend at the Surrender Point Beach, fishing, swimming and snorkeling, shopping along the quiet cowboy looking towns, beautiful handcrafts, nice and friendly local residents, the joy of following the RMAF 'Caribou' route trainer's aircraft to Kota Kinabalu and etc, not forgetting the local crowded bus ride to town, free RMAF bus ride, the free cinemas, the famous Membidai food stalls and lastly wondering when there be an another time coming back to Labuan.

Self at the Surrender Point Beach, Labuan 1973

The Surrender Point Beach, Labuan 1973.

In that year 1973, I was transfered and reported for duty at RMAF Supply Depot, Old Airport Road, Kuala Lumpur. My OC Supply Depot was Wing.Cmdr.Lee Teng Kooi (A Tae-kwan-do practitioner). I was assigned to the 'Air Trans Dept' (Air Transportation Department). Transportation's officer in charged was Flt.Lt Baharuddin followed by Pilot Officer Hussein, Flt.Sgt. Ibrahim, Sgt Fajar, Sgt.Darus, Sgt.Taharuddin, Cpl.Vasudevan, Cpl.Jais, Cpl.Muniandi, and the etc. At this point I learnt volumes about international import and export an much important experienced gained and combined with an easy and hard time altogether until 1977. Several of my intake squadmates were already been commissioned as officers and I think I was quite left behind. In the airforce you may be the best but when the luck was not on your side, its just too bad.

Well! in 1977, I left Supply Depot for HFTS(Helicopter Flying Training School) just a stone throw away to the Base Supply Squadron. For another new post, that was the AQM training(Air Quarter Master Training) where finally lured me into a new family of the RMAF's 'Helicopter Gunship Crews'.


F said...

When you were posted to Labuan in 1970, was there any other squadron permanently based there apart from 3 Squadron and its Alouttes?


Mohd Ismail Bin Mohd Hashim said...

The are only two permanent flying squadron known in RMAF Labuan in 1970:
1. No 5 Sqn (AlouetteIII),and
2. No 8 Sqn (DHC4-Caribou).

Anonymous said...

F/O Sharkawi is from Kuching and F/O Kassim is from Limbang. F/O Sharkawi retired as Lt. Col and F/O Kassim retired as Major. Now, F/O Kassim is the pilot for Tiger airways. I think both of them are the first sarawakian joined TUDM.

Mohd Ismail Bin Mohd Hashim said...

Thank you for the infoline sent and I really appreciated it.

Ali Mydin said...

Assalamualaikom Saudara Ismail. Surprise to see your blog and glad to discover that our fellow ex RMAF have something to share with others. I think Maj Rtd) Nor Ibrahim and Mej Ramli have the story of RMAF earlier commitments towards our nation. Wish more of our ex RMAF to write something actually happened once upon a time in Malaysia.

Mohd Ismail Bin Mohd Hashim said...

Waalaikumussalam Saudara Ali dan apa khabar? Thank you for visiting my humble blog.Do keep in touch.

cepiauctambaguz said...

Assalamualaikum wbt.

Dear Sir.
Thanking you for sharing the memory and nostalgia of the past of Labuan.I have find the photo of your are very much interesting.My father used to work at the Regiment Semboyan until 1977-79(around that year) and i was around 4yrs old by that year.Nowdays the membedai has been closed for public and has been the area for RMAF. The KRTU club still open but only at the golf driving range. Only RMAF stayed in Labuan.The RMN and Army all has moved to Sabah base.
I am looking forward to see more of you photo of Labuan.Thank you and Assalamualaikum.


Anonymous said...

Askm! Tuan, accidentally came across your blog. Brought back some memories as my father, Flt Sgt (retired WO) Syed Ibrahim Bin Syed Osman, Air Supply & Movement, was posted to Labuan 1970 - 1972. I was just a young boy then and enjoyed exploring Labuan especially the beaches. I remember the Herald, Caribou and Alloutte. My dad passed away about 2 years ago. He was proud to have served in the RMAF. Hope you can put up more pictures and stories. Best wishes, wassalam! Syed Kamil

Mohd Ismail Bin Mohd Hashim said...

Waalaikumussalam Tuan Syed Kamil.Innalillah...and have my deepest condolence on your beloved father's death two years ago..Al Fatihah. He was a kind of gentleman that I have known as I was a young airman then. As for the photos most have deteriorated badly through tear and wear. Thanks for reading my blog.

Mohd Ismail Bin Mohd Hashim said...

Assalamualaikum Noralip. I am sorry for the late reply...I will try to search for the photos between 1977-79 some probably in bad shapes.