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Recollections of Service in the Bureau and RAAF


Recollections—Mascot and Rose Bay—the Early Years

Sojourn in the Far East 1942




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Sojourn in the Far East 1942 (continued)

From the first Japanese air attack in early December, the RAF Singapore bases and the Naval Base in Johore Strait were under constant harassment; for some reason the RAAF station at Sembawang was virtually untouched. But on 17 January the first pattern bombing raid was made on the island and the target was Sembawang. Three 'V"' formations each of 27 aircraft attacked from about 20,000 feet and all the buildings on the aerodrome received hits. Power and telephone services were disrupted, and the station's water supply was virtually destroyed. Three Buffalos and three Hudsons were destroyed and others damaged. Casualties were very light because of the efficient system of slit trenches. Other raids on Sembawang were to follow each causing some damage. There was an almost complete exodus of Asian labourers on 17 January.

After this time, the permanent living and working quarters at Sembawang were virtually abandoned by day and we were sent to dispersal areas around the periphery of the aerodrome near the rubber trees, when not at Sime Road.

The two RAAF Hudson Squadrons were evacuated to Palembang, in southern Sumatra, by sea and by air, about 20 January. From the same date the headquarters ground staff at Sembawang were also evacuated there.

On 27 January the four of us were ordered to pack up. We were taken to the Singapore docks and went aboard HMS Pankok, a river gunboat, en route to Palembang. This ship, in company with HMAS Vampire and one other destroyer, was convoying about five ships carrying 600 personnel, including those of us in Pankok. The convoy was attacked ineffectually by Japanese bombers on 29 January at sea. (I do not know how much of this convoy was bound for Palembang, and how much it consisted of allied air force people). At any rate, by 29 January the Pankok had negotiated the Moesi River and then tied up at Pladjoe, in Sumatra, where we went ashore. From here we were lorried to Palembang railway station and took a train for about 40 kilometres. Then we were lorried a comparatively short distance to Palembang II aerodrome.

People in Bright Sparcs - Hannay, Alexander Keith (Keith)

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Hannay, K. 1994 'Some Recollections of Service in the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology and RAAF Meteorological Service: Mascot and Rose Bay (1938 to 1940): Sojourn in the Far East (1942)', Metarch Papers, No. 6 July 1994, Bureau of Meteorology

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