Latitude 06°49′19″N  Longitude  79°53′10″E

ACQUISITION Lodger facility for an RN Air Section on RAF station during WW2.






PAID OFF 25 September 1946


C.O. Commander R. Hughes-Onslow

Lt. RNVR Duder

FUNCTION Accommodation for disembarked squadrons and a Fleet Requirements Unit

Personnel Transit Camp


ADDRESS R.A.F. Station Ratmalana



LOCALITY The establishment







CONTROL Not known


ELEVATION 16' above M.S.L.



04/22 QDM. ---°/---° .... 2,225 X 25 yds.

OBSTRUCTIONS Navigation: None.
Circuit: None.
Approach: None.


APPROACH Not known 



By night:

Not known

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By night:  

Not known
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Officers: Unknown.
Chiefs, P.O.s and ratings: Unknown.
W.R.N.S. Officers: None.
W.R.N.S.  Chiefs, P.O.s and ratings; None.


ARMOURIES Not known 




DISPERSAL Not known 


Number /Type Size Door Height Door Width


MEDICAL Not known




Aviation: Not known.
M/T: Not known.
Oil : Not known.


TEST BASE Not known


TEST BUTT Not known









List of first and second line squadrons, station flight and other flying units based at this location

700 Catapult flights

Various Walrus aircraft made visits to Ratmalana from as early as 1940.

742 RN Air Transport Squadron (based RNAS Sulur)

Detachment operated out of Ratmalana 01 Nov - 01 Dec 1945

Aircraft from this unit regularly called at Ratmalana on 'round robin' communication flights.

Squadron flew Expediter C.IIs and Beech AT-7s

800 Fleet Fighter Squadron

Disembarked  from HMS INDOMITABLE 14 Apr 1942 - re-embarked 24 Apr1942. flying (18) Fulmar IIs

803 Fleet Fighter Squadron

flew into Ratmalana 24 Mar 1942 from RNAS Dekhelia, Egypt in preparation for joining HMS FORMIDABLE with 12 Fulmar IIs. Moved to RNAS China Bay 09 Apr 1942.

806 Fleet Fighter Squadron

flew into Ratmalana 27 Mar 1942 from RNAS Dekhelia, Egypt in preparation for joining HMS INDOMITABLE with 12 Fulmar IIs. Moved to RNAS Katukurunda18 Apr 1942.

Returned 22 Apr 1942, embarked INDOMITABLE 23 Apr 1942.

814  Torpedo Spotter Reconnaissance squadron

Disembarked from HMS HERMES with 9 Swordfish 31 May 1941, moved to RNAS China Bay 18 Jun 1941

Disembarked from HMS HERMES with 9 Swordfish 02 Nov 1941, moved to RNAS China Bay 09 Nov 1941

818  Torpedo Spotter Reconnaissance squadron

Disembarked from HMS FORMIDABLE with 12 Swordfish 28 April 1942 Moved to RNAS Katukurunda 09 May 1942

831 Torpedo Spotter Reconnaissance squadron

Moved here from RNAS China Bay with 9 Albacores 05 Feb 1942, returned China Bay following day.

Moved here from RNAS China Bay with 9 Albacores 10 Feb 1942, returned China Bay following day.

851 Torpedo Bomber Reconnaissance squadron

Disembarked from HMS SHAH 19 Oct 1944 with 12 Avenger I & 3(?) Wildcat V moved to RAF Vavuyina 18 Nov 1944

880 Fleet Fighter Squadron

Disembarked  from HMS INDOMITABLE with 9(?) Sea Hurricanes 10 Feb1942 re-embarked 16 Feb 1942

888 Fleet Fighter Squadron

Detachments of Martlet IIs operated ashore from HMS FORMIDABLE 23 - 24 Apr 1942, 28-30 Jul 1942.



Ratmalana was a pre-war civilian aerodrome located 10 miles south of Colombo. The site was first used on November 27th 1935 with a grass landing area 600 yards square, when a de Havilland Puss Moth flown by Tyndalle Bisco, Chief Flying Instructor of the Madras Flying Club, was the first aircraft to land at the airfield. The formal opening of the Ratmalana as Colombo's Airport took place on 28th February 1938. A three story terminal building, several hangers and workshop facilities were added in 1939.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War the airfield was occasionally used by units of the RAF and Fleet Air Arm; from as early as March 1940 Walrus L2171 was disembarked from HMAS HOBART to be camouflaged in accordance with Admiralty instructions, re-embarking on the 21st. Other Walrus aircraft from 700 squadron catapult flights used the airfield; L2208 from HMS Glasgow crashed on landing at Ratmalana, on December 16 1941 and was written off. It is possible that there was a small stock of Walrus aircraft held at Ratmalana, records show that some were issued to catapult flights; L2322 was issued to HMAS AUSTRALIA from RN Ratmalana on November 18th 1940, and L2264 issued to 700 Squadron in HMS SHROPSHIRE April 22nd 1942.

There is no record of an RN Air Section being installed on the station, only references to lodger facilities which do not seem to have been taken up until the spring of 1941 when the 9 Fairey Swordfish 814 squadron disembarked from HMS HERMES on May 31st for a short stay of 18 days before moving to RNAS China Bay. The squadron spent their time carrying out A/S patrols on the approaches to Colombo and re-equipping with new aircraft which had arrived from the UK. The squadron made another, 7 day, stay on November 2nd, again disembarking from HMS HERMES and moving to China Bay. The next naval visitors were Fairey Albacores from 831 squadron at RNAS China Bay made two overnight stops on the 5th and 10th February 1942

Before the Spring of 1942 the RAF had only maintained a refuelling party on the airfield, supporting aircraft in transit to other stations. When it became clear that Japanese forces posed an immanent threat to bases Ceylon the field was requisitioned to form part of the air defences for Colombo and opened as RAF Ratmalana on March 1st 1942 when 258 Squadron RAF was reformed from G Squadrons Hurricanes. They were followed by the arrival of 30 Squadron RAF on March 6th flying in 26 Hurricanes which had been ferried aboard HMS INDOMITABLE. 880 squadron's 9 Sea Hurricanes also disembarked from HMS INDOMITABLE on the 10th before re-embarking on the 18th. Towards the end of March two new squadrons arrived for service in Fleet Carriers of the Eastern Fleet, 803 and 806; both were equipped with 12 Fulmar IIs and had been assembled at RNAS Dekhelia, Egypt before flying overland to Ceylon. 803 arrived on March 24th for service in HMS FORMIDABLE while 806 arrived on March 27th for service in HMS INDOMITABLE.

On Easter Sunday, 5 April 1942 Ratmalana and Colombo came under air attack by carrier-based aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The air defence of Colombo comprised of only 42 fighter aircraft, the bilk of them stationed at Ratmalana where RAF's Nos.30 and 258 got thirty-six Hurricanes into the air, losing fifteen of them during the fighting. The RN's 803 and 806 Squadrons were still 'working up' and due to unserviceable aircraft could only muster six Fulmars between them. A further 14 Hurricanes of 258 Squadron RAF were located at the improvised strip at Colombo racetrack, which was not known to the Japanese and so avoided attack. At the end of that day 30 Squadron had only 7 serviceable aircraft out of 22 available at the start of the day, 5 pilots had been killed in action and 2 injured for enemy planes shot down, seven 'probable' and five damaged. The RN lost four aircraft (X8569, X8640, DR705, and DR729 )and three pilots killed; one Japanese plane, an A6M(?)was shot down.

The remnants of 803 squadron moved to RNAS China Bay on April 9th to regroup. Their place was taken bay the Fulmars 800 squadron which disembarked from HMS INDOMITABLE on April 14th for a ten day stay. 806 flew to RNAS Katukurunda on the 18th, returning on the 22nd, and embarked HMS INDOMITABLE the following duty.. A detachment of Martlet single seat fighters of 888 operated ashore from HMS FORMIDABLE 23 - 24 April and were followed on the 28th by 818 squadron which also disembarked from HMS FORMIDABLE with 12 Swordfish. They moved to RNAS Katukurunda on May 9th. There were no naval squadrons on the station until July when the Martlet detachment form I FORMIDABLE 's888 operated ashore28-30th.

There is no recorded use of the Station by the Fleet Air Arm during the second half of 1942 nor through 1943 - it was not until October 1944 that disembarked squadrons returned to Ratmalana when 851 squadron disembarked from HMS SHAH the 19th with 12 Avengers & 3(?) Wildcats, They stayed until November 18th before moving to RAF Vavuyina.

A Fleet Air Arm personnel Transit Camp opened as early as April 1944 with its held on the books of 'BERHUNDA' - RNAS Colombo Racecourse, before it commissioned as an independent command as HMS SERUWA on May 1st 1945. The site housed personnel arriving from the UK for service in the East Indies, and Later British Pacific Fleets and awaiting drafts. After the Japanese surrender the camp housed men returning from front line units awaiting passage to the UK for demobilisation. To this end part of the site was used as RAF No. 8 Personnel Transit Centre, Ratmalana between Feb.-June 1946. HMS SERUWA paid off on September 25th 1946.

Note: There is reference to Ratmalana being a Royal Navy Air Yard but no records seem to exist to support this, RAF Station Ratmalana closed in October 1945 so it is possible that the station was earmarked for transfer to the RN for use as an Air Yard after this date.


Click here for a list of Primary sources





Location map and airfield plan go here


Aerial view of the airfield, date not known.


Ratmalana today

View Larger Map


View looking to the Northeast showing the single runway and station buildings


Click to see gallery of images relating to the FAA transit camp






 © 2013 Tony Drury


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