Latitude 01°25'31"N Longitude 103°48'46"E




ACQUISITION Transferred from Air Ministry 1939.


COMMISSIONED October 5th 1945 as 'NABROCK'

December 15th 1945 as 'SIMBANG'

 January 16th 1950 as 'SIMBANG'

July 1st 1953 as 'SIMBANG'

September 4th 1963as 'SIMBANG'

PAID OFF December 15th 1945 as 'NABROCK'

December 31st 1947 as 'SIMBANG'

April 1st 1957 as 'SIMBANG'

September 1st 1971 as 'SIMBANG'

C.O./O.I.C. Captain J.S.C. Salter D.S.C., O.B.E Oct 45 - Sep 47

Captain P.W. Burnett, D.S.O., D.S.C. Oct - Dec 47

Commander C.E. Eckersley-Maslin Jan 50 - ?

Commander W.H.N. Martin Oct 53 - Mar 56

Lieutenant Colonel M. A. Wilberforce RM Sep 62 - Sep 71

FUNCTION [1945 -47]

Support of 2 disembarked squadrons

791 Fleet Requirements Unit/Communications Flight



RN Air Repair Yard and Holding UNit capacity 80 a/c

Support of 1 Disembarked Carrier Air Group



Fleet Amphibious Forces Base

H.Q. No. 3 Commando Brigade RM

No. 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron

847 NAS

Naval Aircraft Support Unit

Support for disembarked squadrons


ADDRESS R.N. Air Station,





The airfield is situated in the N. of Singapore Island, in the B. T. Sembawang Estate, 10½ miles NNW. of Singapore railway station, 3 miles S. of the Naval Base and 1½l miles N. of Nee-Soon village.


LANDMARKS Causeway across Johore Strait 32' miles NW.
S. Seletar 3 miles E.


ROAD AND RAIL ACCESS First class roads N. to Naval Base and S. to Singapore. Railway station at Naval Base, terminus of branch line from main Singapore—Alor Star railway.
CONTROL Control Building, with ground signals, on S. side of landing area in front of hangars.


ELEVATION  90' above M.S.L.


RUNWAYS One, pierced steel planking.

14/32 QDM. 140° 320° .... 1,400 x 50 yds. 


A second runway

04/22 QDM. 044° 222° .... 2.000 x 50 yds. (Later realigned 340°/160°} was approved but not constructed.


TRACKS 50' perimeter track with cut back from runway to apron- close to Control Building


OBSTRUCTIONS Navigation None.
Circuit None.

[1955] SSW. block of flats 150' distant 3 miles

Approach None.


APPROACH Recommended sector, mean QDM.:


WIND INDICATOR Two: One on the NW. of boundary and a smaller one 100 yards N. of  control.
HOMING - VISUAL By day None.
By night None.
By night  
COMMUNICATION EQUIPMENT M/F & H/F  transmitters,  receivers.
VH/F   transmitters,   receivers.
Identity letters  



Living accommodation in buildings to S. of landing area.



  1948 1955 1962
Officers: 96 70 ?
Chiefs, P.O.s and ratings: 1,362 498 ?
W.R.N.S. Officers: None. None. ?
W.R.N.S.  Chiefs, P.O.s and ratings; None. None. ?


ARMOURIES To 4-6 Squadron scale.


COMPASS BASE Two with rotatable shoes.


DISPERSAL One concrete apron 1800' x 1S0' and 6 hardstandings


HANGARS To S. of landing area.
Number /Type Size Door Height Door Width
4 Bellman I85' x 105' 25' 105'
1 Type "C" 300' x 150' 35' 150'
MEDICAL Not known


METEOROLOGICAL Flying conditions in the vicinity of Singapore are generally good. Bad flying weather is mainly associated with heavy showers, thunderstorms and squalls, which, although common, are not usually long lasting. Rain, generally in the form of heavy showers, falls on 10-12 days per month throughout most of the year ; it is most likely between about noon and 1800.
Squalls are common in all months. They do not often reach gale force, which strength V; reached on about 7 days per year. From June to October thundery squalls, known as "Sumatran" occur—most often by night. Tliev approach from some westerly point, their frequency being about 7 per month at the height of the season.
Thunderstorms occur on 4-7 days per month in most months and thunder is audible on nearly 50% of days except in January and February. Cloud amount shows a large diurnal variation with skies often nearly cloudless by night and usually T'10 to 8; to or more covered by day. Visibility during the day is always good except when reduced by heavy rain. Fog occurs during the night and early morning on 2-3 days per month from January to May and occasionally in other months. It almost always clears by 0800 local time.


FUEL AND OIL   1948 1955
Aviation - 72,000 gallons. 48,000 gallons.
Kerosine  -  -
M/T - 3,000 gallons. 35,000 gallons.
Oil - Not known.  Not known.
TEST BASE Not known.


TEST BUTT One suitable, and 25 yd. range.


WORKSHOPS To 4-6 Squadron scale.


EXPLOSIVES Explosives area on NE side of the runway.





Air to air

Air to ground and R. p. Firing  
Live and practice bombing  
Practice bombing  

Assault training

Information taken from  BR. 1807 Admiralty Handbook of Royal Naval Air Stations Home and Abroad, March 1949 & 1955



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



Fleet Requirements Unit

Disembarked from H.M.S. SMITER 27.12.45. Disbanded here 16.06.47

Equipped with: initially 6 Corsair, 6 Vengeance and 1 Harvard, later 2 Seafire XVs, 2 Expeditors and 3 Auster Vs were received in 1946. Several Sea Otters (ex 1700 'C' flight) were absorbed in January 1946,


C Flt


Air Sea Rescue

Moved here from RNAS Katukurunda  08-20.11.45

Moved here from RNAS Katukurunda 15.12.45. Absorbed into 791 FRU 27.01.46

Equated with Sea Otter I.

3 BAS 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron Royal Marines

Formed here 12.07.1968. Moved to Coypool, Plymouth 19.07.1971

Equipped with 14 Sioux AH.1




     In 1934/35 a part of the Bukit Sembawang Rubber Estate site was purchased by the Air Ministry for construction of a grass airfield for the Royal Air Force. Approval for the construction was given in 1936, and the British Army started work in the following year. The station was planned for the operation of two RAF bomber squadrons but the airfield was transferred to Admiralty control in 1939 under the command of Captain P.G.L. Cazalet RN, for development into a Naval Air Station and Air Repair Yard to support a proposed Eastern Fleet with up to four fleet aircraft carriers. The landing ground had three prepared strips running N/S, NE.SW, AND NW/SE with a max run approx. 1,100 yards : the shortest, N/S was little used another two were to be lengthened by 300 yards in March 1940.

     The course of the war in Europe and the deteriorating situation in the Far East meant that these plans were put on hold and the station, by now basically complete as an operational airfield, was again transferred in May 1940, this time to the Royal Australian Air Force under the command of Group Captain J. McCauliey R.A.A.F. Thereare only two RN squadrons recorded as operating from RNAS Sembawang during this period, 813 and 824 Naval Air Squadrons arrived on the station on March 17th 1940 , each equipped with the nine Swordfish Mk.1. They had moved from the nearby RAF Kallang after disembarking from HMS EAGLE the day before when the ship arrived for a refit in the Naval Dockyard. The two squadrons remained at Sembawang until re-embarking on May 8th.


RAAF Station Sembawang
     The first operational units arrived in July and August 1940 when No. 1 and No. 8 squadrons Royal Australian .Air Force arrived, each equipped with 12 Lockheed Hudson medium bombers, the later leaving in November. Early in 1941 No. 21 squadron R.A.A.F. moved in from Seletar to re-equip with Brewster Buffalo fighters and briefly operated from Sembawang before being deployed in Malaya. No. 453 squadron R.A.A.F., also operating Buffalos, arrived in August 1941 and operated here until moving into Malaya in mid-December 1941 after the Japanese invasion of Malaya had begun.

     On December 8th 1941 the Japanese Army invaded Malaya and on this date the Netherlands government placed several squadrons under operational control of the British Far Eastern Command under the mutual defence assistance agreements with Great-Britain.. On the same day VLG-III was ordered to Singapore’s Sembawang airfield. VLG-III, comprised of three Bomber squadrons of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force, operating 22 Glenn Martin 139 bombers. None of the crews had been trained in night-flying, so one squadron was sent back to Java the same day to train. On their return a second squadron could be sent back for training. With the worsening situation on the Island and squadron losses in action the remaining Dutch bombers and fighters were recalled to Java on January 22nd 1942.

     No. 1 Squadron had five serviceable Hudsons left by Christmas Eve and by the end of January 1942 had moved to Sumatra. After suffering serious losses on December22nd, No. 453 Squadron e now with only three serviceable aircraft remaining, withdrew to Sembawang on Christmas Eve and was merged with 21 Squadron, which had also withdrawn to Singapore with six aircraft; the new unit, 21/453 Squadron was brought up to strength with an allocation of replacement aircraft. The amalgamated unit continued to fight on, until late January when, with precious few aircraft left, they were separated again. No. 21 Squadron personnel were then sent to the Netherlands East Indies, while No. 453 continued to operate the remaining six Buffaloes. In early February, only four serviceable aircraft remained operational they were flown to Java while the squadron's ground crew were evacuated by ship. Singapore surrendered to the Japanese army on February 15th 1942.

     While occupied by the Japanese Sembawang came under the control of both the Japanese Army and the Japanese Navy, these two forces surprisingly despised each other, and the Island of Singapore become divided North/South, the Navy controlling the North and the Army the South.


Following the Japanese surrender in the colony a naval advance party, under the command of Captain H.A. Traill OBE, RN, (formerly commanding Officer of the escort carrier HMS EMPRESS), arrived to take control of the airfield and prepare it for reopening. They found about 90 Zero fighters on the airfield and some 700 Japanese officers and men. The station was honeycombed with tunnels and foxholes and in a state of considerable disorder.

     Work on restoring the station to working order was started immediately and Japanese prisoners of war were employed filling in foxholes and tunnels and the laying of a 1,400 x 50 yard pierced steel planking runway. In order to provide the necessary equipment and infrastructure to operate the station Mobile Naval Air Base No. 9 (MONAB IX) was allocated to occupy the station and initiate naval flying and aviation support facilities for the region. The personnel were already in Australia and the transport carrying the unit's heavy equipment was diverted whilst still en route to Sydney. The personnel were split into 4 groups for the move to Singapore; the 1st, 2nd and 3rd phase advance parties were to travel by RAF Dakota transport planes via Moratai, in the Dutch East Indies. The remaining group, comprising of the main body of the unit were to travel by sea and were embarked in the Australian troop ship the HMTS LARGS BAY for passage to Singapore. The advance party commissioned Royal Naval Air Station Sembawang as HMS NABROCK, on October 5th 1945, Captain J.S.C. Salter D.S.C, O.B.E in command. The LARGS BAY docked in Singapore on November1st.

     MONAB 9 was equipped to support Fighter aircraft, namely Corsair Mk. II & IV, Seafire L.III & XV and Hellcat Mk. I & II but this role was revised after arrival at Sembawang; its Air Department was primarily employed in the seemly fruitless task of assembling crated American aircraft, many of which were Hellcats. Once assembled these brand new aircraft were ferried out to sea by aircraft carriers and dumped into the ocean; under the Lend-Lease agreement with the United States, under which these machines were supplied, the UK was required to return them or pay for them once the war was over; destroying them was the solution employed.

     On November 8th 'C' flight of 1700 squadron arrived from RNAS Katukurunda, Ceylon with a number of Sea Otter aircraft, for a brief detachment, returning to Katukurunda on the 20th; they returned on December 15th for a longer stay.


Re-commissioned as HMS SIMBANG
     On December 15th 1945 HMS NABROCK and MOANB IX was paid off. The station re-commissioned the same day as HMS SIMBANG. This was a paperwork exercise, effectively the MONAB ceased to exist but Captain Salter remained the station’s commanding officer and the ship's company remained to form the complement for the new Naval Air Station.

     The equipment of the now decommissioned MONAB IX was however to be retained at Sembawang as the nucleus of an enhanced reserve MONAB, held in storage on a care & maintenance basis for reactivation should it be required. Its existing components were supplemented by extra equipment and vehicles recovered from other MONABs recently paid off in Australia. It is believed that this reserve unit was maintained in storage at Sembawang until at least the mid nineteen fifties.

     On December 27th 1945 two squadrons arrived on board HMS SNITER to operate from Sembawang; No. 791 Naval Air Squadron to operate as a Fleet Requirements unit; equipment comprised a mixture of 6 Vengeance target tugs, 6 Corsairs and 1 Harvard, it was Sembawang's resident flying unit until it was disbanded on June 16th 1947. Also disembarked were the six Hellcat s of 888 Photographic Reconnaissance squadron, these were to undertake peacetime serial survey work in the area.

     By the end of January 1946 only the station’s Fleet requirements unit remained; on January 26th 791 absorbed 1700 squadron 'C' flight, and on the 29th 888 squadron personnel departed for the UK to disband on arrival, their aircraft were retained at Sembawang. Once the aircraft ereection and disposal tack was completed the station’s function was support for disembarked squadrons from carriers operating the Far East.

     The station’s main function were providing aircraft for exercises and calibration work with ships in the area and, from May 1946 to operate a communications flight using two Beech Expeditor aircraft. The first disembarked squadron arrived on October 2nd 1946 when the 12 Seafire XVs of 802 flew ashore from the Light Fleet Carrier GLORY. They stayed until November 14th when they embarked in the Light Fleet Carrier VENERABLE. Four days later 806 with 12 Seafire XVs, and 837 with 12 Firefly FR.1 disembarked from GLORY, these stayed until December 6th and 9th respectively, when they re-embarked. Both squadrons returned on May 17th 1947 when GLORY pit into Singapore again, they re-embarked on June 19th when GLORY sailed for the UK after being relieved on station by THESEUS. THESEUS disembarked her two squadrons beginning on June 7th when the 12 Seafire XVs of 804 flew ashore, followed by the 12 Firefly FR.1s of 812 on the 10th. At this time the station was running down to possible closure, on June 15th 791 squadron was disbanded and THESEUS re-embarked her squadrons on the 21st.

     On October 1st 1947 Captain P.W. Burnett, DSO, DSC assumed command of HMS SIMBANG ; the station was paid off and was reduced to Care & Maintenance status on December 31st 1947. The station was transferred to the RAF on loan on January 16th 1948 to relieve pressure on other RAAF stations on the Island. 60 squadron was the first RAF unit to take up residence; an advance party arrived on the station the same day. RAF Station Sembawang opened for flying on January 27th 1948 and the Spitfire F18s and one Harvard of 60 squadron flew in. They were followed by No. 1914 Flight operating Auster 6s and 28 squadron with Spitfire FR18s.




Click here for a list of Primary sources

Additional sources:


Admiralty Fleet Orders:


Confidential Admiralty Fleet Orders:








Unoficial design - no official badge was approved for this station.













 © 2013 Tony Drury


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