- Swinden, Greg
- History - general
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2003 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
At the time of wriing, LCDR Swinden was RAN Liaison Officer Singapore.
IN THE JUNE 2003 EDITION of the Review was an article on HMS Simbang (RNAS Sembawang). The closing paragraph indicated that the base no longer existed and had been subsumed by housing estates. This is not quite true.
While some of the original runways and buildings have gone there is still a substantial amount of the original base in existence. After the departure of the Royal Navy in the early 1970s the base was handed over to the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the base is now known as RSAF Base Sembawang and is the home of several helicopter squadrons. The RSAF operates 120 Squadron (Iroquois Helicopters), 125 Squadron (Super Puma Helicopters) and 127 Squadron (Chinook Helicopters) from here and they can be frequently seen in the skies over Sembawang on training exercises. The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) does not currently have an organic helicopter force and relies on the Super Pumas of 125 Squadron as the Fleet Support Squadron (FSS) and these occasionally operate from the four Endurance Class LSTs which are based at Changi Naval Base.
The entrance to the base is off Sembawang Road via Toranto Gate (no, it’s not a spelling mistake but the Singlish way of pronouncing Taranto, which was a RN Fleet Air Arm victory against the Italian Fleet in WWII). The old RNAS golf course is still in existence and is now the Sembawang Country Club which has a very strong RSAF membership. The course winds its way around the edge of the base and is known as one of the toughest courses in Singapore, due to its steep hills, water hazards and sand bunkers. Many of the old RNAS buildings can be seen through the barbed wire fences surrounding the base. Another remnant from the days of the British Empire is in nearby Yishun where one of the local schools is still named Naval Base Secondary School.
For anyone wishing to look at the base they can do so from the golf course, but access to the actual base is almost impossible due to tight security in Singapore. One USAF exchange officer, who worked at the base, even remarked recently he could not even bring his children in to ‘have a look at where Dad worked’. Also due to security concerns, the many trees that once surrounded the base perimeter fences have been removed.
Dieppe Barracks, the previous home of the Royal Marines, is still in existence and was the home of the New Zealand Infantry Battalion based in Singapore up until the early 1990s. After the departure of the New Zealanders the barracks were upgraded and it is now the home of the 1st Guards Infantry Battalion (the Guards being an elite infantry unit in Singapore specialising in helicopter operations). Members of this unit can be distinguished by their unique khaki coloured beret.
Khatib Camp (Artillery Units) is just across the road from Dieppe Barracks and Nee Soon Camp is only a few kilometres down the road towards the city. Transit Road (the entrance to Nee Soon Camp and so named as this was a Transit Camp) still exists with its shops providing an array of electrical good, military accoutrements and tattoo parlours for Singaporean and visiting Allied service personnel.