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Royal New Zealand Air Force



Work on Tebrau was carried on until nearly the end of the month, when the order was given to evacuate and prepare that aerodrome also for demolition. Coolies dug holes in the newly formed runways, and mines were laid in them ready to be exploded when the word was given. An airman bitterly expressed the opinion that, in future, it would be simpler to build mines into the foundations page 100 when the aerodromes were being constructed. The camp was stripped clean of all equipment, stores, and personal gear, and the squadron moved out on the morning of 27 January, the last Air Force unit to leave the mainland.

The next day a demolition party returned and exploded the mines at Tebrau and the Rifle Range. Both strips were left pitted with craters 25 to 30 feet across and 10 feet deep which, it was hoped, would deny their use to the enemy for a considerable time.

On Singapore the unit was quartered at the Singapore Dairy Farm, in the centre of the island and about a dozen miles from the city. The men lived in tents hidden among the rubber trees, and the officers in one of the farm buildings.

For the next few days, despite frequent interruptions by enemy bombers, work was continued on the two new strips at Sungei Buloh and Yio Chu Kang, both of which were by then almost completed. When, at the beginning of February, the Japanese brought their artillery to bear on them, both had to be abandoned.

There was also a constant demand for men and machinery to help repair bomb damage on the main aerodromes, which were under daily attack, and parties were sent out as they were needed. In addition, at the urgent request of the Army authorities, a detachment spent several days building tank traps in the western part of the island.

At the end of January it was plain that Singapore was no place for an aerodrome construction squadron. The fields already in existence were being steadily pounded to bits, and any new construction would share the same fate. In any case, there were practically no aircraft left to use them. Once again, as in Norway, Greece and Crete, it was being proved that aerodromes without adequate fighter protection were valueless.

At that stage it was still hoped that Singapore could hold out until sufficient forces were assembled in the Netherlands East Indies to launch a counter-offensive, and it was decided to send the unit to Sumatra to prepare landing fields there.