Memories of the Kuantan Detachment, 3 Sqd, 1964
All photos by Sqd Ldr Mike Richards

[ Back ]

A B(I)8 flies over Kuantan's air defence
The crews
The galley
The Mess
The Ops Tent

Kuantan airfield was a few miles inland from the town, which itself was about 200 miles up the east coast of Malaya from Singapore.

The place was pretty basic with nigh-on zero facilities. It boasted a runway that was only 2000 yards long with a drainage ditch alongside, primary jungle off each end and a taxying loop leading to eight aircraft pans. Fuel storage was in the bowsers and accomodation was in a tented camp. The shortness of the runway limited the offensive radius of the detachment's B(I)8s when fitted with full war-load, unless they staged through RAAF Butterworth or RAF Tengah.

It was on 24 October 1964 that Wing Commander John Field, 3 Sqd's "Boss" at the time, was recalled from leave to take a detachment of four of the squadron's B(I)8s out to Malaysia to support the Far East Air Force in their Operation Confrontation. Malaya was then "confronting" an expansionist Indonesia and the FEAF needed reinforcements for its rocket firing Canberra B.15s. The contingency plan was that RAF Germany would fill the gap and the Kuantan detachment was to practice this reinforcement.

Four of the squadron's B(I)8s had been hastily re-roled from nuclear strike fit to Interdictor by fitting the cut-away bomb-doors, gun-packs and the wing mounted bomb pylons. It was also intended that this would be a "mixed" detachment with four of 14 Sqd's B(I)8s from RAFG Wildenrath joining the party.

On 26 October 1964, four B(I)8s left 3 Sqd's base at RAFG Geilenkirchen on the first leg of their trip, the ground crew having already left a couple of days earlier. The initial 3 Sqd crews were :

  • John Field (the "Boss") and Martin Fortune.
  • Peter Little and Mike Richards.
  • Greg Marsh and (possibly) Ginger Beadnell.
  • Eric Denson and Peter Broadhurst.
The outbound route took the 3 Sqd and 14 Sqd crews from Geilenkirchen/Wildenrath to Akrotiri. Then, the Turkey-Iran route to Bahrain following an HF-equipped B.15 of Akrotiri's Strike Wing. Fuel stop at Muharraq and on to Masirah. From Masirah to Gan to RAAF Butterworth and finally across the Malaysian peninsula to Kuantan on the opposite coast.

In the event, the crews were not "called in" to the action. They spent their days studying rudimentary target information and flying low level sorties on the China Rock range happily trying to sink the rock with 20mm cannon fire and practice bombs.

One aircraft casualty was a 3 Sqd B(I)8, XM244. Flown by a 14 Sqd crew, this had suffered, after landing, a collapsed port undercarriage and bent a wing tip. The pilot seems not to have been the cause though as 3 Sqd's Boss, Wg Cmdr John Field said "At first the finger had been pointed at the pilot, but when I climbed in to check I found the flap lever up, the undercarriage selected down and three-greens showing." A photo of this incident is here.

During the relatively few weeks of the detachment, several of 3 Sqd's crews managed to get into the "action" on this detachment (well, it was winter in Germany!).

The group photo shown here was supplied by Mike Richards who also put names to faces where he knew them. Click in the group photo for a larger image with names. Are you in the frame? Also from Mike the photo of "The Mess" - click for larger image with names where known. Are you in the frame?

In mid November, the detachment was recalled, flying back via Butterworth, Gan, Masirah, Akrotiri and Luqa to Geilenkirchen. 16 Sqd of Laarbruch were next to be sent out on the detachment and it was one of their crews that brought the repaired XM244 back to 3 Sqd at Geilenkirchen.

Post Script . . .
Sadly Air Commodore John Field, OC No 3(F) Squadron - July 1963 to July 1965, died on Monday 22nd July 2002.