The "Kroh" incident 1960
at RAF Seletar 1960
I was an aircraft electrical fitter on 209 Squadron based at RAF Seletar in Singapore.
My duties were the first line servicing of our aircraft ( "single" and twin pioneers) and also the crewing of the aircraft on detachments up country in Malaya,Borneo, Brunei,& Laos . We were suddenly alerted by our Warrent Officer "Butch Peacock" to prepare two "twinpins for a detachment "up country" this we did , and travelled in the second aircraft with all the spares.
We landed at Taiping the HQ of the first battalion of the Royal New Zealand Regiment where we were well received by the Army, after an evening meal of mutton, we availed ourselves of the pongoes entertainment area , this comprised of a large hall with a bar at one end and a stage at the other.
The soldiery appeared to be in a jolly and rather "hypa" mood, there was much slapping of backs and drinking of warm "Swan" lager (Bleuuuugh ! ) We (The RAF) were simply refered to as "The Airforce Blokes" not "Pomms" just "Airforce blokes" which we found very friendly.
After a pint or three the entertainment proper started with Maouri after Maouri singing and strumming the inevitable "Uke", then we were asked to sing. My colleagues were all northerners and insisted on singing "On Ilkley Moor Bah't At" , but I coming from London sung a rather delightful yet suprisingly little known solo number entitled " There digging up Farvers Grave to build a sewer" to extremely moderate applause.
The festivities continued with an announcement that one of their number was getting married, the soldier then gave a very long winded speech, which apparently caused another pongoe who had a broken arm still in plaster to dive into the small duckweed infested pond that was situated outside.
The next morning, nursing ever so slight hangovers we breakfasted again on mutton and loaded I think about 15 troops into our twinpins,. The soldiers wore jungle green with blue hatbands they were armed with F.N. rifles, Stirling sub-machine guns & grenades, they had large back packs and smaller belt packs.Ah well , just an ordinary troop movement we thought. !
We landed at Kroh which is on the Malaya/Thai border it had (then) a small town on one side of the "airfield" (plain field )and an expanse of scrub and jungle on the other.It appeared a tiny bit unusual to us because an armoured car was wheezing and groaning up and down the towns streets.We were of course completely unarmed and didn't expect any trouble, after all wasn't the Malayan campaign all but over ?
After a lot of hanging around the kiwis had a kit inspection and then sauntered off in single file across the field. "Off they go" we thought "Playing soldiers !"
We (the RAF) in the meantime had "turned the aircraft round" servicing and refuelling them, the time must have been around 10 am,, You know NAAFI time !!!
Sure enough up turned , not the NAAFI but the "Sally Ann" (Salvation Army) in one of their purple coloured vans, the lady standing high in the van started dispensing char & wads (tea & buns/rolls) to us.
Suddenly one hell of a commotion started "Bang poppyty poppopopty Boom Bang poppytybang bang " it seemed to go on for ever, rifles ,submachine guns & grenades were being used. All very much in our earshot and extremely close to the airfield.
We dropped down quickly cringing to the ground almost spilling our tea at the same time shouting "They are shooting , they are shooting !!" The "Sally Ann" lady who remained upright in her van , tea pot in hand replying "Yes yes yes and you wanted a ham roll ?" she was completely unpeturbed by the incident !
We scrambled to our feet, looking and feeling somewhat sheepish, the Sally Ann van departed and we prepared to go, we climbed into the aircraft , and as we did so some troops started to return. A colleague of mine climbed out of the twinpin and asked the returning kiwi sergeant " What happened ?" The sergeant answered " We got five"..................... for over forty years I wondered what the hell had happened then I came in contact with a former C.O. of my squadron Squadron Leader Cess Crook M.B.E. who now resides in New Zealand, he wrote " I did know of the "firefight at Kroh" , it was before my time, but I understand the Police Field Force were chasing Chin Peng the C.T. , he eventually reached safety in Bentong across the Malay/Thai border. So Chin Peng and other C.T commanders with him managed to get away "
I feel so relieved , I had started to think I had imagined it !
Martin Shelvey formerly 1928667
Cpl. Shelvey M.J. Elect Fitter (air)
(formerly 1928667 Cpl. Shelvey M.J. Elect Fitter (air) )