Seletar Camp & Old Lamp Posts

Seletar Camp became operationally ready in 1928, as part of the British’s tactical defence of Singapore in the northern part of the island. The swampy lands were filled in the 1920s, with British planner C. E. Wood placed in charge for the construction of an airbase. In 1929, the Seletar Airbase was officially opened, functioning as an airstrip for commercial aircraft as well as a Royal Air Force (RAF) station.

seletar camp 2013-4

As more RAF personnel were deployed to station at Seletar, colonial-styled bungalows were built to house their families. Jalan Kayu, the main road leading to Seletar Camp, became prosperous with booming businesses and activities from the patronising British military.

seletar camp 2013-5

Seletar Camp and Airbase were captured by the Japanese in 1942, who renamed it as Seretar Hikojo. With the airbase suffered extensive damages from the bombings, the Japanese forces forced the British and Indian prisoners-of-war to build a new airstrip at Changi. After the war, the British reclaimed Seletar Camp, but the military compound was eventually taken over by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in 1971.

seletar camp 2013-6

seletar camp 2013-7

seletar camp 2013-8

Seletar was then split into East Camp and West Camp, where much of its eastern part remained restricted from public access until the early 2000s, and the western area, named the Seletar Airport, now functions as an aviation facility for commercial aircraft. The Seletar East Camp formerly housed many SAF combat engineer units. Between 1982 and 1995, it was also the home of Command and Staff College, which had shifted from Marina Hill. The former colonial buildings left by the British were utilised by the military units until 2011.

seletar camp 2013-9

Seletar Camp had largely enjoyed its rustic surroundings until the kickoff of the Seletar Aerospace Park project in 2006. Many old buildings were torn down, and some of the roads were expunged. Many of the roads, such as Old Birdcage Road, Morrington Crescent, Battersea Road and Piccadilly Circus, were named in heavy colonial flavours.

seletar camp 2013-2

The inner roads of the camp still retained the once-familiar orange-top bus stops. SBS feeder bus service 214E used to ply the routes between Jalan Kayu Bus Terminal and Seletar East Camp in the seventies and eighties at just 10c per trip (214W served the West Camp).

seletar camp 2013-10

By early 2013, the aerospace hub project finally extended its arm to an older portion of Seletar Camp. Its front gates were dismantled and the walls bulldozed to the ground. The old barracks were left vacated, quietly waiting for its fate to be sealed with eventual demolition.

seletar camp 2013-11

seletar camp 2013-12

seletar camp 2013-1

Some post-Second World War lamp posts can be found at the boundaries of Seletar Camp (outside Singapore Technologies), which are possibly the oldest functioning lamp posts in Singapore.

For 60 years, they perform their jobs admirably, lighting up the streets inside the Seletar Camp and witnessing the rapid changes of their surrounding environment especially after the mid-2000s.

The designs are simple and elegant, and many modern lamp posts found in Singapore (eg along Holland Road) have similar concepts as compared to these colonial lamp posts.

With the near completion of the new Aerospace Hub, it is reported that these historic artifacts will be relocated to another site inside the camp for preservation.

Elsewhere in Dempsey, there is a similar lamp post located in an old deserted compound (Block 72) at Loewen Cluster of Tanglin Camp.

For abandoned colonial houses at Seletar Camp, refer to Portsdown, Seletar & Sembawang Colonial Houses.

Also read Looking for Bits and Pieces of Old Seletar (2020).

Published: 22 October 2010

Updated: 04 June 2020

68 Responses to Seletar Camp & Old Lamp Posts

  1. Ollie Lim says:

    My parents acquired 3 of such lamp posts in the late 90s when they were replaced with the grey ones in Braddell Heights Estates. I am proud to say that the three lamp posts still stand in my garden!

  2. howard says:

    good old days! i was there serving my national service in 1978 to 1980. then, i was a peaceful place with lots and large green fields. while on duty on a weekend, it was so peaceful and too peaceful at night. today, the place has changed too much. recently, i was there to capture some shots. but, sad to say it has lost its charm.

    • Agreed. The whole place has become almost unrecognisable in just three years

    • Mano says:

      Agree with Howard. I was attached to Seletar east camp in 1971 onwards stayed at C block facing the cookhouse and near the bus stop. Weekends can be quiet if you don’t visit Astra Theatre ( owned by the British ) where they use to show uncensored movie where people as far as JB use to flock in.

      • Iyyaa Kannu says:

        It’s my living accommodation from 1966 to 1969.Than I was posted to RAF Tengah. It was very cool place and it was close to bus stand.Happy memories.

  3. FL says:

    After my POP, I and my fellow comrades were posted to Seletar East Camp in Feb 1971 until our ROD in Oct 1972. However, we also came back for ICTs until early 80s. Yes, I agree with what Howard had described of the place back then ( greenery, quiet & peaceful), but not now, I think as I did not enter the camp since then. Of course, then, I did not pay attention to the lamp posts as described in your blog. We stayed in the barracks vacated by the British soldiers. When we first came into the camp, the British were still guarding the main entrance to the camp. This place holds many happy memories for me during my NS days.

    • Mano says:

      Which block (barrack were you staying FL

      • FL says:

        Sorry for d late reply ! We were staying in 3 storey barrack which our Govt has preserved it till today. In my time, it was known as Block B n behind it was a huge parade square with Block D at d other end. Just opposite Block B was a camp canteen (Chinese operator) n oso a bus terminal ! How convenient it was back then ! However, not too long later, d bus terminal was moved outside in front SEC main entrance at Jalan Kayu.

  4. othman says:

    I served 30 SCE making army bridges at Tekong. We made routine inspection on the bridges by taking a boat from Seletar Camp. We were stranded halfway at Strait of Johore due to engine problem. The boat wash away by strong wind and raining to Johore coastline. We were worried because we carried M16 along. The boat commander managed to repair and continue our journey.

    • Mano says:

      35CEB also there. I suppose you took the boat near the former yacht club if you are referring Seletar east camp

  5. Devil says:

    there are still many such lampost left but mostly in military camps

  6. Ricko says:

    Served in MTTS (Maritime Training Technical School) Selatar West Camp in 1970 after the British Army left. Remember the “Mosquito Bus” that ferry us out of the camp to Jalan Kayu?

  7. Robert Wong Peng Keong. says:

    I was a young 2Lt in 1973 in 35SCE. I went back for 13 years reservist reporting. In 1995, I went back to learn to play golf in SBGC. I love Seletar Base very deeply and used to drive around inside the base for many years just to enjoy the scenery and black and white bungalows. I go back now and all the magic is gone. I am now 61 years old. A part of me has been taken away.

  8. daniel says:

    I remember last time i used to drive past several watch towers in seletar, not sure if they are still around. Its just by the road side, but now the road changes alot…

    • Alec Coles says:

      I remember being on patrol one night in early 1948 and we had to make sure that the Malay guards that were on the towers were awake,but on tower near the engine testing sheds there was no reply, when were we able to make contact, the guards were frightened to talk as they had seen the ghosts of the men that were hung by the Japanese soldiers during then war. The scaffolds were still there, being a raw 18 year old it was rather frightening at the time.

  9. Seletar has changed a lot in the past 2 years
    Many old colonial buildings in the Seletar Camp were demolished, especially at the East Camp

  10. The entrance to Seletar Camp, 1973

    (Photo credit to Colin Liddel)

  11. geezer466 says:

    I can recall RAF Seletar in the late 1960’s.
    The only military (Brit) seawater swimming pool on the Island and some great Chinese Furniture shops just outside the gate. The family still has some teak and camphor wood furniture purchased from there.

    • Shirley Thompson says:

      Snap…I remember the camp all so well – my happiest time ever. Even the little village outside – Jalan Kayu – wonderful years.

  12. duddexz says:

    some of these lamp posts can still be seen in tengah air base. only thing is that the lamps are modernised as they are still serving the roads…

  13. duddexz says:

    and tengah still has those exact buildings seen in your first few pictures in fantastic condition. they’ve been restored (building repainted, doors windows replaced, the toilet building modernised etc) and looks better than ever. too bad one cant just go in and look at them. they probably aren’t going away anytime soon though.

  14. 100kg war relic that’s over 60 years old found at Seletar construction site

    Tuesday, Sep 03, 2013

    SINGAPORE – Combat engineers and the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team from the SAF have uncovered a 100kg armed war relic that is more than 60 years old at a construction site in Seletar yesterday.

    SAF said on The Singapore Army Facebook page that they were activated yesterday to assess the war relic – an aerial bomb – which had been buried at the construction site.

    “The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team was activated after a 100kg, unexploded war relic was found in a construction site north-east of Singapore earlier today. The team immediately responded to the call of duty and assessed the war relic. The aerial bomb was found to be armed and buried for more than 60 years. Our EOD Team will be disposing it on-site tomorrow,” it said in a Facebook post dated 8.20pm on Sept 2.

    In an update this morning, the SAF said that they are preparing for their EOD Team to carry out a safe and controlled detonation on site.

    • Alec Coles says:

      Has anyone came across al the bombs that I helped to push overboard from a tank landing craft into the south China Seas during the clear out of the bomb dump that was on Seletar, I and other airmen spent 12 months doing that,

  15. Denis Williams says:

    I was there 1956-59 with 205/209 Sqdn Sunderlands. A magic place in those days, with The Malcolm Club, swimming pool and cinema.

    • Jim Coburn says:

      I was a Airframe Mech. on Sunderlands,’54 – ’57. First in the hanger with FEFBW and then on 205/209. Great times , many wonderful memories.

    • Stephen Askew says:

      Hi Denis
      We were there from 1957 to 1959 my father’s name is Sgt. John Askew and we lived in bird cage walk. Perhaps you may remember him.

    • Christine says:

      My father was stationed there at the same time and worked on the Sunderlands, John Askew did you know him? Unfortunately he recently passed away.

      • Ann Jardine says:

        My father was stationed at Seletar from about 1954-58 and I was born in Changi. My parents and two older brothers had many happy memories of the place. I went back in 2015 when in SIngapore.

  16. james says:

    Hangar 72 is in better state than hangar 1072, just discovered the different this morning.

  17. The Oval, RAF Seletar 1968

    Bus stop at Piccadilly Road, RAF Seletar 1968

    A kelong at the Straits of Johor, near Seletar 1969

    (Photo credit: Seletar Dreams group on Flickr: Kit Rabson)

  18. Robin Lewin says:

    I have recently taken over the new website for the RAF Seletar Association. For those interested it is you will find plenty of memories of people that have served at Seletar going back to the 1940s

  19. Chris Puxley says:

    Robin Lewin is building a brilliant website for our RAF Seletar Association and I recommend you have good look at the contents if you are interested in the history of the place that is now this new amazing aerospace hub. Whilst I am sorry that many of the old RAF Seletar buildings have had to be demolished, including my old bungalow, No.6 Hyde Park Gate, I am personally pleased that Seletar has a bright new future, still within in the aero industry, for which it was originally built. If you go there, please stop for a few minutes at the old RAF main gate and have a look at the new memorial cairn, commissioned by the RAF Seletar Association to commemorate the period 1926 – 1971 when it was a RAF Station and to all the people, RAF and civilian, who served there and maintained the facility.
    Chris Puxley,
    RAF Seletar Association

  20. The similarly-designed old lamp post at Bedok Camp

  21. An old photo of the Block 179, used as the former HQ for the RAF Station at Seletar

    (Photo credit: RAF Seletar Association)

  22. Carole duffin says:

    It’s been great to look at these old photos of Jalan kayu. I lived there at jalan tari serempi in 1967/8 and again in 1970&71 when my dad was stationed at RAF Tengah. I went to school at seletar and remember going to the taxi rank every day after school with my 50c to get a taxi to seletar pool where I would meet my mum. Happy days and memories of a great time.

  23. Vincent says:

    I was born in 1957, I lived at 46E Jalan Tari Lilian til 1977. Before 1971 Jalan Kayu and Royal Air Base (RAF) Seletar was a little England in Singapore. All is gone are those days.

  24. RAF Seletar 1960s

    (Source: Facebook Group “Nostalgic Singapore”)

  25. Chris Puxley says:

    For those out in Singapore and connected with Seletar Base, this is to let you know that a group (approx 25) of ex RAF Seletar servicemen and women will be making their final group visit to Singapore on 26 March 2015 for about 2 weeks. Their ultimate visit will include a call to the RAF Seletar Association memorial and hopefully a last look round at what remains of the old base and houses, etc. If you know of anything of interest that we might like to see or do, or can facilitate a visit to something of interest, please leave a note below with contact details and we would be very please to include it in our tour programme.
    Many thanks,
    Chris Puxley,
    RAF Seletar Association

  26. FL says:

    As a follow up to my comments on 17.06.2012, I remember during our NS days (1971-72), we really enjoyed the many facilities in Seletar East Camp. The Yacht club by the sea facing Johor, where we used to chill out in the evening with foods & beer there. We also shared the swimming
    pool with the British families, shopped at NAAFI (supermarket) and also watched movies at the Astra mini-cinema !! Also, not forgetting the vast open space and greenery with fresh air !

  27. Denis (Willilar) Williams says:

    For the servicemen who worked on 205/209 Squadron Flying Boats, the yacht club was almost a second crew room. The slipway and our official crew room were just yards away from the yacht club veranda. I spent many happy times sat on the veranda, eating a club sandwich

    • Jim Coburn says:

      I was an Airframe Mech. on FEFBW and then 205/209 Sunderlands from ’54 to ’57.
      Banana and toast was my ‘breakfast’ on the veranda as you say our second crew room.
      Great memories

      • Denis Williams says:

        My memory isn’t what it was, but as a fellow airframe mech on 205/209…56 to 59, our paths must have crossed. My name is Denis (willilar) Williams. My close mates were Norman Callister, Graham Patrick, Terry Ball, Alan Sangster, Ivan Wheller and Ian (Jock) Cooper who was admin.

    • Terry Forman says:

      A bit late replying to your post,hope you are still around,Iam Terry Forman 205/209 Storeman thro 1956.What joy our memories bring back. The booze up in the malcolm club among them. I got posted back to 389 Mu in 1960 and then to Tengah til Nov 62,married then and a different but wonderful life.Hope you are well. Ps remember we travelled home together on the “Captain Cook” via Cape Town,Thanks to Mr Nasser.:

      • Jim Coburn says:

        I was on 205/209 from ’54 to ’57 as Airframe Mech on Sunderlands. Used to have banana on toast on the yacht club veranda if we missed breakfast at the cook house.
        I also travelled home on the Captain Cook, think it was Jan ’57.
        Did you go to live in Australia?

      • Jim Coburn says:

        Hi Terry. I was on 205/209 from’54to’57 as Airframe Mech. Did we exchange info a few years ago?. Do you live in Australia?

  28. I used to go with my parents to the swimming pool and remember the noise that the Sunderland flying boats used to make. I used to try to catch the mud flaps in the mangrove swamps. Somewhere out there there is a guy that you could say owes his life to me as I spotted him on the bottom of the pool and got help to get him out and back to life. we used to have a couple living with us in Serrangoon Garden Estate in Cowdray Avenue. This was around 1956.

  29. Aerial view of Seletar 1950s

    It was a vast piece of undeveloped greenery back then

    (Photo credit: Facebook Group “Nostalgic Singapore”)

  30. brianlchild says:

    I was in Singapore during the years 54-57. One very significant period for a certain airmans life. I found him lying on the bottom of the Seletar swimming pool. Learnt to swim in that pool with the aid of four airmen throwing me in not knowing that I couldn’t swim at the time, soon learnt. I used to stand on the bridge watching the mud flappers. If anyone knew the guy I hope he had a very happy and fulfilled life.

  31. Maurice Whincup says:

    The fish walking on the mud are called Mud Skippers, I would watch them most days on my way to work in the transmitter station near the pool. That was in 1957 to 59. When my family came out we lived in Jalan Kayu behind Chee Kow’s shop and then moved on camp 13 Brompton Road. It is now inside the fence of the aero space hub.

  32. brianlchild says:

    I was 6 when we arrived in Singapore and 9 when we left. I remember names like Nee Soon Wot and going across the causeway to Johore Buru. I remember fishing at the ponds now I believe we’re called natural ponds. We caught huge black cat fish there on a long bamboo rod with a hook, float and a length of cat gut. We lived in Cowdray Avenue then moved to Blandford Drive on the Serrangoon Garden Estate. I was taught to climb Palm trees by a prisoner at Changi Jail. One of my friends Dad was an embalmer called Webb. My stories appear to be endless. There must be others who remember those times. My birthday was the day the riots started.

  33. Denis Williams says:

    I was in one of the RAF riot squads during the riots. Pretty scary.

  34. Doug Gibson says:

    My father was a warrant officer class 2 and we lived in 5 Baker St (now Blk 309
    My sister went to ANZUK school at 5 Oxford St. in a converted house with portable class rooms in the backyard (auxiliary campus)
    My school was ANZUK out at Woodlands
    Our stay was from June1972 till Aprill 75

  35. Stationed Seletar 1953-55 Airframe Mec, Had to make emergency landing while out over Borneo Beached the flying boat at a place called Tawau,There for weeks doing repairs and the local people were wonderfull and took good care of us,Lost all photos of the exsperience and hope someone out there was with me on this exciting timè,So many pics taken of us beached and would love to think there might be someone out there who was with me ,Cheers

  36. Alec Coles says:

    Is there anybody on this site that was at R A F Seletar between 1948/49 I was an armourer on 9X site.

  37. Denis (Willilar) Williams says:

    Too early for me…56/59, but I remember 9x well.

    • brianlchild says:

      I was 6 when I lived there and left in 1957. We used to go swimming in the Seleta pool.

      • Denis (Willilar) Williams says:

        Could have been in that pool at the same time, as I swam everyday. Working on the Sunderland Flying Boats, swimming was second nature.

      • brianlchild says:

        One of the guys I found at the bottom of the deep end, he had hit his head on the board on the way down. Mind you I learnt to swim there, four RAF guys threw me in. Do you remember the riots?

  38. Denis (Willilar) Williams says:

    Remember…I was a member of a riot squad. Scary.

    • brianlchild says:

      It was my birthday the next day that they started and my friends were escorted to and from my party by Ghurkas. Now that was scary. My parents were in Singapore City picking up my birthday cake.

  39. Nice… One of the old lamp posts at Seletar West Camp Road has been refurbished into a street signage.

  40. Pao Ven Kiang says:

    I worked in 1 Air Supply Base in the 70s and 170 Sqn, Base HQ a total of 8 years in Seletar Air Base.I was also a member of the SAF yacht club. Today I went to Seletar camp for a walk and was totally lost. My memories have all been erased.

  41. John Carter says:

    I am confused by some of the posts referring to ” National Service in 1970’s. Ijoined the RAF in 1958 and NS had already finished. I was at Seletar from 1965 till 1968 at JARIC (FE). Our unit was in the old power station at the end of the runway on East Camp . Lived at Seletar Hills. Great Days.

    • Michael Evans - (Mike) says:

      John, I assume that you were not in the Photographic Section as this was on West Camp.
      I arrived October 64, left 1966 posted to 390 MU (NDT) as their Photographer. JARIC was in the old Japanese Prison where the Seletar RAF personnel were kept.

  42. Michael Evans - (Mike) says:

    I served 1964 to 1967. Initially at JARIC. Posted to NDT 390 MU as their Photographer. I am writing my memories of Singapore and can find no mention anywhere of JARIC (photo section) or NDT

  43. Howard says:

    I recognise the original entrance to RAF Seleter, as approached from Jalan Kayu village.
    Before you got to the camp were 2 schools divided by the main road, Senior School on 1 side & Juniors on the other. The latter I attended & the former my sister.
    We lived on the Thompson estate.
    My father was a helicopter pilot on 110 Sqn RAF Seleter.
    We returned to RAF Tern Hill, UK, in August 1969.

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