RAF Shatin Airfield – daily life

Peter Howell has kindly sent the following introduction and images:

1900 Air Observation Post Flight, 657 Squadron, arrived in Hong Kong at
the end of April 1953. Within a few weeks, the personnel had
re-assembled their four Auster Mk 6 and one Auster Mk 7 aircraft and
started flying operations from the airstrip near Shatin village.

The attached photographs of daily life around the airstrip compound were
either taken by Corporal Dick Greenwood or myself.

I was 18 years old on arrival, and my role was that of Air Wireless
Mechanic. As at that stage the aircraft were not fitted with VHF radios,
I had very little to do other than maintain the wire aerials that were
fitted to enable the Army No. 18 Medium Wave Transmitter/receivers
wireless sets to be operated. As a consequence I was very much the spare
hand and spent much of my time doing duty crew tasks, refuelling, hand
starting the engines, taxiing directing etc. Also simply giving a hand
where needed, to the Engine mechanics, Airframe mechanics, the
Electrician and The Fabric worker. Later on in 1953 VHF radios were
fitted to the aircraft which gave me more of my own specialised work to do.

I remained at the Flight until September 1954 when I relocated to No. 80
Squadron at RAF Kai Tak to broaden my experience, finally returning to
the United Kingdom for demobilisation in March 1955.

The accompanying photographs, all taken at various times between May
1953 and August 1954 show something of every day life at the Airstrip.
Service routines consisted of Daily, Weekly and Monthly Inspections. The
more extensive Minor and Major servicing was carried out at the Air
Servicing Flight at RAF Kai Tak.

The work of the unit consisted of carrying out daily patrols and
observation for illegal activity along the Chinese border, the Estuary
of the Pearl River and around the many islands, sometimes using high
powered cameras to take photographs of anything considered of interest
to the Military and Civilian authorities.. Providing a target for Naval
Ships Radar Alignment was another task, along with assisting Artillery
Shoots with the Royal Artillery and the Royal Navy by flying around and
observing where shells landed in relation to their target and
transmitting correcting information for subsequent rounds of gunfire.

High ranking service personnel were regularly flown around the Colony on
their arrival and during manouevres for familiarisation and inspection
of their regiments and units.

The non-commissioned members of the unit, both Army and RAF were trained
to act as observers and photographers.

The joint services unit worked very well together, the RAF personnel
keeping the aircraft in tiptop condition, and the Army personnel
providing all the land communication services, logistics, water
supplies, vehicle maintenance, security etc.

HF: I have added the photo captions provided by Peter and an image number so that individual images can be easily identified by anyone wishing to add information.

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 1 Peter Howell

Image 1 An airframe fitter carrying out a fabric repair…Note the committee meeting in the background

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 2 Peter Howell

Image 2 Refuelling by hand

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 3 Peter Howell

Image 3 VF487 being serviced in 1953 before the hangar was built

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 4 Peter Howell

Image 4 Taken during the construction of the hangar early 1954

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 5 Peter Howell

Image 5 WJ369 Awaiting engine service

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 6 Peter Howell

Image 6 WJ363 with doors removed ready for a photo reconnaissance flight

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 7 Peter Howell

Image 7 WJ363 ready for startup 1954 after the hangar was built

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 8 Peter Howell

Image 8 Starting an engine by swinging the propeller. Note an airframe fitter working on an aileron in the background.

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 9 Peter Howell

Image 9 Aircraft being guided out of the compound ready for a sortie

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 10 Peter Howell

Image 10 Just airborne – heading south

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 11 Peter Howell

Image 11 Taking off to the South

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 12 Peter Howell

Image 12 Entering the compound after a sortie

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 13 Peter Howell

Image 13 Overnight storage

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 14 Peter Howell

Image 14 Transport between the Airstrip and Arcullis House was provided on a 3 ton truck

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 15 Peter Howell

Image 15 Out of hours security was taken very seriously

Shatin Airfield, Daily Life Image 16 Peter Howell

Image 16 Security was provided by the Army Dog Handler


  1. RAF Sha Tin [1949-1962] on gwulo.com
  2. Sha Tin Airfield Wikipedia

This article was first posted on 13th April 2021.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. RAF Shatin Airfield – aerial images
  2. Shatin Airfield 1949-1962
  3. Shatin Airfield – 1954 article about British Army/RAF use
  4. Shatin Army Camp – link to Shatin Airfield
  5. Shatin – first powered flight in Hong Kong 1911
  6. An Aeroplane Called Wanda – historic flight over Shatin March 18th, 1911.
  7. Charles Van den Born – first powered flight in Hong Kong, Shatin, 1911

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *