THE SENTOSA RESCUE MISSION

3 - 31 March 1989

The Sentosa Crew
Left to Right: Mike Adams, Nick Sayer, Phil Bowly,
Ian Collins, Cliff Robinson and Ken Woodrow
(This image is linked to a larger view)

 

DAY 1 - 3 MARCH FRIDAY:
QANTAS Flight QF51 Boeing 767-338ER VH-OGC "City of Bendigo" Brisbane to Singapore. Owing to industrial action at Brisbane Airport, departure was delayed by one hour. Numerous heavy toolboxes failed to amuse Qantas executive staff who were loading the aircraft! Ken and Mike were invited to the flight deck for the take-off. Cliff, Ian and Phil visited the flight deck during the flight with Ian and Phil sitting in on landing. All were very impressed with the Qantas Boeing 767ER and the hospitality extended by Captain Noel Graham and his crew. After collecting toolboxes and bags we passed through customs and immigration with no problems. Three cabs were required to take the team and toolboxes/bags to the Ramada Taipan Hotel. Mike, Phil and Cliff finished up at the front door with Ken and Ian at the back door. After half an hour of searching, all were reunited at the foot of the escalator. Big prang on top of escalator involving tour manager, Cliff, Ken, Ian, baggage trolley and many toolboxes. No major damage apart from cut fingers to Ken, demise of Cliff's watch and dented toolboxes. A restful night was spent by all in excellent accommodations.

DAY 2 - 4 MARCH SATURDAY:
We all had a big breakfast and were very surprised to find that it was still dark at 0600 in Singapore. After breakfast we went on a short shopping trip to buy two cans of C.R.C. Departed Ramada Taipan at 0900 in two cabs to the ferry terminal for the trip to Sentosa [World Trade Centre]. Cliff, Mike and Ken to the side door, Ian and Phil to the front door. We had mastered the art of getting separated and Ian was getting bored with guarding a pile of toolboxes while everybody rounded each other up. Phil scrounged a trolley to shuttle the toolboxes/bags to the sampan jetty as the ferry crew refused permission for the team to take toolboxes on board the ferry! Cliff had to barter with a sampan operator to transport us and our gear the half mile to Sentosa. The price was $35.00 with us doing the loading/unloading and some of the deckhand work. On Sentosa [old ferry jetty] we had arranged for a bus to transport us on to the youth hostel - cost $15.00. We were quickly finding out that Singapore is a strictly cash economy. There are two youth hostel blocks on Sentosa and it took several hours to find which one we were booked into. Our first encounter with the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. It was all sorted out by 1400 and we moved into spartan accommodation only to find that there is no dunny paper supplied and no cups to drink tea/coffee from. At 1730 the decision was made to get some tucker but there are two problems:- 1. thunderstorm 2. all known food outlets are closed. The best we could hope for was a water diet for dinner. A night fighting with mosquito nets and mosquitoes ensued. The immediate reaction from all is that we have taken on a near impossible job due to the narrowness of the roads, interfering trees and deep gutters.

DAY 3 - 5 MARCH SUNDAY:
Breakfast of water but we did have ice to improve the taste. We walked to the aircraft for a detailed inspection and all agreed: "Big, aren't they?". Ken and Ian took some photos while Cliff, Phil and Mike commenced work on the Hunter. Much was achieved in relation to exposing the wing and fuselage joints. Cliff, Ken and Mike walked to the World Trade Centre to do some shopping and returned with provisions of spam, bread and fruit and resumed work on the aircraft. Ken fell over an angle iron frame being used to support the Hunter tailplane. No damage to the aircraft but Ken suffers a sprained ankle. Second fall in two days. He's doing well! A hearty dinner of spam sandwiches followed by a bowl of tea or coffee was enjoyed by all. Soup bowls make good teacups.

DAY 4 - 6 MARCH MONDAY:
We all went down to the ferry terminal to meet Nick and then to Sentosa Development Corp. office for meeting to introduce ourselves and the general guidelines and restrictions that we would be required to work with. SDC seemed supportive to a point and were impressed that we were volunteers and were using our annual holidays for this rescue mission. We all thought it was a good meeting. We were required to obtain a Sentosa worker's pass for each member of the team. This required a trip back to the World Trade Centre to obtain passport photos. The paper chase continues with Ken and Mike ploughing through red tape to only get passes for themselves, Ian and Phil. Cliff and Nick had to go through the same exercise on the following day. Cliff and Nick went to Singapore to commence chasing up contacts. Ian, Phil, Mike and Ken continued work on the Hunter. For amusement before going to sleep that night, we played "I Spy"! This must be blamed on Nick who was probably suffering a delayed form of culture shock!

DAY 5 - 7 MARCH TUESDAY:
Ken and Mike worked on the Meteor while Cliff, Phil and Ian continued work on the Hunter rear fuselage and tailplane. Nick again went to Singapore to chase up contacts. Cliff went to W.R. Shipping to meet Joey Wong, a contact given to us by Carpentaria International in Australia. The result of this meeting was that we obtained the use of a "free" barge to transport the aircraft and components from Sentosa to Singapore. Cliff also called in to the Ramada Taipan to arrange accommodation for the second week as the youth hostels are all booked out due to school holidays.

DAY 6 - 8 MARCH WEDNESDAY:
A reporter and photographer from the "New Paper" attended while we removed the Hunter fin and tailplane. These components were just manageable with six persons as they are much heavier than they look. After lunch, Nick, Phil, Ian and Mike worked on the Meteor to commence removal of the upper fin/rudder and tailplane. Ken, Mike and Ian used a tape to measure the only likely towing route for the aircraft from their display position to the Serapong Ramp from where they could be barged to Singapore. The conclusion was that the Meteor would be a tight squeeze and the Vixen would not be towable!! The Hunter would be completely dismantled and trucked as components. Cliff and Ken went to the Prime Minister's office in Singapore in an attempt to make an appointment for a personal meeting only to be informed that all appointment requests must be made in writing. They then went on to People's Park to purchase a new battery drill as Mike's was not proving capable of the task of drilling out hundreds of rusty screws. The hardware "store" turns out to be a veritable gold mine and several trips were to be made there in the future. That night, Nick, Ian and Phil got lost returning to the hostel and ended up at the far end of Sentosa. They blamed Phil for the navigational error.

DAY 7 - 9 MARCH THURSDAY:
At 0900 we had a meeting with the Ranger [Police Inspector] to outline our rough plans. He seemed very receptive to our general ideas and proposed a meeting with the SDC Maintenance Chief which was set for 1430. Mike and Nick travelled to the RSAF base at Seletar to seek the loan of Hunter wing pin/bush removal tools. Ian, Phil, Ken and Cliff worked on removing Meteor wing pins which proved not to be a great problem. At 1430, Ken and Cliff met the Police Chief and the Maintenance Chief to seek the loan of a tractor for towing aircraft, a welder and an oxy torch. The Maintenance Chief was not very agreeable to any of these requests so Ken and Cliff returned to the aircraft a bit depressed. Mike Holtby, a Singapore Airlines Captain who first informed us of the "Sentosa Orphans", arrived at 1600 for a general discussion and update on the situation. Made early contacts with Singapore Airlines in relation to a suitable towing vehicle. By evening, both the Hunter and Meteor were fully prepared for dismantling. We could go no further without the use of a crane. That evening we visited the surrender chambers which are reconstructions of the British surrender to the Japanese and the subsequent Japanese surrender to the allies. All slept well as we would have to move out of the hostel over the weekend.

DAY 8 - 10 MARCH FRIDAY:
Phil, Cliff, Ian and Mike commenced work on dismantling the Sea Vixen as no further work could be done on the Hunter and Meteor until a crane could be arranged. About 1000, Phil and Ian walked to the LPD ramp for discussions with contractors about a truck mounted crane. Unfortunately, contractors on Sentosa were not in a position to lend/lease a vehicle to us. Nick and Ken went to see Mr Lim [Aik Hong Hardware] as the SDC considered him still responsible for the removal of the aircraft from Sentosa. We were able to secure the loan of the Aik Hong Hardware seven ton Bedford truck with a four ton crane, an extension of Aik Hong's insurance to cover QAM while on Sentosa and we bought a four-wheel trolley that would be useful for transporting components to the loading ramp. This trolley will also have a multitude of uses at Caloundra. The agreed price was S$400.00 after repairs by Aik Hong Hardware. At completion of the days work we all moved back to the Ramada Taipan for the weekend as the youth hostel was fully booked. The hot showers at the hotel were enjoyed by all. At 2200 we met John Ho. This gentleman was to become our cornerstone contact in Singapore.

DAY 9 - 11 MARCH SATURDAY:
Due to the inability to do any further dismantling on Sentosa without the use of a crane, we decided to have a break over the weekend. Therefore, we played tourist, seeing some of the sights of Singapore. Cliff bought a new tyre pump as the foot pump bought in Australia had expired after pumping up four tyres [three on Meteor plus the Hunter nosewheel].

DAY 10 - 12 MARCH SUNDAY:
Played tourist!

DAY 11 - 13 MARCH MONDAY:
In the morning, Ian and Phil moved back to Sentosa only to find that there had been a mixup with bookings and we would be in the other youth hostel [Block 18]. Mike and Nick went to SAMCO [Singapore Aerospace Manufacturing Co] to check on the loan of Hunter wing pin removal tools. Ken and Cliff had a busy day with meetings. Firstly to Mr S C Lim of the Straits Conference Secretariat, then to Neptune Orient Line to put our case for shipping and then to W R Shipping [Joey Wong] to make definite arrangements about the barge and to arrange collection of Mr Lim's truck. They then went to People's Park to buy a three inch pipe cutter and a small trenching tool. The pipe cutter would be required to cut the uprights in the barriers around the aircraft and the trenching tool was needed to make clearance for the counterweight on the boom gate at the barge loading ramp. Ian and Phil worked on the Sea Vixen all day, mainly on the tailplane. Joe Pillai from Rehnania [Grace Bros] visited the aircraft. This started another possible contact. Mike begins to feel a bit sick as he had contracted shingles.

DAY 12 - 14 MARCH TUESDAY:
Mike was very sick and spent all day in bed with a temperature of 103. Ian, Phil, Cliff, Nick and Ken all worked on the Sea Vixen fuselage joints and tailplane. The Sea Vixen was proving extremely difficult to dismantle as a large number of bolts and screws were corroded quite badly. Cliff and Ken dismantled one of the DC-3 propellors and were quite surprised at the lack of corrosion/deterioration. After lunch, Cliff and Ken returned to Neptune Orient Line to meet with Eric Eng. On return to Sentosa, they dismantled the second DC-3 prop and also heard of the action by the Prime Minister's office in relation to NOL. The message about this caused a big stir amongst the Sentosa administration staff as it had to be hand delivered to us. We were also informed that we would have to move camp on Wednesday, back to our original youth hostel block! John Ho arrived to let us into his storeroom to collect instruments and panel for the Hunter.

DAY 13 - 15 MARCH WEDNESDAY:
Continued work on the Sea Vixen. The screws in the tailboom joints were proving extremely difficult to remove. They are countersunk with a special slot requiring modification of Ken's screwdriver. The biggest problem is the fact that the screws have rusted nuts and the screw ends have been peened over to prevent them vibrating loose in service. We moved camp just before lunch back to our original hostel block [Block 60]. Mike is getting better and is able to take photographs. We presented our movement schedule to SDC although insurance documents still have not been received from Mr Lim and this is a big question for the SDC. Joey Wong confirms barge for Saturday and he will make arrangements re naval shipping clearance and collection of truck. Late in the afternoon we were able to confirm insurance coverage. We also feel that we have completed preparation of the Sea Vixen tailplane - we hope!

DAY 14 - 16 MARCH THURSDAY:
Everybody spent all day removing the boom joint screws on the Sea Vixen. For some of these screws it required five men to maintain pressure on the screwdriver via an elaborate system of levers while the sixth man used a socket on the nut. Once the nuts were removed, the screws had to be driven out as they are an interference fit in the holes. The battery drills were put to good use as some of the difficult screws had to be drilled out. We all agreed that the fuselage boom joint construction method on the Sea Vixen is a retrograde step in relation to the Sea Venom. We were also able to do several trips to Serapong Ramp with the Hunter wings, rear fuselage and the Meteor wings. These did not require escorts.

DAY 15 - 17 MARCH FRIDAY:
Nick went to SAMCO to collect Hunter wing pin extraction tools and spanners. We tried to pump up Sea Vixen main gear tyres with new pump but blew out the connecting hose. Fortunately we were able to use the hose from the foot pump and thus build a workable pump. Mike, Ian and Phil worked on the Hunter and Meteor in final preparation for dismantling. Cliff and Ken went to town to see Joe Pillai and Karl Hohenberger of Rehnania for a standard meeting, then to WR Shipping [Joey Wong] to finalise barge for tomorrow. There followed a visit to Peoples Park to buy a one and five sixteenths inch AF ring spanner for the nuts on the wing pivot points on the Sea Vixen. This little hardware store is really amazing. He stocks just about everything. Nick departs for the Ramada Taipan for one last day in Singapore before returning to Australia. SDC have yet to confirm validity of an international driving permit for Ken to drive the truck.

DAY 16 - 18 MARCH SATURDAY:
Ian and Phil had a dawn start to get to Jurong Marine Base to board the barge "Tai Ching" by 1000. Phil had to make 19 phone calls to arrange Port of Singapore Authority and Navy clearance to use Serapong Ramp. Ken was waiting at the ramp to drive the truck. PSA would not give clearance for barge to take the most direct route, so "Tai Chin" had to sail right around Sentosa Island thus making it three hours late on arrival at Serapong Ramp. Meanwhile, Ken and Mike had launched a foot search to locate alternative landing ramps. All finally met at Serapong at 1500. Ken drove the ancient Bedford to the aircraft with Ian and Phil as frightened passengers. The barge owner, Mr Teng, has made a tentative offer of storage at the Jurong Marine Base for the Meteor and Sea Vixen. Cliff went to see Mr Teo at Neptune Orient Line in response to a letter from the Prime Minister. It is possible that NOL may assist with twenty and forty foot containers. A good day! We have the truck and crane on the island, we may have storage and we may have reduced rate shipping for the containers.

DAY 17 - 19 MARCH SUNDAY:
Serious dismantling can now commence. We removed the Meteor wings and had great difficulty removing the stubborn tailplane bolts on the Meteor. We also removed the Hunter rear fuselage section. Not a bad day's work! The Meteor is now ready for towing. Karl Hohenberger from Rehnania visited with his family and seemed very impressed and on side. We are all beginning to feel the effects of the constant workload and heat/humidity but we must keep going as we know that over the next fortnight we will have to achieve our target.

DAY 18 - 20 MARCH MONDAY:
The plan for the day was to fold the undercarriage on the Hunter and lower it to the ground with air bags and crane. As it transpired, we had problems folding the nose gear. There is a lock right at the top of the leg. Once we freed this rusty lock, we were able to fold the nose gear and lock it up. This took us all morning. While Ken was trying to contact John Ho for some information on the Hunter, a thunderstorm hit Sentosa putting all public telephones out of action and drowning everything. After the storm we attempted to fold the port main gear. After two and a half hours, it was decided to remove the ram as this was the only apparent way of folding the gear. We were to learn later that the ram has an internal lock which requires hydraulic pressure to unlock it. Without hydraulic pressure we were wasting our time, removal of the ram was the only solution. We successfully folded the port main gear and lowered that side of the Hunter just as the daylight disappeared.

DAY 19 - 21 MARCH TUESDAY:
Everybody was up before dawn to enable an 0600 start. Problems with the electrics on the truck delayed us for about one and a half hours. When we did get the truck started, it took us only half an hour to remove the starboard ram and lower the Hunter to the ground. While repositioning the truck, all drive was lost! Disappointment is loudly expressed by everyone and a broken axle is suspected. Ken and Phil had an appointment with Mr Teng in relation to a storage area so they had to leave Ian, Mike and Cliff to dismantle the differential and confirm a broken axle. Cliff travelled in to town to purchase a new axle as no help was forthcoming from Aik Hong Hardware as Mr Lim was away in Hong Kong. Mike and Ian continued to dismantle the diff as the broken stub had to be removed from the centre. Phil and Ken had a good meeting and confirmed storage for the Meteor and Sea Vixen at Jurong Marine Base at a reduced/free rate and returned to help with the truck. Cliff arrived with a new axle at 1900. Ken, Phil and Ian worked by torchlight to fit the axle and reassemble the diff. Repairs could not be completed before everyone succumbed to the effects of a seventeen hour day and the Queensland Truck Museum workers retired at 2230!

DAY 20 - 22 MARCH WEDNESDAY:
Everybody was up before dawn for another 0600 start. Ken and Ian finalised assembly of the diff by educated guesswork in relation to crownwheel/pinion setting. Cliff agreed with the guess. Reassembly was completed at approximately 1000 and the truck was taken for a short test drive. The diff sounds ok but the gearbox does not sound too healthy. While the truck was mobile, we decided to put it to good use so we commenced removal of the Hunter port mainplane. The pins were removed in sequence, top main, bottom main, top rear and bottom rear. The wing was separated by about half an inch but it proved very difficult to sling. A hidden fuel fuel pipe was preventing the removal of the wing. This was attended to and the wing removal was completed by torchlight at 2030. Another long day - 15 hours! Cliff was feeling sick and had to retire early. Everybody getting very tired.

DAY 21 - 23 MARCH THURSDAY:
Another dawn start to remove the Hunter starboard wing. Armed with the knowledge of the fuel pipe, what had been a two and a half hour task the previous day took only twenty-eight minutes. The Hunter was now ready for transport to Serapong ramp. Two down - one to go! Mike, Ian, Phil and Ken used the crane to lift and prop the Sea Vixen starboard main gear to remove the wheel so that John Ho could attempt to have the tyre repaired. John and Cliff took the tyre to the tyre repairers only to be told that it couldn't be foam filled. At about 1000, a reporter and photographer from the "New Paper" arrived. An extensive interview ensued during which they were informed of our difficulties both physical and financial. Cliff and John visited Joey Wong [WR Shipping] to be told that our "free" barge would cost S$6,000.00 per trip. During the day, Phil dropped a length of 6x6 inch timber on his toe and it was becoming very painful. An ice pack was the best treatment we could provide. At 1630 we started experimenting with methods of towing the Meteor with the truck. By 1930 we had developed a method of using the crane jib as a semi-rigid towbar and were ready to start at 2030 with our previously arranged police escort. The tow began at 2030 and proceeded about 50 yards before our first tree hazard stopped us half way down the hill. We tried reversing, but without a rigid towbar on the nose gear, we did not have the steering accuracy required. The only solution was to fill the gutter on the starboard side and to scarf half an inch from the tree on the other side. One and a half hours after the start we were past the tree and on our way. It was a tight squeeze on some sections but we got through with inches to spare. There followed an uneventful trip of one and a half miles to the ramp only to discover two golf buses and a truck parked on the road at the Serapong ramp. We had to unhook the Meteor and use the crane to lift the offending truck out of the way. The two buses were pushed out of the way. We then had to re-hitch the Meteor and tow it the remaining one hundred yards. The trip took ninety minutes for the first hundred yards, thirty minutes for the next one and a half miles and ninety minutes for the last hundred yards! The Meteor was manually pushed into the parking area at the ramp. A long but successful day drew to a close at 0300. Twenty-one hours of straight work with only brief spells for meals. How long can we keep this up?

DAY 22 - 24 MARCH - GOOD FRIDAY:
Work commenced at 0700 to remove the Sea Vixen booms which were off by 1100. The rest of the day was spent attempting to remove the tailplane with no success. During the afternoon, John Ho returned with the wheel and tyre having been unable to get it repaired. At 1800 we moved out of Block 60 again to return to the Ramada Taipan for the night and a hot shower. We decided to make John an honorary member and appoint him as our business representative in Singapore. A good nights sleep helped everybody.

DAY 23 - 25 MARCH SATURDAY:
The team departed the Ramada Taipan at 0700 to commence work on Sentosa at 0900. The plan for the day was to remove the Sea Vixen outer wing panels and fold the nose undercarriage in preparation for transporting the aircraft on the back of the truck as the main gear track is wider than the road in some sections. The nose undercarriage proved to be of similar construction to the Hunter main gear and therefore it proved impossible to retract. The Sea Vixen wing joint pins proved to be immovable and as time was desperately short, drastic measures were called for. Ken and Phil again approached the maintenance chief and were able to borrow oxy-acetylene cutting gear. Ken tried heat on the webs without any success so the decision was made to cut the webs lengthwise to enable the pins to be removed. They were cut in a manner to facilitate repair and the outer wing panels were removed with the crane. Prior to our departure from Australia, it had been agreed that in the event that any of the aircraft proved impossible to shift, we would cut it up into transportable sections that could be repaired. It was agreed that as a last resort, this was preferable to selling the aircraft or simply abandoning it. In the event, the surgery was relatively minor compared with what might have been necessary. Earlier in the day, two Tasmanian tourists, Phil Pyke and Dave Nelan had volunteered to assist as a result of the story in the "New Paper". Their offer was gladly accepted and they were put to work packing the spare panels in the engine bay of the Hunter forward fuselage. At 1200, Cliff contacted NOL to be informed that they would be able to ship one forty foot container and one twenty foot container for US$4,500.00 plus local handling charges. We agreed to this price as it would at least get the Hunter and all the spare components back to Australia. At 1500, Cliff, Phil and John went to see Mr Teng for a further meeting in relation to charges. They also visited WR Shipping. It was planned to shift the Hunter forward fuselage that night, so the loading was attempted at about 1600. This proved to be impossible with the existing setup so, with daylight running out, we loaded one of the Sea Vixen wings instead. We moved back into Block 18 at 1800 in time for a good meal and a short rest. At 2030, with our police escort, we took this wing to the ramp, returning for the second at 2145. A third trip accounted for the Meteor and Hunter tailplanes and the Meteor nosecone. By this time, dim headlights on the truck pointed to a failing battery. The days tasks were finished just in time for the team to make the last ferry back to Singapore at 2230.

DAY 24 - 26 MARCH SUNDAY:
We attempted to repair the charging circuit on the truck with no success, so the truck had to be clutch started. We then borrowed the oxy gear once again to cut the corroded joints in the Sea Vixen tailplane. Our two Tasmanian friends returned to help and they were put to work assisting with dismantling the tailplane. During the lunch break, the truck battery was charged up at the maintenance depot. By 1700, the Sea Vixen tailplane had been removed giving us access to the centre section. Due to the fact that the nose gear could not be folded, the decision was made to load it facing aft by alternately lifting and blocking each main gear and inching the truck underneath. Finally the crane was used to lift the nose to pull the load on to the truck. The nosewheel remained on the ground during the entire operation. The crane was swivelled forward of the cab to lend steering traction, the load secured, and a short test drive was taken around the square. This was completed by 2000 and at 2030, with police escort, the load departed for Serapong ramp. The aircraft and truck moved quite successfully, Ken being able to engage second gear on some sections. The last half mile had to be negotiated in reverse as turning room at the ramp was limited. The only difficulty experienced was that the hole dug for the boom gate counterweight had to be deepened to facilitate raising the boom higher. We finished at 2300 and had a celebration before dropping John and the boys at the ferry terminal. We were all very tired but had succeeded in shifting the largest load to the ramp. We now feel that the aircraft are truly on the start of their journey to Australia. The only loads remaining were the Hunter forward fuselage and the Sea Vixen booms and tailplane.

DAY 25 - 27 MARCH MONDAY:
The first load of the day, a Sea Vixen tail boom, arrived at the ramp to be greeted by a traffic jam. Ken and Phil had to wait forty-five minutes to unload. Mike and Ian departed to return the Hunter tools while Cliff and John visited another barge company for quotes. They subsequently visited Joey Wong where a misunderstanding was corrected. Under the arrangement, we would get two barge trips for S$6,000.00. The barge was booked for 1200 Tuesday to load the aircraft and components. Two further trips were made with the truck to clean up the area. The Hunter forward fuselage was successfully loaded diagonally across the tray of the truck using the inner hook of the crane for this especially heavy load. Cliff had his camera stolen during the day and this was reported to the police at which time a police escort was arranged for 1730 Tuesday. At 1930 we all caught taxis to Mike Holtby's residence for a barbecue with interested friends. The Hunter instruments and panel were handed to Mike Holtby for safehand transportation to Australia. We had an enjoyable evening but had to leave at 2200 to catch the last ferry back to Sentosa for a very early start next day.

DAY 26 - 28 MARCH TUESDAY:
At 0530 our police escort arrived to take the Hunter forward fuselage to the ramp. No problems were experienced and this was the last load! The police drove us back to the youth hostel. With this task completed by 0630 we all went back to bed for a rest. At 0900, we all started to sort and pack tools and chartered a bus for S$15.00 to take us and our baggage to the Serapong ramp by 1200. Singapore Broadcasting Corporation [TV] arrived at 1230 as did the barge. Another drama ensued as the Navy had not been notified about the barge movements. The Port of Singapore Authority had failed to notify the Navy but all was sorted out by 1300 allowing the barge to dock. Ken, Mike and Ian used the truck to shuttle loads to where they could be picked up by the enormous crane on the barge. The loading was very slow and as a result the barge became grounded on the falling tide. Loading was completed by 1700, the cavernous hold of the "Tai Chen" having swallowed up the three aircraft and the truck! Joey Wong visited for the loading and John Ho assisted on the barge. During loading, Phil managed to walk into the hook of the crane and for a while was not too healthy. The barge had to wait for high tide at midnight and Phil saw them off at 0030.

DAY 27 - 29 MARCH WEDNESDAY:
Due to the delay with the barge, we were not required at the Jurong Marine Base to assist with unloading until 1400 so we spent the morning inspecting Fort Siloso, one of the forts built to protect Singapore Harbour. It was very interesting and it was good to be able to relax for a couple of hours. The bus trip to Jurong Marine Base took two hours and we arrived just in time for a thunderstorm. The barge arrived during the storm so we all had to wait for the rain to end. Thanks to the efforts of John Ho we have been able to acquire ejection seats for the aircraft. Unloading commenced at 1600 using the barge crane, a ten ton mobile crane and a forklift. Some minor damage had to be tolerated as the barge had another job to attend to and QAM had little control over the operation. The unloading operation took ninety minutes. Joey Wong visited for the unloading. On completion of unloading we began to plan for loading the containers. Ian, Mike and Phil got a lift back to the World Trade Centre while Ken and Cliff waited in case John Ho returned. They had to leave at 1900 to ensure bus/ferry transport back to Sentosa, arriving at the youth hostel at 2045. It transpired that John Ho had arrived at Jurong at 1915 missing everyone by fifteen minutes.

DAY 28 - 30 MARCH THURSDAY:
We set out at 0615 to ensure an early arrival at Jurong Marine Base where we arrived at 0900 after two hours on buses. We put in a full day packing the twenty foot container with the Meteor outer wings, Hunter rear fuselage, Meteor tailplane, Hunter tailplane and the DC-3 prop hubs. The forty foot container was loaded with the Hunter forward fuselage at an angle to clear the wing stubs. Ian built a support frame out of timber to prevent movement of this section. The Hunter wings were then loaded on their leading edges and wedged in with tyres. We knocked off at 1900 and John Ho gave us a lift back to the World Trade Centre. We just made "Rasa Sentosa" [eating stalls] at 2030, half an hour before closing time. A restful night was spent by all.

DAY 29 - 31 MARCH FRIDAY:
Ken, Mike and Phil took a taxi to Jurong to complete packing the forty foot container. All that remained was the Sea Vixen booms and tailplane. Cliff stayed behind to pack up and bid farewell to the SDC management and staff. The packing of the container was completed at 1230 and two taxis were requisitioned to take Phil, Ian, Ken and Mike and their heavy toolboxes back to the World Trade Centre. We returned to Sentosa to pack and clean up with a guard on the toolboxes at all times. Three taxis were required to transport everyone and their gear to the airport to meet John Ho at 1800. Phil will remain in Singapore for another two days to tie up loose ends, during which time he will stay with John Ho. We checked our baggage and made our limit with fifteen kilos to spare. [Qantas had generously allowed us 200 kilos of excess baggage to cover the heavy toolboxes]. After an enjoyable meal at the airport, the team bid farewell to John, his friend, Dennis and Phil at 2130 to board Qantas flight QF52 for the return flight to Brisbane. This flight was operated by Qantas' newest aircraft, Boeing 767-338 VH-OGD "City of Maitland". We arrived in rain sodden Brisbane at 0740 on April Fools Day to be met by Yvonne Robinson, Dick Hitchins, Lyndsey Evans and Ron Cuskelly. All are very tired but satisfied that we have done everything that was possible on the Sentosa Rescue Mission!



THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

The Sentosa C-47

The C-47 on Sentosa Island



THE THREE THAT DIDN'T GET AWAY

Meteor WA880

Hunter XF311

Sea Vixen XJ490


 

In addition to thanking everyone named in this account, QAM wishes to thank the following sponsors without whose assistance the Sentosa Rescue Mission would not have been possible:

QANTAS AIRWAYS LIMITED

QANTAS JETABOUT

RAMADA TAIPAN HOTEL

KODAK

AIR BP

CALOUNDRA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY

CALOUNDRA TIMBERS

K-MART

SUPER K-MART

TROLTIP

FLIGHTPATH MAGAZINE

SPECIAL THANKS TO JOHN HO

AND

THE "SENTOSA RESCUE MISSION" TEAM:

MIKE ADAMS

PHIL BOWLY

IAN COLLINS

CLIFF ROBINSON

NICK SAYER

KEN WOODROW


 

WHAT THE AVIATION PRESS SAID

Flightpath Magazine Story

FlyPast Magazine Story