Seletar Incident

A quote from page 90 of
"Time and Chance",

an autobiography by Peter Townsend.

Published by Collins 1978

"Outside my ground-floor bedroom was an asphalt space where I parked my beautiful, blue, long-nosed M.G. (which consisted of the bits and pieces of two or three others, put together by an ingenious Chinese).  One afternoon I was changing the right, rear tyre when something made me stop and walk over to my bedroom, ten yards away, to look for a rag.  During the few seconds I was there I heard an aeroplane pass over the mess, approaching to land.  A moment later I was back beside my car; the right rear mudguard was deeply gashed and on the ground beside it lay a string of lead beads, the kind that were attached to the end of a trailing aerial.  The weighted aerial would have cut me in half like a piece of cheese, had not that kindly unseen hand pushed me out of the way just in time."

Link to Peter Townsend Biography

This incident must have happened at RAF Seletar in Singapore, not long before World War II started in 1939.

Shown right are Vickers Vildebeest aircraft, which were stationed at Seletar in two Squadrons. Townsend was flying with 36 Squadron and my Dad was with 100 Squadron.  (The picture on the right shows 100 Squadron refuelling at Singapore a few years later in 1942).

These lumbering biplanes were the only aircraft available to defend Singapore when the Japanese invaded in 1941.

100 Sqdn

With reference to Townsend's account;  in actual fact, the "weighted aerial" was the hauser from which a target sleeve had been attached.  The anti-aircraft people practised using this sleeve as an airborne target.  This sleeve had to released and towed in the air from a plane on many hundred yards of hauser, and after the practise, it had to be hauled back into the aircraft.  This was my Father's job.  The plane used was one of 100 Squadron's Vickers Vildebeests, a rugged torpedo bomber.  

This particular day the shooters had done well and shot away the sleeve.  The sleeve had the added advantage of giving some stabilty to the assembly, without it the hauser whipped around in the slipstream.  This made it extremely difficult for Dad to haul in the hauser, using the air-powered winch.  The pilot announced his intention to land at RAF Seletar.  My Dad said,  "You can't land yet, I've still got a lot of hauser to haul in!"   The pilot said that he had no option, as they were running out of fuel.  As the pilot approached the landing area, you can imagine my Dad's thoughts as he cowered in the cockpit, listening to various ominous crashes, bangs and bumps as the hauser left a swathe of damage to anything in it's path!

A short while later, as Dad was splicing on another sleeve, the Adjutant marched up and barked, "Bayes!  Do you realise you nearly killed someone, and what's more, you went through the C.O.'s telephone wire!"  

Of course, Dad was subsequently absolved of any blame, but until he read the page quoted above, he had no idea who he had nearly killed.  

Townsend must have been a Pilot Officer in those days, later he became a fighter ace and rose to Group Captain. From 1944 he was Equerry to King George VI, Father of our current sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II.  It was during this time as Equerry, that he had his ill-fated love affair with the Queen's beautiful sister, the late Princess Margaret.  (See the link to his Biography above).

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Last amended: 18 December 2011