The Penang Story Lectures: A brief history of the RAAF in Penang
DATE : 16TH MAY 2015
VENUE: RMAF Station Butterworth, Penang.
A Historical Insight into RAAF
an overview of the history of the royal australian air force in penang throughout the years
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon for a wonderful history lesson on the Royal Australian Air Force base in Butterworth, Penang. The only permanent major air base outside of Australia opened its doors to Penang Heritage Trust as a part of the Penang Story Lectures series.
We were lucky enough to have had two key speakers at the event. Commanding Officer of the No. 19 Squadron WGCDR Paul Webb who joined the RAAF in 1989, has been posted all over the world and was responsible for the development of the strategic air relationship between Australia and major allies including the US, UK, Singapore, Indonesia, France and India, and Air Vice Marshal William Henman, who has had a long career as a Fighter Pilot and Flying instructor for the RAAF. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2003 for his meritorious service in the successful integration of the Australian Fighter element into the Coalition and was further awarded the US Bronze Star in the same theatre of operations.
The afternoon’s events commenced with opening words by Khoo Salma, the President of Penang Heritage Trust. WGCDR Paul Webb then started his talk with a briefing about the history of the air base and treated the guests to a slide show of historic pictures of the base and its air crafts over the years.
He then handed the crowd over to Air Vice Marshal (AVM) William Henman who further briefed the guests about what the air force strives to do and how their base in Butterworth has made all the difference over the years before treating the guests to a show of more black and white historic pictures. AVM William said “Penang has become a home away from home for him”, having served here in the 1980’s as well.
The talk concluded with both the speakers saying that the RAAF was keen to work together with Penang Heritage Trust to preserve the memory of the significant presence the RAAF has had in Penang, emphasizing on the timeline the base was handed over to the RAAF by the British government in 1957, up till it being handed to RMAF in 1988. A question and answer session then saw many attendees ask about particular events and shared their personal experiences with the RAAF, many having come from army and naval backgrounds themselves.
It was gratifying to experience history of such significance at such a personal level. Making it feel all the more special. An afternoon well spent to say the least.