The Last Sunset
Our School Closes
Goodbye RAAF School...
On the last day, the buses departed
for the last time; the classrooms and playground were silent and empty.
All that was left was the sound of the teachers slowly packing up.
They took nothing from the school except their memories...
Our school was special. It was the only school administered by the RAAF and it was built for us. We had hand-picked teaching staff from New South Wales and Victoria.
After a rocky start, the school was built in 1962. Although it must have been known that it would only have a limited lifespan as a school and that each student was only likely to attend for up to 3 years, there was apparently nothing sacrificed by way of facilities. It housed regular students from infants through to form 4 high school. More senior students studied by correspondence and were provided with the use of the house next door and the assistance of teaching staff when required. The junior students were especially catered for in the cool annexe and attap huts. Although not an architectural masterpiece, the design was practical. It had all required facilities including woodwork/craft room, music room, science room, domestic arts room, library, computer room, covered assembly area, kitchen, showers, canteen, and large playing fields. Included in the curriculum were Malay language classes (Bahasa).Our school days are special times, although quite often the fact is not realised until much later on. At RAAF School many extra-curricular activities were conducted, including excursions. These excursions had much in common with those in Australia, however in Malaysia, the opportunity existed to visit commercial ventures which do not exist in Australia. These included visits to coconut, banana, rubber and palm oil plantations, paddy fields, native fishing villages at Batu Feringghi, local markets, a fish processing factory and the Batik factory at Bayan Lepas. Also to St Nicholas' School for the Blind and Penang Museum and Library. Visits were also conducted for environmental and cultural purposes, including Penang Hill, Scout rock, Tunku Abdul Rahman Aquarium, the Anti-venom research unit and the meteorological unit at RAAF Butterworth. Visits to the RAAF base were also popular.
There were also inter-school events, school socials etc. There were many visits, including both to and from the New Zealand Forces' School in Singapore and the Zoological Gardens, Sentosa and the Science Centre. Other visits included the Pulau Tikus and Kuala Muda Markets, Botanical Gardens and the HMAS Derwent. Camps on the Base Oval included inspections of Base operations and meals in the Airmen's Mess.
Visiting groups also entertained the school on several occasions including The Singapore International Choir and The Dalat Concert Orchestra. The Operational Command Band and the 1st Battalion Army Band also visited the school. There was a Royal Visit to the Island in 1972, and over one thousand students lined Tanjong Bungah Road to greet Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip
So school life was both fun and educational. But, for us it is over now and all we have are our memories and photographs - and of course our Austral magazines!
I'd like to close with an excerpt
of an address by Mr Earle Kent, the School's last Principal in 1987.
"RAAF School Malaysia will close its doors to pupils, teachers and parents for the last time on 1 July 1988, thus ending twenty-nine years of service to the dependants of RAAF personnel serving at Butterworth Air Base. The School can be justly proud of its academic achievement - let us not be sad or overcome by nostalgia, but instead let us reflect on our good fortune at being part of a unique family who have been privileged to attend RAAF School Malaysia"
Burnished with the golden air of nostalgia...
(Logo design created by Roy Barton)
Teacher at RAAF School, 1986-1988
the last day, we took our classes out and walked across the sports
grounds to watch the Mirages leave for the final time, alongside the
airstrip. I remember it was a cloudy day with the clouds quite low,
and as each Mirage flew by for one final flight over the base, they
then rose through the clouds - leaving a round heat vapour as they
Wayne Thomas (RSB)