Malayan Volunteer Air Force (MVAF)

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Formed in 1936 it was originally titled The Straits Settlements Volunteer Air Force, it was renamed in August 1940 to the MVAF operating mainly civilian aircraft such as the de Havilland Tiger Moth, Leopard Moth and Rapides.

Personnel were recruited from members of the Royal Singapore, the Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Perak flying clubs, in addition the private airline, Wearnes Air service was commandeered.

The Royal Singapore Flying ClubThe Royal Singapore Flying Club

Independent administrative organisation came under the command of Group Captain R L Nunn DSO and Squadron Leader H W Chattaway AFC with the following disposition;

A Flight Singapore

F/L J C Cooke 6 DH 60 Moths, 3 Avro cadets, 3 Tiger Moths, 1 Moth minor, 1 Whitney straight, 1 Hornet moth

B Flight Singapore
F/O E W Slight 2 Dragon Rapides, 1 Dragonfly

C Flight Kuala Lumpur
F/O M T Stanley 2 Tiger Moths, 1 Leopard Moth, 1 Hawk major, 1 Miles falcon

D Flight Ipoh
F/L H Dane 2 Avro cadets, 1 Gipsy Avro

E Flight Penang
F/O H C Grant-Watson 5 Moth majors, 1 Avro tutor, 2 Tiger moths The duties of MVAF pilots were geared around providing air intelligence, ferrying dignitaries around the peninsula, carrying out black out checks on the principal cities, as well as being responsible for the perimeter security of their air field, being armed with a rifle and ammunition.


10 – “Ginger” Franks, joined RAF in Singapore. Severely injured returning from a bombing mission when his Wildebeest crash-landed; he subsequently died on a ship when evacuated with other wounded servicemen. 4 – Dave Walker, Hong Kong Shanghai Bank. Returned to the UK in 1941 to join RAF, later killed in action flying a spitfire.



5 – Tony Allen, ICI, killed in a Tiger Moth when giving flying lessons. 6 – Nick Carter, an Australian radio expert. He later volunteered for hazardous duty by spying on the Japanese in Selangor sending radio signals to base. He never returned and was presumed killed.


On 1st December 1941, the MVAF was mobilised.

Armaments on their basically civilian & training aircraft were inadequate and hastily improvised in readiness for war.

On 7th December, 1941 a Catalina on seaward reconnaissance piloted by Flying Officer Pat Bedell was shot down by Japanese fighters in the Gulf of Siam and he is probably the first casualty of the Far East conflict, a few hours before the strike on Pearl Harbour.

When not flying the men of the MVAF, issued with a rifle and 50 rounds of ammunition were required for aerodrome defence duties.

Despite the pressing attacks and the considerable ground gained by the Japanese forces the MVAF flew on hundreds of missions.

A batch of 51 Hurricanes which had arrived in Singapore on January 13th 1942 were hastily unpacked and in the middle of assembly when a Japanese air patrol spotted them and destroyed all of them.

The MVAF also played a critical role in dropping messages to the scattered units of the retreating British army. This was not only a danger from marauding Japanese fighters but from demoralised British troops who also fired upon them believing the Japanese to have air supremacy.

With the fall of Singapore imminent the MVAF were transferred to the Dutch East Indies. The Japanese meanwhile were beginning to close in and again the MVAF were ordered to evacuate. This time the remaining personnel and some 2000 RAF & RAAF personnel embarked on the SS Kota Gede, arriving in Colombo on March 6th 1942. ( S/L Chattaway, F/L Dane & F/L Harvey having elected to remain in Java with their aircraft).

Of the 45 aircraft of the MVAF on December 1st 1941, only 5 survived. Several men of the MVAF made their own escape arrangements reaching Australia where they promptly joined the RAAF.

Nominal Roll of Officers & Men 1939

Squadron Leader DSE Vines

Flying Officers
JA Allen, E C Whiteley, WT Cherry, T Carter, JM Hart, GEM Jones, TJL Watkins, AP Craigie, TAD
Hewan, JV West, SD Taylor, RFC Markham, WR Logan, SJ Beattie
Pilot Officer WB Dobree
Sergeant CWR Sculfor

JFL Cowin, NWG Hill, WA Ball, SJ Rand, RV Hanson, R Blaik, C Short, WG Harris, J Speelman, SWG Edlin, FH Blake, WH Dingle, DM Walker, DE Rintoul, F Jacques, FFL Morgan, AG Beohm, S Fuller-Sandys, A Maxwell, MS Robinson, RFS Young, FEAB Sewell, JF Barraclough, FL Kennedy, RH Pickard, MW Gulliford, WJ Furneaux, AE Ohlsen


  • Flying Officer Patrick Edwin Bedell, 7th December 1941 (possibly the first casualty in the Far Eastern theatre, killed before the strike on Pearl Harbour)
  • Flight Sergeant Trevethen, 18th December 1941
  • Flight Sergeant H E Cleaverley, 18th December 1941
  • Pilot Officer Noel W F Paul, 16th February, 1942
  • Flight Lieutenant Henry Dane DSO, 5th December 1942


Flight Lieutenant Henry Dane DSO, posthumous 7/11/1946
Flying Officer M G Harvey MID 7/11/1946
Group Captain R L Nunn MID, posthumous 7/11/1946


Further Reading Flypast, October & November 1990 RAAF Journal “ Wings “ Vol 5, No 5, 12th June 1945

From the Commonwealth War Graves Commission


Initials: H
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Regiment: Malayan Volunteer Air Force
Age: 49
Date of Death: 05/12/1942
Awards: DSO
Additional information:  
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Brit. Sec. J. A. 11.

Initials: H E
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Flight Sergeant
Regiment: Malayan Volunteer Air Force
Date of Death: 18/12/1941
Service No: 710
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Column 411.

Initials: P E
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Flying Officer
Regiment: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Unit Text: 205 Sqdn.
Date of Death: 07/12/1941
Service No: 81334
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Column 409.

Initials: N F W
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Pilot Officer
Regiment: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Age: 62
Date of Death: 16/02/1942
Service No: 203466
Additional Information: Son of Mr. and Mrs. W. F. B. Paul.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Column 413.