QuickCheck: Was an aircraft in a London museum once used for Sabah flood relief?


Every museum artefact and exhibit has a story to tell.

Some tell stories of forgotten disasters, some deepen our understanding of the ancient past, and when it comes to retired vehicles, they could tell us of their adventures in lands far away from where they rest today.

Ever since a Westland Belvedere helicopter –registration number XG474– joined the exhibition halls of the Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum in Hendon, London, it has been said that it was used extensively in what is now Malaysia, including flood relief work in Sabah.

Is this true?



Yes, XG474 was used for flood relief work in the Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu)—Kota Belud area in January 1963. According to information from the RAF Museum's website, the helicopter "carried 34,200lb (15,512kg) of freight" between January 18 and 22 of that year.

It also says that the Belvedere was used for more than flood relief work. The helicopter entered the region in June 1962, becoming part of the RAF's No.62 Squadron based in Seletar, Singapore.

The Museum said that as part of the squadron, XG474 was used for casualty evacuation, supply work and air-sea rescue in Malaysia during that period.

It adds that XG474 was used on a cross-country flight on June 21, 1962, travelling "from Sembawang to Butterworth via Kuala Lumpur" before it crossed the South China Sea to Sabah and Sarawak.

"XG474/B was one of three Belvederes (plus XG473/A and XG 476/F) detached to the oil-rich Sultanate of Brunei until 21 Mar 63 to support the anti-rebel forces in mopping up following the Dec 62 Brunei revolt," it said, adding that it arrived on Dec 18, 1962.

The Museum added, "The Belvederes were based at Brunei airport, having flown the 800 miles via Kuching to Labuan from Singapore on Dec 17."

It went on to say that aside from flood relief work in January 1963 due to "exceptionally heavy rainfall," XG474 was also used for construction work in Long Seridan, Sarawak, before being moved to operate out of Labuan and Kuching, ultimately returning to Singapore in December 1963.

Following this, it was used in Aden in the Middle East from May 1964 before returning to the region in November 65, when it resumed flying out of Seletar in Singapore; it was then detached to Butterworth in Penang from Dec 17-23, 1966.

Notably, it also flew a farewell fly-past over Kuching on Feb 20, 1967, before being shipped back to Singapore, after which XG474 was re-assigned to Butterworth in July 1967.

The Museum then adds that it was used for airlifting work from August 18 to 31 of that year, hauling 50,000lb (22,679kg) while assisting in fitting new radar equipment at Western Hill, Penang, as part of "Operation Hill Climb."

Ultimately, the career of the Flying Longhouse –as the helicopter type was called in Sabah and Sarawak– ended on March 20, 1969, when No.66 Squadron disbanded at Seletar as the first and last Belvedere unit.

It entered the RAF Museum collection and has been displayed in London since March 25, 1971.

It is a fitting end for hardware that spent many days under the Malayan sun and storm.




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