School History

The First School - Residency Road

8 Residency Road

4 Residency Road

4 Residency Road

8 Residency Road   8 Residency Road

8 Residency Road

10 Residency Road

10 Residency Road


These buildings are early 20th century European style. The original British settlers brought to Penang the concept of the Anglo-Indian bungalow, adapting it to the local environment by assimilating elements of the Malay house. Raised off the ground by sturdy pillars - safe, it was hoped, from marauding animals, poisonous insects, monsoon floods and fearsome tropical ills - the bungalow evolved into an airy double-storey structure with deep verandahs, high ceilings and a shady front porch. A covered walkway connected the exterior kitchen and servants' quarters to the main house. They retained an understated charm and discretion, with their plain facades.

The elevated jack roofs allowed hot air to escape from the upper storey.
Excerpted loosely from 'Penang Through Gilded Doors', De Bierre


On 20 October 1958 the Department of Air established a more permanent school at 8 Residency Road, with teaching staff selected from the Departments of Education of New South Wales and Victoria. The first headmaster was Mr Harold Bower who, after 2 years of service, left on 11 December 1960. Classes were catered for to the end of Year 8, with children past Year 8 undertaking correspondence classes.

Although accommodation in this area of Penang provided attractive surroundings, it was unsuitable for expansion. There were 219 Primary children here by 1962.

In addition to No. 8, the RAAF had leased 4 Residency Road, which was to become the Infants' Department. Residency Road contained many fine, old buildings. The Residency (built in 1890 for the British Resident and now the home of Penang's Head of State) and the General Hospital were two of the most notable. The houses were large with very spacious grounds - but they were not ideal school buildings. The two-storey building at No. 4 had been converted into five classrooms with an office for the Mistress. However the rooms were small and rather dark and the furniture was not suitable for small children, but at least there was a large playground. By 1962 there were 289 Infants at No. 4 and they were packed into garages and offices as well as larger rooms.

By August 1959, enrolments had grown to 345. To give some relief, 10 Residency Road was leased. This property housed 102 secondary students at the time building of the RAAF School commenced.

The Mayor's House

Main School - RAAF School Penang

38-40 Jalan Azyze, Tanjung Bungah, Penang.

School in 1968  School 1966

Above Left: 1968.     Right: 1966 aerial view (photo courtesy Rob Judson)


"RAAF School - The Best School of All" - Prefects Oath 1964

As part of Australia's defence policy, Australian servicemen were required to serve at defence bases in countries overseas, fulfilling agreements made by our Government with other nations under various defence treaties. The South East Asian Treaty Organisation (S.E.A.T.O.) was one of these pacts. To honour this agreement, Australia undertook to maintain in part, an Air Force Base at Butterworth in Province Wellesley, Penang, Malaysia. The Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Air Force had squadrons of jet fighters, bombers and helicopters at Butterworth, providing a forefront to the defence of Australia and helping to defend

Thousands of Australian Air Force servicemen and members of the Artillery Corps of the Australian Army, with their families, were sent to Malaysia for tours of duty varying from 2 to 3 years. They were accommodated on the base or in private hirings on the mainland at Butterworth or on Penang Island.

The need for provision of medical services, married quarters and schooling was evident and began to be put into place from the mid 1950s.

Prior to 1958, the Australian commitment at Butterworth was the Airfield Construction Unit. The few primary school-aged dependants of these men attended either the RAF School at Butterworth (school closed when the RAF returned to England in 1960) or the British Army Children's School at Georgetown, Penang (Minden Barracks). Secondary pupils attended either the British Secondary School at Cameron Highlands or at Singapore.

The Australian Army was shortly to move to Malacca and the British Army and RAF numbers declined. The BAC School had become full and a crisis situation occurred with Australian families arriving in ever-increasing numbers (initially with the arrival at Butterworth of Base Squadron No2(B) personnel). The urgent need therefore arose for a dedicated RAAF school. To alleviate problems initially, temporary schooling arrangements were made on the base at Butterworth, with the assistance of wives of servicemen who were ex-school teachers.

An Interim School was then established in August 1958, in a building formerly occupied by the Mayor of Georgetown but at the time vacant (Believed to be 8 Residency Road). The School catered for infants and primary children, with secondary pupils working by correspondence. The Education Officer, Flt Lt Tom Kelly, assisted correspondence students in his own home. Mrs Dawson, an ex-graduate school teacher and wife of the then Civilian Financial Advisor, assisted the correspondence students and led the eight ex-teacher wives of RAAF and Army Servicemen in the task of opening the interim RAAF School on 25 October 1958. These were Mrs Donald, Mrs Francis, Mrs McIntosh, Mrs O'Donoghue, Mrs Pointon, Mrs Thomas and Mrs Uhlmann. (Infant children at Butterworth were enrolled at RAF School to avoid the tedious travelling.) By 2nd September 1958, enrolments had grown at an alarming rate to 150.

Click here to read more on the school history.  history

Photograph Gallery

You can see a number of photographs of the school. Some have been scanned from the school magazines, others have been contributed or are from my own collection. Click on the View button below to open the gallery.



School Opening

The RAAF School, Jalan Azyze, Hillside, was officially declared open on 9 May 1962 by Mr Critchley, Australian High Commissioner to Malaya.

Mr Critchley arrived by helicopter from Butterworth and before a large crowd, spoke of the part the RAAF was playing in fostering goodwill abroad.

Mr Critchley at school opening
(© Alan Stephens, RAAF. Reproduced by permission)

9 May 1962
Australian High Commissioner to Malaya, Mr T.K. Critchley, opens the RAAF School on Penang Island.

1962 School Opening
(Courtesy Mike Gibb)

Part of the official School Opening Ceremony

School Logo

School logo  The final design of the RAAF School logo was agreed upon in late 1962. Flt Lt Fearon was closely involved in the detailed planning of the emblem. It was then passed for approval by Air Commodore Ford. The kangaroo on the map of Australia emphasises the school's roots; the solid blue represents the sea around Australia and the wavy blue and white lines are taken from the background of the Penang State flag. The name on the scroll gives the name of the school and its location. The red, white and blue colouring represents the Air Force roundel, while the star at the top signifies all the States of the Commonwealth from which students are drawn.

 This school logo was used prior to our school being built in 1962.

Loyal Pledge

"I'll love God and my Country.
I'll honour the flag.
I'll serve the Queen,
And cheerfully obey
My parents, teachers and the law."

Some Statistics


With enrolments consistently increasing at the Residency Road schools and with inadequate and crowded conditions, it was apparent that a new school was needed. At the 1961 Annual General Election meeting of the Parents' Association, Mr Nott, Headmaster, gave details of a new and permanent school to be built on the site of what had been a rubber tree plantation.

School in 1962
(Courtesy Robin Tobler)

Work was completed on the school at Jalan Azyze, Penang on 30 March 1962, at a cost of approximately $90,000.

Street sign  The school street sign - Jalan Azyze.

The school was originally built to cater for a population of approximately 550 students, however this proved to be a grossly inadequate estimate as time went by. Numbers arriving at the school consistently increased over the years and the school needed frequent extensions and upgrades.

Building plan

When the school opened in 1962 there were three main building blocks, the assembly hall and attap hut next to the hall (for infants).

In September 1965 a new attap was built (Block F) for primary students consisting of 4 classrooms along the edge of the sports oval. By 1966 student numbers had grown to around 750. Initially, temporary extensions were made to accommodate the extra students but permanent accommodation was approved for 850 students shortly after.

By 1971 student numbers had increased to over 1000 and reached a high of 1100 in 1977. Another attap (Block G) was built in 1973 above Block C as more students were expected and again in 1977, more extensions as attap G was made to accommodate more primary students.

In 1967 a separate site at Tanjong Tokong was acquired to cater for infant students. See below.

Also, in 1969 a nearby house was acquired to accommodate the 5th year correspondence students.


No official data appears to be available on the total number of students who were enrolled at school. Curiously enough, upon enquiries made with the Government, the recommendation was to refer to this website! Well, based on the numbers available as outlined above, the increasing population, the turnover of 2.5 years and the 26 year lifespan of the school, it has been estimated that the figure would probably sit at around the 10,000 mark. This is assuming 8,000 as the lowest, adding the short term rotations that used to occur and taking into account growth and shrinkage. Tricky - because we don't know when the major influxes occurred. If there are any mathematicians out there who can come up with a more accurate result or anyone with official data, please contact me.
(Input courtesy Derek Dobson)

School Closure

The last year for our school was 1988, with the high school closing at end of 1987 and the primary school in mid-1988.

After this time, RAAF students attended one of the approved local schools which were Uplands for secondary students, St Christopher's for pre-school and primary students and Dalat School, which although it would not take many Australian students, could be used if desired.

Read more on the school closure  Last Sunset

What Happened to the School?

The school building remains as it was, with some painting and slight remodelling. It is now used as an RMAF (Royal Malaysian AirForce) training facility and administration centre. Students were fortunate enough to visit the school and wander around the grounds and buildings in 2005 and 2010 at the Reunion events. We don't believe that will be possible again and the staff at RMAF were very accommodating and hospitable to us. To be able to visit the old school was an emotional experience and tugged at heart-strings I didn't know I had.

The building has been repainted and gardens upgraded, but otherwise the structure is the same. You can see the school from the road (Jalan Azyze) and stand at the gate, but you won't be permitted to go in.

Attap Huts

Attap Hut


Attap Hut


73 attaps
(Courtesy Angela Morrow)


Attap Hut
(Courtesy Linda Thomas)


The attap huts were part of the main school buildings, and catered for infant and primary classes. When extensions were completed at the Annexe in 1970, infant classes were moved to the new location.

The Annexe

The Annexe

Jalan Chengai (off Jalan Gajah)
Tanjong Tokong

The Annexe was acquired in 1967. Infant classes were held both at the Annexe school, located on Jln Chengai (off Jalan Gajah) and also the main school attap huts. In 1968 there were thirteen classes (approx. 400 pupils - and increasing), with six at the Annexe and seven at the main school.

In 1970 extensions were completed at the Annexe. The school was officially opened on 2nd July 1970 by Senator Drake-Brockman, Minister for Air. Now all infants were able to be together at the one location.

The Annexe was closed in 1983.

View gallery of more images of the Annexe   button

View Annexe in 2007   Annexe


Annexe Photos

These photos of the annexe were contributed by Martin Black in 2006.

1975 Annexe
1975 Annexe
1975 Annexe
1975 Annexe
1975 Annexe
1975 Annexe
1975 Annexe Bus

More photos of annexe  To Gallery


1978 Annexe Report
Mrs B.A. Hazel

1980 Annexe Report
Mr Barry Phelan

RAAF School at Butterworth

To eliminate the less than ideal situation of transporting young children daily by bus and ferry on the long journey from the mainland to the school on Penang, the decision was made to open a new school at Butterworth. The Annexe was then closed and infants attended both the main school and the new Butterworth School. Although RAAF School had been split in two sections from 1967 to 1983, with the Infants' Department at a separate site, it was still known as and referred to as "RAAF School Penang".

From 9 February 1984, 251 children, 17 teachers and 6 ancillary staff members became part of RAAF School Butterworth, housed in seven buildings which, only two months before this time, had been Airmen's Residential Block 37 and 39 on the Air Base, Butterworth. Mr Lester Waud was in charge of the school.

The new school was officially opened on 20 March 1984 by His Excellency Mr David Evans, the Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia.


Official 1984 School Opening

by His Excellency Mr David Evans,
Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia


Butterworth School

A view of part of the school.


Mr Col Jackson was Assistant Principal in Charge for the first part of 1984. However he was returned to Australia due to ill health and sadly passed away of cancer within a couple of months of his return.

With the opening of the school at Butterworth, the name "RAAF School Malaysia" had become necessary. However the School will always be remembered as "RAAF School Penang".

Recent photos of Main School

School in 1998  School in 1998

A couple of photos from the front of the school, taken in 1998. Our school is now used by the *RMAF (Royal Malaysian Air Force) as a training school. It chiefly handles advanced career courses and Instructional Technique courses for all RMAF instructors in teaching methodology.
*or TUDM Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia

School in 1992
(Courtesy Sam Hays)


School in 2003

Wade Halvorson by the school gate with son Riley.

2007 School being repainted
(Courtesy Peter Tullis)

Here is our RAAF School undergoing refurbishment as the base for the RMAF.