Kallang Airport (also known as the Kallang Aerodrome, Kallang Airfield and RAF Kallang) was Singapore’s first purpose-built commercial airport. It was opened on 12 June 1937 in the Kallang Basin area. It was designed by Frank Dorrington Ward, then chief architect of the Public Works Department. The announcement to build Kallang Airport was made by Governor Cecil Clementi on 31 August 1931. The decision was made in anticipation of Singapore turning into a major aviation hub.
Construction of the Kallang Airport began in 1931 with 300 acres of mangrove swampland being reclaimed. It resulted in the displacement of a large Malay community consisting of about 5,000 individuals from 5 villages along the Kallang River. Most of the residents resettled into Kampong Melayu Jalan Eunos.
Boasting an anchorage area for seaplanes along its perimeter, the Kallang Airport was dubed as "the finest airport in the British Empire" at that time. Famous aviator Amelia Earhart once described it as "an aviation miracle of the East". It contains a two-storey terminal building with a large viewing gallery and a circular control tower in the middle, two side blocks with attached hangars, a circular grass landing field, and a slipway for seaplanes. Overall, Kallang Airport took five years to complete at a cost of $9 million.
During World War II, the Kallang Airport was the only operational airfield in Singapore capable of supporting Allied campaigns against the Japanese forces. It was during the Japanese occupation period that the airport's grass landing zone was upgraded into a concrete runway and extended to 5500 feet.
As early as 1950, plans were made to build a new airport at Paya Lebar (the current Paya Lebar Air Base) as the Kallang Airport was unable to cope with the increase in air traffic and larger planes despite being expanded. The Kallang Airport finally closed in 1955.
1. Imperial War Museums, London.