"Gert and Daisy" - the Sunderlands in Burma

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by Hebridean Chindit, Apr 10, 2011.

  1. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    I don't know what it is about flying boats but I find them irresistible, always have done... I guess having seafaring family and then going into engineering in the commercial aviation sphere they were the logical marriage, and the true birth of international aviation... I guess that would have to be down to Juan Trippe and Pan-Am that that took place... personally, for me though, it has to be Sunderlands and Cat's... B)
  2. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    Again, as noted in my 111th IID/"Blackpool" thread... a while back the most-excellent Bamboo43 sent me an article from a rather scarce magazine in his possesion, published/printed for SEAC by Frank Owen/Statesman Press, Calcutta, circa 1946 (ta Steve)... usually I use OCR to ensure I get an accurate transcription... well, even though Steve's scans were excellent the ruddy thing declined to play ball and I had to actually do some work...

    The second article posted from this publication is the "Gert and Daisy" section... again, if anyone knows the original writer I'd love to know to give credit where it is due... as before, I've tried to preserve the writing style exactly how it was written... they are nice articles, very newspapery in styling...

    Sunderlands Rescue Chindit Wounded
    The vital part which air evacuation of casualties played in the 1944 Chindit operations cannot be exaggerated. More than 3000 sick and wounded – mostly the former – almost certainly owe their lives to the fact that intrepid airmen overcame unprecedented dangers and technical problems to make the rescue evacuation scheme one of the most successful features of the operation.
    The difficulties and hazards which were faced daily in performing these feats of rescue work were prodigious. Tiny planes dropped out of the sky onto rough strips hewn out of jungle clearings. Trees were blown at either end to give them a chance of clearance in the take-off. These light planes took smaller batches of casualties to the larger strips where Dakotas and Commandos flew the rescued men to hospitals in Assam and Bengal. Even Sunderland flying boats took part in these errands of mercy by landing and taking off from Indawgyi Lake.
    The dangers can be appreciated by most. But the technical difficulties of, say, flying a Sunderland built for low level work over the sea, across the notorious “Hump” between Burma and Assam, by only a few.
    The most poignant of all Long Range Penetration operations – that of succouring the wounded men hundreds of miles inside enemy territory – was, therefore, solved. Men of the first Wingate expedition were haunted by the dread of having to be left to face the terrors of the Jap and Jungle. Not so in the 1944 campaign.
    So smoothly did the evacuation service run that scores of casualties recovered quickly enough in hospital to be flown in to take a further part in the operation.
    The success of this phase of the campaign is in marked contrast to the pitiable plight of the Japanese casualties.
    Though his casualties reached very much higher proportions than did the Chindits’ the Japanese provided no such facilities for getting their sick and wounded away from battle areas. There they were left for a pitiless sun and a remorseless jungle to add to their miseries. Their only chance of survival was the hope that they would be found by the British.
    From battle areas where rough strips were hurriedly prepared by Chindits themselves men were flown to main evacuation centres – or “strongholds” – for the longer journey to hospitals in Assam and Bengal. Light planes, piloted almost exclusively by Americans, made the short journey to such famous Chindit strongholds as Aberdeen, Broadway, and the Chinese-American held base at Myitkyina. From these bases large transport planes undertook the longer journeys. These planes were piloted by both British and American pilots – about eighty per cent of them being British.
    In the first three months of the campaign 2,126 casualties were flown out in this way. Subsequently a further 500 were rescued by Sunderland flying boats which landed on the lake in what was nominally “Japanese territory”: a further 500 were evacuated during and after fierce fighting for the Japanese stronghold of Mogaung.
    Two Sunderland flying boats, “Gert and Daisy”, were used in this operation. Between them they flew out no less than 508 casualties. Not one man who made the perilous journey by mule, hand carried litter or foot, across the mountains and through the jungles to the improvised flying boat base was lost.
    The Chindit operations had reached a critical stage when this exploit was first put into force. Monsoon conditions had made most of their airstrips unusable swamps.
    From their base on the Brahmaputra the Sunderlands, fresh from anti-submarine operations in the Indian Ocean, took off on their mission two hundred miles behind the Jap front lines. By skilful navigation and use of sheltered rovers they avoided Jap Zero patrols.
    “Gert” Makes Ten Flights
    “Gert” set the ball rolling and proved that the job, despite all hazards, could be done. In all she made ten flights and evacuated 389 casualties. But as the sick and wounded, whose lives depended on those four stalwart engines, mounted she took as many as 40 at a time. Storms over the Brahmaputra added to the difficulties, but “Daisy” weighed in too on the errands of mercy. In all she flew out 119 casualties. An American light plane fitted with floats to make it amphibious, also did powerful work in flying casualties from jungle airstrips to the lake. This plane evacuated 37 casualties and had the distinction of carrying out the last patient on the last day of the evacuation.
    While this amazing jungle-lake clearing station was in operation a feat of equally heroic proportions was being carried out at Mogaung. The terrain here was quite unsuited to the building of an airstrip. The monsoon, by now in its full fury, made it almost impossible. A former school teacher, F/Lt C. J. Burns, tackled the task. He found a stretch of ground 250 yards long which he had cleared by coolie labour. The minimum dimensions laid down for light plane landings at this time was 400 yards. But the strip of land was the best available. It was a mere ten yards wide. The strip was built up with logs and branches and trenches were dug under these for drainage purposes. Two hundred rolls of cocoanut matting measuring 20 by 5 yards were dropped by request. This matting was laid over the logs and branches to give a reasonably smooth run.
    When it was finished F/Lt Burns looked at it – and wondered. But the need was urgent and risks had to be taken. Each end of the strip was bounded by a deep swamp so that there was no possible chance of lengthening it. At the “take off” end a hump was fashioned so that a plane which had not taken off would be “helped” into the air. This hump was built up by the use of “dud” mortar bombs.
    At first three light aircraft, piloted by Americans, were available for the evacuation service to Myitkyina. One of these crashed and for a considerable part of the time only one aircraft was in use. Yet that strip was the means of getting no less than 400 battle casualties and 100 sick men out to safety. Not a single man was lost.
    The strain on the pilots was great. They had to touch down within a yard or two of one end of the strip in order to be certain of not overshooting into the swamp at the other end. The maximum official load for the light plane in use was three. And yet the plane took as many as six at a time.
    Speedy Evacuation
    Once the light plane failed to take off and tipped over at the hump end of the strip. The undercarriage was broken and it was impossible to get the plane into the air without repairs by a technician. A welder was flown in from Myitkyina and the next day the plane was in the air again.
    Despite the most appalling weather conditions there was only one day on which the strip was out of action. It was the proud record of the tireless workers who made the strip possible that a man who was wounded in battle one day was flown out, at the latest, on the next. When the battle at Mogaung was at its height and casualties were heavy no fewer than 75 men were flown out in one day.
    The airstrip at Henu, site of the famous Chindit block White City which prevented rail or road traffic from reaching Myitkyina to the north, did equally good work. Here there were none of the difficulties of terrain which had to be faced at Mogaung. But the preference of Japs all round the hills on which the block was situated made landing and taking off a hazardous business. Jap snipers were ever on the alert for these defenceless planes – they had a “go” at the plane which General Wingate landed early in the operations.
    Staff Dropped By Air
    One line of evacuation entailed sick and wounded men marching or being carried through the jungles to Pahok, just west of Mogaung, where a jungle hospital had been set up. The medical staff of this hospital had been dropped by parachute. Patients were sent from this hospital by jeep or truck to Kamaing. From Kamaing they were taken by river to Warazup. From Warazup they were flown by light plane to Shadazup, from where Dakotas took them to Assam.
    Accompanying each Chindit column was an RAF officer whose job it was to advise on all air matters. That these officers were always prepared to do far more than their duties really called for is illustrated by the actions of F/Lt Bocus and F/Lt Logan. Each of these offices came across an abandoned light plane, managed to patch up the damage which had caused them to be left and started his own “private” evacuation scheme.
    In fact the work of the pilots who saved so many Chindit lives cannot be praised too highly. From the pilots of the Sunderlands who faced unimagined dangers when flying their huge aircraft through the thick clouds over the mountains of Assam to the light plane pilots who dodged their way through rainstorms at tree-top height like bicycle errand boys through a traffic jam, there was evidence of the spirit which saved Great Britain during the most perilous days of 1940...
    sol likes this.
  3. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    As a follow-on from this article, there is one mystery that bothers me... the mention of the "float-plane"...

    I can find no mention of this aircraft anywhere and one of the veterans I'm in contact with was there throughout this period, even to the end of the 111th - he remembers L1's and similar but nothing with floats...???

    More digging to be done...
  4. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    Purely an update - I have found reference to an L5 with floats in use at one point during the 2nd campaign, and I also found reference to another type (C?) that I have rather stupidly misfiled... o_O
  5. mapshooter

    mapshooter Senior Member

    Ah Gert and Daisy, lived in a downland village in W Sussex, their orchard was very tempting put protected by an inconveniently high brick wall.
  6. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    That places you (possibly) in the Steyning area...?

    Scrumping is a high-risk strategy, especially if their brother was nearby ("Evening all...") ... :D

    That's another quirk I have in my work as my late dad was London's very last Station Sergeant when he retired in '77 and was known as "the real-life Reg Dixon" by his Met. comrades - and with his "sisters" coming to his rescue in '44 ... ;)
  7. Bertus

    Bertus Junior Member

    Could anybody indicate where this name came from?

    Brand new so hope I am using this correctly.
  8. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    Could anybody indicate where this name came from?

    Brand new so hope I am using this correctly.

    Found this reference at the RAFCommands thread mentioned previously:
    Sunderlands in Burma
    [​IMG] Junior Member
    The nicknames Gert and Daisy were probably the figments of the imagination of a publicist. My father was navigator of one of the 'boats - JM659, "Q" Queenie, and when I asked him once which name his aircraft was called, Gert or Daisy, he thought I was crazy. "Neither was ever called that" he replied. The only names he ever heard, or used was Orange or Queenie. Interestingly enough a family friend was serving with the Indian Army in Afghanistan, and two aircraft were operating in that theatre, and they were called Gert & Daisy. I gather that Gert & Daisy were music hall (vaudeville) performers popular int the UK about that time.

    My mother had a copy of the original press release quoted by Mr. Halliday, And I have scanned it, and can post it if anyone is interested.
    Throws another interesting light on the names of the planes.

    And here would be the Gert and Daisy the names referenced:
    Gert and Daisy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  9. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    This was noted earlier in the thread...

    Gert's original name was "Cheesecake" and Daisy was called "Walnut" - the diary notes that they had to cease using these names and the replacements being, "Gert & Daisy" (entry 1917, 4th June 1944, 111 IID war diaries).

    Both sets of names were those officially sanctioned by Division.

    There is nothing specific in 230 Squadron's diaries held at Kew (Gert's crew but no mention of Daisy's) but I am hopeful that something my turn up in their own archives at Benson (iirc)

    Hope that helps you, Bertus; curiosity only...?

  10. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    Entry 3322 in 111th diary...

    From AMITY. 2 flying boats will fly 5 more sorties DAWLISH. When unable to fly will send L1 float plane. Essential DAWLISH open as only link 14 Bde and quickest means evacuation...

    I'm still going through the mid Jume to end of the diary from my most recent visit so just an update...
  11. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    A reference was made to what is called a "DOPE SHEET" that is associated with a film that turned up with footage purchased of the "ADMIN" BOX by another site user (ta Zeezee for forwarding it) and a copy of the reference sheet has been transcribed, complete with an alternate name for John "Jack" Masters...

    The sheet is dated June 1944 and identified as MW 25 (MWY 25 – IWM)
    Other references on header are “6270” and “REEL 5A/5B”



    Prod. No. 1082

    Cameraman Captain J. W. Hewitson

    Story Evacuation of Casualties by Flying Boat

    Location Brahmaputra (N. Assam) and Indawgyi Lake (Burma).

    From June 2nd to June 12th evacuation took place by "Sunderland" Flying Boat of RAF Coastal Command of Chindlts from a besieged outpost in N. Burma.
    At six Doors notice, a "Sunderland" captained by F/Lt. Rand was flown via Calcutta to a chartered spot on the. Brahmaputra in N. Assam. Due to adverse weather conditions the ship was "Docked" for two days, however, on the 2nd came the report by direct radio "six tenths cloud visibility 0 to 4,000, slight rain". The ship left at 1200 hrs en route for Indawgyi Lake, a stretch of water 14 miles long, in the heart of N. Burma and surrounded by two divisions of fresh Jap troops with a column of Chindits holding the fort.

    At Lonton on Indawgyi, was Situated the reception station for battle casualties from a famous Chindit column who were at that moment defending the perimeter of the lake and breaching Jap communications to Imphal and Mytkina. This column formerly under comma of Brigadier now General "Joe Lentaigne" and under temporary control of Major Jack Marshall, had marched 600 miles, fought severe battles, suffered victory and defeat, constructed 11 light plane strips and 4 transport plane strips behind Jap lines, and after successfully severing vital Jap communications, had finally reached the rim of the lake. The casualties were sent into the camp on the lakeside by pony and mule to await the arrival of the boat.

    Battling its way through monsoon, over unsurveyed jungle, wary all the time of Zeros, the “Sunderland" performed several sorties each over 500 miles there and back, bringing 40 to 50 casualties each trip. These casualties were in a deplorable state, battle wounds, typhus, cholera, dysentery and malaria being the worst, and unless they were evacuated before the monsoon broke, they would never get out. Case priority was determined by British and West African doctors, battle casualties first. The casualties were rowed out in country boats and dinghies dropped by supply planes to the Sunderland. On return to the Brahmaputra the casualties were off-loaded into amphibious vehicle, taken to the back and transported by ambulance to hospital where very elaborate preparations had been made to receive them.


    Zeezee has kindly described the footage to me and rather curiously it does not seem to be the same as those referenced on the IWM site - further investigation required... ;)
  12. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

  13. alex.norton

    alex.norton Junior Member

    Back on 03-01-2012 Hebridean Chindit was bemoaning the scant information available about JM659 noting that the records did not even lis tteh crew. I have copies of teh Appendix E to Form 540 for No 230 Squadron for June 1944, and it lists the crew as follow:

    This crew consists of: -
    F/O E. A. Garside Captain
    F/S H. Smith 2nd Pilot
    F/O A. F. Norton Navigator
    F/S H. S. Garlick 1st W/Op
    “ D. Turner 2nd “
    “ P. Phelaw W. O. M.
    “ B. Neteer 1st Engineer
    “ T. Cronin 2nd Engineer
    F/L F. G. Marshall A/G

    The form also says that JM659 was sent out to reinforce O/230 on Operation RIver. JM659 encountered a few problems including having a float knocked off on its arrival by an American DUKW, which necessitated it returning to Calcutta for repairs. It then lost a starter motor on one of its engines rendering it u/s. Weather prevented other trips, then the DUKW knocked a float off again, and the aircraft sank when high winds came up and water came in the port hatch too quickly to be stopped and the aircraft sank.

    I would like to point out one error in the Form E. The Navigator was F/O A. J. ("Jack") Norton, RCAF. The report has his initials wrong. He was my father.
  14. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    My new best friend... ;)

    Hi Alex and welcome, I have your info from this thread...

    Sunderlands in Burma

    ... but unfortunately the thread was dead when one of our regulars (Steve) pointed me in its direction so I thought not much point in resurrection...

    Your notes are very welcome - I have a veteran in Scotland that has run into another relative of crew that I sent some info to only last Friday (unless it's your family in Aberdeen area).

    Anything you would wish to post about your father would be very welcome here and I'll pm you re info I can offer or vice-versa...

    I recently became an associate of the Squadron and hope to visit them in the near future...

  15. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    I had the good fortune of visiting the home of 230 Squadron yesterday and met some past and present members of the Squadron - my only regret on the day were pressing family matters that prevented me from staying on for the evening...
    Our host being Fl Lt Richards; the day started with refreshments and an introduction from the incomming Wg Cdr Cormack, who stressed the importance of their history and remembering it - they have a great sense of their history and are rightfully proud of it... their headquarters are litterally littered with memorabilia...
    A visit to the simulator department was the next port of call; I got a chance to view a Merlin setup and hands-on with a Puma that I took on a "flight" round Benson and successfully landed the beastie on the runway - being surrounded by so many professionals and veterans I was very pleased the PC sim time has paid off - one of the programmers decided to send a Mig 29 across my path half way through... :D
    Lunch (on 230) was followed by a briefing on recent events, including their involvement in the recent Olympics.
    Following that we were split into two groups and mine was 1st sent to their history room - very well laid out with plenty to see, though most of their wartime material is held off-site.
    We then were taken to the hangers to see some of the Puma and look around their day-to-day activities.
    This was rounded off with a final briefing and the association retired back to the hotel for their AGM and an evening meal, where they were scheduled to be meeting up with members of the Squadron too...
    An excellent day and my thanks go to both the Association and the Squadron.

    A positive for me was an offer from of assistance in my research from the Squadron and some contacts from members of the Association who may be able to assist...

    I am sorting some material to post here in the next few weeks, detailing full crews, total flights and total figures rescued - the last month or so has been most enlightening...

    A negative comment is that Kermit Weeks, owner of the last "airworthy" Sunderland, who may be in the process of returning his aircraft to MkV status, recently let the Squadron know that this will not be airworthy again for some time... :(
  16. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Sounds like a great day all round HC, well done.:D

    Now you may have the keys to the golden archive too. Everything comes to he who..........................dares.
  17. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    Time I started bringing this up to date and posting some stuff I've now got...

    This is the image from AWM of the crew of DP180/"O"/"Gert"/"Cheesecake"... reference SUK13908
    Left to right: Flight Lieutenant John "Jack" Rand DFC, pilot; Flying Officer Vernon Noel Verney DFC RAAF, navigator; Flt Sgt F Wright, co-pilot; Warrant Officer Ray Geurtin, RCAF, 1st Wireless Officer; Flt Sgt R Tucher, wireless operator; Flt Sgt D Butcher, wireless operator; Flt Sgt R Webber, flight engineer; Flt Sgt H Neeve, flight engineer; Flt Sgt J B Knox, air gunner; Squadron Leader Louis Frank Middleton DFC, detachment commander.
    Middleton, Rand and Verney all earnt their DFC's for this operation.

    More to follow...

    Attached Files:

  18. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    My confusion about other aircraft flying wounded out from here is compounded by the following... both of these articles allude to the use of these aircraft in the Burmese conflict...

    This one of an L5 is from page 23 of the January 1944 edition of Flying...
    These two images are from what appears to be a Stinson advert regarding L1A's in use in Burma with EDO floats (capable of landing on water or land) from page 5 of the May 1945 issue of Flying...
    Still not happy as to which of these were involved with my sphere of research, so...
  19. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Nice pics HC. I have finally set up my new IMAC, bloody brilliant, amazing new gadgets and stuff, dictation straight onto Word and Text edit, not perfect but will help no end with the website editing.

    What has this got to do with 'Gert and Daisy' I hear you exclaim!:)

    Well it means I can now view the larger files the good people on here have sent me over the last couple of years and this includes 77IIB HQ 1944 (oh yes that one). It mentions Cheescake and G&D on a few of the pages, I will dig these out for you and post or email tomorrow.


  20. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

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