"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 have finally set up my new IMAC, bloody brilliant, amazing new gadgets and stuff, dictation straight onto Word and Text edit...

    [green-eyed-god-mode] Flash git... [/green-eyed-god-mode] :p

    If I mentioned any more computer equipment to SWMBO i'd be up beyond my neck in it... :D

    Not quite got round to going through the 77th IID but don't go too deep into that one as I'll be cropping and dating those files and will copy those back to you anyway - you have enought to deal with re '43 without straying too far into '44 - beware the maelstrom... ;)

    Nice link, Wills, but strewth, don't they want a pretty penny for copies of their footage...
    Spotted your comment re L5... that's what I had it down as from what I've found but still cross-referencing before I'm ticking it off...

    I will be transcribing both those articles from Flying magazine but the whole magazine is viewable on-line and is downloadable, if you know how - I can pm details if you have trouble...
  2. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Hi Mate,

    If I can find them quickly I'll post them on here, don't think there much anyway, just mentions.:)
  3. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    As promised, they are more interesting than I thought, having now read them. Credit and thanks to England Phil for the original files.

    In chronological order:

    Attached Files:

  4. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  5. zahonado

    zahonado Well-Known Member

    All those code words changing all the time, must have been confusing! Particularly liked tits returning to nest, but pretty clear they mean DAkotas!!
  6. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    How do you get the time to read all this stuff, Steve...? ;)

    Wills... don't know if you've posted that link elsewhere but it's most interesting... B)
  7. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    Anyway, as I was saying... updating findings...

    The following is a transcription I've made of a recording (probably by a BBC correspondant) dated 18th July 1944, but is uncredited on the source disc... for a variety of reasons I am satisfied that this was John "Jack" Rand, "Gert's" pilot...

    A member of John Rand's family has contacted me on another forum and confirmed that the voice on this recording is not John Rand but in their view the wording is in the style of stories he recounted from the time... a link to the thread is posted further down this thread...

    "I’ve often complained about the boring jobs a Sunderland has to do, convoy escort and anti-submarine patrol, but this trip into Assam, and the flights over the mountains into Burma, gave us all the excitement we needed.
    First, there was the Brahmaputra where we were based. The Indian Ocean was rough at times, but it was nothing compared to the Brahmaputra. The monsoon rains had swollen it 5 or 6 foot above normal level, and the current was rushing along at 12 knots and we had to land across this, because all down the inside of the bank, the stream brought down whole trees and great chunks of bank and dead cattle, and all across the middle there were sandbanks and islands; some of the sandbanks might be formed and washed away in six hours or so.
    The mountains were pretty grim too. Most of the time we were blind-flying through the clouds, and a lot of the ground hadn’t been properly surveyed. Our map showed the highest peaks to be about 6,000 feet high, so the first time we flew at 8,000. Suddenly, dead ahead of us, the mist darkened: we were going straight into a mountain. I didn’t think we could miss it but I put the aircraft into as tight a turn as I could and hoped for the best, and just when she’d cleared that, another dark patch showed up: another mountain, so I pulled her hard round the other way, and by sheer good luck we went between them; I didn’t even have time to sweat.
    Landing on the lake was always tricky. We used to find our way over to it by instruments. When we got over where thought it was we’d say, “Come down a thousand feet.” We’d do that very cautiously, because if we’d miscalculated, and were still over the mountains, we should have bought it. Then we’d come down another thousand, then five hundred, and so on, until at last, someone would see the water.
    We never wasted much time at the lake; twice whilst we were there, we heard Japanese fighters looking for us, and once they machine-gunned the lake after we left; that was when the cloud helped us for a change: it gave us cover to get away. Another reason for speed was the fact that there was often fighting going on near one end of the lake; in fact we never quite knew whe’er the Japs were going to row out to meet us instead of our men. We had one casualty straight from the battle; he’d only been wounded half an hour before. The men on the ground helped us all they knew; once we landed, unloaded, and loaded up again in twenty-five minutes. We used to put the stretcher cases aboard ourselves; nineteen stretcher cases was the most we took, and several sitting wounded. It was no joke, in that heat, standing in a rubber boat, trying to lift one end of a stretcher. We stepped up the load until we could just get up to 10,000 feet; that just got us over the lowest part of the mountains; the highest were 15 and 20,000 feet high. If the navigator ‘d made a mistake or an engine had gone, we should have bought it again.
    A funny thing happened over the mountains once. We were at 10,000 feet and I asked one of the soldiers to go up onto the flight-deck, because there was more room there. He looked at the ten foot ladder leading up to it and shook his head. He said, 'I don’t want to climb that; I get dizzy when I’m up high!'
    And so we went on. We’d get back to the Brahmaputra, wash our hands in disinfectant, have a cup of tea, and go of on another trip, if it was at all possible. If it wasn’t, we’d do the usual daily maintenance on the aircraft, and wait for the next day. We were at it from May 31st ‘til July the 6th. It was a pretty hard time but we all think it was well worth it..."
  8. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    Some statistics for, and a brief summation of, Operation “RIVER" – a significant proportion of this synopsis is from records stored at the National Archives…

    There are some common misconceptions and errors that have appeared over time and some of those I’ll briefly clarify with this posting...
    Operation “RIVER” effectively commenced 27th May 1944 and was the brain-child of the wonderfully named Squadron Leader “Chesty” Jennings and, as noted by Za earlier in the thread, the codes used have caused some confusion – the crews knew their aircraft by their prefix; in the case of DP180 it was “O for Orange” and JM659 being “Q for Queenie”. I am told that a member of the crew (“Jack” Norton) was not aware of the “GERT” and “DAISY” names and thought they had been made up by the press at a later date...
    Figures for those rescued have varied from less than 300 to in excess of 600 personnel but the most accurate figure I have is 508...
    Somewhat like the original name for the 111th IID being the “Leopards” (pretty much consigned to a line in one; book), “CHEESECAKE” and “WALNUT” are virtually unknown, but predating “GERT” and “DAISY”; the reason for the change is presently unknown...
    Both sets of names were used by Command at the time and appear several times in various War Diaries…
    Some crew names found in publications are incorrectly recorded due to interpretation of the details, such as L J Middleton and A F Norton…
    … And that “DAISY” was sunk by a DUKW or floating tree debris...

    Some basic facts…
    There were 17 attempted flights to Lake Indawgyi from Dibrugarh, but they only alighted there 13 times…
    Flight times tended to be, on average, around the 100 minute mark, the shortest being 75 minutes and the longest being 165 minutes...
    Time on the lake was, on average, around 50 minutes, with the shortest turn-around being 25 minutes...
    One thing I found interesting is that, where noted, almost all flight times over the same routes by JM659 were faster than DP180’s, with just the one exception...

    S/Ldr Louis Frank “Johnnie” Middleton DFC, Folkestone, Kent.

    CREW OF “O” for ORANGE – DP180 – codenamed “CHEESECAKE” then “GERT”.
    Captain: F/Lt John “Jack” Rand DFC, Cockfield, Bishop Auckland, County Durham.
    Navigator: F/O Vernon Noel Verney (RAAF) DFC, Nundah, Brisbane.
    2nd Pilot: F/Sgt M Wright, Lindale, Grange-over-Sands, Lancashire.
    1st Engineer: F/Sgt RF Webber, Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk.
    2nd Engineer: F/Sgt RH Neeve, Leeds, Yorkshire.
    1st WO: Ray Guertin (RCAF), Rimouski, Quebec.
    2nd WO: F/Sgt RW Tulloch, Dalston, London.
    WOMS: F/Sgt DJK Butcher, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
    AG (rear): F/Sgt JB Knox, Horden, Co. Durham.

    27th May – ferry flight from Koggala to Calcutta in excess of 9 hours.
    28th – lead crew flew to Comilla by B25 for briefing; decision made that Calcutta inappropriate for operational base and decision that Dibrugarh would be forward base.
    29th – lead crew flew in a B25 on a recce of Dibrugarh area to confirm area of operation returning to Dinjan for further meetings – decision made to fly up to Dibrugarh on 31st and Operation “RIVER” to commence on 1st June.
    30th – no record – presumably all crew members returned to Calcutta this date.
    31st – ferry flight to Dibrugarh of over 4 hours.
    1st June - a flight in excess of 4 hours but cloud cover defeated them...
    2nd - first successful flight taking out 32 evacuees... (31 referenced in Butcher's log)
    3rd – notable for carrying the highest amount of evacuees - 56 - this was experimental and they did not take this risk again… (36 referenced in Butcher's log, encountered Hamp)
    4th – 29 casualties evacuated. (39 ref'd in Butcher's log; newsreel cameraman left at Indawgyi))
    5th – 2 flights and 81 evacuated. (40 ref'd on first trip by Butcher)
    6th – scheduled maintenance work.
    7th – local recce work.
    8th – 41 casualties evacuated.
    9th – 41 casualties evacuated – last scheduled operation
    10th – no record – presumably a ferry flight back to Calcutta
    11th to 12th – last leg back to Koggala.
    13th to 25th – regular squadron duties.

    “GERT” part II
    With news of the problems experienced by “DAISY”, it was decided to return “GERT” to the operation - a minor crew change took place - F/Sgt Halfacre from Thames Ditton in Surrey, replacing F/Sgt DJK Butcher.
    26th to 27th – ferry flight from Koggala to Calcutta – over 9 hours
    28th – ferry flight from Calcutta to Dibrugarh but a mechanical defect grounded her
    29th – repairs and flight test proved successful and ops scheduled to commence next day.
    30th – 40 casualties evacuated.
    1st July – 40 casualties evacuated.
    2nd – electrical storms – no flights possible.
    3rd – 29 casualties flown out – the last flight of Operation “RIVER” – a Japanese prisoner is also noted to have been flown out on this trip.
    4th – ferry flight to Calcutta and then on standby awaiting crew from JM659.
    8th – ferry flight with both crews to Chennai – 7 hours
    9th – 5 hour flight back to base at Koggala.

    CREW OF “Q” for QUEENIE – JM659 - codenamed “WALNUT” then “DAISY”.
    Captain: F/O Edwin Alfred “Ted” Garside, Edinburgh.
    2nd Pilot: F.Sgt HW Smith, Harrogate.
    Navigator: F/O Albert John “Jack” Norton (RCAF), Ottawa - 1918-2010 (edit 8/1/13)
    1st Eng: Sgt B Meteer, Distington, Cumberland.
    2nd Eng: Sgt TP Cronin, West Hampstead, NW.
    1st Wireless Operator: F/Sgt D Turner, Lancs.
    WOP/AG: Sgt WH Garlick, Cricklewood, NW.
    WOP/AG: Sgt W Phelan, Whitehall, Dublin.
    Gunnery Officer: F/L FG Marshall, Blackton

    3rd June – ferry flight of over 8 hours from Koggala to Calcutta.
    4th – ferry flight of over 4 hours to Dibrugarh.
    This aircraft was fated from the outset...
    On arrival at Dibrugarh, her port float was damaged when a DUKW collided with it – local repairs proved impossible so off she went back to Calcutta for “local” repairs, returning on the 6th.
    7th – two flights and 79 rescued.
    8th and 9th - required scheduled-maintenance works kept her out of the skies.
    10th - the weather kept them down and delayed ops; what I suspect was a significant tail/head-wind resulted in the shortest/longest flights to/from the lake - 75 and 165 minutes, respectively; they flew out a further 40 personnel.
    11th - two engines failed whilst taxiing and water in the fuel was found to be the culprit – 48 hours estimated work was done in one day!
    12th - they were airborne for over 2 hours but cloud cover prevented a landing.
    13th - weather kept them down.
    14th – 25 minute aborted flight due to extreme weather conditions…
    15th – no flight possible - the weather beat them again...
    16th - they again had to abort a flight due to weather and were airborne for about 45 minutes.
    17th - a failed starter motor for one of the engines kept them down... spares were requested...
    20th - a DUKW (again!) collided with the port float (again!!) – checks showed the float to be ok but the struts were wrecked and had to be removed, leaving her rather vulnerable... spares were requested...
    4th July - a storm struck and with no port float the stabilisation tethering failed to stop the port wing-tip being forced down to water level. This in turn allowed water to enter the aircraft through a port-side hatch, which was open due to the tethering lines, causing the plane to tip further. The two crew members guarding the plane had to “abandon-ship” and down she went... no tree, no DUKW, just sheer bad luck…

    There is still a possible problem over the total number of people evacuated on the Sunderland’s as the number of personnel flown out on the last flight is not given. An article published at the time records that DP180 flew out 389 personnel and JM659 118, the latter matching the records, so I am giving the figure for 3rd July as the remainder. There is another reference to 4 Japanese POW’s being flown out and that it is also unclear if these figures are inclusive. Further to this, an honourable mention should go to the USAAF pilot/pilots that operated the L1/L5 float-plane/s that continued to fly out the injured; I have found reference that a further 37 personnel were flown out by them after Operation “RIVER” concluded – I am still researching this matter…

  9. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    A member of John Rand's family has been in contact and I have amended a post above accordingly - a link to the relevant thread is posted here...

    The Flying Boat Forum from www.seawings.co.uk • View topic - Gert & Daisy - 230 Squadron and the Chindits

    The audio recording at the IWM is not the voice of John Rand, but his family are of the opinion that the words are his...?

    For me, I am still certain it is an account by a pilot on "Gert" and my evidence is the mentioning of the machine-gunning of the lake by a Japanese fighter, which took place post the very last flight, which was made by John Rand's crew...
  10. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Hi Ken,

    You've made massive progress on this subject, exceptional detail given above. I also saw your post on RAFCommands today as well..........no stone unturned mate, I like it.:)
  11. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    Hi Ken,
    ... exceptional detail given above. I also saw your post on RAFCommands today as well...

    The synopsis is from a 19 page article I have started to build up, excluding the other stuff on this thread - it's still a scratch on the surface and compared to some of your work, still only a pin-prick... ;)

    RAFCOM is a bit of a nightmare due to their corrupted search engine - I was hoping to do some research on some of the other Squadrons involved but have to do a rethink on that at present - mind you, still processing some of the imagery from my last session at Kew... :screwy::D
  12. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    The synopsis is from a 19 page article I have started to build up, excluding the other stuff on this thread - it's still a scratch on the surface and compared to some of your work, still only a pin-prick... ;)

    RAFCOM is a bit of a nightmare due to their corrupted search engine - I was hoping to do some research on some of the other Squadrons involved but have to do a rethink on that at present - mind you, still processing some of the imagery from my last session at Kew... :screwy::D

    Obviously my need for all things RAF is not overwhelming, but the members on RAFCOM are very helpful and much like here, rarely let me down. My main worry is I can not often return the favour to them, although right now I have something very juicy for one of their members, all he has to do is pick up my pm.:lol:
  13. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    I was sent these following seven images by Barbara (Rand) of/from her father's log book...
    Her comment on the email she attached the images to really sums up an awful lot about these events...

    "Dad was only 22 when the evacuation of the Chindits occurred. It is sort of amazing to think that as our father he always seemed old, but really now 22 seems like a child!"

    The first is the cover of John "Jack" Rand's log book...

    This is his clearance to fly Sunderlands... seventy years ago...
  14. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    Details of the start of Operation "RIVER" - flights from 4th to 9th June 1944...

    Details of flights from 10th to 28th June...
  15. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    Details of flights from 29th June to 4th July...

    Details of flights from 8th to 27th July 1944 and returning to regular operations...
  16. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    The personal letter from Air Chief Marshall Sir Richard Peirse congratulating Flight Lieutenant John "Jack" Rand on the awarding of his DFC...

    That's the seven images that Barbara sent me to post for you to see... many thanks to you and the family... Kenny's off to do a bit of studying now... ;)
  17. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Wow Ken,

    What a wonderful first hand resource for your research on the Sunderlands. What strikes me the most is the quality and clarity of his hand writing, no deciphering needed there.:)
  18. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    You said it... I've asked his family if they would be willing to offer a bio of their dad, or the bones of the info I could use to make one up for them... I'll keep everyone posted, so to speak...

    Interesting thing is that it's an RCAF book...
  19. eddie chandler

    eddie chandler Senior Member

    Ken I think the mention ofvthe prisoner pinpoints the date of one of the films I saw at IWM. Still looking to see if I can get more info on that!
  20. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    Just so you are aware, Eddie, I think I've found references to about 4 prisoners being flown out - still working on that too... ;)

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