"Gert and Daisy" - the Sunderlands in Burma

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

  1. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi HC,

    Just to let you know I am reading these little updates of yours. :)
     
  2. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    Busily compiling the book, me ol' buddy... presently circa 30k words in a rough "fact only" format, before sorting... main files, as you know, need the decimal point moved east, a few degrees... ;)

    I have a couple of stinging reports for the "Blackpool" book between Lentaigne and Stilwell that DO NOT appear to be referenced in his "papers"; they are referenced elsewhere but no transcriptions, afaik... it got really ugly...

    I have another 60 or so images to post from ABY9 once this period is complete, then on to ABY12 and MWY25... the one (or so) image from ABY146 is already up (the prop blade above the surface) and the image provided by Alex Norton is all I have of the demise of Daisy, but that is yet to come, so to speak...

    3rd July 1944... the last Sunderland flight to and from Indawgyi... from the records... history might have recorded two lost Sunderlands, as you will read...
    1120 departure - 130 minute flight-time
    With considerably better weather it was agreed to bring forward the time of take off by one hour and aircraft was airborne at 1120 hours. An escort of P-51 (Mustangs) was provided from DINJAN. On this occasion special medical supplies were taken and also some coined currency at the request of the Army authorities.
    50 minutes on the lake - a slow turnaround, by their usual standards...
    A landing was made at 1330 and after embarking casualties and one very disconsolate Japanese prisoner, course was set for base at 1420 hours.
    Film exists of this, showing the prisoner; presumed that at least a further 40 casualties were flown out as not noted...
    140 minutes flight-time back to Dibrugarh...
    On this, the final sortie, the most favourable weather of any of the journeys was experienced. Base was reached at 1640 hours.
    It was rumored some time later that at 1500 hours (i.e. twenty minutes after the aircraft had left) Japanese fighters machine gunned the lake and sank one of the large rubber rafts which had been used for ferrying the casualties to the aircraft. On both previous occasions the aircraft had been on the lake at this time.
    Finally, half an hour after landing and before the refuelling party had gone aboard, the mooring buoy broke and the Sunderland started to drift downstream. However it was recovered by the efforts of the Captain and three of the crew who safely anchored the aircraft until the buoy had been repaired by the Flight Commander and the Navigator.

    The flight where Gert had all four engines cut whilst carrying survivors is not recorded in the Squadron records but only in a Canadian press release referencing a member of the crew: WO Ray Guertin...

    Nearly completed this review... just one sad event left to note...
     
  3. zahonado

    zahonado Well-Known Member

    Sounds as though you are nearly there, HC ..only wish I had managed to find such a lot of research material! Well done. When are you aiming for publication?
     
  4. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    I love your optimism, Za... about three to five years ago would be more realistic... :biggrin:

    Realistically, before relocation, for this bit... the Blackpool story is still down to crunching through the files... every time I dip in I find some juicy morsel that needs OCR work and as the pages are so poor then the translation from the gibberish it pours out... still quicker than writing it out from scratch...

    Oh yeah, there's still G&D material coming up to the surface from the files for this too, but that's nearly finished review and OCR for the work next...

    I've found a reference (from Lentaigne, iirc) who requested a pass over a river near where the 77th were operating to check for feasibility of using a FB from there, but it was a no-no... I've mentioned before re the use of Cat's too...
     
  5. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    4th July 1944... nearly the end of the story... from the Squadron records...

    DP180 - “GERT”
    Departure and arrival time not noted
    On completion of ‘O’s share in the operation, the aircraft left DIBRUGARH for CALCUTTA carrying as passengers OC Operation ‘River’ - Wing Commander Drake AFC, and PR personnel. After arrival in CALCUTTA news came through of the loss of aircraft ‘Q’ and so ‘O’ awaited the arrival of the Flight Commander, Squadron Leader Middleton and the Captain and crew of ‘Q’.

    JM659 - “DAISY” – LOSS OF AIRCRAFT
    1800
    ‘The most bitter pill of all’.
    A very high wind sprang up and without any warning struck the aircraft on the starboard side sending the port main-plane hard into the water. The angle was so steep that water immediately poured through the port galley hatch from which the drogue was streamed to keep the aircraft steady under normal conditions. Water also entered by the front port hatch and the aircraft was lurching at such a precarious angle and the position was so hopeless that the boat guard of F/L Marshall and F/S Turner reluctantly abandoned it. They were picked up by a native craft after their dinghy had been overturned by the storm.

    Daisy had been dogged by misfortune throughout the operation, but... :(
     
  6. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    Daisy, alighting on the Brahmaputra for the first time...
     

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  7. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    More Chindits being off-loaded from Gert... ABY9 4:05 to 4:23... all IWM copyright...
     

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  8. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    ABY9 4:24 to 4:37
     

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  9. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    ABY9 4:41 to 5:02

    Just as a reminder - the approx image times relate to the file supplied by the IWM which is ABY8/9 - when files are ordered from them they supply them as a group and not separately...
     

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  10. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    ABY9 5:07 to 5:25
     

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  11. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    More nice images HC. I would say if a relative was looking at these, they would a a very fair chance of spotting their man, even considering the beards and obvious poor physical condition the chaps were in by then.
     
  12. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    ABY9 5:26 to 5:41
     

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  13. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    Last one for this batch - the second section has some brass coming out to inspect Gert in the form of Air Marshall Sir John Baldwin...

    ABY9 5:37 to 7:37

    I'm pretty certain the RAF crewman pointing in image 7:23 is Gert's 2nd Pilot, Flight Sergeant Wright...

    Plenty more to come, me ol' Bamboo... ;)
    If we do get any nibbles then I'll be able to do an improved image capture...

    29 more images from ABY to come... then onto the next set of films...
     

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  14. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    Had a busy week so missed a couple of dates for this memorium...

    7th July 1944 - the crew of Daisy and Sqn Ldr Middleton arrived at Dum Dum to rejoin Gert for transportation back to Koggala...
    8th July 1944 - both 230 crews on board Gert left Calcutta for a 7 1/2 hour flight to Red Hills Lake, Madras...
    9th July 1944 - Gert departed from Madras for Koggala arriving at 1325... stories to tell at the beach bar...

    That ends 230's story here, but not quite the end of the story... we still have the Burma Belle mystery...

    4th July 1944, the little Stinson float plane flew out 4 casualties to Tingkawk
    5th July 1944, a further 5 were flown out... these were the last people flown out from the Indawgyi area...

    A SEAC article from circa late '44 or early '45 gives the total flown out by this little plane to be 37, but these are the last recorded dates I presently have for her flights... other than being operated by the USAAF I presently have no other information...

    That brings this memorium to its conclusion, but not the story... ;)
     
  15. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    These images are the sick and wounded, and those assisting, being transported to (presumably) the hospital at Dibrugarh...
    ABY9 7:43 to 7:50
     

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  16. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    ABY9 7:51 to 7:56
     

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  17. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    ABY9 7:58 to 8:28
     

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  18. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    ABY9 8:30 to 9:14 - this concludes the hospital images... the happy-chappy in the last shot was holding up a spoon for much of the footage he was in... looks like he's a red-head and from what I've read they were particularly despised by the Japanese... anyone know why...?

    I forgot to mention... one of these images shows a nurse tending to the foot of an injured soldier... my dad mentioned not seeing a single one wherever he had been hospitalised...
     

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  19. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    The last ones for ABY9 (sort of) - an identifier clapperboard (no date, this time) and a "snapshot" of an image I need to grab again - it looks like the camera got switched on by accident whilst it was lying on the ground by the riverside - lots of faces to try and grab...

    ABY9 9:19 to 9:22 - please remember that all images are copyright IWM and have been posted for research purposes only...
     

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  20. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    A freshly transcribed official report from

    WO172-4261

    Appendix “A” to Special Force periodical 1 Intelligence Summary No.2 dated 11 Sep ‘44

    OPERATION "RIVER"

    The BRITISH and INDIAN troops who operated so gallantly during the dry months behind the JAPANESE lines in NORTH BURMA and whose endurance and prowess contributed very greatly to the fall of MYITKYINA and the rout of enemy forces in the MOGAUNG valley and NAGA HILLS had always the encouragement of knowing that any of their number who became a casualty through either sickness had an excellent chance of being flown back in safety to a base hospital in Assam or BENGAL.
    Light aircraft flew at treetop height to elude enemy detection and landed in paddy fields or jungle clearings to pick up casualties whom they then conveyed to one of the kacha landing grounds which had been made to receive large transport aircraft. Here they changed aircraft and in a Dakota (C.47) or Commando (C.46) were flown westwards over the mountains to hospitals where full treatment was available. Altogether during the three months March - May, 1944, 2,126 casualties belonging to 3 Indian Division wore evacuated by air from territories nominally in JAPANESE occupation.
    With the onset of the monsoon toward the end of May, however, the wanted procedure of casualty evacuation became impossible. In flooded and marshy land the light aircraft could no longer find a place for landing. Yet despite the most discouraging of conditions the troops of 3 Indian Division were continuing to fight the enemy from his rear and their casualties were accumulating and beginning to hamper their freedom of movement, And so, since nature had denied us the use of dry land for our aircraft the decision was made to use the alternative - water - and to evacuate the casualties from the surface of the neighbouring Lake INDAWGYI by flying-boat.

    TRANSPORT PROBLEMS
    The decision was a bold one. No.3 Indian Division was fighting among swamps to the west of the SAGAING - MYITKYINA railway at HOPIN and although movement to the lake was possible the problems of transportation were considerable. The lakeside was assumed to be under enemy control along the greater part of its length and it would be necessary to establish a firm hold on at least some portion of the shore.
    From the air point of view the operation was scarcely less hazardous. A suitable-base anchorage for a flying boat would have to be found, thousands of miles from the nearest flying boat harbour. The trip across the mountains at the worst season of the year was one which normally required all the resourcefulness of the most experienced transport crews and would certainly present unprecedented problems to those whose duties seldom brought them over land at all. Not least of the difficulties was the discovery of a base anchorage in ASSAM or BENGAL from which the flights might be made.
    A Sunderland of 230 Squadron was duly flown from CEYLON to the HOOGHLY and on 29th May three members of the crew made a reconnaissance flight in a :Mitchell (B.25) over BRAHMAPUTRA in the neighbourhood of DINJAN and selected a suitable base anchorage. On 1st June the first attempt was made to fly the Sunderland from this base south-eastwards over the mountains to Lake INDAWGYI but in the face of 10/10ths cloud from 500 to 20,000 feet the sortie proved abortive. On the following day the Sunderland took off again in bad weather, and this time managed to roach the lake, where 32 casualties were paddled out in dinghies and taken aboard - the first of a long procession

    A SECOND AIRCRAFT
    Day by day the flying boat flew backwards and forwards through the worst of weather and on 7 June a second Sunderland joined in the operation. The original Sunderland suspended operation on 9 June but returned when the second became unserviceable. The latter was damaged in an accident and was written off, towards the end of the month. The last boat-load of casualties was taken onboard from the lake on 4 July and by 7 July the Sunderland had re turned to its base in CEYLON.
    A total of well over 500 men suffering frorm battle-wounds, malaria, typhus, pneumonia, dysentery and other ailments of the campaign had bean evacuated, and on the outward trip supplies were carried.
    The operation had been completed without interference from the enemy. JAPANESE fighters had come within sight more than once but they never attacked. Escort was given whenever practicable by Mustangs (P.51s) at the ASSAM and by Spitfires patrolling over Lake INDAWGYI.
    Enemy fighters did visit the lake 20 minutes after the final departure of the last Sunderland on the 4th July when fighters machine-gunned targets on the shore and sank one of the large rubber rafts which had been used for ferrying casualties to the aircraft.
    The worst foe throughout was the weather. Even under the most favourable conditions it would have been no easy task to bring over the mountains a heavily laden flying boat which had been designed to fly over the sea at low altitudes, and the conditions were never favourable. On four days they were so bad that any attempt at flying was out of the question and on another four it proved impossible to cross the mountains. A severe strain was placed on the crews throughout.
    There were also some pretty problems of maintenance and repair presented by the Sunderlands at their base on the BRAHMAPUTRA; it was a collision with an amphibious jeep followed by a storm over the river that led to the loss of the second flying boat at its anchorage.
     

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