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Thread: Sunderlands in Burma

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    Default Sunderlands in Burma

    RCAF Press Release 3903 dated 1 September 1944 has an interesting story about which I would like to learn more. Before quoting it I should note that the unit is No.230 Squadron, the lake is Indawgyi in Burma (and the Japanese still held part of the shoreline), and one pilot taking part was F/O Edwin Alfred Garside, RAF (awarded DFC; I have the citation). One of the two Sunderlands was apparenrtly lost at anchor during a storm. Sorties involved removal of about 40 Chindits each trip. The number of casualties evacuated is estimated variously at 240 (in six flights, 6-11 June 1944), 537 (total) and "nearly 600". The lake itself was approached through mountains, but the Press Release figure of "10,000 feet" seems excessive. I invite more information respecting conditions, personnel or the operation itself. I must also say that the sentence "Only two men were on board and both are safe" is baffling in context.

    WITH THE RCAF IN BURMA: All four engines of a Sunderland cut suddenly as the big flying boat carried wounded Chindit fighting men from a mountain lake in the Burma jungles.

    Just as the Sunderland was about to crash on a mountain peak 600 feet below the pilot levelled out and the four engines roared again with rythmic power. The crew of ten started breathing again.

    The wounded Chindits were too weak to notice their narrow escape. Several were unconscious. But to the RCAF wireless operator, WO1 Ray Guertin, formerly of Ottawa, whose parents reside now in Rimouski, Quebec, "It was defiinitely the biggest scare I've ever had."

    It was a dangerous mission and for a flying boat, most unusual - another adventurous device for aiding Wingate's raiders from the air in their infiltration into the heart of Jap-held territory.

    Flying through thick clouds and vicious monsoon rainstorms from a temporary base on the swift waters of the upper Brahmaputra River in northern Assam, in landed supplies on a lake beyond the mountains. Wounded and sick British, Ghurka and West African troops were loaded aboard and flown back. The trips, for flying boats, which are seldom asked to climb to 10,000 feet, were hazardous but they offered the only hope of survival for Chindit casualties. Some died, but most survived.

    Flights were made by another Sunderland from the same RAF squadron with an equally gallant crew in which F/O Jack Norton of Winnipeg flew as navigator. Only two men were on board and both are safe.

    The exploits of "O for Orange" made flying history in Burma. No flying boat had ever landed on the upper waters of the Brahmaputra. Many thought that landings would be impossible at this time of year. "O for Orange" made a successful touchdoen, however. and the next day started off on its first mercy mission. "We had to turn back", said Ray Guertin. "We got through the thick clouds over the mountains but we couldn't find the lake. There was no opening in the clouds. Luckily the clouds opened up for us over the lake next day and we were able to get down. The first man to come aboard was a Canadian. a Spitfire pilot who had been shot down over Burma and had been there for several months acting as an air liaison officer with the Chindits. He told me he was from Saskatoon.

    "In the next few days we gradually increased the number carried and we were soon bringing out a full load. Most of the men were badly wounded or were sick with typhus, enteric, dysentry or malaria. One Briton was the sickest man I've ever seen. Wounded in one thigh, he was also suffering from malaria and double pneumonia."

    In a strong wind, "O for Orange" snapped her mooring cable and started to drift downstream. Four members of the crew on shore leaped into an amphibious duck and towed her back to continue her rescue missions.

    Allied fighters usually escorted the flying boat but when the weather was too thick the Sunderland went alone. When the monsoon broke after June 8 even the Sunderlands could not get through and they returned to their home base. Towards the end of June they returned and completed operations in the first week of July.

    Guertin volunteered for "O for Orange" since the regukar first wireless operator was sick. He was asked to continue after the other WAG recovered and he is proud to have flown on all the missions with this crew.

    Guertin, 27, is a graduate of La Salle Academy, Ottawa. For a year before he joined the RCAF in September 1940, he was studying for a business career. He trained at No.1 Wireless School, Montreal and No.6 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mountain View, Ontario. He had flown on Coastal Command patrols from Britain, East Africa and Ceylon since 1942. In September 1942 he was on a crew which destroyed a submarine in the Mediterranean.

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    Hugh, Hi,
    If this Lake Indawgyi is the one at 25 08N 96 20E then some (at least) of the following may be deduced.
    230 Sqn had a Det at Calcutta (from Malcolm's rafweb), and these Sunderlands were using a FOB "somewhere up the valley of the River Bramaputra". Just how far 'up' may require someone with access to the 230 Sqn ORB to determine.
    However, the two statements in the Press Release would seem to be accurate - if put in juxtaposition to create effect (not an unknown media tactic!).
    The lake is c. 700 ft AMSL (from GE). There are mountains at 10,000 ft (+!) 200 miles north of the lake (from GE). The normal approach to the lake IS through mountains, but NOT the 10,000 ft mountains - unless operational circumstances dictated the route as being right up the Bramaputra valley and then turn south to approach the lake. In this case the 10,000 ft mountains would have been well within 'navigational error' - and in the mosoon period, with limited navaids, a distinct possibility!!
    Having flown as the Met Observer in the Weather Ship 20 mins ahead of a huge stream of Hercs on Paradrop Exercises on a number of occasions in fairly duff weather and having the technical input as to whether the Skipper said "Scatter, Scatter, Scatter" I know how one's sphincter muscle does twitch slightly. And we weren't being shot at!!
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    There is only a brief description in Bowyer's Short Sunderland but the details worth mentioning are:

    Garside flew in JM659 "Q"
    the other was "O" (no serial given) and was flown by F/Lt J Rand

    JM659 was lost in a storm on 6 July '44

    they airlifted 537 wounded Chindits to a staging post at Brahmaputra River, from where the Chindits were evacuated back.

    The "10, 000 feet" reference is the Ledo Pass which they had to fly over. However, having looked at the heights of the peaks in that area, and the weather conditions, it seems that the height they flew was required by continual cloud and mist below that height, rather than actaul height of the peaks.

    Afraid that's about all in the book.
    A
    Last edited by Amrit; 14th September 2010 at 18:35.
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    22 September 1944

    Distinguished Flying Cross

    Flight Lieutenant John RAND (118181), R.A.F.V.R., 230 Sqn.
    Flying Officer Vernon Noel VERNEY (Aus405891), R.A.A.F., 230 Sqn

    These officers were pilot and navigator respectively of a flying boat in which they undertook numerous flights to evacuate personnel from a zone of operations in Northern Burma. Extremely adverse weather prevailed throughout. Their course took them over difficult terrain. Flight Lieutenant Rand and Flying Officer Verney proved their great skill and resolution, however, by successfully evacuating a. large number of personnel. They displayed devotion to duty of the highest order.
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    Hi All,

    The Sunderlands you refer to were nicknamed 'Gert and Daisy', at least by the Chindits who they airlifted out of Burma in 1944.

    Obviously the monsoon was making it impossible for ordinary aircraft to help in evacuating casualties from around the Lake. The Chindit brigades present had formed two 'port/jetty' areas on the Lake. One was in the Northeast sector of the Lake, called 'Dawlish', the other in the Southern most sector, named 'Plymouth'.

    The credit for thinking up the idea of using Sunderlands is attributed to one Squadron Leader 'Chesty' Jennings, who was the senior Air liaison officer with 111th Brigade (Chindit). Royal Engineers created a 100 yard wide and over 2000 yard long landing strip for the planes. The Lake was used extensively by the troops for many reasons apart from evacuation of casualties. There was a kind of Chindit Navy set up which ferried supplies and personnel about on make shift craft made up from tarpaulins and bamboo floats.

    If anyone would like more info on this topic, I think I have some mentions of it in various books? Best to pm me and we can work out how to proceed.

    I am so glad to be able to put something back in on the forum as my real knowledge and interest lies with the 1943 Chindits and you all have been brilliant for me in responding to my enquiries.

    Bamboo.

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    Default Sunderlands in Burma

    Hi All,

    I have found the article about the two Sunderlands used on Lake Indawgyi in 1944. It is from a small booklet I acquired from Ebay last year. It gives a good account of 'Gert and Daisy' and there sorties on to the Lake.

    I can probably photograph them if anyone is interested?

    Bamboo.

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    I for one would very much like to have a copy of the booklet and will pay photocopy and postage. Please send me an e-mail (halliday@bell.net) for my mailing address.

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    Default Operation River

    230 Sqn ORB detailed this operation in Annex G and there are several pages devoted to this operation codenamed 'Operation River' in the book 'Hunt Like A Tiger'.

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    Default Sunderlands in Burma

    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.

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    Default Sunderlands in Burma

    The Imperial War Museum had 3 film clips relating to this Operation. The first two, ABY9 and ABY12 are referred to as "AMPHIBIOUS EVACUATION OF CASUALTIES BY SUNDERLAND AIRCRAFT, DIBRUGARH, INDIA" and "TRANSPORT AND EVACUATION OF BRITISH CASUALTIES BY SUNDERLAND FLYING BOAT AT DIBRUGARH, ASSAM, INDIA" respectively. The 3rd ABY146 deals with the sunken JM659, "Q" Queenie, and is called "SALVAGING A SUNDERLAND FLYING BOAT ON THE BRAHMAPUTRA RIVER."

    I have a copy of a picture of the tail of JM659 sticking up out of the Bramaphutra River, as a motor boat steers away from it.. If I can find out how to post pictures here, I'll put it up, if anyone is interested.

    The IMW also has in its audio archives a radio interview with Jack Rand, pilot of DP180, "O" Orange, described as BBC 9955: British officer served as pilot with 230 Sqdn, RAF account of evacuating casualties by Short Sunderland flying boat from Indawgyi Lake, Burma to India, 6/1944-7/1944 . It runs 3 minutes 20 seconds.

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