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Post Info TOPIC: Hastings TG579


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RE: Hastings TG579


Photo composition by Dave Bloomfield

KT splashdown Dave Bloomfield photo.jpg



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On the 1st March 1960 14 passengers boarded a Handley Page Hastings TG579 of 48 Squadron RAF Changi at RAF Katunayake, Ceylon [now Sri Lanka], most of those were Tourex from the Far East to the UK heading to RAF Gan in the Maldives, Gan lies 41 miles due south of the equator. The six crew had already taken TG579 to Gan and return by mid afternoon, upon return there was a technical malfunction and the aircraft was delayed in departing until 1735hrs [local time]

 

We had a beautiful sunset before us and headed south for a three hour journey time, approaching Gan the aircraft experienced some turbulence which progressed into a monsoon tropical storm of extreme intensity, the pilot made an approach from east to west but overshot the runway, he made another approach 20 minutes later, in the approach a flash of lightning temporarily blinded both pilots, the undercarriage was down and locked, suddenly there was an enormous crash, the interior lights extinguished with emergency red lights appearing. There followed two further crashes which was likened to a stone skipping a pond

 

Looking out of the porthole window there were no runway/airfield lights to be seen and no sound apart from loud hissing, I was seated opposite the main exit door, the Air QuarterMaster opened that door and water rushed in, there then followed a period of organised chaos, grabbing Mae Wests [Lifejackets] from its stowage and donning same. The AQM telling us not to inflate the Mae West until in the water as there was a good chance that you could break your neck

 

The wing dinghies were self inflating but torn to shreds through wing debris, the AQM grabbed two more cabin dinghies and threw them out where they self inflated once hitting the water, the waves were enormous, the taste of octane and oil was ever present, lightning flashing and pelting rain, the stuff nightmares are made of [and still do 60 years on]

 

Between us we 14 passengers managed to scramble in the dinghies, I was pulled into mine, of the two dinghies we fiddled around in the dark and came across some paddles, we paddled furiously away from the wreck, not appearing to make much headway, we needed to get clear to avoid being sucked down by the aircraft when she was about to sink, fortunately the aircraft floated for 20 minutes before succuumbing to the depths of the Indian Ocean.

 

When the aircraft sank only one of the four Hercules engines was still attached, coming to port the right wing tilted to the night sky where the lightning flashes exposed the right wing, she slipped slowly below the waves, in hindsight we airmen now knew what sailors felt like when their ship had been torpedoed....

 

The dinghy I was on was slowly deflating but we found a set of bellows and we were able to keep the dinghy afloat, some bods were being ill, but that swirled around with the salt water, oil and fuel, we all removed our shoes and used these to bale out any excess, whether the Sharks and Barracudas stayed away because of the debris we will never know!

 

We used three usuable dinghies, 4 of the 6 aircrew were in one dinghy having escaped through the ****pit area and drifting off separately, we managed to tie the larger dinghies together, the Station Commander Wing Commander Geoffrey Atherton DFC & Bar [A WWII Fighter Ace] upon hearing the cries for help dived out of our dinghy in search of him, he was the Co-Pilot, we later heard that Geoff had stayed with the pilot for two hours in raging seas before being separately rescued by an air sea rescue Pinnace [now on display at The RAF Museum Hendon]

 

Being in a swimming pool trying to get aboard an inflatable dinghy for practice is just a tad different in attempting it for real, we weren't going to be beaten, singing songs whilst paddling towards Gan and on the crest of those huge waves we could see the intensity of the runway lights on the airfield and the sound of four Griffon engines snarl into life from a search and rescue Shackleton WB834 of 205 Squadron Changi. The Gan marine craft section had also been alerted

 

The Shackleton did their search, dropped many flares to light up the surrounding area and on the third pass they had spotted us, eventually relaying our position to RTTL 2747 and Pinnace 1374 and some thirty minutes later we were to be picked up, the four aircrew and the hero of the night, Geoff Atherton together with the pilot, were rescued some 60 minutes later by the Pinnace whilst the RTTL rescued the other passengers and AQM

 

One of the survivors was pulled aboard by his hair whilst I was on a scrambling net, no shoes in torrential monsoon rain, where a member of the rescue team hooked a boathook in the back of my Mae West and hauled me aboard, thankfully only minor physical injuries were sustained by all. We were taken below deck and sat on Ticking Mattresses and given a mug of tea, I have never been sick in my life through any adventure but after one swig of tea I was!

 

A trip back to the jetty was not without incident as the boat was heaving too and occasionally scraping the coral reef, but thanks to some heroics that night I shall be ever grateful of my gift of an extended life by these unsung heroes

 

So Splashdown on the Equator it was

 

Please acknowledge John Cooper

 

Links:

http://splashdown2.tripod.com/

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MosgadDVeAg



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Illustration by David Bloomfield

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THE HISTORY OF TG579 READS THUS:
CONTRACTOR HANDLEY PAGE LTD, CRICKLEWOOD, CONTRACT NUMBER 4186, ENGINES INSTALLED 4 BRISTOL HERCULES 101 AIR COOLED RADIAL ENGINES.
TYPE HASTINGS C1 RAF NUMBER TG579
12/04/1949 CONTRACT COMPLETED
13/04/1949 TO 241 OPERATIONAL CONVERSION UNIT (OCU)
08/10/1949 TO LYNEHAM
18/10/1951 HANDLEY PAGE FOR MODIFICATIONS UNTIL 01/11/1951 AND RETURNED TO LYNEHAM ON THAT DAY
05/02/1953 TRANSFERRED TO RAF TRANSPORT COMMAND AIR SUPPORT FLIGHT (ASF)
02/03(?)/1955 TO 29 MAINTENANCE UNIT
08/03/1956 TO 242 OCU
18/08/1956 TO ROS/60 MU
23/08/1956 EX ROS
03/06/1957 20 MU
06/12/1957 FREE LOAN FOR ONE MONTH
07/01/1958 20 MU
20/01/1958 TRANSFERRED TO 48 SQUADRON FEAF (CHANGI)
01/03/1960 FLYING ACCIDENT CATEGORY 5
08/03/1960 STRUCK OFF CHARGE
TG579 FINALLY HAD HERCULES 216 ENGINES ADDED SOMETIME IN ITS LIFE A.M. FORM 78 DOES NOT RECORD THE DATE.



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