- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Harry Andrew
- Location of story:
- Gloucestershire and beyond
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 28 June 2005
At the age of 17years 6months, in April 1943, I entered the Ranks of the Royal Air Force.
Initially it was Drill and assessment at the Air Force Reception Centre, then on to various Training Courses.
At the end of the Training and of the Courses, I was posted to '48 Squadron' which was based at R.A.F. 'Down Ampney' in Gloucestershire. This was a Dakota Squadron and the base was shared by the '271 Dakota Squadron'.
Although we took part in many exercises, such as Glider Towing and Parachute Drops, the eventual duties of '48 Squadron' was as an Air Evacuation Unit.
Our duties started shortly after 'D' Day and our job was to fly wounded troops back to the U.K. By plane their journey back took only 80 minutes, whereas by sea it could take up to 8 hours. The operation was known as 'Case Vac'.
The first 'trip' took place on June 18th. 1944, when eleven aircraft took Personnel of 2 Tactical Air Force to Airstrip B4 in Normandy.
These airstrips had been built by R.A.F. Personnel and were used as the troops advanced, and as they advanced further more 'B' Airstrips were built.
I had been used as a Dispatcher with the Paratroops during the training for 'D'Day, and now I was part of the Dakota crew. We also had the addition of an R.A.F. nurse.
Apart from the evacuation of the wounded, return trips were for Blood Supplies, Mail and relief Pilots for '2 Tactical Air Force', who were operating from the advanced 'B' Airstrips, and were mainly Typhoon Squadrons.
Repatriation of wounded eased in February 1945, but of course we were still needed. On 24th. March 1945, we towed 'Horsa' Gliders over as part of the Rhine Crossing. These 'Horsa' Gliders were made of wood, and obviously quite vulnerable.
The final use of the '48 Squadron' was the repatriation of Prisoners of War, as the German Prison of War Camps were captured by the Allies. Many thousands of released prisoners were flown to the United Kingdom.
During our operations some 20,000 wounded personnel were evacuated by air, many lives were saved by the time factor.
R.A.F. Down Ampney came to an end in April 1946.
Anyone visiting Down Ampney in Gloucestershire should visit 'All Saints Church' where a Memorial Window can be found which is in memory of the many crews who gave their lives. It is also in Memory of Flight Lieutenant Lord V.C. who was killed in action at Arnheim on Sept 14th. 1944.
'Transport Command' although never receiving the same recognition as other Commands, simply got on with their job. Even so they suffered many losses and deserve to be recorded in History.
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