Air Despatch & The Beverley

Loading containersA major element of the Beverley’s role with the RAF was the aerial delivery of supplies. The Beverley was able to carry much more than any of its contemporaries with the RAF, and the enormous opening when the Clamshell Doors were removed meant that large objects could be carried and air-dropped. The photograph on the right is on display in XB259 and shows Air Despatchers of 16 AD SQN RCT in Aden loading a consignment of eight 1 Ton Containers for manual despatch.

Items air-dropped ranged in size from free-fall Derby Sacks weighing 100 lbs (45.36 kg) to a record breaking 29,000 lbs (13,154 kg) of sheet steel on a Heavy Stress Platform supported by eight 66 Ft (20.1 m) parachutes. The types of goods and equipment despatched to troops on the ground included small vials of medicine, eggs, beer and spirits, tobacco, rations, ammunition of all types, Land Rovers, bulldozers, armoured vehicles, live chickens, and even cats to alleviate rat problems in jungle forts. Basically if it could be got in to the Beverley, it could be air-dropped.

For some reason, when dropping supplies to the jungle forts in Borneo, it was always the NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institute) supplies such as cigarettes, beer and other comforts which were lost or damaged. Other items must have been made of stronger stuff!

Despatching a containerWatching a container going downLEFT: Army Air Despatchers in action on Borneo. Photo: Jock Fraser.

RIGHT: An Air Despatch Crew Commander watching a 1-Ton Container going down over Pensiangan DZ in Borneo.

Many people erroneously believe that the RAF was, and is, totally responsible for the aerial delivery of supplies. This is in fact incorrect. Supplies are and were rigged and dropped by soldiers of the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC), Royal Corps of Transport (RCT) and Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) Air Despatch Units of the British Army. Men of 16 Heavy Drop and 21 Air Maintenance Platoon Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) and the Royal Engineers (RE)were also involved in air dropping in the past. Today, the only Air Despatch unit left in the British Army, is 47 AD Sqn RLC, based at RAF Lyneham.

21 Air Maintenance Platoon RAOC served in RAF Seletar along with 55 (AD) Coy RASC, under the administration of 3 AASO. On the 18th Dec 1962 they were deployed to Labuan due to the outbreak of hostilities against the Sultan of Brunei. During the period 1962 to 1965 the Platoon carried out several Heavy Drops with 34 Sqn with loads such as Wobbly Wheeled Rollers, Graders and D4 Bulldozers. These being required to extend grass strips to take transport aircraft. Information from Neil Dick who served with 21 AMP.

A container of chickensSide door despatchWhiskers Barrett and Prof Grey

ABOVE LEFT: A container of live chickens being dropped to troops in Borneo.
ABOVE CENTRE: Two packs of Jerricans being despatched from the side door of a Beverley.
ABOVE RIGHT: ‘Whiskers’ Barrett and ‘Prof’ Grey sitting in a loaded Beverley of 34 Squadron.

These photographs were taken by L/Cpl Bob Austin in 1964 when 22 Company RASC (AD) were on detachment in Borneo during Confrontation with Indonesia.

Supply Stressed PlatformMedium Stressed Platform

ABOVE LEFT: A Supply Stressed Platform (SSP) with a load made up of ammunition boxes. The 21 ft extractor parachute which would pull the Platform from the aircraft is lying to the left of two 66 ft parachutes. RAF Seletar, Singapore, 1966.

ABOVE RIGHT: A Land Rover and Trailer on a Medium Stressed Platform (MSP). Two 66 ft parachutes are on top of the trailer. As with the SSP, the Land Rover and Trailer would have been pulled from the aircraft with an extractor parachute. RAF Seletar, Singapore, 1966.