Biography of Peter A. Weston

(Continued)

Brigand Radio Operator/Radar Navigator, 45 Sqdn, Tengah Malaya, RAF

The music is "White Cliffs of Dover"

      The Japanese invasion of Malaya started on December 7th. 1941 and was completed by the surrender of Singapore on February 15th. 1942. The surrender of the Japanese in 1945 closes this part of the history. During the occupation by the Japanese, an organisation known as the "People's Malayan Liberation Army"(MLA), had been the only effective opposition to the occupation forces, they had been officialy disbanded, but were dissatisfied with the slow growth of political freedom in Malaya. To the MLA freedom was with communism and plans had been made for a guerilla warfare campaign against British and Malayan rule. Their leader was Chin Peng, who had been awarded the "Order of the British Empire" (OBE) for his resistance work against the Japanese. The communist Terrorists were predominantly Chinese. They were organised and led by the "Malayan Communist Party (MCP) whose armed component was the MLA. The Min Yuen, or people's organisation, was the name given to that section of the MCP whose tasks included political work among the people in the towns and villages,the collection and distribution of money and supplies, the provision of facilities for couriers, andthe supply of intelligence to the MCP and jungle forces. They lived in the towns or villages or on the jungle fringes, and formed a link between Communist sympathizers in the masses and the active armed terrorist element in the jungle.  The Communist strategy was to discolate the economy by attacks on plantations and mines. This would be followed by the establishment of "Liberated areas", from which a "Liberated army"could be formed and used to dominate the country. In Malaya, however, the Communists never got further than the first stage of the plan.

       Royal Air Force Station Tengah, again, was put on a war footing as it was in 1942 and this is when I came on the scene and my experiences with Malaya and the Bristol Brigand.

     The Brigand was derived from an earlier aircraft designed in 1943, the Buckingham, but it was not put into full production, it was hoped it would replace the Beaufighter, but it was a dead loss and it was abadoned, then Bristol designed the Brigand and started production but the end of the war was approaching and it never saw action in WW2. The problems in the Far East were increasing, the French in Cambodia (Vietnam, see info on 16. OTU) and the British in Malaya. The powers that be decided to beef up the air power in Malaya and thus use the Brigands, which they thought would be a good choice to replace the Beaufighters of 45 Squadron at RAF. Station Tengah, on the Island of Singapore. I was sent to a Brigand conversion course at RAF Station Leeming, (Northern part of England) Crews were formed of Pilot, Nav and Radio. Our crew collected the first Brigand to re - equip 45 Sqdn. We left for Singapore in November 1949 to deliver our brand new plane, the first of its kind out there. The Beaufighter crews would soon be converting on to the Brigands, we were still using the Beau's until all was complete and I did a few Operations on them in the meantime.

     When all was over, we were detached to No. 1 Air Ferry Unit at R. A. F. Manston, where we would later collect our Brigand from St. Athen where they were stored. We had more leave before reporting in at Manston the earlier part of November 1949. After a few days we were dropped off at St. Athen's by the ferry unit's Dakota and from there back to Manston.

     Shortly after we departed for Singapore. For interest this was the route. Night stops all the way. Manston= Istres = Malta = El Adem = Fayid = Habbaniya = Sharja = Karachi = Delhi =Calcutta = Rangoon = Butterworth = Tengah, Singapore. The trip took 16 days.

R. A. F. Station Habbaniya, Iraq in 1949

     On arrival at Tengah we had a great reception awaiting us including the  Station Commander, Wing Commander Burnside, and Sqdn. Ldr. E. D. Crew, C. O. of No. 45 Sqdn, and the whole of the squadron welcoming us. We were the first crew to bring our own Brigand out. As soon as we got out of the aircraft, bottles were produced, and one and all had a good swig. Soon we had to get down to business, Flt. Lt. Dalton Golding, the Flight commander, assigned me to accompany him while he carried out tests on the Brigand, such as altitude test, engine cooling, and a host of others to judge performance in the very hot and humid climate of Singapore. This lasted for about 7 days and the final test was to try it in action. With just he and I in the Brigand, on December 19th 1949, we took off at 0840 hrs. Our load consisted of 3 rockets and 1 x 500Ib bomb under each wing, 2 x 1000Ib bombs under the fuselage and 800 rounds of 20 Mil ammunition for the 4 cannons. We were accompanied by 4 Beaufighters of 45 Sqdn. to carry out a strike in a jungle area west of Kluang in Malaya. The attack was succesful and we returned to base. After landing we were greeted by the Station Commander Wing. Cmdr. D. H. Burnside, and our Sqdn. C. O. Sqdn. Ldr. E. D. Crew. and most of the Squadron. This strike was the very first carried out by a Brigand in the Malayan campaign.

     Soon, other Brigands began arriving and eventually we became a fully-fledged Brigand Squadron, the Beaufighters being disposed of. The call for strikes were coming more often and the activity in the jungle increasing. During February 1950, Squadron Leader A. C. Blythe took over the command of 45 Sqdn. I note that my first flight with him was on 2nd March 1950, in the squadrons Harvard KF 104. (The squadrons "Taxi"at times) engaged in Instrument flying and Aerobatics. It was to be the first of many, such as, Strikes, flying in the Buckmaster and Harvard; he did not have a crew of his own. Around this time Grp. Capt. R. C. Dawkins took over command of Tengah. As well as problems in Malaya, there were also problems in British North Borneo, all along the Sarawak coast, caused by the same factions operating in Malaya. It was decided that a show of force was needed, so a force of 5 Brigands of 45 Sqdn. and 4 tempest's of 33 Sqdn. from Tengah, and 4 Mosquito's from the P. R. Unit based at Seletar, were dispatched on the 12th of January 1950. I was in the leading Brigand with Flt Lt. Dalton Golding, and with the Brigand's leading, followed by the Mosquito's and then the Tempest's. We flew to overhead Kuching, the Capital of Sarawak, (more like a small village in England,) where we turned north following the coast, flying at about 1000 feet in loose formation, until we came to a settlement or one of the many Oil fields, when we would drop down to 200 feet over places such as Sibu, Miri, and others not marked on our maps. We passed the huge Oil fields of Brunei for a few minutes then turned back to Brunei where we were to turn West across the sea to the very small island of Labuan. The airfield had just the one runway of crushed coral, rolled fairly hard, and was in the region of 2000yds. The amenities were quite primitive but bearable. The Australian airlines, mainly '"Quantus'", were responsible for it's being, they used it for a re-fueling stop on their cross-pacific flights. We departed the next morning to overhead Brunei, then turn toward Kuching. As we were approaching the oil fields at Sibu the leader gave the order to close in, ie, a tighter formation, which was done. While we were passing at low level it was facinating to see the huge flames coming from the very high burn off stacks, but unfortunately, one of the Mosquito pilots also may have been intrigued, because as I was looking out to the rear, the aircraft on the port side of the leading Mosquito very gently eased up and sliced the complete tail off, they both immediately dived into the ground, it remains so vivid in my mind. I informed the pilot and then the R/T came alive, our leader asked one of the Mosquito's to stay and circle the crash site and report later, we had to continue on because having 11 aircraft circle the site would be useless. We could not reach anyone at Kuching; we were out of V. H. F. range at that point although I kept trying. Finally we made contact and later when we were approaching Kuching; they called us to inform that the occupants of the 2 Mosquito's did not survive. Sadly, we made our way back to Tengah.

     It was back to the usual routine, for a while, and then 45 Sqdn. was to represent the R. A. F. at the "Ceylon Independence Day" celebrations with a flypast of 5 Brigands over Colombo, the Capital.  The flight entailed flying over a large stretch of water and so we made sure that all aircraft were ready for it. Again, I was with Flt. Lt. Dalton Golding who was also the leader. We departed Tengah 2nd February 1950,at 0625hrs. en route to Car Nicobar Island, this was a small Island located roughly North West from the top part of the Malayan Peninsula, The Island was operated by the R. A. F. soley as a refuelling stop and was manned by a Flt. Lt. , a Sergeant, and 10 airmen, they were supplied weekly by a Dakota from 110 Sqdn, based at Changi. The airstrip was a bit rough, again, it was of rolled crushed coral and even more primitive than Labuan. There were lots of evidence of the Japanese occupation left behind, rusted Army Tanks, beached vessels rusting away, and a couple of unidentified aircraft wrecks.

     We were on the Island for approximately during which time the native chief of the Island insisted that he provide a feast for us, all of his people were very kind and welcomed us all, but we were cautioned that the local brew made from coconuts should be avoided like the plague, during the meal (YUK!) we did not need to be told, watching the antics of the locals most of whom had a crazy look about them. We departed Nicobar at 1700hrs for our flight across the Indian Ocean to R. A. F. Negombo. Total flight time for the 2 legs was 7hrs 10mins. We spent 4 days at Negombo and enjoyed the change from our normal routine, the flypasts were completed O. K. and so we departed for home. We left Negombo at 0440hrs and retraced our steps, again via Car Nicobar for refueling, (no feast this time, we were told they had not yet recovered from the last one?) and thence to Tengah. Total flight time for the 2 legs, was 7hrs 45mins.

     We did Convoy Patrol's right from the departure point, Tapah, at the base of the mountain, right to the very top, 7000 ft above sea level. We would fly ahead of the convoy then back to the rear and so on, low level where possible and if not we would circle above. The terrain was not very hospitable to any thing, the convoy was very slow because the road (?) was on an incline from the bottom to the top. Now and again the Army Captain in charge of the convoy who was in an Armoured Car, equipped with V. H. F, would ask us to survey a point ahead, possibly a known or suspected ambush area, and in some case's ask us to give a squirt with our 20 Mil cannon just to make sure, we were always happy to oblige. On reaching the top we would be thanked by the Army Captain and would we give them a low-level goodbye, again, we were always happy to oblige. I should mention that the convoy consisted mainly of civilians residing up there as well as visitors and also many trucks carrying supplies.

    A month or two later, I just cant remember the exact date, parts are still hazey, I was in the aircrew mess with my crew for sunday lunch, an event not to be missed, when I tried to stand up my legs gave way and I collapsed on the floor. I hadn't been feeling too good and was trying to shake it off but it was obviuos that something was not right, the ambulance was called and I was rushed to our hospital at Tengah. At first the doctors thought that it might be the first symptoms of Polio but finally concluded that it must be a U.N.T.D. (Unidentified Tropical Disease). By then I was out of it, I did not have a clue as to what was going on, I had been perspiring far more than the climate of Singapore would cause. For 2 days someone was by my side night and day, as I was told later, after coming around from my Delirium. Still no one could put a finger on what it was. One evening one of the 4 nurses that were on the hospital staff, (they were not your ordinary nursing type, they came from a certain nursing order of which I forget but they were superb) and she was asking if there was anything unusual I had eaten or had I scratched myself on a plant? Had I been in a jungle area recently? I said no to all, and then without knowing why, I said I had a weird looking Mosquito pitch on my knee a short while ago, at that she rushed out and came back with a large book of colour photo's of insects and started showing each page to see if I could identify one, and then the one turned up that I had swiped off my knee, she gave a whoop and dashed off and came back with the chief doctor, they confirmed that I had been bitten by a "Denghi" Mosquito and was the first case they had seen (trust me to be the one ). from then on things started to mend and about 10 days after, I was released for recuperation also suggesting that the Cameron Highlands would be a good place to go. I could not resist mentioning the road convoys because it fits in with in with my recuperation from Denghi fever, which thank goodness, was similiar to Malaria but non- re occuring, unlike malaria which could return to give you more problems in the future.

     Plans were made for myself and my pilot Sid Hayler plus an old friend of mine, Johnny Brown from another Squadron, both of whom were taking a 7 day leave to accompany me. We embarked on the evening train from Singapore, the route was to Tapah, from where the convoy leaves at 8am prompt and the train was due to reach Tapah at 6 am. Roughly halfway to Tapah, there would be a 15-minute stop at the medium sized village of Tanjong Malim. We knew the name well because it was an area of guerilla activity and we had made strikes in the vicinity.

     When travelling in Malaya and in uniform, we were to carry our issued point .038 Smith& Wesson revolver in our holster at our waist. (We always carried them on strikes) The train was also manned by a fair number of armed British troops with machine guns, some in cutouts on the roof and others on a type of platform between some of the carriages. All three of us were enjoying our freedom until the train came to a stop about 3 or 400yds from Tanjong Malim, the way had been blocked by a barricade and some rails removed, the troops checked the area and said it was clear and that all passengers walk to the village. We were beginning to doubt that we would get to Tapah in time but one of the soldiers found a taxi driver who may take us, but after some hagling and for twice the normal price because he said it was a very dangerous area, we agreed. Shortly after we had set off Johnny Brown put his gun to the drivers head and said "No funny tricks and dont stop for anything, or else". In this atmosphere we made it to Tapah in time to get the convoy, the driver sure put his foot down on that ride, we even gave him a good tip. Eventually we made it to the top and our accomodation, which was at the Smokehouse Inn; it had been highly recomended. It was like stepping back to old England, it looked exactly like a Tudor Mansion, standing in it's own grounds surrounded by beautiful english style gardens. We were very much spoiled, we each had a good room, and the owners, who were from England, did everything possible to please us, we did not have to stick to the Menu, they would get anything we asked for. The other guests, such as plantation owners or managers, government officials, and some dear old english ladies who were always trying to mother us, all were equaly nice to us. One of the greatest benefits was the climate, no humidity, cool during the day, and to top it all, huge log fires at night in the lounge. What better treatment could one get? none. We had to leave our new found friends and return to the fray down below. We left on the convoy with lots of waving and goodbyes. The descent to Tapah was equaly as dicey as going up. When we arrived an officer from the convoy office told us that there was a Dakota of 110 Sqdn leaving shortly from the local airfield and would we like a lift back to Changi? the answer was yes, thank you very much. So ended, at least for me, a very bad experience followed by a very good experience. After about another week I was back on the normal rat race of strike after strike along with the odd trip now and again such as being grabbed by Sqdn Ldr Blythe to handle the communications on a flight to R.A.F. Butterworth (right opposite the Island of Penang), along with Grp.

     Cpt Dawkins, our station commander, they were to attend a meeting dealing with some future operations that would be done from Tengah. We left in our dual control Buckmaster, serial No.R.P.198. Our C.O. flew it out and the Grp Cpt flew it back, he appeared to be thoroughly enjoying it because he did not get much chance to do any flying. The only flying he would do would be around Tengah on his feet or in his car dealing with all the problems that can occur on a very, very busy airfield.

     The traffic at Tengah was becoming increasingly heavy with more aircraft arriving, 84 Squadron Brigands, C. O. Sqdn Ldr George Unwin, had arrived in April 1950, from Habbaniya Iraq, bringing with him several of our friends that had been on the Brigand course at Leeming. Lincoln Squadrons, such as No. 57. would spend 6 or 8 weeks with us and then return to the U.K. and be replaced by another. The crews were warned not to lay in the sun to get a tan, especialy after swimming, some did not heed the warning and suffered severe burning to most of their body, so bad that at least 4 of them were sent back to U.K. for treatment, others were treated locally. In addition we had No. 1 Lincoln Sqdn. R.A.A.F. that were more or less permanent. Before the above squadrons arrived,there was only 45-- 33-- 60  Squadrons in residence and total aircrew for the lot would not be much more than 80/90. The U.K. Lincolns alone accounted for nearly 100 aircrew, plus of course the same number for the Australian Sqdn. We went from a small well knit family to a large well knit family. Everything in time was sorted out, we were firmly entrenched in the aircrew mess, but the others were found accomodation spread around the station. I do know that it did require a lot of planning and hard work by the administration staff to sort it all out.

     We on 45 Sqdn, continued on with almost daily strikes, some very close. Just across the Causeway from Singapore near Johore Bahru, on 17th February1951, on my 76th strike, we attacked the target, near Poh Lee Sen, with a full load,total time from take off to landing, 30mins.  By contrast, on the 25th February, on my 80th strike, it was to Alor Star situated close to the Thailand border, total time 4hrs 10mins. One very interesting strike took place in the central part of Malaya. The army had information that a large number of guerillas were hiding out in a rocky outcrop of limestone full of caves,known as the Batu Caves, and wanted them flushed out. We arrived over the target to take a look, the outcrop was about 500ft high with a flat'ish top and sheer sides with very little vegitation on it. The leader decided we would drop our bombs on the top to give anyone inside a headache and go in, each seperately, and lob the rockets into the caves, later we would use the cannon. All bombs were dropped and immediately after, huge swarms of huge Vampire bats shot out, there must have been thousands of them sleeping in there. This caused us a problem because there was no way we could fly in amongst them. Eventually they moved off in the distance and we were able to continue. To use the rockets we would fly straight at the sides and put them into the caves on the lower ones and pull up sharply to go over the top. For the higher ones we came down at a slight angle which gave us a safer way to clear the top. The army had no units in the area, it was a very remote place. We never heard if it had been a success.

5 aircraft all loaded up ready to go, 4 x 20mil cannon, 2 x 1000 lb. bombs underneath belly and 1x 500lb bomb and 3 rockets underneath each wing!

     Going back to January 1951, prior to this, I had asked my Fiancee in England if she would like to come to Singapore to be married rather than wait until I would return to the U.K. The swift answer was "Yes". All was arranged for her to leave the U.K. January 1st on a B.O.A.C. Argonaut. The route was from London Airport, via Rome, Cairo, Bharein, Bombay, Columbo, Singapore, there were night stops all the way, with the exception of Rome. I was there to meet her at Kallang Airport on 5th January 1951. Every thing had been organised,including the wedding gown and all the bits and pieces that goes along with it. On January 9th we were married at ST. Andrews Anglican Cathredral in Singapore. As we were posing for Photographs outside on the steps of the main entrance, 3 Brigands shot past at low level at high speed in salute. They had returned from a strike and were orbiting the area waiting for a call from Flt Lt "Nobby" Clark to Tengah tower who then passed it on. The timing had been perfect, but, the Vicar that performed the ceremoney was not amused by it at all, and let me know it.

      Just 2 days after, on the 11th- I received a call from the Ops room at Tengah informing me that Sydney Hayler my pilot and my Best Man at the wedding, also my best friend, had crashed in the jungle near the Cameron Highlands whilst making an attack on the target. My new wife and I were devestated we had all known each other in England, including Parents. I rushed over to Tengah, they told me that one Parachute had been seen but no one knew who it was. There was nothing that could be done until the army patrol could reach the site, which was in dense jungle It took 5 long days for our worst fears to be confirmed. The army patrol found him, but he had succumbed to some injuries, perhaps hitting the tailplane after his exit from the plane, before the parachute had opened. Sidney had with him that day Signaller Robinson and Navigator Hall who had been borrowed from another crew. They too were killed in the aircraft. Of course I was not on the aircraft that day, as I was still on my marriage leave. Our Navigator, Bruce Ellis was also lucky, he had been on a couple of days off. His luck was to be short lived, however, because 4 days after Sid Hayler went down, Bruce, along with Pilot Sergeant Kent crashed into the jungle while making a rocket attack near Negri Sembilan. I had lost my 2 crew and good friends in the short space of 5 days. Sidney Hayler was laid to rest with full honours at the R. A. F. Cemetary in Kuala Lumpar.

     I crewed up with Alan Martin, Pilot, and Vernon Bowen, Navigator who were fairly new replacements. We had lost more than 50% of our aircrew by this time. It was now late January and things were proceeding as normal until the 20th of March 1951.

    We were briefed to carry out a Lone Wolf strike against a specific target at a specific time, usually it was to flush out a suspected bunch of Guerillas that the army were keeping an eye on. This was my 92nd strike, it was near Pulon Port situated on the West coast, we did what was required and turned for home. We had only gone a short distance when the starboard engine began to smoke followed by flames, Alan set the extinguishers going and feathered the prop, meanwhile I made an O.P. call over the V.H.F. to Tengah, what this means is "Operation Immediate", ( to get attention )and explain the problem, in this case we had just one engine and we did not know if the trouble would repeat itself. The circuit would be cleared of other aircraft to enable us to do a straight in approach, and Oh yes! ask for a change of underwear to be waiting for us after landing. As it turns out we did'nt need it but the Brigand did need a new engine.

     My log book shows that I had managed to reach my Century of strikes on 30th of May 1951 with Flt. Lt. "Nobby Clark", near Kuantan on the east coast. The 16th of June was to be the commencement of a vast offensive against the Guerilla forces in Malaya, with the code name of "Warbler"? I never did discover what the significance of that word was to signify, we thought that "Upengoatit" would have fit the bill.

Six Brigands Enroute to Target Area

      We lost many aircraft throughout the campaign in Malaya, none due to pilot error but mainly to the aircraft itself breaking up when least expected under different conditions. One problem that presented itself after a while was that whilst carrying out a diving attack and firing the 4 x 20mil cannons, smoke would pour out the back end, not from the guns which of course did give out some puffs, and the aircraft would go straight into the jungle! At least 3 crashes were believed to have been caused whilst carrying out straffing using the 4 cannon, during tests carried out at Tengah it was suggested that one possible cause could be due to a premature explosion of one of the shells of the cannon causing a rupture of the crossfeed piping of Gas from one tank to another, which was located about one foot away from the back end of the cannon. About every 5th shell was an explosive one, it was decided not to use them again!! As an add on, reports filtered back to us from the loggers deep in jungle areas, who were being injured due to unexploded explosive shells going off when the logs were on the Saw tables at the Mills!! There must hundreds if not thousands of trees still there today with shells in them. This was but one of a few problems we would see while flying the Brigand.

     June 15, 1951 started off as any normal day, breakfast then down to our flight offices to await what the day would bring. About 11 Am, with my crew Pilot, Alan Martin and Nav, Vernon Bowen, we were discussing the start of a heavy offensive the next day, on the 16th of June, when the Flight Commander, Peter Norman, asked if we could do a quick air test on Brigand VS857 ( OB-K ) before lunch.We were out to the aircraft, "Two - Six", to quote an R.A.F. expression, started up and out to the south end of the one and only runway at that time. We took off heading North and commenced climbing, at this point I switched on all the equipment to test it when all hell broke loose, it sounded like a huge explosion, the aircraft began shuddering and vibrating and then twisting and turning uncontrollable, Alan said he could not hold it I yelled shouldn't we abandon, he said if we can I then tried to release the canopy but it would not release. Now, the canopy extended from just behind the windshield to where the non existing gun would have poked out, I pulled the jettison lever and it worked but the rubber surround at the base of the canopy was hardened by the tropical sun just like glue!! this was fixed afterwards! I hurled myself through the small entrance from the cockpit to the rear fuselage door in the belly but it refused to budge no doubt due to the fuselage being twisted. While all this was going on I had to use superhuman strenth to move at all and as I pulled myself back towards the front I could see the ground rushing towards us through the cockpit entrance. I thought this is it, there was no time to do anything. I fell back against the ends of the 2 cannon on the port side and braced my back on them and said a quick prayer then came a terrible bang and I blacked out. I must have come to very quickly. I found myself in water up to my knees and I could see daylight through the entrance hatch realizing that the fuselage was upside down and the hatch door was on the floor near me. I climbed out to see if there were any sign of the others, there was not, I was amazed to see the mass of wreckage where the crew compartment had been, then I noticed an unusual object in the water about 30 yards away and struggling in 2 feet of mud and 3 feet of water I found the armour plated pilots seat with Alan still strapped in, the water was very close to his mouth. I released him from the seat not knowing if he was alive or dead and suddenly he groaned, I managed to pull him back to the shoreline and checking him over discovered he had severe injuries to his legs and a badly marked circular area around his left eye, also he seemed to be having trouble in breathing and on closer inspection saw that the nose mouth and ears were completely blocked by thick black mud so I found some twigs and fortunately was able to clear his nose and mouth. I left him for a while to check inside the fuselage, the water was about 3 feet inside and I tried several times to try and grope around the entrance of what was left of the crew compartment but it was completely blocked by wreckage and being under water it made it very difficult so I had to give up. It was clear no one could have lived in the cockpit, they would have been killed instantly. In the Brigand on the rear fuselage, Starboard side, there was a water tank plus a compartment with medical supplies. I had hoped to find some Morphine and bandages but there was none. We had had trouble before from some of the local residents, mainly poor labourers, stealing the supplies. I tried to get water from the tank but being upside down, as soon as you unscrewed the filler cap it just poured out and I could not find a container of any type. Well the old saying of being up the creek with out a paddle never rang more true; we had, in fact crashed in "Kranji Creek". It may seem that I had left Alan for some time but it was only for about 5 or 6 minutes. I went back to attend to him and try to make him as comfortable as I was able because I was becoming very concerned about his condition. I had heard aircraft flying around and did sight one in the distance. I knew it would not be too long before someone would see us and then I saw a Brigand and another and another, they were dashing all over the place. I had pulled a parachute and spread it out so I ran over to it and started to wave and dance but they didn't spot me. I went back to Alan and reassured him that it would not be too long now before we would be picked up. Things had gone quiet for a minute or two and then I heard the distinctive roar of a harvard coming from between the trees lining each side of the creek and it shot into view as if it were going to go past us, I was waving madly and I think he just saw us out of the corner of his eye because he swerved violently towards the trees and very nearly went into them. He pulled up and came round again, waggled his wings and waved and went off. Shortly afterwards we were being circled by 3 Brigands, 2 Tempests and 1 Spitfire plus a Malayan Airways DC3 with the High Commissioner on board, coming from Kuala Lumpur. He had been asked by Changi Ops to look for us, quite an Airshow.Our location was very difficult to get to but after an hour or so I heard a vehicle coming through the bush and then saw a R.A.F. Standard Vanguard looking as though it had been in an accident. (due to pushing their way through the undergrowth) they spotted us right away and on board was the Sqdn Ldr C.O.of the M.T.section, the Wg.Cdr.C.O. Of the Armoury section and a very young National Service Doctor. I had never been so pleased to see anyone. Very quickly we carried Alan to the back of the station wagon after the doctor had seen to him temporlarly and we began our journey back to Tengah sick quarters where they were waiting for us. I saw Alan to the operating room and then they grabbed me, I was still feeling shaken up and had overstrained muscles and I was fithy from the mud, I was showered down and despite my protesting, made me rest on a bed. At this point Group Captain Dawkins came in to see me and after a conversation asked if the Navigator had bailed out because the ground staff had seen someone leave the plane, when I explained that it was the engine and the prop that had fallen he couldn't believe it. I suggested that he would probably be found under the wreckage, and he was. Later on that same day Alan was transfered to the main hospital at Changi where his injuries were assesed and operated on. It was a few days before we could see him, he didn't look to good but later improvement allowed him to be returned to the U.K. on the medically equipped Hastings aircraft which was a regular visitor to Singapore. He had to endure more treatment in the U.K. and finally left the service.

     It turned out that the Brigand had a nasty habit of losing a propellor that would cause about a 300 hundred ton side pull on the engine bearers and that would go flying off, that is what happened on my crash! It happened again soon after. A Brigand was returning from an operational sortie on June 19th, 1951 and approaching from the North and in line with the runway, when it lost the Starboard Propeller and engine. The pilot was F/O McPherson and F/O Terry Matthews was navigator. The aircraft pulled up slightly and the captain gave the order to get out. F/O McPherson managed to get out and parachuted down despite being at a very low level, and the aircraft curved down to crash about 200 yrds or so from the officer's mess. Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, Matthews did not leave the aircraft and was killed in the crash.

     Another bad one occured on July 6th, 1950. During a strike near Kelantan with 4 other Brigands, Flying Officer Brian Harben and his 2 crew were lost on that day. This occurred due to another nasty problem with the Brigand previously undiscovered. When it was carrying out a dive bombing attack the aircraft might shed its wings.  We had dive brakes that resembled leather bellows, like a fire starter, located on the wing trailing edges. Diving down using these the airplane could be almost vertical. On the Kelantan strike another crew said that Brian's dive brake bellows initially opened up but in the midst of his dive one side collapsed, making the aircraft uncontrollable, and he went right in to the jungle and exploded. Now the brakes opened up just like fireplace bellows and were controlled by a release control lever in the cockpit, through holes in the leading edge of the wings, forcing air to them, and later it was discovered that the tropical climate caused the leather to rot. You can well imagine what would happen if only one side collapsed. After this all brake operating levers were wired off and they were never used again. I had flown with Brian Harben many times. He was sadly missed.

      Flying Officer Harben's crash on July 6th, 1950 was no doubt caused by the collapsing of one side of the dive brakes because it was seen. It is not clear how many others suffered the same fate.  Dive bombing only had to be used to ensure a hit on a camp et cetera hidden by the jungle, some trees believe it or not were over 150 ft. and some camps could not be seen at low level, at other times it was because of the mountainous terrain. It could have happened to some of the others on such attacks. But causes of losses could not always be known. This was due to the nature of the attacks happening deep in the jungle making the wreckage almost impossible to reach. Furthermore any hardware on board,  such as Bombs et cetera, would blow the plane into small pieces, so an investigation would be impossible.

     In the case of Flight Officer Keith Fullagar I was out sunning it near the aircrew mess and watching him carrying out single engine landings and over shoots then a few minutes later the crash occured. It was the opinion of other aircrew who had been watching more closely than I that the aircraft was a bit too low, the Starboard engine was feathered and then the Port engine seemed to die slightly and then speed up but by then he hit the ground and exploded, no one saw an engine missing, their theory was that the engine and prop came off after impact, another mystery perhaps. Not all 3 crew were killed at the scene, the Pilot and Nav were but the Radio Op, Flight Sergeant Sharkey, was found by 2 chinese farm workers who were working near by and quickly on the scene. He was very badly burned, they placed him in the back of a pick truck and drove to the main gate. The service policeman at the gate heard screaming coming from the truck. He took a look, jumped up on it and directed it to the station hospital. Flt. Sharky was transfered to the main hospital at Changi but unfortunatley died the next day, what tough luck! The 2 labours were rewarded for their very fine effort. The crash occured on June 7 1951 at Tengah.

     The crash of June 15th was my last flight in Brigands. They said thats it you have had enough already, you have done more Ops than anyone. I was off flying for 6 weeks and I needed it too, believe me! Subsequently a court of Inquiry was held for my crash. It was determined that the starboard propellor broke free causing the engine to also be torn from the aircraft. This caused the aircraft to be uncontrollable. The Starboard undercarriage dropped down and that also made it more difficult to control, just like a Duck with one leg! Gas was spewing out and the aircraft was gyrotating, Alan could get no control at all except for the first couple of seconds, his words will never leave me, the plane was changing attitude all the way down, at first the engine bulkhead was acting like a dive brake just on one side, after that the controls gave up and she was in a dive, we hit dry ground nose first at a slight angle, a bit of luck, the nose came away and Alan was slung out for about 50/70 ft.into the water, it bounced on and over and then hit the water, the front, minus the nose was completely smashed and mangled as far back as my normal position, it would have been impossible for any one to have survived in the crew compartment.

      After the inquiry, the president of the board, Wing Commander Mckenzie, the Officer Commanding the Far East Flying Boat Wing, comprised of 3 Squadrons of Sunderlands No's 88 / 205 / 209, said that he would like me to join them. I was torn between my loyalty to 45 Squadron and the flying boats. Every one concerned mentioned that it appeared the Brigands may be coming to an end, and it would be good for me to accept. I did accept, but also not without some misgivings of leaving my friends, not only of those still around, but also of those who had died so valiantly carrying out their commitments.

Peter Weston's Biography Continues Here (Click Here).....

----- Peter A. Weston

       paweston@trytel. com

Directory to Biography of Peter Weston

     Pre-War, Supermarine Apprentice

     Squadron 186, WWII & Post War

     Squadron 45, Malayan Emergency

     Squadron 209, Korean War

     Cold War

LINKS

45 Squadron RAF, Unit History, WWI, Iraq, Palestine, WWII, Malaya

AVRO Lancaster, Photo

AVRO Lancaster KM-B, Photo of Existing Battle of Britain Flight Aircraft

Bristol Beaufighter Collection, By Peter A. Weston, 45 Squadron, Tengah Malaya, RAF

Bristol Brigand Collection,  by Peter A. Weston, No. 45 Sqdn, RAF, Malaya Campaign, 1949

DeHavilland Mosquito Collection, By Peter A. Weston, RAF

Formation of Short Sunderland Mk. 5s, By Peter A. Weston, No. 209 Sqdn, FEAF, RAF, Korean War

Handley Page Halifax, Photo

Handley Page Hermes, Skyways, Photo

Lockheed Hudson, 48 Squadron, Photo

Malayan Emergency  A Collection of resources regarding the Conflict between England, Malaya and Communist Malayan Rebels from 1948 through 1960 and beyond.

Malaya Map, Map showing Malaya Peninsula

Supermarine Scapa, Photo

Supermarine Sea Otter, Photo

Sunderland Flying Boat at RAF Museum, Photo

Sunderland Flying Boat,  by Peter A. Weston, No. 209 Sqdn, FEAF, RAF, Korean War

Supermarine Spitfire, Photo

Supermarine Spitfires, Photo

Supermarine Stranraer, Photo

Supermarine Walrus, Photo

Vickers Wellington, Photo

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