Biography of Peter A. Weston

(Continued)

Sunderland Radio Operator/Radar Navigator, 209 Sqdn, FEAF Singapore - Iwakuni Japan, RAF

The music is "White Cliffs of Dover"

     Towards the end of July 1951 I joined the crew of the Flight commander of 209 Sqdn and was welcomed as a landlubber. The Flt Cmdr, Flight Lt. K.Horsnell had his own personal Sunderland and the crew took well care of it. Only on 2 short flights out of the many done with 209 Sqdn did I fly in another Sunderland. It was a completely new experience for me; I would not have missed it for anything else. The first thing that impressed me was the size and the amenities provided. On entering, into a large hall, to the left was the front turret, ahead was a fully equiped washroom with washbasin and a flushing toilet, both with their own water supply, to the right were stairs going to the flight deck and on the immediate right was the entrance to the wardroom, and what a great place that was. It was about 10 feet long and almost as wide, with Cushioned seats each side and a large table with fold down sides. Going through the wardroom you enter the galley, complete with stove, sink and running water, I thought I had died and gone to "Heaven." Next came the bomb room with overhead rails for Depth charges or bombs, carrying on, you come to the cavernouse rear with no floor above. In here were sleeping bunks for 4 people and a ladder to the back of the flight deck and then the 2 gun platforms, one each side, also a work bench complete with a vice, and finally, a long walkway to the rear turret. I did miss one thing though, I asked where do you stow the parachutes, they smiled and laughed, saying "your'e not on a Brigand, you wont need one on here". I was taken aback a little, but I soon got used to the fact. So you can see that I was very impressed with the whole thing. I settled down quite well to my new surroundings and my 10 new friends.

     The crew was made up as follows, Captain and Co pilot, 1 Navigator, 3 Radio / Radar operators, 2 Flight Engineers, 3 Gunners, one of whom was the chief Cook and bottle washer, and he did a darned good job. It was almost like having room service, I knew I was going to enjoy this. I was broken in to the new routine gradualy, my first flight in a Sunderland was on 3rd August 1951, on an air test and loop swing, Flight time 1hr 10 mins, followed by the same thing the next day, Flight time 2hrs 25 mins. On the 7th I went on my first strike in a Sunderland. The boat had been loaded with about 40 cases of 25Ib high explosive bombs, with 4 in each, stacked in the bomb room, with a few in the back. On the way to the target, 2 of the gunners and an engineer would take the tops off the cases and put some near a hatch each side of the galley. When we reached the area that were to receive these "Massive" bombs, the Navigator would give the signal and they would start throwing them out quite rapidly until we turned back to start again, until there were none left. I could not believe it, no diving, no swerving all over the place, and no "G" force's causing blackouts and greyouts. We did the same on the 8th - 10th - 11th; the strikes took much longer than I was used to. In the order of the dates, these were the Flight times.3hrs 20mins - 3hrs 50mins - 6hrs 15mins - 6hrs 50mins. Later we did a Patrol Able exercise which is a Anti -Submarine Patrol, looking for H.M.S. Triumph, a sub lurking somewhere in the ocean, off the east coast. We never found it, any wonder, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Sunderlands Returning from Strike

     On the 21st of August 1951, we left Seletar for a 4 day trip to check Flying boat moorings along the coast of Sarawak.The first was at Jesselton, way up near the northern tip in the Sabah area of Borneo. We slowly worked our way back down calling in at Labuan Island, then to a couple of very short stops to check moorings in remote parts, finally stopping at Miri for overnight.The police launch came to collect us and wanted us to make up a team for a Soccer match, Miri at that time was fairly remote and they enjoyed company, we obliged, and although I cant remember the exact score, I do know that we whipped em good, something like 10 to 3, it was all good fun and they provided the Buffet.Our next stop was at Kuching to check the moorings on the Rejang River. When we were away from base there always had to be at least 2 of the crew left on board all night, this was known as boat guard, not only to stop the local's from snooping around but also in case of the moorings breaking loose through high winds or rough water.One had to be a Flight engineer, and any other of the crew. I personaly never had to do it overnight, but there was never a shortage of volunteers, they enjoyed it. They were well stocked up with food and drink, we had a good library on board, a kitchen, oop's, Substitute 'GALLEY', (one must always use the nautical terms on flying boats) beds, radio, and a fully equiped wash room, and to top it all, the A.P.U. in the starboard wing, located in the leading edge of the wing close to the fuselage, and that supplied power to the aircraft, also most of them liked to fish The main reason for the engineer was that in the case of the moorings breaking away, he would start the engines and taxi around until help arrived. At Kuching, I was able to see my friends again, and they were surprised to see me. The rest of the crew was invited to view the "Astana";

    I spent my time that afternoon with my previous host and others at the Government Rest House, where the crew was staying. Before I leave Kuching, we met quite a character, Taffy Morgan, he was the British Governments District Officer for the area, and his responsibility was to act as the Queen's messenger to the many Chieftains of the various Dyak tribes. He carried several items with him on his visits to the villages along the the river, he would deliver a letter from the government to the Chief, wearing a Postmans hat, if someone had been stealing his neighbours chickens, he would arrest him wearing a London Bobby's helmet. Later the thief would be brought in front of a table behind which sat Taffy and the Chief and a couple of Elders, Taffy would give the man a good telling off, and then to sentence him, putting on a Judge's Wig to give the punishment, such as restoring the chickens to the rightful owner and forfeiting half of his flock to the Chief for the use of the community. His tales were endless and highly amusing. Back at seletar, we did a couple of exercises with the navy, another strike, and then prepared to leave for Japan and Korea. We left Seletar at 0620hrs on the 12th September. 1951, After 10hrs 15mins arrived at Hong Kong. Departed next day for Iwakuni, situated on the edge of the inland sea, Southern Japan, almost half way between Nagasaki and Hiroshima, both of which received the Atom Bomb.Flight time 9hrs 25 mins.On the 16th we were called out to search for an aircraft that had an engine problem and if possible, escort it to safety. When we were nearing the last reported position,I received a message by W/T. from our control informing us that the aircraft was no longer in danger and so we returned to base. The next day at 0545hrs we left on our first Anti Submarine Patrol of the trip, we were to patrol the Tsushima Straits between Japan and Korea. We were fully armed and stocked with Depth charges, all guns, the 2 side point, 05's calibre's, the 4 point .303's in the rear turret and the 4 nose guns, point .303's, all loaded ready to go. We commence the patrol when we reach a designated point, from there we would carry out a sweep pattern, until we have covered the area that we were briefed on. The A.S.V. (Anti Surface Vessels) Radar would be in constant use, it was enclosed in a curtained off area on the flight deck. The screen was quite large, and circular of course, with a selection of ranges from the center, we could get 50 miles each side. The three of us would each do a shift on the radar for 2hrs,if I was not on, I would be handling the V.H.F. H.F.R/T and W/T. There was a need to call Ships that looked suspicious or not sticking to the main shipping routes, they were aware that it was a war zone and had to adhere to certain restrictions. This was a day patrol and after passing information to the American operational control center for our area, which was a Battleship, that we were returning to base, that was it for the day. We landed back at Iwakuni, Flight time, 7hrs 40mins. A night weather recce was a very different kettle of fish. This involved a flight to within a few miles of Vladivostok and a longer flight. It was not only to collect weather information but also to look out for Russian Submarines on the way there and back. We would take off with a couple of hours of daylight in hand because on this occaision we had to land near an American Destroyer anchored out to sea, a few miles from the east coast of Korea, to be briefed on the routes in and out because there were lots of American warships out there and they, like the Royal Navy, shot first and asked questions afterwards, thats if there was anyone left to ask! After landing nearby they would send a launch to bring us to the ship, there would be a gunner, all three-radio ops,Navigator and the Captain for the briefing. Going up the steps to the deck, I was unaware that one should salute to the aft of the ship, I got a nudge in the back and a quick whisper in my ear,"Salute to the aft of the ship", I just managed in time but for the life of me I didn't have a clue why. After all was done and we were about to leave, we were asked if we were Ok for supplies, we all looked towards our Gunner / Cook, and he, being a self confessed and confirmed scrounger, remarked that we were not too bad but we did leave in rather a hurry. By the time we left in the launch to return to our "SHIP" we had 3 boxes of goodies containing, ice cream, fresh milk, cream, large cans of peaches, 48 cans of coke, fried chicken, hot dogs, etc. We found that the American military were always very generous. We departed in the last light, thanking them for their hospitality. From then on it was business only, all gunners were standing by their guns, cocked and ready (with the exception of the "COOK"). The radar would be in constant use, the W/T would soon start sending position reports and weather information compiled by the Navigator, also the radar operator would be noting the position of any large vessels and most important, the tell tell slim blip that could be a Submarine.It was my turn on the radar and in this particular area there a few scattered islands around, and in the lee of one of them there was a small bay with what looked as though it could be a vessel in there. Myself, not being yet a skilled submarine blip identifier, asked for a second opinion from one of the other ops. After much perusing we called the skipper to take a look, he said it could just be and we would take a look. The skipper would then press the Klaxon horn button to sound the morse code for "A " three times, hearing this, and it was a job not to, every one would spring into action, such as, the 2 side gunners would lower their side hatches and poke the guns out, the cook would stop cooking and go to the rear turret, and the side bomb doors would be lowered and the depth charges reeled out and armed, finally any lights lowered to minimum. All set to go, we were still some miles away and the skipper descended to be at the back of the island and sneak round to the bay and as soon as he got round there, it happened. There were some almighty bangs and flashes and we were out of there fast. While we were collecting our thoughts and definitely considering a change of underwear, a quick message to our control ship, informing them of the incident, brought back the answer and an apology, it was a U.S. Destroyer laying over for the night, and sorry, we slipped up! Later, we finished our mission and returned to the control ship for de- briefing. More apologies, but these things do happen, at least it gave us something to talk about, but who was going to pay for the laundry bills? We had returned safely back to Iwakuni after a long night, total time for the flight portion only, 11hrs 45mins. There followed a couple of more patrols, and a search for a reported crash of a C47 into the sea, nothing was seen, later it was confirmed that in fact there were no aircraft missing. On the 28th September we departed Iwakuni for Seletar via Hong Kong, arriving the next day. Within 4 days we left to go back to Iwakuni! I dont remember exactly, but I believe it was because one of the remaining Sunderlands was out of service for a few days.

     At Iwakuni the crew was living in one of the former Japanese Officers married quarters, and were allocated 2 servants,quite comfortable. One evening I was alone in the sitting room and our skipper rushed in saying quick, get dressed up a bit, the old man (our C.O. Sqdn Ldr.P.F.Eames) wants to see you now, he would not tell me why. We walked across to his house; he offered me a drink, which I declined because I wasn't sure of what was to come, good news or bad news. He then said, you have been chosen by Air Marshall Foggarty (Officer Commanding of the Far East Air Force) to represent the Royal Air Force and F.E.A.F in Korea, for the United Nations on a tour of America, sponsored by the United States Dept of Defence, and you will be leaving within 3 or 4 days, and prepare to be away for 10 to 12 weeks.

      I was completely stunned and at first thought it was a joke. After I realised it was not I, asked if I could turn it down because of my wife, who had already had enough shocks from losing lots of our friends, he said we have no choice, you have to go, and we will make sure your wife will be taken care of. I then tried a second chance, anyhow, all my uniforms are down at Singapore, I only have tropical gear with me and no great coat, no problem he replied, I will make arrangements with the tailor to fix you up with a uniform and we will have the rest of your stuff picked up from your home. At that point I knew I had lost.

     The next few days passed too quickly and still no sign of the Valetta from Changi bringing my clothes to Iwakuni, (we found later that it arrived the day I was leaving Tokyo for the U.S.) Back at the base, I had been picked up by a U.S. C47 and taken to Tokyo for an overnight at the American base of Camp Drake, they were very helpful there, giving me air force socks, under wear, lots of shirts which exactly matched our own, a pair of black shoes and anything I needed. What with my 2 uniforms, I was complete except for the Overcoat.

     I will have to condense some parts in between because it would take an entire book to relate it all. I left Tokyo's Haneda Airport on the 18th of October 1951.The aircraft was a Boeing Stratocruiser and the stops were, Midway Island for refuel, Honolulu for 3 days, Travis A.F.B at San Francisco, San Antonio Texas, here we changed over to a Globemaster, then to our main starting point, for the tour, Washington.D.C.arriving on the 23rd. There were 20 others with me from other military forces operating in Korea, most could not speak english and some only slightly. I was called on to make many speeches. We were taken to the Whitehouse and met with President Harry S. Trueman for about 1 hour in the Oval Office. From then on it was non stop all the way, visiting 23 cities not including some side trips, meeting film stars, high ranking Officers of the military and Politicians, and doing several T.V. appearances and many talks on the radio. Our transportation on all this was by an U.S. Marine V.I.P. D.C.3. Flown all the way round by Lt / Cmdr Frank Senter. A great guy, as they say. I must mention one thing that happened at Minneapolis Airport on November 11th. While taking off. We started rolling down the runway, prior to this, the Captain had reprimanded the Flight engineer about something or other, and he was sulking, the engineer stood between the pilots during take off, managing the undercarriage and flaps for them, so there we were rolling down the runway with tail up and the Captain said said something to the engineer who thought he said " Gear up " and whipped up the undercarriage. I had been looking out the window and noticed the wheels were coming up before we had become airborne, I shouted out a warning to the others, the props hit the dust and we went sliding along the runway ending up sideways, I was out of there fast and on to the far side of the runway yelling at them to get away from the aircraft, I was quickly joined by the crew who was also yelling at them. No one had been hurt in anyway, except for the feelings of the engineer.

      In New York we had been presented with the "New York City Medal of Honour" among some others from other Cities. In Ottawa I had lunch with Prime Minister Louis St Laurent in the House of Parliament. I had been away from home for some 9 weeks and I was looking forward to getting back to our normal routine.

     I departed from San Francisco 28th November 1951. On a Pan American D.C.6 for Honolulu, on my way back to Japan. The Pilot was the famous Captain Kelly known for his early cross pacific flights in the mid 1930's. Flight time to Honolulu, 13hrs 25mins. From there to Wake Island, Flight time, 11hrs 30mins.Then on to Haneda Airport, Tokyo, Flight time 9hrs 10mins.ending on the 30th, straight through, no night stops, 3 crew changes.

     After a couple of days in Tokyo, I had a ride back to Iwakuni in an Australian Dakota of the R.A.A.F.and on the 4th of December I left on the Royal Air Force's own scheduled service to Singapore by R.A.F. Valetta via, Okinawa-Manila-Hong Kong-Saigon-Singapore, arriving on 6th December 1951. After a re- union with everyone and 3 weeks leave plus the Christmas holidays, I was ready to get back to normal. After our crew had taken part in several Naval excercises including the French Aircraft Carrier " Arromanches " during which we, and with good results, were bombing a towed target. It was our turn for Air Sea Rescue service at Hong Kong. We arrived there 6th February 1952 for a 2 week period. The airfield at that time closed from dusk to dawn because it was before the runway had been extended, and even in daylight, for some aircraft, it could be quite dicey with sharp turns and quick descents to line up on the runway. There were no exceptions made all the military and civil aircraft knew this but you would get the "Odd Ball" now and again that would try it. Our duty therefore was to stand by from dawn to dusk, with the boat in the water.

Sunderland of 209 Sqdn at Iwakuni 1951

     During the 2 weeks we had a few alerts that were eventually cancelled. We had 2 that needed our service. The first was for an U.S. Army D.C.4. With one engine feathered and hitting a strong headwind and the pilot was getting nervous. We homed onto him some miles out to sea, contacted him on the V.H.F. R/T, by then the winds had lessened somewhat, but nevertheless he was pleased to see us. We tried to keep up with him but even with one engine out we couldn't catch him, we told him we would follow him (we had no choice, we were going flat out at Max Knots) and keep an eye on him. He made it O.K. and later that night the pilot insisted he buy a drink for the whole crew, he looked a little shattered when 11 of us turned up, but we soon made him feel comfortable. The second job was to find and escort a bunch of R.A.F. Vampires en route to Hong Kong from Manila, what a joke, we did find them but that was about all, they were about 15,000ft above us and then they were gone, but I guess it made them feel better knowing that we were around, we landed something like 2hrs after them. At the end of our 2 weeks we returned to Singapore to resume our normal duties On the 21st of February we were to intercept a Liner, the S.S. Carthage, carrying a V.I.P. on board, and there would be a formation of 3 Sunderlands involved, so it meant that we had to smarten up a bit, we had 3 flights practising our formation, and then on the day we all set off. We found the ship, assisted by our radar, and flew by at about 100ft and made 3 or 4 passes at slow speed and then headed back home in very loose formation until we were near base. We tightened up, just to show off to the other Squadrons down below, and on the final run in, tried to do a stream landing? But it got completely botched up; Sunderlands just aint built that way. It was all good fun, I can not remember the name of the V.I.P. despite having a good memory and he or she could not have been that important, could it have been a new cook for the A.O.C.?

Sunderlands over Seletar

     On the 22nd of March 1952 we left for Iwakuni via Hong Kong, arriving the next day. We did our usual stuff in the Tsushima Straits a couple of times. Before we left for our return to Singapore the Skipper was asked if he could take back with us 20 nurses from the Victoria Order of Nursing that had finished their tour of duty in Korea, and being a perfect gentleman, replied in the affirmative. We left Iwakuni on the 27th of March en- route for Hong Kong, heavy laden with our passengers and considerable luggage. Our cook, with lots of help was seeing to the needs of our guests. Our altitude in normal weather was usualy between 1000 to 2000ft over the sea. We were roughly three quarters of the way between Okinawa and the southern tip of Formosa (now Taiwan) far away out to sea at about 2000ft when, without any warning all 4 engines slowly came to a complete stop, silence, then the skipper yelled out (in an unfamiliar high pitched voice) "Peter Peter quick, send S.O.S." and I can assure you I needed no prompting at all, I was already set up on my radio because I had been working Okinawa and Hong Kong, I ripped off an S.O.S. to Okinawa, our last known position and our problem, they answered immediately, and would sound the alarm, meanwhile the Nav had rushed our actual position to me which I passed on right away. Every thing was happening so fast, and of course, controlled panic was occuring, we were descending in a glide towards the sea hoping to make what is known in the trade as a splash landing, praying that we wouldn't break up on hitting the surface. Down below, in the wardroom and area, some of the crew were rushing around helping the passengers put on their Mae West life jackets, when suddenly at about 500 ft, the 2 port engines burst into life, and seconds after, the 2 starboard engines kicked in which really delayed the descent and very gradually we edged upwards. I still kept the state of emergency in place while up front they were checking everything out on the instruments, also I was informed by Okinawa that 3 Mustangs had just become airborne from the U.S. base at Formosa, with lindholm dinghy equipment, this was carried under the wings, 3 cylinders each side, and when dropped, each side had 3 dinghys tethered together a distance apart and hopefully drift towards the survivors, also, I was told that 2 - B.17's would soon be airborne, each with an Airborne Lifeboat. We were assuring the nurses that it is O.K. and not to worry, but by the look on their faces they knew we were not sure about it. Every 5 minutes I would transmit a steady signal for the Mustangs and the B17s using their A.D.F.for them to home on to us. We had no V.H.F. contact with anyone because we were way out of range. I had contacted Hong Kong on the W/T and. they were aware of all that was going on. A little later it was decided to down grade the S.O.S to a stand by situation, and advise that the Mustangsand B17s could be called off, all of which was done. By that time we were heading west to Hong Kong, we landed and when ashore wanted to kiss the ground, if no one had been looking I would surely have done so, Obviously, the aircraft had to be given a complete and exhaustive inspection and that it would take some days at least. It was also decided that the Nurses would go on to Singapore via one of our passenger Valetta's, you could hear a great sigh of relief from them when they heard that, there was no way they said, that they would want go back in the Sunderland, in case it happened again. Can you blame them? The Sunderland was hauled out and sat on the apron for 3 days while engineers and fitters poured over it, engines, all fuel systems etc etc. All were checked and double-checked. During the second day one of the engineers discovered something that may have been wrong with the air intakes for the fuel tanks, I am not an engineer, but it was to do with the fact that the intakes had a small filter fitted in them and they all appeared to be partially blocked, even though they had been replaced recently, it was something that the very experienced engineers had never seen before. I can only guess that the tanks required an amount of air as well as the pumps that fed the fuel to the engines. They continued to run the engines and do more tests and finally our skipper was satisfied with the results. We left Hong Kong for Seletar, but we all were ready, just in case. We never had any further trouble with the engines.

     Again we were back at it, more strikes, a local coastal patrol, and a search for an aircraft that was never found. The Royal Navy had been increasing patrols in the Straits of Malaca, (Between Malaysia and Indonesesia) and combined ops provided a Sunderland to carry out surveilance from the air. We worked in conjunction with the navy, going up and down the straits, checking and reporting certain movements and types of vessels to the naval ships. We would leave Seletar and land at Glugor, located on the Island of Penang, on the East Side, facing the Malaca Straits, to a quick briefing, do the job and back to Seletar. There were 3 trips with our own skipper and 2 flights with Wing. Cmdr. Le Cheminant. Total flight time for the 5 trips-33hrs 40mins.

     Next came 2 trips on a naval exercise with H.M. Submarine Tactician. We would be given a rough idea of the area to search, we always found him and when we did we would bomb it using 25Lb smoke bombs. Comunications with the Sub was by W/T.

     My time in Malaya was drawing to an end. On the 28th of May 1952 I carried out my last strike, and my last flight in a Sunderland, flight time 8hrs 05mins. My combined strike operations in the Far East came to approx 128. Shortly afterwards I was back in England, and we were to enjoy a nice long leave.

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

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.

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

UN Liaison Group, Photo

Vickers Wellington, Photo

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