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Royal Air Force Beach Units

No. 6 RAF Beach Unit

A complete history of No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit is not available. An Operations Record Book has been found(1) that provides interesting detail of the period from January to June 1945 but we have no information about the Unit’s beginnings or what happened to it after June 1945. A reference in the record for January 1945 suggests that the Unit had not long been formed at that time and that it trained at Coconada. Situated on the east coast of India north of Madras (now Chennai), Coconada (now Kakinada) was the location of No. 2 Combined Training Centre.

Akyab, January 1945

In the available record for No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit we find the Unit located with No. 903 Wing of No. 224 Group at Patenga at the beginning of January 1945. The Arakan offensive was making rapid progress and units were on the move. No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit were informed that they were not required to pack stores for  No. 903 Wing at Patenga.........

S/Ldr John Nicholson Daniels (79878) returned to the Unit on 5th January and took over command from S/Ldr Skilling. The Unit, consisting of 3 officers, 11 sergeants and 5 aircraftmen, went to Chittagong to join with No. 41 Indian Beach Group. No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit embarked at Chittagong on 7th January and disembarked at Akyab, 180 miles down the coast, on 10th January.

No. 3205 R.A.F. Servicing Commando Unit had arrived at Akyab on the evening of 4th January and had been hard at work since, setting up shop at the airfield and then from 8th January servicing Spitfires of No. 67  Squadron and any other visiting aircraft.(2) After their arrival on the 10th January, No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit maintained liaison with the R.A.F. Servicing Commandos “to see that as far as possible their wants were supplied and they were most cooperative and rendered this unit every assistance”.

For the rest of January, No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit looked after the handling of R.A.F. stores, P.O.L. and ammunition from the beach where it was landed to the appropriate dumps and then its issue to consignee units.

On 18th January No. 3205 R.A.F. Servicing Commando Unit were addressed by the visiting Supreme Commander South East Asia (and former Chief of Combined Operations), Lord Louis Mountbatten.(3) No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit had to make do with a visit from F/Lt Laird of H.Q. R.A.F. Bengal and Burma who came to investigate complaints about the inaccurate marking of P.O.L. drums. 80 octane spirit had been found in drums marked as 100 octane and H.S.D. oil was found in drums that purported to contain Aero Engine Oil.

At a conference at Beach Group H.Q. on 25th January, the Officer Commanding, No. 41 Indian Beach Group explained to the Officer Commanding No. 903 Wing that the detachment of No. 79 R.A.F. Embarkation Unit was not in a position to take over and the officer in command of that detachment fully agreed. The Beach Group Commander also said that  No.41 Indian Beach Group could not be held responsible for any pilfering that had taken place of stores belonging to No. 903 Wing.

On 28th January, while No. 3205 R.A.F. Servicing Commando Unit were addressed by the visiting Air Commander-in-Chief Air Command South East Asia, Air Marshal Sir Guy Garrod, KCB, OBE, MC, DFC(4), No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit were visited by G/Cpt Mote, Senior Movements Staff Officer A.C.S.E.A. accompanied by W/Cdr Wesson and W/Cdr Reed. The difficulties that had been encountered were openly discussed with the Officer Commanding No. 41 Indian Beach Group and it was decided that the No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit should continue to be attached to No. 41 Indian Beach Group on its next operation at Kyaukpyu, Ramree Island.

In the Operations Record Book, at the end of January 1945, S/Ldr Daniels reports on the health and morale of the Unit’s personnel. He wrote that the men’s health was good and that the training at Coconada had brought about a very fair standard of physical fitness. The morale of the Unit was, however, only fair.

This was due to several reasons (i) No attempt had been made at the formation of the Unit to select suitable personnel. Not all personnel are temperamentally suited to Combined Operations.
(ii) No clear directive had been given as to what the Unit responsibilities were either to the Unit itself or to the commitments that came in later. This caused much unnecessary confusion and units arriving later attempted to blame this unit for what was not its fault. The fact that Beach Units are not responsible for stores until they arrive on the beach should be clear to all units on future operations.
(iii) It was disheartening to see Army stores well packed in suitable boxes complete to loading table arrive, when RAF stores came in with no prior warning in bad condition.”

S/Ldr Daniels had also reported that “No record was kept in the Ordnance Dump as no prior information had been given of quantities, serial markings or case numbers. This lack of information hindered the efficient functioning of this section.”

With regard to welfare and recreation, S/Ldr Daniels wrote, “Little activity was possible here. It is hoped that regular supplies of S.E.A.C. have now been laid on for the future. Whenever possible the unit enjoyed the bathing at Patenga and Akyab.”

In a general summary, S/Ldr Daniels said that co-operation with No. 41 Indian Beach Group was very good and the Army helped No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit at all times. “On occasions in the Ammunition Dump and to a less extent in the P.O.L. Dump, it was possible for this Unit to return the compliment which it was glad to do so. It is essential that an RAF Beach Unit should make every effort to become a component part of a Beach Group. A Beach Unit cannot cope with all the necessary work at rush periods. Help from the Army is then essential. When these rush periods are over there is little to do and it is then possible for the RAF Beach Unit to lend a hand to the Army. Only by helping each other can full efficiency be achieved.”

The quantities of P.O.L. and ammunition handled by No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit at Akyab during the period 10th to 31st January were:

  • P.O.L.
    • Receipts
    • 215,000 gallons.
    • Issues
    •   62,600 gallons.
  • Ammunition
    • Receipts
    • 100 tons of 500lb bombs
      120 tons of 20mm and .303 inch aircraft ammunition.
        30 tons of RAF Regiment ammunition.

From Akyab to Kyaukpyu, February 1945

At the beginning of February 1945 all units of No. 41 Indian Beach Group handed over their responsibilities at Akyab to static units. As far as No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit were concerned, the Sub Area took over the stock of P.O.L., the R.A.F. stores that were still outstanding were taken over by No. 92 A.S.P.(E.P.) Detachment and a detachment from No. 345 M.U. took responsibility for the R.A.F. ammunition.

At 8.30am on 9th February, in accordance with No. 41 Indian Beach Group movement instructions, No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit embarked for Ramree Island, 70 miles south of Akyab. With No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit and No. 41 Indian Beach Group leaving that day, No. 3205 R.A.F. Servicing Commando Unit found themselves having to do beach work themselves. "We were disgusted to have to unload from DUKWs straight off ships the whole of incoming equipment and supplies for HQ 903 Wing and other HQ Units shortly to arrive on the island. Very hard, dirty and hot, ........"(5)

No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit made their passage to Kyaukpyu, on the northern tip of Ramree Island, in an L.C.T. and the Unit had a wet landing at 11.30pm the next day.

During 11th and 12th February the Unit established its living quarters. The Flying Officer Equip. X with the personnel of the Ammunition and Ordnance dumps messed with No. 3 Indian Ordnance Beach Detachment and lived in tents provided by them. The remainder of the Unit were allocated “the remains of a house in the P.O.L. Lines”.

“An exceedingly good job was made here, the area was cleaned, slit trenches and latrines were dug, with the aid of tarpaulins borrowed from No. 386 Ind. Sup. Sec. (I) RIASC the house was made comparatively water tight and dust free. The upstairs was used as sleeping quarters for the sergeants, downstairs for eating, and a 180 lbs tent (also borrowed from 386 Ind.Sup.Sec.) was pitched and used as sleeping quarters for the airmen. A small cookhouse was established and with the aid of a 45 gallons drum over a slow fire a constant supply of hot water for washing was ensured.”

At 6.30pm on 12th February No. 41 Indian Beach Group took over responsibility for passing stores, baggage, unit equipment and personnel over the beaches.

On 13th February 800 tons of R.A.F. P.O.L. was received and on 19th February, a record amount of 1475 tons was received. On 20th February 50 tons of R.A.F. stores for No. 902 Wing were received. The majority of the cases were “unsuitable and damaged”. 500 poles for AFS were also received. The equipment was issued to No. 902 Wing next day.

On 23rd February the Unit received 1030 tons of P.O.L. and 200 tons of R.A.F. stores. They also received equipment and unaccompanied baggage for Nos. 2 and 4 Squadrons and No. 902 Wing.

“Nearly everything was packed in unsuitable containers and damaged. The unaccompanied baggage arrived in very bad condition it was obvious that there had been no supervision of the men when packing One airman had used a large wall cupboard and put a padlock on it. On this day 2117 tons were imported and 30 tons exported by 41 I.B.Grp. This is a record. This unit is proud to have been able, if only in a small way, to help produce this figure.”

600 tons of P.O.L. and 35 tons of R.A.F. Ammunition were received on 24th February and 100 tons of R.A.F. stores were landed on Amber Beach during the night. The R.A.F. stores were sorted out and handed over the next day.

There was more R.A.F. equipment received across Amber Beach on 26th February and on the 27th, 70 cases were received from S.S. “IKAUNA”. “This equipment had been despatched by M.U.S., although the marking was not too good (in some cases the blue diagonal was missing), the equipment was well packed in small, strong sensible cases, thus providing an object lesson of what can be done.”

On the last day of the month two tons of Ordnance stores were received, again in good condition.

Reporting on Unit health and morale again, S/Ldr Daniels wrote that the health of the Unit was again good and that morale had improved on the previous month. “Personnel are getting used to the type of work and living conditions and settling down. It was again disheartening though to see the condition in which RAF stores and unaccompanied personal baggage arrived.”

S/Ldr Daniels reported that nearly all the personnel bathed regularly in the sea both at Akyab and Kyakpyu. Newspapers were received regularly during the latter half of the month. A parcel containing magazines, papers, a tin of cheese and some English and American cigarettes, presumed to have come from Welfare, was received and much appreciated by the Unit. “A generous allocation of spirits and beer was also received, but when an officer of this unit went to collect he was told that there was none available.”

As a result of the experience gained at Akyab the personnel of the Unit were distributed differently at Kyakpyu. The Unit was split into two parties:

  • A party consisting of the Flying Officer, Equipment (Explosives), 4 Sergeants, Equipment Assistant and 1 Aircraftman, ACH/GD lived in the ammunition section lines of No. 3 I.O.B.D.
    • Two of the Equipment Sergeants looked after the Ordnance Dump
    • Two Equipment Sergeants and the Aircraftman looked after the Ammunition Dump.
  • The remaining personnel established a small camp of their own in the P.O.L lines.
    • Two Sergeants, R.A.F. Police and two Sergeants, Equipment Assistant kept a constant patrol on the beaches spotting R.A.F. stores as soon as they arrived on the beach and guiding them to their correct destination.
    • Two Sergeants, Equipment Assistant worked full time in the P.O.L. Dump.
    • One Sergeant, ACH/GD and 3 Aircraftmen, ACH/GD worked to make the camp site habitable and when this work had been completed the Sergeant ACH/GD lent a hand wherever help was most needed, two of the Aircraftmen acted as runners and odd-job men for the C.O. and the third Aircraftman was responsible for the cooking. “The food at all times was good.”
    • The LAC FMT maintained the jeep and when not employed either driving or maintaining the vehicle helped on the camp site or wherever wanted.
    • One Sergeant, Equipment Assistant and one Sergeant, ACH/GD were used as a floating reserve and were moved as required to whichever subsection of the Unit was under the most pressure.

“This system worked well. The Ordnance section at one time was unable to cope as well as might have been wished. This however was no their fault. Approximately 200 tons of stores and unaccompanied baggage was received between 1500 hrs Feb.23rd and 0300 hrs.FEB 24th. The condition of the baggage and stores was bad and it bore little relation to the records given either by 902 Wing or 79 E.U. Detachment. Until careful forethought and supervision are given to this problem prior  to the stores  and baggage being loaded on the ships this side of this unit’s work will always be unsatisfactory and disheartening.”

At Kyaukpyu, Ramree Island, March 1945

The landing of R.A.F. stores and equipment continued in March. 35 tons of ammunition was received on the 2nd and another 31 tons on the 3rd, along with approximately one ton of ordnance stores “received in good condition”. On 4th March, fifty 250 lb bombs were received “in bad condition” . There was a George Formby E.N.S.A. show that day and a show by Miss Patricia Burke the next day, when also, the Deputy Provost Marshal visited.

One ton of stores was received on 6th March and thirty two 250lb bombs were passed to the Sub Area ammunition dump on the 7th. On 8th March the unit equipment and personal baggage for Nos. 4 and 10 Squadrons arrived. “This was  badly packed and again showed lack of supervision. One airmen had packed his belongings in no less than four tin trunks. Five tons of badly packed equipment for 902 Wing was also received.”

The O.C. No. 345 M.U. Detachment took over responsibility for the Sub Area ammunition dump. The Beach Maintenance Area ammunition dump continued to make issue but was too full to accept any more receipts.

The Group Armament Officer visited on 9th March and next day, as a follow up to the visit of the Deputy Provost Marshal, there was a visit from F/Lt Hockaday, D.A.P.M. No 13 Provost Detachment, Chittagong. “After some discussion it was decided that it would be most helpful if on future operations a detachment from P.M.’s Department should be attached to the R.A.F. Beach Unit. Their duties would be to sign post the area with R.A.F. signs, direct stores and personnel to their correct destination if necessary outside the B.M.A. and general security work. There has been much loose talk of pilfering & general inefficiency in transporting stores across the beaches. It is felt that this detachment would protect the interests of all concerned.”

The 20mm ammunition was restacked on 11th March and there was another E.N.S.A. show on the 12th March, this time featuring Marie Burke.

F/O Cahill, the No. 224 Group Armament Officer visited on the 14th March. He was concerned with the handing over of ammunition to the Sub Area ammunition dump. Three tons of ammunition was issued the next day.

On 16th March a letter was received (dated 9th March) on the subject of mid tour leave to the U.K. Names of applicants for U.K. leave were submitted to No. 224 Group the next day. “It was later discovered that with this Unit’s list of names for the ballot travelled those fortunate members of 902 Wing who had been selected. Thus through no fault of its own, this Unit was given no chance. This was disheartening.” Two tons of stores arrived addressed to 908 Wing.

19th March – “250 Lb Bomb tails arrived in crates. This is a good method of packing these items.”

21st March – “9 tons of stores on S.S. ITAURA for 10 Squadron received badly packed. One damaged case contained No.37 Bomb pistols. 64 cases of equipment from M.U.S. was received well packed.”

22nd March – “Odd packages for 10 Squadron received, many damaged. Glim lamps arrived loose on the Beach.”

23rd March – “Two small cases approx. 9” x 9” x 6” found on the beach amongst other stores broken open deliberately. It is thought that they were broken open before landing either on the S.S.ITAURA or the landing craft. The contents of the second case (spanners & section 28 C items) were not removed, presumably because they were not attractive items.”

On 24th March all the ammunition was handed over to 345 M.U. Detachment and next day there was a meeting with W/Cdr White at 902 Wing. Instructions were received from B.A.F.S.E.A. on 28th March, instructing No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Group to proceed with No. 41 Indian Beach Group. Next day there was a visit from W/Cdr Wesson, W/Cdr Shoulbrook and S/Ldr Jones. “The difficulties that this Unit had encountered were discussed.”

No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit completed its duties at Kyaukpyu, Ramree Island on 30th March 1945.

In his monthly report on the Unit’s health, moral, welfare and recreation, S/Ldr Daniels said that health had again been good. “There has been one case of dysentery this month. This is the first on the Unit this year. There has been no case of Malaria. This year.” Morale however, was “still not as good as it should be. This is due to several reasons. The main ones are:-

(i) The functions of this Unit would appear to be still only vaguely understood. For instance no prior information of shipments is ever sent direct to this Unit. This information would be most helpful and is essential to the efficient running of the Unit.

(ii) Stores and unit equipment (with the exception of that despatched by A.S.Ps. and M.Us.) arrived in such a bad condition that personnel handling them get the impression that it does not matter whether they reach their destination or not.

(iii) Letters are still being received from Higher Authority referring the Unit to 903 Wing. This Unit left 903 Wing Area six weeks ago.”

Things were happier on the welfare and recreation front. “There has been considerable improvement here. There have been shows given by George Formby, Patricia Burke and Marie Burke which the Unit attended and thoroughly enjoyed. There have also been cinema shows at Wing. Liquor ration, free cigarettes and books have also been received. Most personnel have bathed in the sea daily. Several football matches and single wicket cricket matches have been played.”

Preparations for Operation “DRACULA”, April 1945

There was nothing of operational significance to report during the first two weeks of April 1945 as No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit had completed its duties and did not move from its location at Kyaukpyu.

On the 14th April the first conference about the next operation, identified as Operation “DRACULA”, took place at H.Q. No. 41 Indian Beach Group. An outline of the operation was given and No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit was allotted berths on the D + 5 convoy, with the exception of the Unit’s jeep which was placed in the D + 7 convoy. However, at a second conference two days later, the Unit was “relegated to the last convoy”. A signal was received from Rear H.Q. No. 214 Group detaching No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit from No. 41 Indian Beach Group.

On 17th April an officer was sent to H.Q. No. 224 Group at Akyab to see S/Ldr Curtis of Movement Planning and discuss the question of whether No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit would be able to fulfil its operational commitments if it sailed in the last convoy.

Tents and tarpaulins were obtained from No. 41 Indian Beach Group and one officer and one N.C.O. left the Unit to go on Mid Tour Leave to the U.K.

The officer sent to H.Q. No. 224 Group returned on 19th April with fresh instructions. No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit would now be included in the D-Day convoy under R.A.F. arrangements and was to link up with No. 41 Indian Beach Group on landing.

There was a conference on Operation “DRACULA” with W/Cdr Wesson on the airfield on 20th April, at which the proposed tonnage of shipments was disclosed and there was another conference next day at the R.A.F. Embarkation Unit, at which all aspects of the Operation that concerned No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit were fully discussed.

On 22nd April the personnel of No.6 R.A.F. Beach Unit were “placed at the disposal of the Embarkation Unit until orders were received to embark”. At a conference in the Transit Area. M.T. Numbers were allocated and on 26th April, an officer was detached for the day to supervise the waterproofing park.

The Unit’s jeep and driver were embarked on the “M.5”. on 27th April and the Unit’s equipment was called forward. Next day No. 6 R.A.F Beach Unit embarked, with one officer and eleven airmen on an L.C.I.(L) and one officer and six airmen on the “S.6”.

The convoy sailed for Rangoon on 29th April and was at sea as the month came to an end.

In his monthly report, S/Ldr Daniels said that Unit morale had improved when two members of the Unit were given Mid Tour Leave and “the approach of another operation also had a stimulating effect.” Football and single wicket cricket matches had been played against Army units until the end of the month “when it became rather hot for football.”

S/Ldr Daniels also commented on the few days that No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit were attached to the R.A.F. Embarkation Unit before embarking: “The experiment of placing personnel at the disposal of the Embarkation Unit was not a success. This unit has had no training nor experience of the duties of an embarkation unit, therefore personnel need to be told what to do and on occasions given more help than is necessary for personnel experienced in Embarkation Duties. This was not appreciated by the Embarkation Unit who in any case were too busy to be able to spend much time initiating strange personnel in new duties.”

Rangoon, Operation “DRACULA”, May 1945

On 2nd May 1945 at 8.30am, the L.C.I.(L) carrying the first party of No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit touched down at FOX WHITE Beach on the West bank of the river. The kedge anchor broke and the L.C.I.(L) had to put off without any troops disembarking. The party transferred to an L.C.A. half an hour later and made landing.

“This would have been a ‘dry landing’ had not everybody been soaked previously by the rain. No opposition had been encountered, however the rain had been so heavy that it was decided that it was not possible to develop an airstrip or roads. All the muddy banks made the disembarkation of vehicles almost an impossibility. Attempts were made to find shelter with little success, until the Unit was given permission to embark on L.C.T. 1332 which had beached.”

 IWM (CI 1368)

© IWM (CI 1368)      

L.C.T. 1332 beached at Elephant Point on the mouth of the Rangoon River during Operation “DRACULA”.

Members of No. 2959 L.A.A. Sqn. R.A.F. Regiment manhandle their 20mm Hispano guns through the mud.
 (Picture by F/O B. Bridge, R.A.F. official photographer.)

 

At 4pm instructions were received to proceed to Rangoon as soon as possible. In the meantime No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit’s second party arrived in an L.C.I., made a wet landing and then joined the first party on the beached L.C.T. Unfortunately L.C.T. 1332, which should now have been making its way to Rangoon, was stuck fast on the mud and could not get off.

The L.C.T. remained stuck through the night and all the next day. Finally, after almost two full days on the L.C.T. the Unit disembarked at around 2pm on 4th May and transferred to an L.C.I.(L) that had come to pick up troops and take them to Rangoon.

The Unit arrived in Rangoon around 4.30pm on 4th May and, as it was getting late and there was no sign of any R.A.F. H.Q., they found a suitable empty house and prepared a hot meal.

On 5th May the Unit was able to contact R.A.F. H.Q. and W/Cdr Drake at Government House and inform them of the Unit’s location. No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit quickly established constant cover for the landing points at Monkey Point, Eden Street Jetty, Latter Street Wharf and Pongy Street Jetty (where an F.M.A. was developed).

Pongy Street Jetty was later handed over to the Burmese for landing food and vegetables and Monkey Point was only used for L.C.Ts. and L.S.Ts. that had vehicles to offload. P.O.L. and ammunition came ashore and the next day brought more, along with the first batch of R.A.F. vehicles.

On 7th May, along with more P.O.L., ammunition, vehicles and unit equipment, No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit’s jeep arrived. “This was very welcome as the distance from Monkey Point to Pongy Street is 3 miles. The weather was very hot and oppressive and personnel, besides feeling the heat, were beginning to suffer from diarrhoea and feverish colds.”

The D-Day convoy vehicles were landed on 8th May and, on 9th May a conference was held at Mingaladon Airfield about the disembarkation of personnel.

On 10th May the D + 5 convoy vehicles began to come ashore and the main party of No. 41 Indian Beach Group disembarked. The unloading of the D + 5 convoy vehicles was completed the next day and ammunition, unit equipment and unaccompanied baggage was unloaded.

“The unit equipment was far better packed than on previous occasions. Every effort had obviously been made to make containers as strong as possible. Containers were however too large, this was probably unavoidable with the material available, but it made handling very awkward. The marking of both unit equipment and unaccompanied baggage was bad.”

On 12th May the Beach Group began to move ammunition, P.O.L., unit equipment and unaccompanied baggage from wharves and jetties to the dumps in the Beach Maintenance Area. The Ammunition Dump was located in a transit shed behind Eden Street Jetty, the P.O.L. Dump almost as far down as Monkey Point and the unit equipment and unaccompanied baggage at the Port Health Station. Arrangements were made for the disembarkation of personnel.

Personnel were disembarked from the D + 8 convoy on 13th May. “With the exception of the RAF Regiment, who were well disciplined and controlled by their officers, RAF personnel landed far too heavily laden, and too many became separated from their units. Nor did they realise that in order to keep the way clear for other troops disembarking it is necessary to proceed to the Personnel Transit Area. Disembarkation took place at LATTER STREET WHARF and at PONGY STREET JETTY (in landing craft from personnel ships) and unfortunately the Personnel Transit Area was nearly a mile from PONGY STREET. This proved too much for may personnel. About 750 personnel were due to disembark, and only 500 passed through the P.T.A. This rendered any form of checking impossible, although members of the Unit were on duty at all landing points, and on the road to direct R.A.F. personnel to the P.T.A. and in the P.T.A. to receive them and to arrange for them to be taken to their destination in lorries as available lorries had to run a continuous ferry service to MINGALADON about 12 miles distant. The ferry service worked well.”

On 14th May about 50 tons of unit equipment and unaccompanied baggage were loaded on trucks for transfer by rail to Mingaladon the next day. “Tarpaulins were erected over the transit shed that had been allocated to the R.A.F. as an ammunition dump. Owing to the size and nature of the building this was not easy but was necessary to keep the ammunition as dry as possible.” Ammunition was received in the dump and Latter Street Wharf was almost cleared of P.O.L. and ammunition, which was taken to the B.M.A.

The first officers of No. 41 R.A.F. Embarkation Unit arrived on 15th May and were shown round the Area the next day.

At 6.30 am on 16th May, an L.S.T. beached at Monkey Point bringing personnel and vehicles of No. 346 Wing. “No prior warning of their arrival had been given.”

Arrangements were made for the daily delivery by train to Mingaladin of 5000 gallons of 100 octane and 300 gallons of M.T. spirit together with the necessary oils and lubricants.

The Equipment Officer of No. 906 Wing visited No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit on 17th May and was informed about the unit equipment and unaccompanied baggage that was being held at the Port Health Station. He arranged to send transport to collect it and the removal of it began the next day.

On 19th May No. 41 Indian Beach Unit advised No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit that it would soon have completed its duties in Rangoon and would be leaving the Area. The Officer Commanding No. 41 R.A.F. Embarkation Unit arrived next day. “As a result of the information brought by him, it was decided with A.O.C. R.A.F. BASE ABLE that this Unit should accompany 41 I.B.G. when that formation moved.”

The O.C. No. 316 M.U. visited the Unit on 25th May and inspected the Area prior to the arrival of his unit to take over the ammunition. Responsibility for P.O.L. was handed over to Area on 29th May.

No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit had its first delivery of personal mail for a month on the 26th May. The Commanding Officer, S/Ldr J.N. Daniels expressed his beef about the mail in the end of month summary of Unit morale, health and welfare:

“The lack of private mail had later on a very depressing effect. All Army Units had been receiving good deliveries of private mail, at first by air drop for a fortnight before RAF Mail began to arrive. Further when mail was received, it was recent mail, therefore this Unit had approx one month’s missing mail. This matter has been taken up with the Postal Authorities here, with as yet no result. The postal section at 902 Wing was given as full details as security would permit, prior to the Unit’s departure. It is felt that R.A.F. Units are entitled to at least as good service as Army Units doing equivalent jobs on Combined Operations. It must be realised that the normal method of signalling R.A.F. Post of change of location of Unit does not work on Combined Operations.”

In spite of the difficulty with mail the C.O. said that morale was good. With regard to health, he wrote:

“This has not been as good as in previous months probably due to the deterioration of the weather, normal at this time of the year, and to the poor water supply. Only three members of the Unit were actually admitted into the Beach Medical Unit and where then kept there for no more than a few days. But the whole Unit has suffered either from diarrhoea, feverish colds or mild heat exhaustion and been under treatment. There has been no Dysentery or Malaria.”

And on the subject of welfare and recreation he said:

“Little has been possible this month for obvious reasons. Recently Beach group have organised film shows that the Unit has attended. A monthly liquor ration has been received.”

India, June 1945

On 2nd June 1945, at Rangoon, No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit embarked for India on the S.S. “DEVONSHIRE”.

At 6.30pm on 7th June the ship entered Madras harbour and next morning at 9.30 the Unit disembarked and went to the Transit Camp.

The Commanding Officer, S/Ldr J.N. Daniels went to B.A.F.S.E.A. on 12th June to report on the past operation and receive a briefing on the next operation.

At 6pm on 15th June, No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit entrained for Bombay.

Detraining at Borivali at 11.30am on 18th June, the Unit was transported by road to Madh Island. They arrived at Madh Island (location of a No. 1Combined Training Centre) at 3pm but no arrangements had been made at the Camp to supply rations to the incoming units. No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit stayed at Madh Island for two days, during which time a visit was made to the Base Postal Unit to see if the Unit’s missing mail could be traced, and then the Unit moved to Bhiwandi Camp, arriving at 10pm on 20th June.

After a couple of days at Bhiwandi Camp the Unit received instructions from B.A.F.S.E.A. about leave for Unit personnel and preparations to be made for the next operation.

Eight members of the Unit went on casual leave on 24th June and three days later the Unit received its first delivery of private mail since 24th April, apart from one day’s delivery received at Rangoon on 26th May.

On 30th June there was a conference at H.Q. No. 41 Indian Beach Group where bids were made for berths on the boat for the next operation.

After their arrival at Bhiwandi Camp the Unit had received a visit from the Base H.Q. Welfare Officer who gave them books, a football and indoor games. S/Ldr Daniels wrote, “This was very much appreciated and morale considerably improved. This was the first time that any Welfare Officer had shown any direct personal interest in the unit since its inception.” He went on to say that no organised recreation had been possible earlier in the month because the Unit was in transit and latterly, half of the Unit was on leave. With regard to the health of Unit personnel, S/Ldr Daniels wrote, “There was a considerable improvement in the general health of the unit. This was probably due to the sea voyage and later to leave.”

The unit strength at the end of June 1945 was 3 Officers, 14 Sergeants and 5 Aircraftmen.

The available record for No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit ends here. The ‘next operation’ for which preparations were being made in June 1945 was almost certainly, Operation “ZIPPER”. It is believed that No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit did in fact go on to participate in Operation “ZIPPER” and further research may reveal more.

 

(1) Operations Record Book of No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit - found in, ‘Air Ministry and Ministry of Defence: Operations Record Books, Miscellaneous Units’ AIR 29/438 at The National Archives. (This is the main source of information for this page.)

(2) Kellet, J.P. and Davies, J., “A History of the R.A.F. Servicing Commandos”, Airlife Publishing Ltd., Shrewsbury, 1989, p116

(3) Grainger J., “History of No. 3205 Royal Air Force Servicing Commando”, 1995, p79

(4) ibid, p81

(5) ibid, p81

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