West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
 
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Pontefract Memories and Recollections

WARTIME MEMORIES
FACE TO FACE WITH A GUERILLA


Warrant Officer J. A. Green
(Air Gunner / Air Despatcher)

PART TWO

I think our most eventful flight of the war was on the 5th March with the codename ‘Heavy’. Take off was 08.10 hours and briefing was to land on an airstrip in China to deliver an agent and to pick up the one who had been in the area for some time. Fortunately the monsoon season had not yet started and being daylight it was a fairly smooth flight.

The Japanese held strip had been taken for our landing by a Chinese guerilla force who were now holding the Japanese back at each side of the strip. We landed with the usual Dakota flair, after dodging a few rounds from one side or the other, and Wally taxied to the end of the runway and turned round ready for a quick take-off, without cutting the engines, and then it would be back home for a cup of char lads. My duty was to remove the rear door, put the steps down and help our passenger out with his packages, arms and radio etc.

Our new passenger climbed in gladly and we later learned that he had been in receipt of Japanese 'hospitality' and lost both hands. I believe that our Chinese friends had been involved in his rescue.

We brought him forward with our crew and were ready for take off. I was forward with skipper Wally and looked out of the starboard window to see one of the guerilla’s looking more like a gorilla and pointing his rifle and bayonet at me. As Wally had another guy at his side and several others around, our passenger suggested calling his replacement back to check the problem. This he did and found that the Chinese gang had been told to take the strip for a plane to land – but had no instructions for allowing it to depart! After thirty minutes or so they backed off and away we went.

It was a long trip back to the airbase and we landed at the USAAF base Myitkyina in Northern Burma to refuel. This reminded me of a previous landing there, also to refuel, with a group of 22 Gurkha paratroopers and their British Major on their way out of a mission. Our crew and the Major and skipper Wally had asked the Major to tell the gurkha’s to look after the plane. Midway through our meal, an American Top Sergeant came along to ask for the Brit crew. He wanted to tank us up but our gurkha’s were sitting in a circle around the Dak with their hands on their kukri knives with no intention of letting the Yanks touch anything. Their boss soon gave the word or I might still have been out there. Another example of obeying orders.

When my tour of ops (300 hours) was completed the crew split up and I took the first of two 28 days leave at hill stations in the Himalayas. Terrific!

Another posting to Air Headquarters China/India/Burma in Barrackpore near Calcutta: and here I took a driving course with a test finishing on the runway driving a Chevrolet car and touching 90mph at the suggestion of the WO examiner. He then gave me the necessary note to avoid another civilian test when demobbed.

As Rangoon had just been liberated we sailed down the Bay of Bengal (more monsoon) and on arrival I was asked what job did I want to do? What else but the Intelligence Section! They must have though I was a backroom boy of 357 Squadron.

Christmas 1945 should have been spent at home as I had drawn a place for 28 days leave. Leaving Rangoon on December 1st and flying all the way in various kites including Dakotas and Liberators (no boats or trains) we arrived at the end of January 1946. The 28 days leave stretched until May for return by boat (the Empress of Australia) from Liverpool with 5,000 Italian POW’s to Naples and then a proper cruise to Bombay. By trains and boat we headed towards Rangoon and shortly after a return to the UK and Blackpool for demob as a Sergeant, not as earlier Warrant Officer, the RAF having decided this in their wisdom but without a reduction in pay. I ask WHY?

Personal transport was essential on return home and so my demob cash was spent on an almost new motor bike but quickly exchanged for a 1934 MG car. This surely created a better image with the girls when "Johnny came Marching Home".

I rejoined my father in the pawnbroking business, but by 1952 the demand for this had slowly declined and the business was discontinued. The decision enabled us to concentrate on the jewellery side of the business with the addition of a photographic section, which kept me very active until semi-retirement in 1986. The time since then has been taken up with odd days of work, walking, taking holidays not possible as self employed, joining various groups such as the Air Crew Association, Air Gunners and PROBUS and one day, hopefully, making a catalogue of a wide collection of records and tapes.

Moving onto 1989 my wife and I joined the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the Liberator in San Diego, California, where the highlights were to see a Liberator fly in, and dancing to the Bob Crosby band playing music from the 1940’s.

Finally in 1992 we joined Ralph Dalglish and Ken Williams, the Wireless Operator and Navigator on my Dakota crew, along with their wives for the Aircrew reunion, and then on to Toronto to be met by Wally Kindred and his wife. Wally had placed a huge placard outside his house to show that we were having our first crew reunion for 47 years. What a time we had recalling young days.

J.A. Green


<PART ONE


 

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