The Open Door

799 Company Popping Up Again: Geoff Heckford

Geoff HeckfordLEFT: Geoff at Rangoon Docks, May 1947.

At 85, my hair has gone from near black to grey. I blame 799 for some of the grey.

Operation Hunger IV in Burma during the Spring of 1947 was set up to free drop 600 tons of rice and salt to starving villagers in the Karen Hills. Five Dakotas were employed and ‘C’ Platoon [mine] supplied the despatch crews. Each drop consisted of 100 fifty pound hessian sacks which hit the ground from about 60ft at just over 100 miles per hour. Question….Why were the contents not splattered over everywhere on the DZ? Well , one early morning, four of the Dakotas took off as expected, and the last one [containing me ] accelerated very rapidly down the runway and just became airborne as some of the 100 sacks slithered to the rear bulkhead.

Panic!! Thank goodness the pilot realised the problem and used maximum power, the RAF navigator rushed back and the five of us threw the sacks up forward in express mode! You will probably say I am exaggerating, but I distinctly remember seeing and hearing the plane cut through the forest canopy at the end of the runway.

We lumbered on and up to 10000ft, dropped the sacks at the DZ , and returned to Toungoo to load up again. The only sign of the event was a considerable number of unusual scratch marks. So we carried on for the rest of the day. You will know that 50lb sacks do not normally budge during a standard take off.

Sometime later a scurrilous, unconfirmed tale went round ‘C’ Platoon that there had been bets as to which Dakota could be airborne in the least distance down the runway! To this day I can quote you the pilots name, who saved us , but I wont tell any tales.

Prome Road Camp, RangoonGeoff and John Firth
ABOVE LEFT: Prome Road Camp Rangoon, March 1947. Dvr Evans (Geoff’s Batman) Sgt Major Pillings & Geoff.
ABOVE RIGHT: Prome Road Camp, September 1947. Geoff & John Firth.

In 799 Coy MessGeoff Hands and Don Pugh
ABOVE LEFT: 799 Coy Mess, March 1947. Capt. Jack Morgan C.O., Capt. Potter, Maj. Jones & Lt. King.
ABOVE RIGHT: Rangoon, September 1947. Geoff Hands & Don Pugh.

I hope someone will write in to answer my question.

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