In the December 2007 and June 2008 copies of the ‘Open Door’, John Wrake mentions his time with 799 from March 1949. His articles inspired me to fill in a small part of 799 history from January 1947 to May 1948.
After a month’s trip in the Empress of Scotland I arrived at Singapore OTW Nee Soon in late December 1946......a very raw one pipper !
My first shock was to be posted to 799 in Rangoon , and after several weeks I boarded a coastal steamer, the Nevassa , full of 600 Indian Army personnel going home for demob. The second shock was from the ship's tannoy, ordering me to report to the OC troops.......................... He put me in charge of the troop deck, fortunately, with two young VCOs and somehow we sorted out the many problems of religions ,messing arrangements etc...etc.
I arrived in Rangoon early in February 1947 and joined 799 at their Prome Road camp. The OC was Major Reid, with Jack Morgan as 2i/c. l was assigned to ‘C’ Platoon which had the Air Despatch responsibilities as well as transport.
AT that time 799 had 99 Mack lorries and some 50 other vehicles looked after by an MSM and his REME unit. The Company was hectily busy carrying personnel and stores to the Godowns at Rangoon docks, from a multitude of military sites all over Burma , which were being closed down and being brought back to Singapore or the UK . Also there were the normal jobs of providing UK and Indian troop rations etc....etc.
We were also heavily involved in clearing thousands of tons of a variety of munitions from the oil palm and rubber plantations. In 600 ton lots, in craters, on a disused air strip the RE detonated the lot while we moved off to a safe distance away. For this operation we used some JSPs who were under their own Japanese officers.
In the Spring of 1947 799 Company was assigned to provide the Despatchers for Operation ‘Hunger IV’. This involved ‘C’ Platoon joining five RAF Dakotas at Mingaladon air strip at dawn to fly and free drop at tree top height, 600 tons of salt and rice to the Karen people. An intermediate air strip was also used at Toungoo. The turbulence at about mid-day was appalling and flying was abandoned for the sake of safety on many days. Personally I lost quite a number of shoes while assisting with the despatch!!
After ‘Hunger IV’ was completed life changed suddenly for 799. The Prime Minister of Burma and his Cabinet were murdered and minor local armies appeared causing anarchy. 799 and other units were rapidly concentrated into a new camp outside Rangoon . We joined in with a Gurkha unit, an Indian Army horse transport unit, a large REME unit etc., and for some six months all personnel were restricted to camp. We looked after 10,000 parachutes, less a few which were discovered in the local bazaar as silk dresses.
Early 1948 the Company moved to Singapore in the Changi area. One of my last jobs was to take a small convoy to a camp at the Batu caves n ear Kuala Lumpur to demonstrate the work in Air Despatch. On our way we found our petrol supply had been destroyed but managed to find a local tin mine manager who helped us out. Shortly after that I returned to the UK on the Dunera and was released in August 1948.
799 was a great unit to be with.Open Door Contents