When I was a Driver with 252 GT Company RASC early in January 1944, a number of personnel were selected to go for Air Despatch Training. We were sent to 2 Para Brigade, where we had a two weeks course in methods of attaching chutes to various packages and pushing panniers on rollers from a mock-up. We had several trips around in the Dakotas locally to make sure we fully understood the procedures. Then, finally we were ready and in early March 1944, about three dozen of us were sent to Brindisi in Southern Italy. There we started on supply drops to DZs in Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece. Later on we also included northern Italy and southern France. We flew with the U.S. Air Force, one Despatcher to each plane. Later this was increased to two. Driver Castle was one of those in the first batch. The packs we dropped were much smaller than today’s large containers, and we also did free drops of blankets, clothing etc. The American Crew Chief, normally a Top Sergeant would assist us in stacking packs in the open door.
Some close friends died during those operations, and I would like them to be mentioned. They were:
T/4691179 Dvr Richard Forcer, died 22nd May 1944 aged 22. Buried in Plot 10a Row D Grave 1, Belgrade War Cemetery.War Graves Photographic Project
T/90894 Dvr David Charles Saynor, died 22nd/23rd February 1945 aged 33. Buried in Plot 4, Row B, Grave 14, Bolsena War Cemetery Italy.War Graves Photographic Project
I still think of them to this day, as nice a couple of lads you could wish to meet. Others I knew who died were; Drivers Joseph Collier, Cooper and Peters. I have no details of their graves, except that Dvr Cooper is probably in the same cemetery as David Saynor, Joseph Collier is somewhere in Italy. Dvr Peters died on a mission to Greece I think, so whether he is buried there I do not know.
One thing I would like to mention is the fact that as we were flying individually, our casualties were fewer than would have been the case had we been in crews of four, which we did on only two occasions. The first was when 2 Para Brigade had to secure the only road bridge over the Corinth Canal during the German retreat from southern Greece. Two missions were flown on this occasion. The second time was when the 2nd ‘D’ Day took place in the south of France in August 1944. French and American paras dropped several miles inland from Cannes and Nice. There again we flew two missions. All our missions were by 352 Coy RASC. We took off from various bases in Italy. To make our incoming mail easier to distribute we were informed that our address had to be ‘352 Company RASC incorporating No.2 Air Supply Base’.
Joseph Collier died on 28th April 1944 and is buried in Bari War Cemetery, Italy. Plot XV, Row A, Grave 40.
A Dvr F.A. Cooper who died on 8th March 1944 is buried in Coriano Ridge War Cemetery, Italy. Plot XVI, Row D, Grave 4. He is the only Dvr Cooper RASC recorded as dying in 1944 in the Records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. This may be the Dvr Cooper mentioned above.
A Driver A.J. Peters who died on 27th August 1944 is buried in Ancona War Cemetery, Italy. Plot IV, Row J, Grave 10. He is the only Dvr Peters RASC recorded as dying in 1944 in the Records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It may be that he is the Dvr Peters mentioned above.