The Open Door

The Last Flight of Hastings TG575 — El Adem 1966
Taff Cornell

It was a normal flight for us. Fly to the Libyan Desert, and drop the stores we had on board to the 30 RAF Rgt. Para. The flight time was three hours, plus one hour for the drop, and then three for the return. Home for tea, that's how it should have worked.

I don’t remember anything about the flight to the Drop Zone, it was just routine. We used to do this trip about six times a year, as well as being called out on Search and Rescue, and a Despatch Crew would be on standby seven days a week. The drop started to go wrong as we reached the DZ, very high winds over the desert were causing problems. It was decided to let two F/Sgts. RAF jump to test the landing site. Both were injured on landing, and a Search and Rescue call was then made to El Adem for the rescue of the Paras. We stayed over the drop zone until help arrived for them. This caused us to become very low on fuel. We tried to land at El Adem, and we did land, but not on the runway! The Hastings ploughed a nice furrow in the desert. All the RAF crew, Air Despatchers, and the RAF Paras got out without a scratch. One Hastings written off! End of story!

Well at least I thought so! Then one day, thirty years later, sitting in a bar in the Isle of Man, where we now live, I was telling my new wife the story of the crash of the Hastings 575. Beside her at the bar another couple were standing, and I noticed that the man was taking a keen interest in my story. As I got to the end, he asked me if it was the crash of Hastings 575 in El Adem in 1966 I was talking about. I told him it was, and being surprised, asked him how he knew about it.

They introduced themselves to us, as Ian and Pat Leece, and Ian told us that he had been part of the recovery team that had been sent out to El Adem to salvage the Hastings. However they had had their problems too. The plane had apparently crashed on top of an old WWII ammunition dump kindly left by the enemy, and on trying to clear it, the bullets and shells started to explode around them, and they had to give up. This dramatic update to a story from so long ago gave me a bit of a shock!

From: Mark Steed ex LXX Sqn

Hastings 575 after the crash landingThe damaged engines on the starboard wing

I too was on that trip being a white-kneed co-pilot at the time. Taff Cornell may be interested with photos of the aircraft after the prang. Most interested to hear of the story of the subsequent recovery operation over a ammo dump HELL!!!!

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