Flood Relief in Kenya: Bob Austin

Twin Pioneer
21 Sqn Twin Pioneer from RAF Eastliegh Kenya

The above photo was taken on flood relief duties in Malindi Kenya 1961/62 and 16 Coy RASC AD Detachment also from RAF Eastliegh.

Group photo

L/Right back row.*Bob Gailbraith (RAF), African Policeman,*Dave Rinstead (RAF) Master Signaller Hutchinson(RAF) F/Lt Reith(RAF),Major Wainwright (District Officer Malindi Kenya), Cpl Gordon Rennie (RASC AD),*Eric Lambert (RAF),Dvr Lovejoy att from 60 Coy RASC MT (Gilgil Kenya).Dvr Bill Taylor (RASC AD) Master Pilot Gillet (RAF) Mr Shell of Shell Aviation.

L/Right front row. Brian Finch (RAF), Ef Coohill (RAF),L/Cpl Lenny Higgins(RASC AD), Nobby Clark (RASC AD), F/Lt MacClen (RAF), Dvr Thompson Att from 60 Coy RASC MT (Gilgil Kenya).

From a newspaper of the day:-

“The Eight Men Whose Work Is Saving Lives”
One of the Army detachments which have been assisting in the Tana River basin flood and which deserves the highest praise is that from 16 Coy Royal Army Service Corps (Air Despatch).

Formed in the United Kingdom in 1960 to cover air supply coverage in Kenya, the company arrived in November of the same year. Since then it has been engaged in famine relief work and a number of exercises and operations such as the move of 24 Brigade to Kuwait and back.

A detachment consisting of  Capt P.T.B. Hill, 2 NCOs and five Despatchers from the company arrived in Mombasa to take part in flood operations on Sept 29th 1961 and moved to Malindi where operations headquarters were set up on Oct 3rd.

Since the start of operations the detachment has been packing and dropping supplies to marooned groups of people and villages in the Tana River basin and up to the weekend had flown 361 hrs 40 mins., 211 sorties and dropped a total 381,187 lb of food.

Practically all the food has been free-dropped, but a very small quantity of food and medical supplies has been parachuted. Among unusual articles dropped have been a fully charged battery and tent to a Veterinary department staff marooned at the stock-holding ground at Kurawa.

The detachment had some amusing experiences. On one occasion a bag of maize flour was seen to roll into a house on landing without any damage being caused.

Then a man living in Ijara in Garrisa district rushed out of his hut towards the bags of food before they came to rest with the result that his legs were knocked from under him; the aircrafts crew saw him pick himself up and walk away,perhaps a little shaken and a little wiser,but otherwise unhurt.

Capt Hill and his men use a store in which to pack supplies close to Malindi airfield and provided by the Malindi Farmers Co-operative Society. They were assisted by local Africans.

While the detachment is responsible for packing and dropping supplies, Twin Pioneer aircraft of 21 Sqn Royal Air Force fly them to the required centres and villages. This they have been doing since September 29th,with only two and a half days respite.

Flying supplies to people cut off by flood water in the affected areas is by no means easy, as can be judged by the following excerpts from flood operation reports compiled by the District Officer Malindi Sub -District Officer Maj J.M.E. Wainwright who is responsible for the Coordinating of flood relief measures.

Heavy rain in the Lamu and Garsen areas made airdrops difficult and in some places impossible...... A Twin Pioneer which attempted to take emergency supplies to two villages North of Lamu had to turn back owing to bad weather.

Five sorties were flown on the two days despite the bad weather conditions and 9,111 lbs of food were dropped...

The RAF men also had their amusing times. one centre to which they dropped supplies in the early days of operations was Ngau Mission, and after a week of daily drops the crew saw the following notice painted on the roof of the mission------ “Teas and Airport services”.

More recently they saw this message scratched in the sand at a Village North of Lamu----- “Please supply onions, sugar, salt, tea, milk , greens”. Evidently these villagers look upon the RAF as universal providers.

The people in the flooded areas of the Tana River and Lamu Districts owe a debt of gratitude to these RAF and RASC officers and men and are deeply  conscious of this.

Many verbal and written messages of thanks for their life sustaining work have been received by the administration from individuals, communities and entire villages, showing that British servicemen are greatly appreciated.

I was on this detachment in November. By this time HMS Victorious sent a detachment of Helicopters to the area and a detachment of the Guards Regiment. The aircrew and army officer stayed at the Hotel Sinbad. The S/NCO and Despatchers stayed at the Eden Rock Hotel in Malindi. When the Guards arrived they moved into a tented camp.We received instructions that we had to move in with them.When Air Commodore J.C. McDonald heard about this he said, “They are my boys under my command and they will stay where they are” He was known as ‘Black Mac’ and he always looked after the Air Despatchers. Those hotels were brilliant.

Open Door Contents