Frozen Despatchers
D.W Livingstone

The late T/22772295 Cpl Duggie Livingstone was an Air Despatcher from February 1952 to August 1954 with 47 Company RASC, stationed at Watchfield. One of the operations he took part in was the re-supply of the British North Greenland Expedition in 1952/53. As well as the drops from Hastings aircraft, he thought that 47 Coy also flew a sortie in a Sunderland flying boat. Sgt Baker was possibly a crew member on the Sunderland.

One day in 1952, Duggie, the late Captain Luty, and two other Corporals were rushed to RAF Topcliffe in North Yorkshire, kitted out with arctic clothing, and found themselves on their way to the USAF Base at Thule. They were part of a group sent to replace the crew and the Air Despatchers of Hastings WD492 which had crashed on the ice cap on the 16th of September. These Despatchers were not from 47 Coy, but I believe were from Old Sarum. Two Hastings had been dropping supplies, WD490 of 24 Sqn RAF and WD492 of 47 Sqn. They were based at Thule, and the drops were made at Northice Camp. Altogether over 86 tons of supplies were dropped from the Hastings aircraft to the North Greenland Expedition.

At the time of the crash, WD492, Captained by F/Lt. Clancy was on the second of a run of free-drops following a dozen parachute drop runs. The drops were being made using a radio altimeter to aid maintaining the 50ft height required. An RAF officer was also on the ground visually estimating the aircraft’s height. The second drop had left the aircraft and the Hastings was about to pull away when it was engulfed in a ‘white-out’. The port wing hit the ground (damage can be seen in the photograph) and the Hastings hit the ground and bounced along on its belly for a considerable distance, losing both port engines in the process. Fortunately only three people were injured in the crash.

WD492 on the ice The Hastings on the ice

The Dakota on the iceImmediate rescue was not possible and the injured were kept warm in the fuselage which remained intact. These men were later lifted off in a USAF Albatross amphibian which landed on its keel in the snow. Two days later, the remainder were rescued by a ski equipped USAF Dakota, which used rocket assistance to take off. I believe that this was the highest altitude ski landing made by a large aircraft. The pilot later received a British decoration for his work which was carried out in poor weather conditions.

The photograph of this Dakota was taken from Hastings WD491 in which Duggie was flying in at the time. He was later to meet 491 again. He was driving past Bicester airfield in 1972 when he saw it again. He passed again a few days later and it had been reduced to ashes in fire-fighting practice.

In 1953 Duggie again found himself in Greenland with Captain Black and nine other Despatchers. They were met by a Sergeant Dennis Rose. Supplies dropped included 50 Gallon drums which were free-dropped from 50 feet into the snow. It had been found that jerry cans were bursting at an unacceptable rate. On their last drops, they parachuted a teddy-bear. In 1953 or 1954, they were on parade at Watchfield where the G.O.C. presented Sgt Rose with the B.E.M. Private Edward Bear was similarly decorated.

Joe Gibson and Duggie LivingstoneBob Fisher, Gene Weilding, Joe Gibson and Duggie LivingstoneBob Fisher, Gene Weilding, Joe Gibson and Duggie Livingstone

LEFT: Joe Gibson and Duggie Livingstone
CENTRE: Two men from the USAF, Bob Fisher & Gene Weilding with Joe Gibson and Duggie Livingstone
RIGHT: The Same group.

These photos were taken in the US NCO’s Club in Thule during 1952.

Duggie Livingstone died on 18th May 2006.

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