KG441/ G-AVPW

G-AVPW KG441 Hunting Surveys C-47 Dakota
G-AVPW, fitted with survey hardware, during her lengthy career with Huntings.

KG441 was built as a C-47A-10-DK with construction number 12476 at the Oklahoma City plant during 1944. Delivered on 8th February 1944 with the USAAF serial 42-92652, the Dakota was transferred to the RAF under Lend/ Lease and flew to Dorval, Montreal, on February 14th. Ten days later, KG441 was recorded as arriving in the UK and, on February 29th, the Dakota was assigned to 233 Squadron. As part of the Squadron’s first batch of C-47s, KG441 was probably prepared for operations at RAF Gosport before briefly lodging at RAF Bircham Newton during the first few days of March 1944. 233 Squadron’s ground party arrived at their new-build airfield in Wiltshire, Blakehill Farm, on March 5th and the first dozen Dakotas arrived two days later. KG441 and the initial batch of aircraft commenced conversion training on March 8th and continued with glider towing and paratroop training throughout April and May 1944.

The training was in preparation for Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, D-Day June 6th 1944. KG441 wasn’t on the original Operation Tonga which took to the air late on June 5th, but was scheduled to fly on the subsequent re-supply mission, Operation Rob Roy, on the evening of June 6th. The Dakota was part of 21 aircraft heading to resupply the British 6th Airborne to the east of the River Orne and took-off from Blakehill Farm at 22:20 on June 6th. However, following electrical problems, Flt. Lt. Lestang had to pull out of the formation. Following a second attempt, the Dakota had to return to base. KG441’s next mission was on June 16th when, as one of five aircraft delivering bombs, the destination was the newly-established Advanced Landing Ground B2 at Bazenville. Once again, there were technical issues and Flt Sgt Curtis had to land early at B4/ Beny-sur-Mer, owing to engine failure. The cargo of eight 500 lb bombs was offloaded at B4. The same crew had a second chance on June 20th when KG441 lifted at 14:06 en route to B2 with ordnance and spares. The six aircraft on the operation returned with 97 stretcher-case casualties and 29 walking wounded. The Dakota was back on the ground at 21:05 ready for a repeat operation the following day when Flt Sgt Curtis’s  crew was part of a three-aircraft flight taking bombs to B2 and returning to Down Ampney with 54 stretcher cases and nine walking wounded. 233 Squadron was the first unit to carry the ‘Flying Nightingale’ WAAF nursing auxiliaries on the operations which delivered munitions and subsequently evacuated wounded soldiers to Blakehill Farm, Broadwell and Down Ampney.

233 Squadron KG441 Flying Nightingales France Blakehill Farm
This IWM photo shows aircrew and WAAF nursing orderlies loading a battle casualty into a 233 Squadron Dakota at B2/ Bazenville. The first RAF 'casevac' flight was mounted on June 13th and KG441's first mission was on June 16th 1944. Photo CL118 taken by RAF Photographer Stanley Devon.

KG441 also flew on a 19-aircraft logistics mission at the end of June delivering troops and vehicles of 93 Forward Staging Post to B8/ Sommervieu. July, however, seems to have been a quiet month for KG441 with no flights recorded in the operations log. There were, however, training exercises with all available Dakotas taking part in formation flying and Eureka navigation practice on July 5th. A large 5-squadron exercise took place at the end of the month. Ninety aircraft of 46 Group RAF took part in the Rowanberry exercise which was designed to practice the fast unloading and loading of aircraft under enemy fire. The Blakehill Farm Dakotas joined formation with other 46 Group transports and flew, via the Isle of Man, to RAF Tealing, just north of Dundee. The army deplaning and reloading went relatively well and the airborne armada reversed the route to their home airfields.

The first couple of weeks of August 1944 saw KG441 delivering mail and freight to B14/ Amblie on 1st, 4th and 8th of the month. Mail, empty blood plasma boxes and walking wounded were carried on the return flights. Flight Sergeant Curtis remained the regular pilot in command although Warrant Officer Mills flew KG441 on 18th August for a flight transferring personnel from Northolt to B8/ Sommervieu prior to evacuating passengers from Amblie to Blakehill Farm. Indeed, much of the month was taken up by mail, freight and newspapers with runs to B14/ Amblie on 20th, 23rd, 26th and 30th. WO Green carried an interesting cargo of 20 motorcycles and six passengers to Amblie on 25th and there were emergency food aid flights to Paris at the end of the month. The German withdrawal from the French capital had created a critical shortage of food and the advancing allies had to fly large quantities of basic materials to Orleans airfield. FO Hyne captained KG441 on August 27th for a flight to Orleans as part of a 24-Dakota armada which delivered 120,000 lbs of staple foods. Orleans had only recently been liberated and the runways of the aerodrome had previously suffered greatly from allied bombing. The sappers had effected basic repairs but the surfaces remained rough and KG441 experienced hydraulic problems upon landing. US personnel quickly rectified the damage and the Dakota was back in the air four and a half hours later.

American French liberation of Paris 1944 food emergency airlift to Orleans 233 squadron Dakotas C-47s KG441
With Paris liberated by the Allies, there was a desperate shortage of food staples. US and British transport squadrons took part in a food airlift to the airfield at Orleans. The runways had been bombed by the Allies and repairs were still ongoing. Photo from US Franklin D.Roosevelt Library archives # 196289.
233 Squadron Orleans food drop KG441 1944
233 Squadron Dakotas lined-up ready for the food airlift mission to Orleans airfield following the liberation of Paris. KG441 flew on the mission and had hydraulic problems when landing on the rough runway surfaces. Photo from the Australian War Memorial.

Flt.Sgt. Curtis was back in command of KG441 on September 4th as part of a 15-aircraft mission flying to B6/ Coulombs where petrol was loaded for transfer to B45/ Amiens and B50/ Vitry. A week later, KG441 was one of four aircraft carrying passengers and equipment to France with the Captain a newly-promoted Warrant Officer Curtis. Resupply missions to the rapidly-advancing Allies continued with KG441 carrying fuel from Lyneham to B60/ Grimbergen on 12th and to B58/ Brussels Melsbroek as part of a 10-aircraft operation on 13th. There was a pause while the Squadron prepared for Market Garden, the airborne operation to Arnhem. KG441 didn’t fly for 233 Squadron on the initial day of the campaign but was ‘lent’ to the new 437 Squadron RCAF which had just started operating from Blakehill Farm. Flying Officer Errol Semple, a Canadian who had flown KG441 in the past for 233 Squadron, was the Captain for 437’s first major operation and he made a safe return to Blakehill. KG441 returned to her original squadron the following day and was one of seventeen 233 Squadron Dakotas towing Horsa gliders to Arnhem on September 18th. WO Curtis was back in command and, following a 10:30 take-off, was safely back home at 16:35. While not flying to the battle zone on September 19th, WO Curtis did fly KG441 to B56/ Brussels-Evere with petrol supplies for the advancing army. The weather was poor and, as at the front line, this compromised plans; this led to KG441 landing early at B50/ Vitry-en-Artois and only proceeding to Brussels later in the day. Resupply missions for the beleaguered 1st Airborne at Arnhem were flown on 21st and 23rd September and a logistics flight to B56/ Evere followed on 25th. The movement of forces and weapons to Belgium continued even as the British and Polish advance at Arnhem ran into trouble. On September 27th, KG441 was part of an eleven Dakota mission flying to Matlaske in Norfolk to collect forces for transfer to B60/ Brussels Grimbergen. The next day PO Wright flew KG441, with a load of drop tanks, from Bicester to B56/ Evere. the return flight carried 1st Airborne troops back to Woodhall Spa. On the final day of September, KG441 delivered another load of petrol to B56/ Brussels.


Airspeed Horsa being loaded with jeep durin Airborne Forces training.
Owing to the size of the campaign, Market Garden involved two airborne operations on suceeding days. KG441 flew for 437 Squadron RCAF on Sunday 17th September. The following day, KG441 towed a Horsa glider as part of 233 Squadron's 17-Dakota mission to Arnhem. On 18th, 233 delivered troops, 15 jeeps, 17 trailers, 1 handcart, 4 motorcycles, troops, machine guns and anti-tank weapons to the 1st Airborne Division. This photo, taken during an exercise in April 1944, shows how a Horsa glider accommodates a jeep. It was taken by Sgt Laing, War Office Photographer and is IWM photo #H37692.

October 1944 Operations

During October 1944 KG441, chiefly in the hands of WO Curtis, was mostly employed on freight runs to B56/ Brussels-Evere in support of the allied armies in Belgium and Holland.

Oct 1st: 4346 lbs of mail to Evere, mail & passenger to B6/ Coulomb.

Oct 2nd: One of seventeen aircraft taking petrol to Evere.

Oct 3rd: Along with KG410, carried drop tanks Bicester to B56/ Evere.

Oct 6th: 1 of 12 carrying ammo to Evere, return casevac to Broadwell.

Oct 7th: 1 of 10 Dakotas taking ammunition to B56/ Evere.

Oct 8th: 1 of 13 aircraft carrying ammunition to B56/ Evere.

Oct 9th: 1 of 9 aircraft carrying ammunition to B56/ Evere.

Oct 10th: PO Bailley in command for 6 Dakota ammunition run to Evere. Returned with two army personnel.

Oct 11th: PO Bailley flew KG441 on a 9 aircraft mission carrying Lub oil to B56/ Evere. Returned next day to Down Ampney with casualties.

Oct 13th: WO Curtis flew KG441 as 1 of 8 aircraft carrying army equipment to B58/ Brussels-Melsbroek. Returned to Blakehill after an overnight stay (the Ops Log also shows KG441 on an overlapping mission to Antwerp but this is probably KG341).

Oct 14th: WO Curtis Captain, 14:30 dep with ammunition to B17/ Caen.

Oct 15th: 14 Dakotas flew to Hartford Bridge (Blackbushe) to collect 194 personnel of 137 Wing for transport to B50/ Vitry-en-Artois.

Oct 17th: WO Curtis’s crew were one of seven flying ammunition to B58/ Melsbroek. Overnight stay before return to Blakehill.

Oct 19th: One of 15 aircraft delivering ammunition to B70/ Antwerp.

Oct 20th: WO Curtis repeated operation of the previous day as part of a ten aircraft operation.

Oct 21st: Another repeat of the Antwerp ammunition run. 15 aircraft.

Oct 22nd: Ten aircraft to Antwerp with ammunition, return empty.

Oct 6th: Eight aircraft take stores and ammunition to Antwerp. Overnight stay.


Brussels Evere RAF Dakotas
An RAF Transport Command Dakota lands at Brussels Evere. B56 was a very busy destination in late 1944. IWM Photo 1380.

November 1944 Operations

November saw 233 Squadron delivering both stores and home comforts to the troops as the Allies consolidated their positions in Belgium and Holland. Typically, Flying Officer Hunter flew KG441 to B58/ Melsbroek on 4th carrying 3896 lbs of mail. From there, the flight continued to B17/ Caen with 1650 lbs of mail before returning to base with 600 lbs of letters. Two days later, WO Evered in KG441 delivered 2196 lbs of equipment and newspapers to B70/ Antwerp before cramming 27 passengers and their kit on board for the flight to Blakehill. On November 8th, it was WO Green delivering 5000 lbs of newspapers and freight to Melsbroek. November 12th saw a change in cargoes with KG441 carrying Pierced Steel Planking (PSP) to B51/ Lille. KG441 was in action almost every day of the third week in November:

Nov 13th: WO Austin was in command for an 09:35 lift to Warmwell to embark 18 passengers bound for Eindhoven.

Nov 14th: FO Menzies crew was one of eight flying PSP from Lyneham to B79/ Woensdrecht.

Nov 15th: WO Curtis was back in KG441 to take 12 passengers Northolt to B78/ Eindhoven and 5 on to Evere. Stayed overnight.

Nov 16th: Medical supplies taken from B56/ Evere to Eindhoven and 16 passengers back to Northolt.

Nov 19th: WO Holliday took-off at 10:47 as part of an eight aircraft operation making the short hop to Blackbushe. Arriving at 11:11, KG441 embarked some of the 99 138 Wing personnel making the journey to B72/ Cambrai-Epinoy. 138 Wing of the 2nd Tactical Air Force comprised Mosquito Mk 6 squadrons 613, 305 and 107.

Nov 20th: WO Curtis was 1 of 5 crews taking PSP to B77/ Gilze-Rijen.

Nov 21st: FO Menzies repeated the previous day’s mission as one of four Dakotas taking Pierced Steel Planking to B79/ Woensdrecht and returning empty.

Nov 23rd: FO Chesney played postman in KG441, taking 5100 lbs of mail to Melsbroek, remaining overnight before returning to Blakehill with another full load of mail.

Nov 25th: FO Clarkson’s crew delivered 5000 lbs of mail to A54/ Le Bourget, overnighted, but returned to base empty. Sounds like a night out in Paris was beckoning.

Nov 29th: WO Halliday flew KG441’s last operational flight of the month: seven Dakotas took munitions to B77/ Gilze-Rijen. The following day, 233 Squadron was practising glider towing.

Orleans Bricy airfield August 1944 food crisis Paris liberation
Many of the Advanced Landing Grounds were French, Belgian and Dutch airfields which had been used by the Luftwaffe, bombed by the Allies. Craters had to be in-filled by army engineers, taxiways supplemented by Pierced Steel Planking but the result could still be quite rough. This photo shows Orleans airfield which was used by 46 Group Dakotas on the Paris food airlift and resulted in hydraulic system issues for KG441.

December 1944 began with KG441 flying to B58/ Melsbroek as part of a 10-aircraft lift delivering ammunition. The Dakotas return sector took them to Perranporth in Cornwall with 133 personnel and their kit. There were fewer operations than usual for KG441 during the next week, the next operation being on December 10th. WO Curtis flew KG441, FO Dober FZ635, to Swanton Morley in Norfolk to collect 20 passengers bound for B58/ Brussels-Melsbroek. The next day, it was FO Chambers turn to take KG441 to Bicester as one of seven aircraft loading stores destined for B53/ Merville. The next two missions for KG441 were similar: WO Curtis flying ammunition to Gilze-Rijen as part of a 14-aircraft operation on 12th, WO Mills carrying ammunition to the same destination on a 2-aircraft trip on 15th. From B77/ Gilze-Rijen, KG441 traveled to B65/ Maldegem, remained overnight, then returned to base with passengers on December 16th. It was back to Gilze-Rijen with stores as part of a 10-aircraft operation on December 17th, PO White at the controls of KG441. WO Curtis returned to KG441 the following day for a 5-aircraft mission collecting RAF equipment from Bicester and delivering it to B78/ Eindhoven. As Christmas approached, Flt. Lt Chesney and KG441 were part of a 5-aircraft operation taking stores to B70/ Antwerp on 23rd. Flt.Sgt Butcher took stores from Bicester to B58/ Melsbroek on Christmas Eve. While Christmas Day was quiet, the Battle of the Bulge was raging in the Ardennes and KG441 was scheduled to take part in a 6-aircraft mission to deliver US troops from Beaulieu to A83/ Denain, near Valenciennes. For some reason, the RAF transports were unable to uplift the US forces and they returned to Blakehill – not directly, a 2-day stay at Holmesley in Hampshire was possibly prompted by poor weather. By 29th December, KG441 had returned to Blakehill and loaded-up with ordnance for delivery to B70/ Antwerp. F/ Sgt Ridley was at the controls on this 4-Dakota operation which returned to Ford in Sussex with passengers. The final operation of the year took place on New Year’s Eve with FO McGovern flying to Odiham to uplift five 604 Squadron passengers bound for B51/ Lille.

B78 Eindhoven Typhoon under maintenance
The ALGs at B78/ Eindhoven and B70/ Antwerp, both regular destinations for KG441, had both been badly damaged as the Germans retreated. The Stampe factory and hangars at Antwerp had been blown up but the runway remained intact. This photo shows maintenance being carried-out on a dispersal at B78/ Eindhoven. IWM photo CL 1441 of ROYAL AIR FORCE: 2ND TACTICAL AIR FORCE, 1943-1945. Hawker Typhoon Mark IB, MN606, of No. 247 Squadron RAF, being overhauled by a Repair and Salvage Unit. Copyright: © IWM.

After a couple of missions in early 1945, KG441 disappeared for the rest of January. On Jan 4th, F/Sgt Ridley lifted at 09:40 with 5000 lbs of RAF freight for Melsbroek. The aircraft continued to B78/ Eindhoven for a casevac flight to Down Ampney carrying 18 stretcher patients and two sitting-wounded. The following day, PO Diamond flew KG441 as part of a flight of three Dakotas taking RAF freight from Bicester to B50/ Vitry-en-Artois. Although 233 Squadron did operate a small detachment at Brussels-Nivelles at the end of January 1945, KG441 doesn’t seem to have flown there either. She did, however, join the Nivelles detachment on February 2nd. F/ Sgt J.Ridley flew KG441 to B75/ Nivelles as part of a 13-Dakota mission carrying 50,000 lbs of freight to the Belgian airfield. The crew left KG441 with ‘B’ flight at Nivelles and returned to Blakehill in FZ665.441

Until mid-March 1945, KG441 would fly most of her missions with the ‘B’ detachment from Brussels- Nivelles with several trips to the South of France. On February 4th, FO A.Clark carried army freight on the 1 hour 25minute flight to B54/ Achiet. Departing Nivelles on Feb 7th, Flt. Lt Burden flew KG441 to Marseille -Istres with two passengers. The Dakota and crew remained in Marseille for two nights before returning to B75/ Nivelles with a single passenger. It was Pilot Officer Green’s turn to head south on February 10th, flying empty to Lyon. Following an overnight stay, a return was made to B78/ Eindhoven with 12 passengers. There was a short return to Blakehill Farm on Feb 13th, with Squadron Leader Daniels traveling empty. KG441 then took part in training exercises on 15th before loading 3100 lbs of freight and six passengers on February 17th for a flight to B56/ Brussels Evere. PO Green’s crew collected the Dakota on 19th and returned empty to Nivelles before departing for Eindhoven, again empty, the following morning. Fourteen passengers were collected at B78/ Eindhoven and taken to B56/ Evere on the morning of 20th. KG441 then remained on the ground until the next day when the fourteen were returned to Eindhoven before the Dakota headed back to Nivelles. The remainder of 21st involved local flying with PO J.Williams. On February 24th Flt. Sgt. Butcher flew the empty KG441 to Eindhoven, overnighted and departed for Lyon the next morning with 18 passengers. Following an overnight stay in France, the Dakota returned to B78/ Eindhoven with passengers on February 26th. Hopping back to Nivelles that same evening, KG441 was ready for an hour long session of local flying with Sqn Ldr Daniel on February 27th.

On the first day of March 1945, PO Wright lifted at 16:30 en route to Eindhoven with a single passenger. After a night stop, the Dakota flew to B56/ Brussels Evere the following morning with 9 stretcher cases and 14 walking wounded. Evere was generally used for the transfer of the wounded to the No.8 RAF General Hospital in Brussels. KG441 returned to Nivelles that evening before commencing a ’round-the-houses’ service the next day. PO Trigg flew the Dakota to B77/ Gilze-Rijen on March 3rd, then on to B67/ Ursel. Twelve stretcher cases and and six walking-wounded were uplifted and taken to B65/ Maldegem before KG441 returned to Nivelles. The afternoon of March 6th saw Flt. Sgt. Butcher taking KG441 to Eindhoven. The next morning, eighteen passengers were flown to Lyon, the aircraft night-stopped and then returned with eighteen passengers to Eindhoven. The final hop of March 8th took KG441 to B56/ Brussels-Evere which, during the day, had become ‘B’ Detachment’s new home. PO Wright was back in command on March 10th for a flight taking 14 passengers to Y14/ Marseille-Marignane. After a brief stay, fourteen passengers were embarked for the return sector to Evere – as with many of the flights from Holland to the South of France the passenger numbers were the same in both directions suggesting that, either both sectors carried the same personnel or the flights were one-for-one crew changes. This was KG441’s last flight from the Brussels base for a while and she was one of seven aircraft returned to Blakehill Farm, off- detachment on March 12th prior to the Rhine Crossing operation at the end of the month. The returning Dakotas carried a total load of 20,000 lbs of freight and 43 personnel.

B75 Nivelles 233 Squadron C-47 KG441
KG441 was part of 233 Squadron's 'B' Detachment of Spring 1945. Based at B75/ Nivelles, the Dakotas operated flights between Dutch airfields such as Eindhoven and Evere and destinations in Britain and the South of France. Nivelles had been a pre-war base for the Belgian Air Force and had been used, briefly, by the Luftwaffe in 1940. It had a medium hangar and four large hangars, two of which were distinguished by having dummy houses built on the roofs. This didn't save the airfield from allied attacks although, by April 1943, the landing ground was covered in tripod obstructions. In Jan 1944, the roof was missing from one of the large hangars and, on May 9th, the USAAF 8th Air Force returned on a bombing run. Subsequently liberated by the USAAF, the runway was reinforced, the perimeter tracks expanded and new buildings and hangars added. 233 Squadron Dakotas were some of the first large aircraft to visit at the end of January 1945. Nivelles was also a welcome-centre for returning ex-POWs. Information and picture from www.belgians-remember-them.eu.

Operation Varsity – The Rhine Crossing.

Prior to Operation Varsity, KG441 flew another couple of missions from Blakehill Farm. On March 17th, nine Dakotas collected equipment from Perranporth and transferred it to B56/ Evere and, on March 18th, PO Wright flew to Warmwell to collect RAF personnel destined for B86/ Helmond. Hopping to B78/ Eindhoven, passengers were collected for return to Warmwell.

233 Squadron positioned to RAF Birch in Essex on 21st March  with the 26 Dakotas led by Wing Commander Mellor in KG313. After two days of briefings, preparations and marshaling of tugs and gliders, 24 aircraft took off on the morning of March 24th between 06:18 and 06:49. Each aircraft, KG441 included, towed a Horsa glider carrying a total of 357 troops from the 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regiment. Again, W/Cmdr Mellors led the Squadron and, after a steady flight to the target landing zone, near Wesel, the gliders were released between 10:17 and 10:21. All but one of the Dakotas then proceeded to B75/ Nivelles to refuel and remain on standby for a potential resupply mission. The supplementary operation was not necessary and the 233 Dakotas returned to Blakehill Farm on March 25th.

KG441 was back in the air on March 30th, departing Blakehill at 13:08 with 3080 lbs of spares destined for B75/ Nivelles. Continuing to B78/ Eindhoven, 2000 lbs of blankets were collected for delivery to B100/ Goch in Germany. The next leg saw KG441 transporting 19 stretchers and 10 walking wounded back to Brussels- Evere, before heading home to base. The next day involved KG441 collecting drop tanks from Bicester for delivery to B50/ Vitry-en-Artois. FO Dijkstra remained at the controls on April 1st for another drop tank mission, this time delivering the cargo from Broadwell to Nivelles. The same crew remained with 441 for an April 2nd flight from Fairwood Common to B85/ Schijndel as part of an 8-aircraft mission transferring personnel and their kit.


Operation Varsity Rhine Crossing 233 Squadron 46 Group RAF Transport Command
ROYAL AIR FORCE TRANSPORT COMMAND, 1943-1945. (CL 2242) Operation VARSITY. Douglas Dakotas of No. 46 Group fly in formation over Wavre, Belgium, heading for the dropping zones east of the River Rhine. Above them, Dakotas towing Airspeed Horsas fly a divergent course towards their objectives. KG441 was part of 233 Squadron's contribution to the largest ever airborne operation. PO C.Wright was the Captain, Flt Sgt Lane Second Pilot, PO White and Flt Sgt Lewis Navigator and Wireless Operator. Copyright: © IWM. Photo by PO F.Wilson, RAF Official Photographer. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205211749

For KG441, the remainder of April 1945 involved routine logistics operations in support of the advancing allies with the same four or five pilots in command.

April 4: PO Wright’s crew took army freight to B78/ Eindhoven with three other 233 Dakotas.

April 8: PO Wright, again, carried 9 passengers and their kit from Gatwick to B73/ Moorseele, seven passengers on to B77/ Gilze-Rijen before returning to Gatwick with sixteen passengers.

April 9: PO Smith was in command of KG441 on a 12-aircraft mission carrying petrol from Greenham Common to Y85/ Ettinghausen, Germany.

April 14: FO Hall flew KG441 with 4916 lbs of petrol to B108/ Rheine. Stretcher cases were carried back to the Military Hospital via B56/ Evere and a further 6000 lbs of petrol loaded for transfer to Rheine. Eleven more stretcher cases were loaded and flown to Brussels before the Dakota returned to Blakehill Farm.

April 15: Five aircraft, with FO Tozer in command of KG441, carried petrol to B108/ Rheine, 100 French and Belgian ex-POWs from Rheine to B56/ Brussels and petrol back to Rheine again. The return flight to Blakehill required a fuel stop at B75/ Nivelles.

April 16: PO Wright flew KG441 as one of six Dakotas collecting army freight from Netheravon for delivery to B108/ Rheine. A total of 139 French ex-POWs were then transferred to B56/ Evere prior to a second fuel run to Rheine. The six aircraft then transited empty to R16/ Hildesheim to pick-up 183 ex-POWs bound for RAF Wing in Buckinghamshire.

April 17: Flt. Sgt Butcher was in command for this epic multi-sector operation. KG441 was one of eight Dakotas delivering petrol from Blakehill to B118/ Celle prior to positioning to B56/ Brussels to collect another load of fuel for Celle. The next leg, to the newly-liberated R16/ Hildesheim, was flown empty and a group of ex-POWs embarked for the flight back to Evere. Another empty leg was flown to B100/ Goch to collect ammunition bound for B114/ Diepholz. Transiting empty again to R16/ Hildesheim, another set of ex-POWs was embarked for transfer to RAF Wing before the Dakota finally made it home.

  April 19: FO Dijkstra commanded KG441 for a 09:14 lift carrying 5016 lbs of fuel to B118/ Celle. Ex-POWs were then transferred back to Brussels-Evere prior to another fuel delivery flight, this time to B150/ Hustedt. The Dakota then flew back to base via two intermediate stops.

April 20: Flt. Sgt Butcher took KG441 on a massive 2-day mission to the Continent. Initially, 5016 lbs of petrol was transported from Blakehill Farm to B150/ Hustedt. Traveling empty to B100/ Goch, 4000 lbs of oil was uplifted for B114/ Diepholz before an empty leg was flown back to Goch to collect 5600 lbs of ammunition destined for B116/ Wunsdorf. The Dakota positioned back to B114/ Diepholz and remained there overnight. The first payload of April 21st comprised 5016 lbs of petrol bound for B150/ Hustedt. The Dakota flew on to B100/ Goch empty to collect 5600 lbs of freight for B114/ Diepholz. Returning empty to Goch, a cargo of 5600 lbs of ammunition was uplifted for Diepholz. Finally, the Dakotas flew home empty to Blakehill farm via B56/ Brussels Evere.

April 25: FO Dijkstra took off in KG441 at 07:55 with petrol for B114/ Diepholz. An empty leg was then flown to collect ex-POWs destined for RAF Wing. PO Wright flew a similar mission the following day: 09:00 lift with fuel for B118/ Celle, an empty leg to Diepholz, ex-POWs to B56/ Brussels-Evere, petrol back to Diepholz and, finally, ex-POWs to RAF Wing. The next day, April 27th, Flt.Lt. Fisher flew KG441 as part of a 12-Dakota operation taking fuel to B114/ Diepholz. Again, ex-POWs were carried on the return leg to Wing.

French Belgian ex-POWs Rheine April 1945
During April 1945 a large part of KG441's work involved returning ex-POWs from Germany to Britain and Belgium. Here, French and Belgian ex-POWs (with 'KG' Prisoner of War embroidery on their greatcoats) wait at B108/ Rheine to be transported to Brussels-Evere in RAF Dakotas. KG441 flew French & Belgian ex-POWs on this route on April 15th & 16th 1945. IWM photo BU 3605 taken by Sgt Midgley.

The end of the first week in May saw the end of WW2 in Europe and 233 Squadron’s operations altered with outbound logistics flights added to destinations in Norway and Denmark as well as Montgomery’s headquarters at Luneburg. A major part of KG441’s operations remained the repatriation of ex-POWs; British military to Ford, Wing and Dunsfold, French and Belgian to to Brussels and, sometimes, to Le Havre/ Octeville. On May 2nd 1945 PO Wright took-off from Blakehill at 06:30 outbound to B116/ Wunsdorf in Germany before continuing to another airfield to uplift 30 ex-POWs. After a stop at B56/ Evere, possibly for fuel, the flight continued to wing with 30 ex-POWs. FO White flew KG441 on a similar mission on May 3rd as part of a group of Dakotas delivering petrol to Nivelles, continuing with kerosene for B156/ Luneburg. A couple of empty stages were flown before another 3200 lbs of kerosene was transferred to Luneburg. KG441 then returned to Brussels Evere to collect ‘special freight’ destined for Croydon. May 7th & 8th saw Warrant Officer Wool departing Blakehill in KG441 with army freight for B75/ Nivelles. A short hop was made to B56/ Evere to collect Navy freight destined for B111/ Ahlhorn near Bremen. Transiting to B109/ Quackenbruck, 32 ex-POWs were collected for passage to B56/ Brussels. The circuit was then repeated: Navy freight to Ahlhorn, 30 ex-POWs picked up at B114/ Diepholz and flown to B56/ Evere, return to Blakehill. The War was officially over in Europe by the time FO Diamond made his 07:15 take-off on May 12th, carrying army freight to B56/ Brussels-Evere. Continuing to B154/ Reinsehlen, 30 ex-POWs were collected and returned to Evere. A further 30 ex-POWs were then collected from B58/ Melsbroek and flown to the UK reception centre at RAF Wing. On May 14th, FO Diamond flew a very similar operation in KG441: empty to Evere, 30 ex-POWs to Dunsfold, back to Evere, 30 ex-POWs to Dunsfold again, another empty leg to Evere and, finally, 30 ex-POWs to RAF Wing before heading back to Blakehill. PO Wright lifted from Blakehill at 07:20 on May 15th, empty as far as Matching where 21 troops and their kit were collected for transfer to B56/ Evere. Two circuits were then flown between B56 and Dunsfold with 32 ex-POWs on each return flight. May 16th saw KG441 heading for a new destination: Flt Lt Green flew the Dakota empty to Boreham where 25 RAF personnel were embarked for B56/ Evere. Possibly the same RAF personnel were then flown on to B160/ Copenhagen Kastrup, by now liberated from German control. Looping back to Lubeck, 31 French ex-POWs were embarked for a flight to Paris/ Le Bourget. Thirty-nine ex-POWs were then collected from the assembly camp at Y30/ Le Havre-Octeville and flown to Dunsfold.

46 Group Dakota carrying ex-POWs and DPs from Rheine to Brussels
Following the end of WW2 in Europe, 233 squadron ferried large numbers of ex-POWs and Displaced Persons to home destinations. Here, a group of Displaced Persons is photographed on board a 46 Group Dakota prior to flying to Brussels. Photo archived at IWM as BU3604 and credited to Sgt A.N.Midgeley of #5 Army Film and Photo Section.

It was back to cargo the following week with FO Carter taking-off at 09:35 with one jeep and three personnel heading for B56/ Brussels. Thirty passengers and their kit were shoe-horned-in for the return flight to Netheravon. It was a similar story the next day, May 19th, with KG441 heading empty to Evere to collect blankets bound for B156/ Luneburg. Thirty ex-POWs were then embarked for Dunsfold before the Dakota returned to Blakehill via Ford. On May 20th, FO Carter was at the controls for a petrol delivery direct to Luneburg. Twenty 6th Airborne troops were then conveyed to B56/ Brussels en route to Netheravon. The end of the month followed the same pattern: Flt Lt Fisher commanded KG441 on a flight taking 3500 lbs of freight from Warmwell to B152/ Fassberg, returning to Warmwell with 26 passengers before carrying freight outbound to B56/ Evere. There were then several stages around the Continent to and from Brussels Evere with ex-POWs. FO Dijkstra was the Captain on 27th May for a flight bringing casualties back to Down Ampney and, on 28th, Flt Lt Green flew empty to B56/ Brussels to uplift 5000 lbs of freight bound for Reinsehlen. Continuing empty to Luneburg, 25 French ex-POWs were collected and flown to B56/ Brussels. Finally, 15 ex-POWs were flown from Brussels to Dunsfold before a return to Blakehill Farm.

French and Belgian ex-POWS
French and Belgian former POWs board a Transport Command Dakota at Luneburg for repatriation to their home countries, May 1945. IWM Photo CL2769 FltLt S.D.Devon.

June 1945 saw 233 Squadron move from Blakehill Farm to join fellow 46 Group Dakota operator 271 Squadron at Odiham in Hampshire on June 8th and 9th. However, operations from June 1st were still from Blakehill and PO Wright took off with 4071 lbs of freight bound for B75/ Nivelles. After an empty leg to Copenhagen, 18 passengers were embarked for Saltby. Other Scandanavian trips followed for KG441 with Oslo on June 2nd, 5000 lbs of petrol to Copenhagen on June 4th. From the Danish capital, PO Wright flew empty to B158/ Lubeck to collect Displaced Persons bound for Brussels. From Evere, the Dakota carried 14 ex-POWs to Dunsfold. On June 5th FO Carter hopped to Croydon to collect 15 passengers and their kit destined for B156/ Luneburg. Thirty Belgian ex-POWs were then transported to B56/ Brussels Evere before KG441 shuttled across to B58/ Melsbroek (a distance of around 5 miles). This appears to have been to collect a 3500 lb Bomber Command shipment which was returned to Blakehill before KG441 moved it on to (Sand) ford Manor (log indistinct).

June 8th saw the start of the Squadron move from Blakehill Farm and KG441 was one of the Dakotas assigned to shuttling personnel and freight to Odiham over the next two days. FO White departed Odiham on KG441’s first operation from the new base on June 10th, collecting freight from Down Ampney before heading north to Oslo. After an overnight stay, the Dakota flew on to Kristiansund before returning to Down Ampney and Odiham. Passenger flights followed on 12th with a service from Croydon to the Continent and on 13th when PO Wright traveled empty to B58/ Melsbroek to collect passengers for Blackbushe. From there, it was back to B58 to collect another batch of passengers for Blackbushe before returning to base. It was passenger duties again on June 14th when KG441 made a 15:50 lift with 27  WAAFs heading for a new posting in Leicester (? log indistinct). Ten further WAAFs were returned to Broadwell and five to another station before the Dakota arrived back at Odiham. On June 15th PO Wright took off at 09:25 bound for Blackbushe, empty, to collect 24 passengers heading for the Continent. Twenty passengers were subsequently returned to Blackbushe.

Squadron Leader Blythe was at the controls on 17th June for a flight to Northolt to embark fifteen members of the RAF Staff College making a day trip to Hamburg with intermediate stops at B56/ Evere on both journeys. Warrant Officer Mapletoft and KG441 departed Odiham at 06:25 on June 18th, stopped briefly at Down Ampney before proceeding to B116/ Wunsdorf and then returning to base. After a brief respite, KG441 was hauling passengers from Croydon on June 23rd with PO Wright flying to the Continent to pick up 14 RCAF personnel bound for Warmwell. The following day, PO Wright was in command again for a flight to B56/ Brussels-Evere. Twenty-five Russian Displaced Persons were embarked for a flight to B156/ Luneburg. On the return flight, an intermediate stop was made to load publications destined for Bovingdon. A Merlin engine and accompanying mechanics made-up KG441’s payload on June 26th. Departing Odiham at 07:40, PO Green’s crew collected the engine and personnel at Blackbushe before heading north to Oslo Fornebu via B168/ Hamburg. The Dakota overnighted in Oslo before returning to Blackbushe with passengers on June 27th. 167 Squadron was in residence at Blackbushe at the time and they were having issues with their complement of Vickers Warwicks. They ‘borrowed’ some of 233 Squadron’s Dakotas and KG441 joined them briefly from June 29th. The Dakota seems to have been crewed by 167 personnel for a week until, on July 5th, 233’s FO Smith took the controls for a 10:40 lift from base, en route to Northolt. On July 8th, PO Wright flew KG441 to Oslo via Boreham in Essex. A return was made via B56/ Evere in time for a repeat flight on July 9th. PO Purley was in command for the second flight to Oslo, again via Boreham, and the service continued onwards to Trondheim and Bardufoss on July 10th before returning to Oslo on 11th and to Croydon via B56 on July 12th.

Training flights dominated the latter half of July before the Squadron went on embarkation leave in early August prior to traveling to India. The Squadron transited to Imphal with five groups of five Dakotas departing Odiham as from mid-August. KG441, piloted by FO Longhurst, was in the second group and departed for the first transit stop, Elmas in Sardinia, on July 17th. FO Smith, FO MacAinish and FO Ingram made-up the aircrew and the Dakota carried 20 Squadron personnel and 260 lbs of equipment. The epic transit continued from Elmas to Tobruk in North Africa, Lydda in Palestine, Habbaniya in Iraq, Drigh Road in Karachi and Bamrauli in India. The final five and a half hour leg took each group of Dakotas across modern-day Bangladesh to Imphal, arriving at Tulihal airfield from August 24th onwards. 233 then took over the Dakotas which had been configured for Asian operation by the two RCAF transport squadrons 435 & 436.

The Canadian squadrons had formed in August 1944 and were set-up initially at Gujurat in India during October 1944 with crews assigned from the disbanded West Coast of Canada reconnaissance squadrons. 435 Squadron had moved to Tulihal in late December ready to start operations delivering supplies to General Slim’s 14th Army (1). Tulihal’s runways were improved with the Canadian-invented Bit-Hess material to give a reliable landing surface and, in eight months of 1945, 435 managed to deliver 27,000 tons of cargo and 15,000 passengers and casualties. At first, they had needed to borrow much equipment from neighbouring USAAF and British squadrons but, eventually, they achieved an efficient operation using Dakota IIIs and Dakota IVs.

435 Squadron took-over 233 Squadron’s aircraft for the flight back to the UK.

(1) Article by Norma Graham in ‘Flightlines’ Spring 2024.


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