ANNEX A TO
9 Sqn A50 DECEMBER 1970
DETACHMENT TO PHNOM PENH
29TH NOVEMBER TO 1ST DECEMBER 1970
1. On Sunday 29th November 1970, a detachment of three 9 Squadron aircraft departed Vung Tau for Phnom Penh to provide support for the visit to some forward areas of Cambodian Army operations by the Chief of the General Staff – Lt Gen Sir Thomas Daly. The detachment was led by the CO – Wg Cdr Peter Coy, with Plt Off Bob Redman as co-pilot, navigator and radio operator extraordinaire. The second aircraft was flown by Flg Off’s Stu Dalgleish and Bob Upham, and the third by Flg Off’s Ron Mitchell and John Millhouse (Fly Off Millhouse proved to be invaluable as an interpreter). The crewmen were LAC’s Joe Pettit, Nev Sinkinson, and manning the twin M-60’s fitted to the third aircraft, Nev Prat and, Kevin ‘Bones’ Dransfield. The servicing party consisted of Flt Lt Norm Russell and LAC Peter Flynn (doubling as door gunners and looking resplendent in flying helmets and body armour) and Cpl John Beattie in charge of the ‘queer’ trades.
2. The route flown basically followed the Mekong River, with one stop being mat at Cao Lanh for fuel and a picnic lunch. The detachment arrived at Phnom Penh at 1300 hours (local) and was met by WO Bennet of the Australian Embassy Staff and Capt Suns of the Cambodian Air Force. The Captain (nicknamed Castro, because of his spectacular beard) was attached as liaison officer for the exercise and, like all his contemporaries, proved most friendly and helpful.
3 The detachment took three drums of fuel with then, with the intention of positioning them at Skuon (30 miles north of Phnom Penh) in the afternoon. However this plan was thwarted by a series of thunderstorms and the detachment adjourned to the Monorom Hotel where the ‘Boggies’ displayed their versatility by managing to occupy the best rooms and to lose the CO’s luggage.
4.The detachment rose at 0430 hours on 30th (albeit reluctantly, after the evenings entertainment) and was ready for take-off by 0700 hours. Actual departure with CGS, the Australian Ambassador and party, was at 0720 hours.
5.The first stop was made at Skuon at the junction of highways six and seven, the trip being remarkable only for the beauty of the day, the frustration of trying to overcome the language problem with the local flight following agencies, and the might of top cover (one C119 ‘Shadow”, one OV10 and three T28’s). The aircraft were refuelled from the drums while CGS and his party received a briefing at the local force Headquarters, and certain members of the detachment practised their school boy French on the assembly of several hundred military and civilian personnel.
6.The next stop was Tang Kouk – some 30 miles north – where the party was again greeted by an enthusiastic and heavily armed multitude. CGS, accompanied by members of the detachment, was given a briefing by the local commander and was then conducted on a brief tour of some of the more forward areas where there had recently been heavy fighting.
7.The departure from Tang Kouk was marked by a gift to the detachment of several locally grown pineapples, and the fact the Flg off Mitchell, who had been tasked to convey three passengers to Skoun, had extreme difficulty in whittling the number down to ten. His stop at Skuon proved equally as interesting in that, quite apart from his passengers not wanting to disembark, a further six or seven were keen to board. ‘Bones’ Dransfield’s efforts to solve the problem physically proved fruitless, but after ten minutes of confusion, during which the top cover dwindled away and the CO became somewhat tense, Flg Off. Millhouses’s command of the French language won the day and the flight proceeded to Phnom Penh.
8. After CGS and his party deplaned, the aircraft were refuelled and, by prior arrangement, the detachment took off for Skoun to evacuate wounded and sick Cambodian Army personal to Phnom Penh. The top cover was not available for this trip and, as the CO’s command of the local language had not improved regarding the flight following agencies, it was deemed prudent to restrict the operation to one trip only.
9. A total of 31 personnel including 7 stretcher cases, were evacuated in the one 3 aircraft lift. The popularity of the Mitchell/ Millhouse aircraft was again in evidence and they lifted 15 passengers.
10. The remainder of the 30th was devoted to absorbing some of the local ‘culture’ and the detachment returned to Vung Tau on 1st December.