59 History
- Post WWII - No. 59 Squadron Service History -
....:::: The Berlin Airlift - Avro York - 1948-49 ::::....
This page is dedicated to the crew of Avro York MW288 - 59 Squadron - that crashed shortly after take-off from RAF base Wunstorf on 19th September 1948. Lost were F/L H.W. Thomson (pilot) - F/L G. Kell (co-pilot) - L.E.H Gilbert (navigator) - S.M.L. Towersey (signaller II) and E.W. Watson (engineer II). Rest In Peace.

The Airlift: The Berlin Blockade, also known as the "German hold-up" (24 June 1948 - 11 May 1949) was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War. During the multinational occupation of post World War II Germany, the Soviet Union under Stalin's control blocked the Western force's railway and road access to the western sectors of Berlin that they had been controlling. Their aim was to force the western powers to allow the Soviet controlled regions to start supplying Berlin with food and fuel, thereby giving them nominal control over the entire city.

No. 59 Squadron Avro York - TB-X pictured here along side one of two English Eagle Aviation Halifax's in operation during the Lift - the "Red Eagle".

In response, the Western Allies formed the Berlin Airlift to bring supplies to the people of Berlin. The airlift to supply the German 6th Army at Stalingrad during the war, required 300 tons of food per day and rarely came even close to delivering this; the Berlin effort would require at least 4,000 tons a day, well over ten times as much. In spite of this, by the spring of 1949 the effort was clearly succeeding, and by April the airlift was delivering more cargo than had previously flowed into the city via rail. (Wikipedia).

'Aeroplane Monthly', Dec 1981. 'Yeoman York' - Avro York MW173 with two Misr Airwork Tiger Moths in the background at Almaya, Cairo shortly after the war. 'Zipper' later became the first RAF York to fly out of Wunstorf during the Berlin Airlift in 1948, with 59 Squadron. According to this site (http://www.crash-aerien.aero/forum/oldies-vintage-t6921-1245.html), it was being used as VIP transport for Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park, AOC Air Command South East Asia, who was based in Singapore.

Reformation - 59 Yorks: According to Wikipedia (RAF Abingdon), 59 Squadron were stationed at this base between 1st Dec. 1947 and June 1949, when they relocated to RAF Bassingbourne. It further notes that there was a detachment at RAF base Wunstorf, during the Berlin Airlift. They would later disband on 21st Oct. 1950. 59 was one of only 10 RAF Sqn's to be assigned a complement of the Avro York, with the new 59 Sqn code being "TB". The York was a British transport aircraft that was derived from the Avro Lancaster bomber, and used in both military and airliner roles between 1943 and 1964. During the war, the York was used by Transport Command on the England-India route, which 59 would later fly (post-war) with the B-24 Liberator.

Operations Begin: 59 Sqn's compliment was part of the second wave of Yorks to arrive to the main RAF base at Wunstorf (in the district of Hanover) on the 5th of July 1948, as part of Operation 'Carter Paterson' (the name of a well known removalist company in the UK at the time - and an unpopular name for the operation). The Airlift commenced from Wunstorf on the 10th, when MW173 of 59 Squadron flew 7695lb's of dehydrated potato into Berlin, landing at Gatow. The British powers had initially believed that the Soviet Union would back down after the first month but it soon became apparent that this was not the case and that more would need to be done. Operations were revised and 'Operation Plainfare' came into effect on the 4th of August. During the first month, the Yorks carried into Berlin 637 tons of supplies in 90 sorties. Under 'Carter Paterson', this figure was to rise considerably as the number of Yorks operating climbed to a maximum of 43. Under the new plan, it was called for that 30 Yorks, would fly 120 sorties daily but due to bad and unpredictable weather, the unserviceabilities of aircraft this target was quickly reduced to 100 but even this, was rarely met in the earlier months. The unserviceability issues were caused by the type of operations the aircraft were flying. The York had been built for long duration sorties but was now flying, short, one hour trips with frequent landings at far higher weights that it had been designed for. Thus putting much strain on the undercarriage components and it was these failures that caused the majority of accidents during the Airlift. More to follow soon...

No. 59 Squadron Avro York - MW327 - Overshot the 3300 ft Runway 28-10 on arrival from Berlin Airlift operations for servicing by Fairey Aviation. Repaired by Avro. Later to G-ANRC with Scottish Aviation. (source)


....:::: 59 Sqn York Crews ::::....

(Above: L-R) Cree, Ewart, Laing, Hobson, Wood

(Left: back L-R) F/L KJ Ryall DFC, F/L DI Jefferey (front: L-R) F/L LA Shawyer DFC, S/L EV Best AFC - in the background is 59 York - TB-L.

(L-R) Roffey, Buttle, Brooks, White DFM
(L-R) Bartley, Gwin, Howells, Phillips
(L-R) Farar, Gibson, Walker, Collar DFM
(L-R) Craxton, Padmore, Whitsun-Jones, Hopkins DFM
(L-R) Spencer, Preston, Marshall, Bradbury
(L-R) Anstee, Holyoak, Dodimead, Ware DFC
(L-R) Bray, Marshall, Atyeo, Springall
(L-R) Brown, Brown, Farrell, Walker
All images courtesy of World War II Images



roundel bar
This site was created by and information compiled by L.Del Mann - © 2008