It wasn’t possible to honour Nos.38 and 46 Groups’ airmen without also honouring the Air Despatchers of the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) who flew with them.
At the time of the writing of this article, the Air Despatchers Roll of Honour stated that 125 Air Despatchers lost their life in mission with Nos.38 and 46 Groups’ airmen including 80 during operation Market Garden in September 1944 (one Air Despatcher shot down during the operation will die in captivity on 27 February 1945).
The Air Despatchers were responsible for the Army supplies that the aircraft were carrying.
Ari-Jan Van Hees in his must have book “Green On!” has written a formidable history (including numerous Veterans’ stories) of the Royal Army Service Corps Air Despatchers since its creation in 1940 in complement of the Airborne Forces.
The 2 principal aircraft that will be used since the first operational sortie of the Air Despatchers on the night of 06 June 1944 are the Short Stirling (with 2 Air Despatchers) and the Douglas Dakota (with 4 Air Despatchers).
To be an Air Despatcher was a hard physical job that needed a great skill to drop supplies as soon as the orders were given by the Captain of the aircraft, in a very little short time (8 seconds in a Stirling and 8 to 12 seconds in a Dakota), in an aircraft that sometimes in war conditions couldn’t fly straight and with always in mind its own security to prevent himself from falling from the aircraft.
Extracted from Ari-Jan’s book, here are the words of a Glider Pilot who, fighting in the Perimeter in September 1944, witnessed the supplies being dropped:
“As to the aircrews and the Air Despatchers on the resupply drops, what can one say? I am sure we on the ground, had nothing but admiration for them and I only wish that their efforts had been better rewarded by a total success on our part”.
They deserve our recognition and their place next to the No.38 and 46 Group airmen.
2 must have books written by Ari-Jan Van-Hees:
– “Green On!” The story of Arnhem re-supplies
A detailed survey of the British parachute re-supplies sorties during operation, ‘Marker Garden’ 18-25 September 1944
– Tugs and Gliders to Arnhem”
A detailed survey of the British glider towing operations during operation ‘Market Garden’ 17, 18 and 19 September 1944