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233 Squadron remembered

dad sepiaSqn Ldr D W "Barney" Barnard, KCVS, QCVS, OC 233 Squadron 1960 - 1962The 233 Squadron days, and in particular the Mogadishu flood relief operation, have produced so many recollections and made me so many new friends in the process, as well as rediscovering old friends, that I decided they needed a page of their own.  233 Sqn was based at RAF Khormaksar in Aden, and supplied all the Valettas which flew the supply drops in Somalia, as well as sending Dad to run the show.

The Aden Airways site has a great deal of information about the old British Protectorate, as well as pages dedicated to the various military units which served there, and most people found us via the 233 Sqn page - thanks to Peter Pickering for a most interesting and informative site!

Stuart Farrar found the 233 Squadron page on the Aden Airways site and was kind enough to send me these details:

Hello.  While browsing the history of 233 Squadron I came upon your comments. I served under your father 1961 to 1962 on the Squadron. I was one of three groundcrew on the flood relief detachment to Mogadishu.  May I say that your father was a true gentleman and much respected by the entire Squadron.  How nice to see his picture on the website.

I recall quite a bit about the Mogadishu operation. Apart from your father some of the aircrew were Flt Lt Vejay Singh (navigator), Master Pilot Johnny Mann, Flt Lt Farrell. The Groundcrew consisted of a Welsh engine corporal, an instrument mechanic Al Bimpson, and myself Stuart Farrar aircraft electrician. Al and I flew as despatchers on many supply drops.  I don't recall any parachute drops as all ours were "deaddrops".  It was a case of wheels down and full flaps to reduce airspeed and we tipped bags of grain through the open side door of the Valetta. Many times the drop zone was covered by hungry people so Al and I felt more like bomb aimers. On more than one occasion your father flew so low we came back with foliage from the trees in the undercarriage. By the way, as he was in charge of the whole operation he was known to other nationalities as Major Barnard.

Valetta at Khormaksar233 Sqn Valetta on the apron at RAF Khormaksar. Is that Dad with his back to the camera? Could be - looks like him. (Photo: Flt Lt Keith Webster. Used by kind permission)It's wonderful to hear from someone who was actually there as it makes the stories come alive. I knew about the Major Barnard bit:

Apparently Dad, as the officer commanding the operation, was interviewed by a New York Times journalist.  Once they had done the interview, the journalist asked Dad what his rank was, so Dad replied that he was a Squadron Leader.

"What's that?" asked the journalist.

Dad explained that it was equivalent in rank to an Army Major.

He subsequently made the New York Times as Squadron Leader Major Barnard.



Another person who found us via Aden Airways was Flt Lt Keith Webster, who served under Dad in 233 Sqn and also went along on the Mogadishu detachment.  He sent me these recollections:

I remember the Mogadishu operation very well and what hard work it was for the loaders down the back. Luckily they couldn't see the large birds (storks) which were a major hazard at low level in that area. Demanding flying indeed.

I wonder if Stu and friends ever realised they had competition for the airspace!


Dad and Keith flew the last aircraft from the detachment back to Khormaksar together.  As Keith told it: He and I were the operating crew on the return flight to Khormaksar of the last remaining aircraft from that detachment. I remember we took turns in hand flying it as the auto pilot had failed.

If only the pilots on Air France 447 had been able to do the same.  But as we gain more ability to control increasingly complex technology, we lose the instincts of these wonderful old "seat of the pants" pilots.

Keith is also an excellent hobby photographer, and sent me some wonderful photos, one of which he more or less stumbled across in an old log book (I can testify to what a treasure trove old log books are - without Dad's we wouldn't have a site!):

233 Squadron room at RAF Khormaksar233 Squadron room at RAF Khormaksar. Dad is on the left near the whiteboard. (Photo: Flt Lt Keith Webster. Used by kind permission.)

This pic is also part of the background to the pixel wall charity fundraiser - it's one of the few informal shots I've received.

You can see some more of Keith's RAF Khormaksar photos here.

More about the Squadron history here.