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RAF Gan 1958 and Later

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RAF Gan 1958 and Later

Old 11th Apr 2016, 21:39
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RAF Gan 1958 and Later

Part 1

As mentioned in an earlier post on the Gaining a Pilots’ Brevet thread — #8370 of 24th March this starts my piece about my memories of my time in Gan in 1958 (and later).
My daughter is in the travel trade and the “hotel buyer” for one of the UK’s leading travel agents, and a couple of years ago was responsible for clients (hotels) in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Peninsula. She travels extensively examining and assessing the quality of hotels who want to be included in her company’s travel brochures. Anyway whilst on one of her travels she met the General Manager of the Shangri La hotel group who recently opened a new 5-star hotel in Addu Atoll (Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa) the island adjacent to Gan.
Whilst chatting with the GM she mentioned that her father (me) had been stationed at Gan whilst it was being built in 1958 and I had an extensive collection of colour photographs that I took whilst at Gan. He was immediately interested and asked whether he could see some of my slides. I agreed and sent some for his perusal, having seen some he asked for more and I created an illustrated PDF file — 48-pages long — recording my memories of the island. The hotel has these processed these as an A5 booklet for the use of hotel guests.
One good thing came out of my photo efforts; the hotel asked whether I’d be prepared to go out to the Maldives and give a presentation about the building of Gan in 1958. The hotel has an extensive clientele who seem to be obsessed with the history of the place and were keen to hold a history week — which is where my giving a talk/PowerPoint talk presentation at their expense would fit in.
Shortly afterwards I received the go ahead to travel to the Maldives for a week to give my presentation to the hotel guests. As my daughter was the intermediary in the arrangements made with the Group, she and her husband were invited too. Audiences at my presentations were history buffs (mainly wealthy Chinese) with some Europeans (Dutch and German) and two families from the UK, locals who worked at the resort and pupils from the local island school.
So this thread will start with my illustrated reminisces of my R.A.F. time at Gan in 1958, followed by a bit about the islanders as they were in 1958, some further memories relating to Gan and finally Gan, Fedu, Hittadu and Villingili as they are today as seen during my recent visit.
Many photos are self explanatory, but others I've captioned as necessary.
There’s quite a lot to be posted, so bear with me if I’m slow in posting photos, commentary etc.

WT

Introduction
I arrived at Gan in January 1958 and departed back to England in November 1958. On the whole my time at Gan was pleasant and interesting and the sort of experience that occurs but once in one’s lifetime.
Being an avid photographer I recorded on film my life and experiences whilst on the island and the following pages contain some of my many photographs that illustrate what life was like as the sleepy island with a small crushed-coral runway was built into an international size airfield with a runway capable of accommodating the largest jets.
Also recorded are photographs of Maldive islanders that I photographed mainly on the island of Fedu. Given that these photographs were taken 58-years ago in 1958 and the children shown were then aged about six to nine years old, if they are still around they’ll be aged about sixty-years old now.






Gan as we knew it in 1958






As it was in 1976 when the RAF departed


R.A.F. GAN — BACKGROUND
Fringed with palm trees and coral and located in the Indian Ocean, it is hard to imagine a more idyllic setting for an RAF station than Gan, one of the Maldive Islands. The most southerly of a string of islands forming Addu Atoll.
Britain’s military connections with Gan go back to 1941 when, in anticipation of war in the Far East, a highly secret Safe Fleet Anchorage known as ‘Port T’ was built here. Later in the war a short airstrip was laid out and this was used by detachments from 160 Sqn flying Liberator bombers on coastal photo-reconnaissance, air/sea rescue and meteorological sorties whilst the lagoon was used by Sunderland flying boats from 230 Sqn as they patrolled the Indian Ocean. At the end of the war the military installations were dismantled and all Service personnel were withdrawn.
Gan’s post-war development began in 1956 following the realisation that Britain’s vital route to the Far East depended on the continued assurance of landing and over-flying rights from countries in Asia. This vulnerability of the empire reinforcement route led to the Chiefs of Staff’s quest for a staging post in the Indian Ocean between the Middle East bases and Singapore. The choice of location was virtually limited to Gan.
In 1956 Britain obtained permission to re-establish it’s wartime airfield on Gan and was informally granted a 100-year lease that required Britain paying the Maldives 2,000 a year. However, the election of a new Maldives prime minister in 1957 caused him to review the agreement, but nothing happened until 1960 when the Maldive government formally granted Britain the use of Gan and other facilities in Addu atoll for 30 years (backdated to 1956) in return for 100,000 a year plus some additional development aid. Britain continued to pay for its use until 1976 when the bases closed.
PLANS
Plans were drawn up for a single runway spanning the full length of the island, together with technical facilities and domestic accommodation for around 500 personnel. The contract for this work was let to Messrs Richard Costain, and an advance party of 5001 Airfield Construction Sqn led by Flight Lieutenant George McNeil arrived off Gan abroad HMS Modeste at the end of January 1957. The advance party’s tasks were to refurbish the wartime landing strip, survey the nearby island of Hittadu, which would later house a Signals Unit, and to build a power station and living quarters for the contractor’s workforce. Nearly 11,000 trees needed to be cleared and the most effective method of achieving this was found to be pushing them over with bulldozers. In addition, a 400 ft jetty had to be constructed for the landing of plant and heavy machinery. Initially the advanced party was supported twice-weekly by Sunderlands of 205/209 Sqn who were detached from Singapore to R.A.F. China Bay in Ceylon. From China Bay they made the twice-weekly run to Gan alighting on the lagoon with food, mail and personnel (Operation “SHIPS FLAG”).
Moorings, together with refuelling and basic servicing facilities, were established for the flying boats and by the end of 1957 the refurbished landing strip was ready to receive its first aircraft, a Bristol Freighter of 41 Sqn. Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) that flew in from Negombo, Ceylon.
With the opening of the refurbished crushed-coral runway the RAF started flying a regular twice weekly (later three times weekly) land plane service to Gan, flown by R.A.F. Far East Air Force Vickers Valettas and the and the occasional Royal New Zealand Air Force Bristol Freighter that had been detached to Katunayake (Negombo) for this task.
ARRIVAL
I arrived at Gan on 13th January 1958. I knew a little about the island and the plan to build it into a major staging post because for most of the previous year (1957) I’d been stationed at R.A.F. China Bay near Trincomalee on the north-eastern coast of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and knew (a) that Solomon Bandaranaike the prime minister of Ceylon at the time was keen to close the R.A.F. staging post at R.A.F. Katunayake, previously known as Negombo, about twenty miles north of Colombo and (b) by talking to the Sunderland flying boat crews who made the twice weekly supply flights to Gan.
Geographically Katunayake is situated half way between Aden and Singapore and was a vital refuelling stop for R.A.F. aircraft transiting to the Far East. With Negombo (Katunayake) no longer available a replacement refuelling stop (staging post) was required and Gan was selected.

Below Addu Atoll in WWII - IWM Photos


Hittadu in WWII. IWM Photo.



Short Sunderland Mark III, EJ143 "S", of No. 230 Squadron RAF Detachment, moored in the lagoon at Addu Atoll. IWM Photo.



WWII. Sunderland Mark III, EJ143 “S”, of No. 230 Squadron RAF Detachment, piloted by Flight Lieutenant A W Deller, taking off at Addu Atoll. IWM Photo



WWII. Airman keep fit by playing Badminton under the palms at Addu Atoll. IWM Photo.


WWII. A wind break constructed from ration boxes protects the small RAF camp at another island in the Maldives. IWM Photo.


To be continued.
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Old 11th Apr 2016, 21:39
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Continued - Part 2

January 1958 - Arrival

I arrived at Gan on 13th January 1958. I knew a little about the island and the plan to build it into a major staging post because for most of the previous year (1957) I’d been stationed at R.A.F. China Bay near Trincomalee on the north-eastern coast of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and knew (a) that Solomon Bandaranaike the prime minister of Ceylon at the time was keen to close the R.A.F. staging post at R.A.F. Katunayake, previously known as Negombo, about twenty miles north of Colombo and (b) by talking to the Sunderland flying boat crews who made the twice weekly supply flights to Gan.
Geographically Katunayake is situated half way between Aden and Singapore and was a vital refuelling stop for R.A.F. aircraft transiting to the Far East. With Negombo (Katunayake) no longer available a replacement refuelling stop (staging post) was required and Gan was selected.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Accommodation was primitive. For the first couple of months we lived in dark-brown coloured tents which considering we were only 42-miles south of the equator absorbed the heat from the sun and were horrendously hot. Mosquito nets over the beds at night were standard and added to the discomfort, but thankfully there was nearly always a sea breeze that made things a little more bearable.
Life was “a bit basic” in our tented camp — open air ablutions, screened by Hessian, with a large galvanised tank raised on a high platform to give “head” to the showers. These were filled with fresh water pumped from pipes sunk some 20 feet into the ground. Gan was literally floating on an aquifer of fresh water, replenished by rainfall. This water was pretty pungent – smelling of bad-eggs and had to be filtered over charcoal and purified before use for cooking and drinking, but for showers the water was used ‘as is’. Toilets were thunder boxes, no lids, just a seat that were emptied regularly by our local labour into the sea.
Because of the open-air toilets, the ‘squitters’, a form of dysentery affected most of us, symptoms appeared shortly after arrival and continued for a week or two. There was no obvious cure, but following the initial bout of illness things settled down and we seemed to gain some sort of immunity and were no longer affected. The Medical Officer advised us to take the usual hygiene precautions — washing hands, fruit etc, but we all seemed to succumb shortly after arrival and it soon became a rite of passage for new arrivals to be affected until acclimatised. General consensus was that the uncovered open air toilets, plus the hoards of flies that swarmed around them was the source of the infection, but once we'd recovered we were OK.
“Squitters” apart, everybody seemed remarkably healthy. To help in the fight against malaria which was endemic in the Maldive Islands, we were instructed to take a daily dose of Paludrine. Bottles containing the tablets were on the mess tables, we just helped ourselves to one a day. To avoid mosquito bites dress regulations after dark when outside, was to wear long-sleeved shirts, long trousers and “Mossie Boots” (desert boots with long legs that reached half-way up the calf).
Another health requirement was to take a daily salt tablet to replace the salt lost from the body by sweat. These salt tablets were most unpalatable and often would make one sick, but I found the easiest method of ingesting additional salt was to lace one’s food, especially soup, with lots of table salt, which seem to do the trick.
Mail from the UK was quick and regular, as were UK newspapers (albeit about 10-days old), so with regular mail and U.K. newspapers, frequent cinema shows etc. spirits were high. About the only time we all felt despondent was when U.K. mail was late in arriving, but this was rare.
At the rear of the Mess-hall/Cook-house we had an open air cinema, with a screen on a framework, permanently fixed in place to convenient palm trees. The projection room was built on to the cook-house at roof level and there was a show every other night — films were flown in on the regular flights from Katunayake and changed regularly. As to seating — bring your own seat out of the mess and a ground sheet to cover your head if it rained and wear a long-sleeved shirt and long boots as protection against the voracious mossies.

VISITORS
There were two memorable visitors during my time at Gan:
Dr Hans Hass the renowned underwater explorer / oceanographer.
Air Marshal The Earl of Bandon (C-in-C FEAF).
I photographed both these visitors during their visit. Photographs follow.


MY PHOTOGRAPHS
Photographs are mainly self-explanatory, but where necessary I’ve annotated them accordingly.

FINALLY
I spent eleven months at Gan from January to November 1958 and during that time had a one week leave break in Singapore.
As a postscript shortly after I returned to the UK I changed my R.A.F. career and remustered as an Air Quarter Master (Loadmaster) and in September 1959 joined 99 Squadron at R.A.F. Lyneham in Wiltshire flying the newly introduced into R.A.F. service Bristol Britannia turbo-prop airliners.
I did over 3,000 hours flying with 99 Sqn and must have visited R.A.F. Gan dozens of times from late 1959 onwards and it always amazed me as to how it had developed from the primitive airfield I remember from my service there back in 1958.



“Thunderboxes” — an example of the primitive toilet facilities available when I first arrived at Gan. They were infested by flies which caused the “squitters” (a form of dysentery) until one gained immunity. A hessian (sacking) screen (not shown here) gave some degree of modesty between the toilet holes.



For the first year (1957) the initial contingent of R.A.F. airfield construction workers were supplied and maintained with the essentials of life by the twice-weekly supply-run from R.A.F. China Bay in Sri Lanka which operated Sunderland flying boats from 205/209 Squadron R.A.F. as seen here moored at Gan.

VHF/DF Operator
My trade in the R.A.F. until 1959 was as a radio operator, more precisely a VHF Direction Finder Operator (D/F Operator). This meant using radio DF equipment installed in a Radio Vehicle (RV 105) to establish the bearing (direction) of an aircraft when it used its VHF Radio transmitter. Determining the bearing of the aircraft from the ground station allowed the aircraft (and the ground station) to plot where it was on a map for example. The VHF/DF was also able to give the aircraft a ‘course to steer’ to the airfield and using a special technique would allow an experienced controller to guide an aircraft on a QGH “controlled descent through cloud” to line it up for a safe landing on the runway when the airfield was obscured by cloud. In the 1950’s this was a standard R.A.F. approach procedure to be superseded from the late 1950’s onwards by modern radar and automatic instrument landing systems that made the VHF/DF job redundant.
Anyway here are a couple of views of the radio vehicle in which the DF equipment was installed.



“Tatty” state of the VHF/DF Vehicle as delivered to Gan.



This shows how I painted it white (with a 3-inch brush!) to help reduce the interior heat.



In it’s finished “like new” painted state.



1950's Routes to the Far East



Routes to the Far East via Gan c.1960



A Vickers Valetta, the military version of the Vickers Viking civilian airliner was used on the Ceylon to Gan air-bridge. The Valetta could carry up to 36 passengers together with freight. The flying time from R.A.F. Katunayake near Colombo in Ceylon to Gan was about three hours forty-five minutes. The normal routine was for the flight to leave Katunayake early in the morning, arrive Gan around mid-morning, discharge passengers and freight, refuel, load-up and return to Katunayake the same day.





On arrival aircraft were instructed to fly low along the runway to alert any workers working on or near the runway to remain clear until the aircraft had landed — as seen here.









The refurbished crushed coral runway was used until the new concrete runway had been built.



Tent city — my living accommodation for the first couple of months of my time at Gan.


A view inside

More to come!
WT
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Old 12th Apr 2016, 04:01
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WT
Looks like you were there just after it opened, and I was there just before it closed, coming home in November '76. I had the chance of staying to the end (March '76 I think) and coming home on the Grey Funnel Line, but I opted for a short tour, something I've regretted ever since.
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Old 12th Apr 2016, 07:58
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WT, I served in Gan between 74/75 as the Flight Planning Clerk. We had an Ops Cpl Bill Coe who you may have known as he like yourself was there at the beginning of the build and his photos although not so numerous were fascinating. As an aside after returning to UK in 75 I went to Upavon in the Group HQ Ops room from where I also remustered to ALM flying on Wessex, Hercules and VC10.
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Old 12th Apr 2016, 08:38
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WT ... Splendid Thread with some wonderful pics ... Looking forward to the next instalment
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Old 12th Apr 2016, 09:54
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Never served at Gan but went there many times with the Hercules. Took HMQ's Daimler cars there so she could travel in comfort the short distance from the airhead to the camp. Always enjoyed my stays.
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Old 12th Apr 2016, 10:15
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Outstanding stuff, Warmtoast. I eagerly await the next instalment.

As a side issue, I was an ATCO at Tengah 67-70. We evolved a cunning plan, whereby we would do a controller swap between Tengah and Gan for a 2-week rotation. The idea was that we could escape to that lovely little atoll for a couple of weeks away from the heat, humidity and bustle of Singapore, whilst the Gan controller could spend a couple of weeks in 'civilisation' and brush up on his PAR skills [which were undoubtedly rusty] in a busy ATC environment. It seemed like a win-win situation, both professionally and personally, for everyone ... but for some reason HQ FEAF declined to approve the plan.

However, the Gan ATCOs [and I assume others there as well] were allowed, at the end of their year on Gan, to complete another 1 1/2 years in FEAF with a posting to Singapore. One of my very good old mates arrived in Tengah Tower on that basis.
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Old 12th Apr 2016, 12:49
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Super warmtoast, keep going.
This brings back memories, because when 204 shut down at Honington in '72 I was posted on a TASF course and then to Gan, but when I told them that I only had just over a year to go and thus no time for the course and a tour I was asked where I wanted to go so I went back to the secret squirrels until I left the RAF.
I have always regretted not getting to Gan
Regards, Den.
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Old 12th Apr 2016, 13:29
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Hugh72.

I was the flight planning clerk at Gan in 1975.
Tony G was SATCO then, Flt Sgt Dave L one of the ATCO's, Cpl Tommy H and one of the airman was Dave A. I'm trying to remember the others!
We lived in block 60 right next to the threshold.
I must have taken over from you.
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Old 12th Apr 2016, 14:17
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I was the flight planning clerk at Gan in 1975. Tony G was SATCO then
Oh, thanks for the reminder ... I owe him a phone call!!

The private ATC Old and Bold community has some lovely photos of Gan, but we're not allowed to re-distribute them.
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Old 12th Apr 2016, 15:57
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Anyone know what became of the three 16in (?) guns that were left lying on the beach at the South Eastern end of the island. Rumour had it, in 1970, that they had been positioned to provide sea defences for Force H/Port T and guard the channel into the anchorage during the war, and had been left there and the turret blown up because it was too difficult to remove them. Certainly still there at the end of '72.
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Old 12th Apr 2016, 16:24
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Shackman,

There were a couple of guns, just barrels, in front of SHQ when I was there in '75.


I've just had a butchers at giggle earth and it looks like their extending the runway at Gan. Seems a bit strange as we took VC-10's and Nimrods. Still I suppose it will save on the transfer from Male if they can fly direct into Gan.
When I went back in 2001, stayed in the Equator Village Hotel, the former Warrant Offers and Seageant's Mess.

For non Brits Butchers = Butchers Hook = Look, in Cockney rhyming slang!
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Old 12th Apr 2016, 16:54
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uffington sb. You may well be correct. Dave A and I are still very much in touch as we were together at Brize before Gan and although for a long time we didn't cross paths we now meet up about once a year with two others that we knew at Brize. As for Gan the other two airmen were Roger H and Vaughn J both stayed in the Air Traffic world and became WO's as did Dennis R from Ops who ended up at Upavon with me and then Lyneham. of the top of my head I cannot remember the other names but I will look them up. Huge
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Old 12th Apr 2016, 19:22
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Uffington ab

Indeed they are extending the runway to take direct flight from afar. Mostly I believe for the Shangri la on Willingilli which is expensive. I went on holiday in 2014 and stayed in Equator Village and had a great but very quiet time. Used to visit between 1972 and 1974 with the dental team from Hong Kong and always enjoyed myself. Best of both worlds. I'm not sure I could have put up with tents and then a 3 inch brush to make the accommodation cooler. Still I bet they had some way of making the beer cool. Worst moment was having a bottle of gordons on the verandah but only cherryade from the NAAFI soft drinks machine.

Warmtoast what a great post thank you.
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Old 12th Apr 2016, 19:58
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Good post WT, can’t wait for the next installment. I was on Gan in 1967 working at the HF Receiver site on the other side of the runway. I enjoyed my time on Gan, and have many good memories of the place.

Bob C
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Old 12th Apr 2016, 20:47
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Continued - Part 3






14th February 1958. This 47 Sqn R.A.F. Abingdon-based Beverley serial number XB263, piloted by F/Lt Peter Dudley, flew in the advance contingent of Pakistani workers who were to do most of the construction work to convert Gan from a sleepy island with a short crushed-coral landing strip to a busy RAF staging post with an 8,694ft/2,650m long concrete runway.
With the aid of the already on-site UK-based workers from Messrs Richard Costain & Co, the main contractors for the project to construct the staging post at Gan, the first job of these Pakistani workers was to build accommodation for the main force of temporary workers due to arrive from Pakistan. With this done Pakistani labourers arrived regularly on the island by R.A.F. planes and chartered boats — at the height of the building boom 1,200 Pakistanis, local Maldivians and UK workers were employed in the construction of the runway and infrastructure of a modern R.A.F. staging post/air base that included living quarters, runway, concrete aircraft parking area, air traffic control tower, medical centre, hangers, fuel storage tanks etc. etc.


Marine Craft
As well as a High-Speed Rescue launch the R.A.F. Marine Craft Unit at Gan operated two (later three) WW2 LCM (Landing Craft Men) boats for offloading cargo vessels bringing in stores and machinery. The arrival in March 1958 of two tugs and six lighters to be manned by Pakistani crews meant that most cargo was discharged from visiting vessels in much greater quantities than was possible by the R.A.F. crews alone. Although the loads were shared between the R.A.F. with their LCMs and the Pakistanis with their tugs and lighters, the bulk of heavy and bulky cargo and in particular the large quantities of cement in 112lb (50kg.) bags that arrived on palettes in ship-loads of 1,500 and 2,400 tons at a time was more suited to be off-loaded into lighters designed for the task rather than LCMs.
The experienced Pakistani tugboat crews and stevedores coped well and by the middle of the year there was a constant stream of tugboats and lighters from the anchored cargo vessels to the newly constructed long jetty that could accommodate two lighters at a time, one on either side. Whilst I don’t have the full figures for the period whilst I was at Gan (January to November 1958), between January and August 1958, 38 cargo vessels called at Gan and discharged over 20,000 tons of cargo with an average delivery rate of over 2,500 tons per month.



This R.A.F. High-speed recue launch was used to take the marine Pilot to ships arriving at Gan.





Below
In the early days these R.A.F. LCMs ferried the bulk of freight and cargo from cargo vessels anchored in the lagoon to the original short WW2 jetty as seen here. Once the longer and more modern jetty had been built the cargo was ferried ashore by Pakistani crewed tugs and lighters manned by experienced crews and stevedores.










The original R.A.F. Marine Craft unit landing craft of the type used during the D-Day landings during WW2 were used for offloading smaller items of freight





Brocklebank Line, the Liverpool-based shipping company had the main contract to bring in supplies and cargo necessary to build a modern airfield. This photo shows a Brocklebank vessel (left) and a Ben Line cargo ship (right) with cargo for Gan. Two newly arrived tugs can be seen tied-up to a buoy. From mid-1958 six lighters towed by these two tugs ferried most cargo ashore to the newly-built long jetty.



The new long jetty under construction. A channel was blasted through the coral reef and steel piles were driven deep into the seabed as shown here. This new jetty was dredged on either side to allow lighters to be off-loaded two at a time and replaced the original very short and rickety WW2 jetty.


Sometimes crane drivers using the original WW2 jetty could get it badly wrong as seen here. A bulldozer (below) came to the rescue and dragged it onto the beach to be repaired!












Bulldozers and Earthmovers cleared the trees and scrub from the island. In all 11,000 trees were cleared to make space for the new facilities.


I just had to have a go! Not much to hit, but the biggest piece of kit I've ever driven.


More to come
WT

Last edited by Warmtoast; 12th Apr 2016 at 21:05.
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Old 12th Apr 2016, 21:29
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Part 4

I have to do these in small 'posts' as PPRuNe only allow 15 photos per post.
WT










Signals staff together with local help from Maldive islanders (who wove the “attap” Kadjan walls and roof) made this original January 1958 Air Traffic Control hut (below).







Signals trucks were manned by wireless operators who with their direct W/T link to the signals centre in Ceylon kept us in contact with the outside world and with incoming aircraft and ships.



February 1958: The fuel dump. Each barrel of aviation fuel held 44-gallons (200 litres) and had to be manhandled and transferred to a bowser to refuel arriving aircraft — 5,000 barrels x 200ltrs = 1 million litres!

More to follow
WT
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Old 13th Apr 2016, 08:10
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Please excuse nit-picking, but this great piece of work deserves to be 100%

You said "... operated two (later three) WW2 LCM (Landing Craft Men) boats ..."

Is that not >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landing_Craft_Mechanized
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Old 13th Apr 2016, 08:30
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I wonder how the Beverley got to Gan. Via Colombo I suppose.
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Old 13th Apr 2016, 10:59
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I have many fond memories of Gan after eight years on 99 Sqn Britannias. I was slipping in Gan when it became the Cape Canaveral of the Indian Ocean in the late sixties. British Aerospace, or whatever it was called then, set up shop on the south side of the runway. It was sort of hush hush and we were not welcome in the area, but ISTR there was only one rocket, about 20/30 feet long, mounted on a mobile launch pad, called Blue something, It was Great Britain's contribution to the International Meteorological Year when measuring probes would be launched simultaneously from various points on the globe to collect met data from the edge of space. Blast off was a planned for 1800 local and the countdown was going to relayed over the tannoy system, so the VC10 and Britannia slip crews, armed with an ample supply of beer set up camp outside the Blue Spitoon to watch the firework display. At 1755 the countdown stopped and we waited with bated breath. One hour and several beers later the countdown resumed. The launch was impressive as the bright flame from the rocket disappeared into the clear night sky.
Impressed and feeling quite proud, we all returned to the crew bar to continue with what we were doing before the launch. Around ten-o-clock the Tannoy crackled into life and announced: Due to a technical fault the descent parachute system failed to deploy and our rocket crashed into the ocean 50 miles east of Mauritius with the loss of all data. We were still impressed, but not so proud!

Maldivian workers boats with the Marine Craft Shed in the background ca. 1967/70



Various lighters and Marine Craft



Over twenty years later the airport ramp at Male felt exactly like Gan


Last edited by brakedwell; 13th Apr 2016 at 14:17. Reason: predictive text
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