The following comment was left on the site by someone known only as “John”. Unfortunately, I have no way of contacting John for more information as he is not a registered visitor. However, what he has to say is quite interesting and as such I decided to share it. If you have any information that could back up some of the following claims it would be much appreciated and if enough information is gathered I may make it the subject of an article in the future.
Speaking of RAF aircraft in Vietnam/S.E. Asia my Grandfather regularly flew Armstrong Whitworth AW.660 Argosy’s on logistics & VIP flights to Tan Son Nut Airbase in Saigon, & Ubon Airbase Thailand from 1965 to 1968. I believe it was something to do with aiding our SEAC allies, mainly logistically supporting the Commonwealth nations Australia & New Zealand, who’d both been fighting alongside us in Borneo & the Malayan Peninsula during the Confrontation with Indonesia. He was especially involved with the Australians as he made a lot of flights to Australia (after peace with Indonesia). VIP’s were often high-ranking Generals, commanders of Far East Command & it’s branches going to meet with opposites in Saigon, probably to offer advice on COIN tactics developed in Malayan Emergency & refined in the Confrontation… though why they opted to travel in a military cargo freighter over a passenger aircraft I can only guess maybe they had a lot of “baggage”?
I’ve also seen reports of other RAF aircraft types in South Vietnam besides Bev’s & Argosy’s though it’s hard to know the real mission due to dubious official reasoning for their presence. For instance supposedly when a huge Short Belfast was spotted at Tan Son Nut & queried I believe the Govt response was “it’s the Ambassadors personal aircraft”. It often comes up about RAF Canberra’s flying over Vietnam, even a Vulcan photographed flying low over the Mekong delta that didn’t have to go that route to say get to Hong Kong which makes you wonder. Regarding the other services I’ve heard of rather hefty Royal Signals detachment stationed at the British Embassy Saigon, & Royal Engineers helping to build “Civilian” airstrips in Thailand (which mainly got used by Air America), then there’s training programs in Malaya & Borneo, British Advisory Mission (BRIAM), NATO/SEAC exchanges, Special Forces & MI6/GCHQ (British Embassy Hanoi intel gathering & sharing through 5 eye’s). We certainly did a tad more than we ever let on.
My Grandad had also earlier flown Beverley’s in UK, Europe, Aden/M.East, Africa, & out to the Far East he said it was a great aircraft, really good at the role it was designed & a real workhorse. A flying block of flats! Apparently the tribesmen in Aden couldn’t believe such a thing could take-off or fly let alone land/stop on such short rudimentary runways. It was one of the favourite aircraft he served on in his time in the RAF… though I think that might have had something to do with the medium-range meaning on the way back to the UK they could choose quite a lot of nice locations to stop in at for a jolly!