A comment regarding British forces in the Vietnam War


Beverley landing rough

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!


Rolling Thunder Vietnam War battle re enactment at Fortress Wales 2016

The members of the Rolling Thunder, a UK-based living history group dedicated to the US soldiers who served in Vietnam re-enact a battle that took place in 1968 between the 1st Air Cavalry Division and the Viet Cong.

Not “British” but a fascinating demonstration nonetheless.

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American aircraft at the Helicopter Museum

A collection of the American manufactured aircraft on display at the Helicopter Museum in Weston-Super-Mare, UK.
History: The Helicopter Museum
Photos: Tony Wilkins


Bell UH-1H Iroquois, 66-16579, C/N. 8771.
Built 1967 in Hurst, Texas, as a 13-seat utility transport helicopter powered by one Lycoming T53-L-13 turboshaft engine. Total production of the UH-1 family since 1956 has exceeded 13,000 aircraft. Originally built in 1967 as a UH-1D it was immediately shipped to South East Asia in support of the Vietnam War effort. It was later upgraded to UH-1H standard and stationed in West Germany; in August 1990 it deployed to Saudi Arabia for the Gulf War. Donated to the Museum in 1992 and collected by road transport it arrived in August 1992. Re-assembly began almost immediately, although some missing components had to be found through various sources before the work could be completed.

Hughes OH-6A Cayuse, 67-16506.
Built 1968 in Culver City, California, USA this four-seat Army scout-utility helicopter is powered by a 317 shp Allison T63-A turboshaft and was delivered for operatiomns in Vietnam in 1968. It was shot down in 1970 but rebuilt for further service with the Army National Guard until retirement and subsequent acquisition by the Museum. The airframe was delivered to Weston-super-Mare at the end of September 1999.


Piasecki HUP-3 Retriever, RCN 622/51-16622,C/N. 51.
Following the success of the early Piasecki HRP naval helicopter, which on the 7th March 1945 was the first practical tandem rotor (fore & aft rotors) to fly, the Piasecki company began a smaller design and the first prototype flew in October 1948. The aircraft on display at the Museum, was one of the three HUP-3s to enter service with the Royal Canadian Navy for utility and search and rescue missions and built in 1954 in Morton, Pennsylvania, USA. With the help of The Helicopter Association International, the HUP-3 was donated to the Helicopter Museum, which had it restored in Philadelphia by volunteers at Boeing Helicopters. It was shipped to the UK in November 1991 and then transported by road to Weston-super-Mare by Museum volunteers. The aircraft is the only example of a Piasecki helicopter in the UK.

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VIDEO: HMS Eagle Documentary, 1968

A fascinating documentary made by prominent BBC reporter James Cameron (not to be confused with the director of Titanic and Avatar) covering one of the last cruises by the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle (R05) while she sailed the Far East in 1968. A known pacifist and campaigner for nuclear disarmament following his coverage of the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests for the BBC, Cameron takes an almost aggressive approach to interviews in the documentary and I am sure that some of the sailors aboard Eagle were glad to see him and his team go.

As much a psychological assessment of living on a carrier as it is about the machine, Cameron narrates splendidly describing the men and machines in an almost Shakespearean fashion. One of the most fascinating parts of the video takes place around the 25 minute mark when Cameron asks a group of sailors if they feel that all the training is pointless if there is no war. This brings up a rather heated debate about why maintaining a strong military, including carriers, is an important part of defence particularly regarding the cost of operating them which Cameron goes to great lengths to emphasize.This was at the heart of the debate for scrapping the carriers and its interesting to view it without the benefit of hindsight. There is even a reference to the Vietnam War which we are told is taking place just a hundred miles from the ship at the time, well within range of the aircraft.