207 SQUADRON ROYAL AIR FORCE HISTORY
VP968 with Group Captain Swiney
UK Air Attaché, South Vietnam
During 1969-71 Air Commodore M J E Swiney OBE RAF(Retd) was serving as UK Air Attaché, South Vietnam . He describes his use of VP962 in the period shortly before it was transferrred to 207 Squadron:
I flew both VP978 and VP962. Although 978 did me well - I took it to Hong Kong from Saigon, refuelling at Da Nang - 962 was a great improvement with its uprated engines and nav fit. The highest airfield I flew into was Dalat in the Central Highlands at 4931 ft AMSL, added to which there was the knowledge that the Vietcong occupied the surrounding jungle. I would not have liked to have lost an engine on take off in 978!
Gp Capt Swiney with his other Devon (VP978)
'at our parking slot Saigon/Tan Son Nhut.
Unfortunately we were too big to get in the
blast-proof shelters so had to hope for the best!'
[source: M J E Swiney]
962 was fitted with TACAN which made life easy as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand were all covered with beacons, and I went to them all. I reckon I had the most enviable job for a Group Captain in the Service, as I had an aircraft full time together with a navigator and a crew chief, whereas the only other Devon in Air Attaché use was shared between Bangkok and Jakarta.
The crew-chief was a pearl beyond price and could 'get blood out of a stone' to ensure that the aircraft kept flying. Deeper servicing was done in Singapore and during one of these 962 was found to have some corrosion, in the tailplane attachment area I believe. We were allowed to continue to fly provided that we took it to Changi every two months for a check.
As you can imagine this was no hardship in the circumstances of living in Saigon and my Assistant and I took it in turns.
VP962 at Hue/Phu Bai, S Vietnam (between Da Nang and the border with N Vietnam) on 1 July 1970.
Pilot - Gp Capt M J E Swiney, Nav - M Nav B Pearson [source: M J E Swiney]
The most amazing thing about the tour in Vietnam with those two Devons was that there were no rules to guide me on what I should (or should not) do. There were no Air Staff Instructions, Command Flying Orders etc. Neither I nor my Assistant had an Instrument Rating on the Devon since there was no-one in the area to give us one.
Nor had we a Transport Command Category to carry passengers, which seemed a bit quaint when I found myself on one occasion taking no less than three Ambassadors back to Saigon when I had been visiting Phnom Penh! However, since I was a former QFI and IRE and my Assistant was a former IRE and t.p. qualified, I reckoned we could cope!
The only advice I was given, orally by a C-in-C, was 'not to be a bloody fool and lose the aeroplane!'
The Air Attaché relieves his youth! Taken by the Assistant Air Attaché from a
Vietnamese Navy warship near the border with Cambodia.
VP962 7 Jan 1971: Pilot - Gp Capt M J E Swiney, Nav - M Nav B Pearson
[source: M J E Swiney]
The Americans were marvellous and put every briefing facility at my disposal, including that of Air America, the clandestine CIA-backed organisation who operated a whole range of aircraft with no markings, painted black, within Vietnam and surrounding countries tied up in the war.
As the USAF Commanding General said to me in person 'it makes sense to give you these facilities rather than risk my men having to risk themselves later on getting you out of a mess which could have been prevented'. Indeed a wise old owl, who wore a British DFC on his third row!
Devon C.2 VP 962
Collected from Singapore/RAF Seletar on 22 Oct 1969, air tested and landed at Singapore/RAF Changi.
Flown same day to Saigon/Tan Son Nhut, via Kuantan (Malaysia) for refuelling.
Sorties/hours by Air Attaché: 159 sorties in the period 22.10.69-15.3.71, totalling 266 flying hours. The Assistant Attaché also flew the aircraft.
M J E Swiney 8 Jan 2001