The following account of Operation Kharna Cascade are extracts from a 'Field Diary' maintained at the time by Gerry Keyworth and Bob Turner.
In early 1973, due to a failure of the harvest in the higher valleys of Nepal and the real risk of starvation to the local population, the British Government decided to offer assistance. This was to be in the form of rice and grain, over 4000 tons of which was planned to be delivered to the inaccessible areas by air drop. The Operation was to be called Khana Cascade and a UKMAMS team from Abingdon was deployed to Nepal to work the airhead.
Jim Marchant, Alan (Boot) Pratt, Tony Barrell, Bob Turner, Gerry Keyworth, Colin Hughes
The team arrived on the first aircraft into Bhairawa at 1330 hours. The load had to be completely manhandled off, along with the other 2 aircraft loads. Freight from all 3 aircraft was dragged, carried or put on whatever wheels were available, including a landrover, and even fire extinguisher stands with bottles removed were used - the classic was a set of aircraft steps stacked high with compo! After this, a great deal of work was involved preparing the tented camp which the Nepalese army and the Ghurkas had pitched. By later that evening 50% of the camp had electric lighting installed. We finished the day with a few beers (6p a tin) which were thoroughly enjoyed - in fact we had drunk our first beer ration dry.
As the week progressed, more and more aircraft appeared with loads for the air despatch operation being mounted by 55 Company AD. As no handling aids were delivered for the MAMS team, the help from 55 Coy was invaluable. 20 years on I suppose it's now safe to mention the excitement caused when a 24 Squadron Hercules 'whistled' off the end of the runway. At the end of the week sufficient bales of bags, chutes, etc had been received for the Army to begin the air drops. Our dwindling beer stocks were also boosted with the delivery of a further 10,000 cans.
In between the resupply flights the team engaged themselves in assisting the other elements of the detachment in getting organised. They were also used for the role changes due to the reluctance of the engineers to get involved (nothing changes!). The team now began learning the art of air despatch and assisted 55 Coy in building loads. Although the local town is still out of bounds we manage to get there on LPO runs with WO Trevor Tipton, the Supply WO who is ex-UKMAMS! The cook is giving us dirty looks, he cannot compete with the UKMAMS Det kitchen park!
Tuesday 6 March 1973. The other half of the team finally arrive; Tony, Colin and Boot. We are now having to cease work between 1100 and 1500 because of the intensity of the sun. No 1 Shab (Gerry Keyworth) trying to have a detachment badge made. The camp beginning slowly to get intermingled, but aircrew having their usual tantrums, trying to commandeer the most essential items on the campsite! On Wednesday Bob and Colin went up to assist air despatch on one of the free drops. Aircraft lost No 2 engine and diverted to Lucknow in India for a night-stop, no night-stopping gear carried! Tony has taken over the kitchen pack-up and got things organised. No 1 Shab fell down outside of engineers' tent and got covered in mud.
Thursday 8 March 1973. Loaded aircraft with rations and NAAFI stores for Biratnagar. This aircraft had just finished doing low level because its ramp was ripped, beware 48 Sqn! McNasty and Colin arrived back after a disastrous night-stop in Lucknow. Team spent next few days despatching.
Clean up after previous night's disastrous storm. TSW lost their tent which was on loan from MAMS. Tent was found about a quarter of a mile away. Loaded aircraft for Biratnagar and proceeded with the aircraft to do recce for withdrawal of detachment. Loaded aircraft out of Biratnagar, offloaded aircraft on arrival at Bhairawa. Off to see other half of film which was interrupted by last night's storm!
Lack of proper MAMS handling aids causing unnecessary sweat. The MAMS Nepalese blue trolley doing a storming job. Biratnagar withdrawal begins, MAMS still relying too much on AD for handling aids. All their vehicles committed to despatching, but for the blue trolley MAMS would have been sunk. To think that all the handling aids are sitting in the hangar back at Abingdon. We are flogging back and forth with the trolley over unprepared areas.
Monday 19 March 1973. We now have working tent No 3. Colin and myself went on a day's safari, Tansen really interesting. Team has now taken over the airlanded task. Minimum of 4 aircraft a day. Team loaded first aircraft for Sirkhet with Bob and Jim on board, along with an engineer to lay PSP for an aircraft hardstanding. Both stayed until third aircraft to see what the state of hardstanding would be after the use by aircraft. Rest of team completed loading at Bhairawa.
Loaded another 4 aircraft for air landing task - the 4th did not go. Wing Commander's pep talk, aiming to put out 100 tons per day. Obviously did not apply to our chalk 4 today! A ration of 'Tiger' Beer arrived from the Ghurka Camp, a most thoughtful loan.
Thursday 22 March 1973. Long day, 38,000 lbs payload at a time. Beer rationed to one can, a miserable night!
Saturday 24 March 1973. Very early start, 6 airland assault aircraft for Sirkhet. No 1 Shab, Colin and Boot for Kathmandu to offload Belslow - 3 days slow! (Belslow = Belfast).
Monday 26 March 1973. Beer arrived; blue trolley performing to its usual high standard. Decision not yet made on recovery date. Wing Commander's brief, possibility of further 5 day stay - sense of humour failure!! Air landing of maize at Sirkhet continues. In between Bob and Colin did a Tac Offload at Kathmandu. Bit of aggro with ground engineering.
Saturday 31 March 1973. Withdrawal begins. Jim now qualified on Indian power set and 10KVA operating. Camp getting smaller by the day. Tony having to do walkabout of each section to make sure that equipment for chalk is ready for collection.
Tuesday 3 April 1973. Loaded chalk 4, Tony doing walkabout. Our new 47 AD loading team doing well! All now qualified on Eager Beaver. No 1 Shab destroyed NATO pallet of compo. Chalk 5 loaded. MAMS have now taken over crash one task, Boot at the controls!
Chalks 6 and 7 arrive. More beer at last. This time enough beer to last all the detachment about a week; pity 90% have gone home!
This new issue KD is rubbish - buttons and seams parting. Moved into new location, disused fire station. We now hold all the beer for the detachment and fridge. Chalks 6 and 7 depart. MAMS now doing marshalling. Disused fire station - it is just like home!
Saturday 7 April 1973. Turner lies dying on his bed. Has been given the hour and a half treatment. One pill every 10 minutes for one and a half hours.
Monday 9 April 1973. Eager Beaver has broken sump. MAMS doing electrical engineering, marshalling and water purification, etc. Cooking now for whole detachment
Wednesday 11 April 1973. Flights 4914 and 4915 depart - we're going home...