Guyana Then And Now

BG Airways

British Guiana Airways Limited, just the early years.

This is a preliminary page that I hope to update as time and data become available.

British Guiana Airways was established as a private company in 19381
and proved to be a viable commercial operation until 1955 when it was sold to the colonial government of the time. The origins of the airline in the jungles of Guiana were of course much more than colorful than the “Letters of Incorporation” might imply.

In August of 1934 the Montreal Gazette reported that an Art Wiliams planned to start an Air Service in British Guiana.2 The next year, 1935, Art placed an advertisement in that same paper accompanying an extensive article on British Guiana (Might be interesting to read, from Nov 6, 1935).

Art Williams starts Air Service in British Guiana in 1935

Art Williams Ad in The Montreal Gazette 1935

My grandfather chartered Art and his Ireland flying boat several times, here are a couple of pics from 1935 taking off from Georgetown and landing on the Potaro river at Homes Landing, proving that Art really was in business despite strange ads in the Montreal gazette.

Ireland flying boat at Georegtown, British Guiana, 1935

Art in the cockpit of the Ireland flying boat at Georegtown, British Guiana, 1935

Ireland Flying Boat at Homes Landing on the Potaro River British Guiana 1935

Ireland Flying Boat at Homes Landing on the Potaro River British Guiana 1935, Art seated on cockpit.

Harry Wendt joined Art and they operated 3 Ireland flying boats (not sure when Harry joined nor how many aircraft they had)
1939 Began subsidies from the colonial government which lasted until 1955
Art joined US Army during world war II (not sure)
During war 1944 purchased the first Grumman Goose
1946 began operations with purchase of two DC3 Dakotas
1947 Ireland flying boats phased out of operation replaced with purchase of second Goose
1955 BG Airways sold to government but managed by British West Indian Airways (BWIA)
1957 British West Indian Airways BWIA takes control

Grumman Goose in Bush, British Guiana, 1951

Flightglobal article on BG Airways from 1951

Grumman Goose Docking at Mackenzie, British Guiana

Grumman Goose Docking at Mackenzie (photo P Llyn-Jones)

Grumman Goose in the Bush, British Guiana

Grumman Goose in the Bush, British Guiana (photo Henry Hamilton)

Dakota over Mackenzie airfield, MacKenzie, British Guiana

Dakota over Mackenzie airfield (photo P Llyn-Jones)

As a boy growing up in Mackenzie during the 1950’s and 60’s I heard the drone of the Dakotas as they passed on their way further into the interior. I loved that sound and can still recognize it today. Back then it seemed that the Dakotas would fly over Mackenzie even though it wasn’t on the direct flight path. My guess for this was that Mackenzie had an airfield (relic from the second world war) that could serve as an emergency place to land.

Dakota loading at Mackenzie airfield, British Guiana

Dakota loading at Mackenzie airfield (photo P Llyn-Jones)

GUYANA DEFENDS ITSELF

1969

The Golden Arrow of Courage by Philip Jardim copyright 2004 all rights reserved

Please do not copy

Nearly 100 years ago, Sir Cecil Spring-Rice wrote a wonderfully stirring hymn: “I vow to thee my Country all earthly things above, entire whole and perfect, the service of my love, the love that asks no question, the love that stands the test ———– .”—- and so on. Stirring stuff!

I have to say though that when the call came this was rather far from my mind. It was perhaps more the love of flying and flying aeroplanes to their limits that really interested me! The decision to risk life and limb was spontaneous – I knew that there was a risk and I accepted it – “They’ll never hit me,” I thought !

The background to it all was troubling. Barely had British Guiana become independent, ( May 26th 1966), than two of its neighbours, Venezuela to the west, and Surinam to the east, moved with hostile intent on the territory of the new State. Venezuela claimed some 55,000 square miles west of the Essequibo River. They took over the island of Ankoko in the Cuyuni River and built a large airstrip there. Surinam claimed 6000 square miles in the New River triangle down in the southeast of the country and they were in the process of building an airstrip on a high point on the east bank of the New River which they called Tigri.

Following independence and the resurgent Venezuelan claim, the Guyana Government made a number of unwise moves against the cattle ranchers in the Rupununi, a sparsely populated savannah region to the southwest of the country bordering Brazil. These ranchers had inherited leases to large tracts of land where they raised cattle with some difficulty since the pasture is poor. Hence, they needed these large tracts of land to support and feed their cattle which they rotated around their respective ranches. This meant that at any one time large areas were seemingly unused as they recovered from the intensive grazing.

For reasons I can only ascribe to political vindictiveness, the government sought to terminate the ranchers’ leases on large tracts of savannah which they deemed to be not in proper use. The government itself seemed to have no use for this land. The move was seen by the ranchers as a political payback since they had supported the United Force party in the run up to the pre-independence election. It is not clear whether the ranchers sought the support of hostile and neighbouring Venezuela, or whether the Venezuelans sensed that they had potential support within Guyana, and offered support to the ranchers. Whatever the case, the ranchers received arms training in Venezuela and were given arms by them. The Venezuelans will have delivered the munitions by clandestine flights into the Rupununi, all of which escaped detection. This is hardly surprising since those borders are wide open and never patrolled.

On January 2nd 1969, the simmering rebellion boiled over and the ranchers made their move just as Capt. Roland DaSilva was leaving Lethem in a DC-3 at about 06.30 with a load of beef destined for Georgetown. Roland may have sensed that something was happening because he hastened his departure. He escaped just in time. The rebels took control of Lethem and herded the District Commissioner and his staff into the abattoir. In the process, there was some resistance from the small police detachment, five of whom were killed. In a vain effort to stop the aircraft, a bazooka round was fired at it. Fortunately it missed and Roland sped back to Timehri.

The Rupununi is a large area, and the rebels had not secured nor silenced everyone in it. Hence, news of the uprising found its way to Georgetown by way of a missionary radio. Following this report, attempts by the government to contact the administration at Lethem proved fruitless, since all personnel were detained by the rebels. Roland’s report of the violence which he had seen on his departure all tied in, and the government summoned the Guyana Defence Force. At that time the GDF had no aeroplanes, and even now could not summon the airlift required to mount an operation of the magnitude that was clearly going to be needed.

It was to have been a day off for me, and when the telephone rang at about 12.30pm, I sensed an inexplicable premonition that something was amiss — that funny feeling one gets in the pit of the stomach! The flight dispatcher told me that Capt. DaSilva had had a narrow escape on his departure from Lethem that morning, and that the government was asking me to volunteer to fly troops to Manari, which is just 6 miles from Lethem. He stressed that this was a voluntary request which I could decline! I told him that there was no question, I would fly.

The car was sent for me within half an hour, and Michael Chan-a-Sue and I, and our two F/O’s drove up to Timehri. We were given a briefing by the commander of the mission, who was not able to tell us very much, other than that there had apparently been an insurrection at Lethem, the District Commissioner was being held along with his key staff, and the rebels were heavily armed. As there was no communication with Lethem, the news of the insurrection had come via a missionary radio. Repeated attempts to contact Lethem had yielded nothing. It was unwise to attempt to land at Lethem which was in rebel hands and they had fired on Roland DaSilva that morning as he circled overhead. However, there had been brief contact with Manari-about 6 miles from Lethem —- and that airstrip was still open, although there had been an incident involving the shooting of the tyres on a Cessna 172 which remained disabled on the airstrip.

By this time, it was nearing 15.00 hours. We decided that we would plan to arrive over Manari just after sunset to afford us some cover and a little twilight for the landing. The flight time to Manari is 1hour 25 minutes in the DC-3. Michael Chan-a-Sue’s aircraft was loaded with supplies and about 25 troops, and my aircraft had 50 troops with 5 day rations. This meant that our aircraft were overloaded – my aircraft was 4100lb overweight, and Michael’s was about 2600lb overweight. We had full fuel tanks because we were not going to be back until well after dark and we had no idea what holding or diversions might lie ahead. [The Maximum all-up weight of a civil DC-3 is 26,900LB. My aircraft was at 31000 LB and Michael’s was at 29,500LB, as I remember. During the war DC-3’s flew routinely at 31,000 LB, however, the engine-out performance at this weight is very marginal in tropical temperatures.]The standard of maintenance in Guyana Airways ranked with the best anywhere and I was not unduly concerned about engine problems. We were operating under a dispensation from the DCA for this paramilitary mission.

We took off at about 17.00 hrs, with an ETA of 18.25 over Manari, just about 25 minutes after sunset. There was an arrangement to have a vehicle with its lights on marking the end of the 5000 ft runway. We arrived in loose formation overhead Manari and as Michael’s aircraft was lighter, he agreed to land first. The arranged vehicle appeared and positioned itself at the eastern end of the runway. Michael landed without incident and radioed that all seemed well. Except for the disabled Cessna 172 with its tires shot out at the side of the strip. At about 300 feet on final approach—it was pretty dark now, and we were using no lights – I suddenly saw two red arcs of tracer come together just in front of the DC-3’s nose. The machine guns firing them would have been outside the airfield on either side of the approach path for runway 09. The GDF commander rushed up from the back to advise me that we were under fire. To avoid remaining in range, I had no alternative but to overshoot and attempt landing downwind from the eastern end of the runway. There was the usual easterly 10 to 15 knot wind over the savannahs that evening, and here I was landing an overloaded DC-3 at night, without lights, downwind with a light aircraft obstructing the strip half way down. My short-field training came to the fore that night – I three pointed the DC-3 at the eastern end of Manari, avoided the disabled aeroplane and turned around well before the other end to avoid drawing further fire.

The 50 troops quickly disembarked with their 2 inch mortar, and I bade them farewell and wished them Godspeed. As it happened, my sister and her husband were on holiday in the Rupununi. They had left their eldest son at Manari while on a trip across the border. I flew him to town that night as no one knew what might happen next and we had an uneventful return flight to Timehri.

The GDF encountered little or no resistance on their march to Lethem. The rebels fled swiftly over the border, leaving their years of possessions and property behind. The government in a scorched earth policy razed the ranch houses to the ground, putting a tragic end to many years of blood, sweat and tradition built up by the ranchers and their forefathers over time. The stated reasons were that the government did not want the ranchers to feel that they had anything to come back for. Hence, Pirara, Moreru and other lovely properties were destroyed – A wanton waste. The happy, carefree atmosphere that existed there has gone for all time. Thereafter, the government instituted a strict permit system to visit the interior as though the problem had arisen by infiltration from outside!

The Venezuelans possess the power and capability of taking over Guyana at any time and no travel permit scheme would ever have the slightest effect in countering this. Tensions between the two countries exist to this day and have grown sharper in recent years under the Chavez regime. Venezuela is not likely ever to drop a territorial claim which has been ongoing since the 1890’s. It is only US and international pressure which keeps them from pursuing it.

NEW RIVER

Meanwhile, during the ensuing months of 1969, activity was evident in the New River Triangle, on the eastern boundary with Surinam, This area was totally uninhabited at the time, save for visiting geologists, the GDF and police expeditions by air. We used to fly them in with the Grumman Goose, landing in the rivers at various points. The Surinamers had floated a D-4 bulldozer up the river and were starting to build an air strip on the Eastern bank of the New River, just upriver from its confluence with the Courantyne. As far as the Surinamers were concerned, what we call the New River is the Courantyne and vice versa. The Courantyne forms the border between Guyana and Surinam, hence, they deem the triangle to be their territory. They named their airstrip Tigri. We would later re-christen it Jaguar.

On fairly frequent flights into and over the area in the Grumman, the Cessna 310 and the Helio Courier, I would observe the progress in the construction of the strip, and the Surinamers would wave to us as we flew over. On our reconnaissance flights over the new strip, I noted the presence of what seemed to be armed observation posts in the trees lining the airstrip. They would naturally be of concern in any assault on the camp. Further, the Surinamers placed oil drums on the completed 1200 foot section of the strip, rendering that section unusable in an assault. They were in the process of extending it by a further 600 feet.

Construction of the strip continued apace as we watched seemingly helplessly from the air. Then, in a private meeting between Roland DaSilva, the Chief Pilot of Guyana Airways and the Prime Minister, Roland was asked what seaplane could deliver 30 troops into the New River area to mount an assault to take back our territory. Roland replied that there was no seaplane available to do that, but in his opinion, we had the aircraft in the country, capable of using the incompleted section of the Tigri airstrip. As I had done almost all of the reconnaissance flying over the area, he asked my opinion one night as we were having dinner with friends. We proceeded to the privacy of a room upstairs and he swore me to secrecy before telling me of his discussion with the PM. He then sought my opinion as to the ability of our Twin Otters to perform the mission: I agreed with him that with training and preparation, we could land at Tigri, subject to a final reconnaissance of the strip to assess the landing surface and distances.

In the 3 weeks leading up to the day we trained almost daily and soon gained absolute confidence in the performance capabilities of the Twin Otter which far outstripped de Havilland Canada’s performance claims for it. We determined that we could land a fully laden Twin Otter and stop within 100 yards – 300 feet !! We could then take off an empty aircraft within 300 to 500 feet. We estimated that we had a distance of 600 feet but the only unknown was the surface bearing strength of the strip. However, the fact that it could support a Caterpillar D-4 bulldozer made us confident that we had nothing to fear – the one real unknown would be braking action.

The landing technique required a short final approach speed very close to the stalling speed of the aircraft, and the selection of full reverse propeller thrust at about 6 feet off the ground, in the flare. Touchdown was almost immediate, and rapid modulated braking would bring the aircraft to a rapid halt.

For the purpose of the mission four new majors were inducted into the GDF: Roland Da Silva, Michael Chan-a-Sue, Anthony Mekdeci and Philip Jardim. We naturally realised the risks we were taking and prevailed upon the PM to undertake to support our families for the rest of their lives, should we die or be incapacitated in the line of duty. He provided us with personal letters, addressed in purple ink and in sealed envelopes. These were to be entrusted to senior members of our families, and returned to him unopened on our successful return from the mission. We never did have a look at the contents of the envelopes, and we trust that the letters stated what they were supposed to say. Given what has happened since we were probably mightily naïve, but at the time “I Vow to thee my Country” won out over doubting L.F.S. Burnham.

In the week preceding the mission, the Commissioner of Police accompanied me on a reconnaissance flight over Tigri. We took photographs and assessed to the best of our ability the state of the runway, the position of the drums they had placed on it and the condition of the uncompleted section at the eastern end. In particular, I assessed the suitability of this section for landing. I judged that we had no more than 600 feet, (200 yards) to play with. The only deduction we could draw about the bearing strength of this area was that if it could support the D-4, then we should be reasonably safe.

On the afternoon of August 18th the mission force was positioned at Apoteri. This is at the confluence of the Rupununi and Essequibo rivers, just 90 miles from Tigri. We chose to mount the operation from Apoteri because of its convenient location, relatively good runway and remoteness from observation.

The one natural obstacle which would put paid to the operation was fog. This is particularly prevalent in the interior over the rivers and adjacent river banks in the early morning. We planned to conduct the raid at dawn which at this time of the year is at about 06.00 hrs. – the prime time for fog ! I therefore decided to do a reconnaissance flight in the Helio Courier. I took off at 05.00, arriving in the vicinity of Tigri at 11,000 feet some 25 minutes later. Our luck was in: That morning was beautifully clear and I returned to Apoteri with the good news.

Roland was flying the long-nosed Twin Otter with Michael Chan-a-Sue. This aircraft had had its nose dome removed and 4 holes cut in the fibreglass bulkhead for a GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun), with the remaining 3 for sighting. W/O Hartley Liverpool – a large man, was seated in the nose with his belt-fed machine gun. I was flying the short-nosed Twin Otter with Tony Mekdeci. We were all armed with Sterling sub-machine guns. The cabin doors of both aircraft had been removed to enable the swift disembarkation of the troops, Roland would make the first approach, as his gunner could clear the potential machine gun nests I had noticed in the trees lining the stripAs soon as he was airborne again, I would land and he would cover me with his machine gunner.

Flying in loose formation, we passed overhead Tigri at 7000 feet at idle power, descending steeply to the east. Roland went in just as the sun was breaking the horizon. I stood off within sight of the strip. It went like clockwork, the only surprise being the presence of thin wooden surveying poles planted on the strip, which we had not noticed from the reconnaissance earlier. These were not a major concern as they were very thin. They did, however crack the fibreglass fairings on the landing gear struts on Roland’s aircraft. He landed, the troops rapidly jumped out of the aircraft and he taxied to the end of the available distance and took off whence he had come, away from the camp area. As Roland circled, I landed and stopped in about half of the 600 feet. My party quickly jumped out, and took their 2 inch mortar with them. I then rolled to the end of the unfinished section of the strip, applied full power, with 30 degrees of flap selected and the aircraft was airborne with barely 35 knots on the airspeed indicator. We easily cleared the 100 foot trees over which we had landed.

In the space of less than 5 minutes the two Twin Otters had deposited 45 troops at Tigri. We returned to Apoteri in loose formation, to collect the follow-up reinforcements for the raiding party. As we refuelled the aircraft, we received the excellent news that our troops had taken Tigri with no bloodshed or casualties. They had taken some 8 prisoners, the rest having fled the camp into their dugouts and down river back to Surinam.

It transpired that there had been about 90 Surinamers in the camp. They were totally unprepared for the assault, and figured that our troops had landed from the river. They thought that the aircraft had come to supply them. Our troops secured the camp and removed the fuel drums and other obstructions from the completed section of the runway, rendering it suitable for our next landings. We ferried the rest of a Company of GDF troops into Tigri; about 90 in all, plus all their rations and other supplies and equipment. At the end of the day, we returned triumphantly to Timehri, with the prisoners on board: they were returned to Paramaribo the next day by a KLM flight!

The name of the camp was changed to Jaguar shortly thereafter, with the Golden Arrowhead flying proudly above it. Using the Surinam D-4 Bulldozer, which we acquired in the raid, the strip was eventually completed, to a length about 2000 feet. There was no further aggression from Surinam and the territory remains intact to this day.

In recognition of what we had done, the government created new honours for Valour and Courage. In the following year, 1970, Roland was awarded the highest honour in Guyana: The Cacique’s Crown of Valour. Michael Chan-a-Sue, Tony Mekdeci and I were awarded The Golden Arrow of Courage. We are probably still the only ones to ever have received these honours. They are rather attractive looking medals, struck by Spink & Co., London. Spink are strikers of the Garter Star and the Victoria Cross, among others. Burnham may have figured they were cheap at the price, given what he just may have saved on those purple ink addressed envelopes.

Our exploits did not end there. Guyana Airways continued to provide paramilitary support to the GDF and even after the formation of the Air Wing of the GDF in 1971. I frequently flew the newly acquired Britten-Norman Islanders for the GDF and the Helio Couriers for the police. There is alot more of interest to be told, but for the time being this is a previously unwritten page of the Country’s history.

Footnotes
1) A brief history of Civil Aviation in Guyana
2) Art Williams Plans Air Service In British Guiana

45 Comments »

  1. […] while scouring the net for info on BG Airways I ran into a related article in The Montreal Gazette from Dec 3, 1935. They reported that in 1930 […]

    Pingback by Trams of British Guiana « Guyana Then And Now — June 4, 2010 @ 3:15 pm | Reply

  2. […] The Golden Arrow of Courage Filed under: Uncategorized — Admin @ 4:11 pm Philip Jardim, a former Pilot with BG Airways has sent in a short story he wrote covering some of the involvement of BG Airways in the Rupununi Rebellion of 1969. I’ve added Philip’s short story to the BG Airways page, click this link to go there. […]

    Pingback by The Golden Arrow of Courage « Guyana Then And Now — June 8, 2010 @ 4:12 pm | Reply

  3. An excellent artice, well written and well researched. Should be taught in our schools ( I am Guyanese )

    Comment by Noel Foster — August 28, 2010 @ 8:42 pm | Reply

  4. A great article,should continue further to include to state the development of the guyana airways corporation To include international routes and operation of leased aircraft B737, B707,TU154 and B757.
    The article restores memories of those great guyanese airmen who made a huge contribution to the development of aviation in
    guyana.Technical support as i recall was done by Harry Wendt,Syd Kennard,John Ricks,Clarence Affoo,George Loy all chief engineers
    at maintemance bases Ramp Ruimveldt and Atkinson Field later Timehri Airport.

    Bob Dornford
    Former eng mgr and gen mgr.

    Comment by Bob dornford — December 18, 2010 @ 12:56 pm | Reply

    • Hello Mr. Dornford,

      I am responding on behalf of my father Mr. Urich Philips from Trinidad whom you may recall in the days of your tenure at the Caribbean Aviation Training Institute.

      He has asked me to conduct some research on Guyana Airways and to make contact with you in the spirit of rekindling an old friendship you’ll shared in the past.

      Amazingly as you may understand, we live in a super technological era where information is so accessible and I hope you would receive this mail in good faith. Therefore, he sends his best regards and hopes to hear from you soon. Our contacts are:
      #14 Dahlia Crescent,
      La Florissante, D’Abadie,
      Trinidad.
      1-868-465-3545
      as well as the above email.

      Take care and all the best to you.

      Comment by Dionne Philips — June 5, 2011 @ 11:51 pm | Reply

    • Hello Bob: Thank you for mentioning the names of the technical support, especially my father, Sid Kennard. All the names are familiar to me and takes me back to a time and place in Guyana of which I have very fond memories. Sincerely, Noel Kennard

      Comment by Noel Kennard — October 24, 2016 @ 4:43 am | Reply

  5. fascinating.
    I remember picnicing with my parents on the end of Mackenzie airport runway, on the edge of a big hil (tepui?) and seeing a DC3 roar directly overhead – thrilling. Also the Goose float plane land on the Demarara…

    Comment by audaxrex — February 9, 2011 @ 2:09 pm | Reply

  6. Hello all,
    Just to let you know that today, February 10th, 2011, Mr. Clarence London emailed me a website for a great video on Guyana I thought you would enjoy. Nice to see the eco-tourism places. All the years I was there I never saw inside the world’s largest free-standing wooden building – the Anglican Cathedral. Kit Nascimento and Diane McTurk still going strong. Yeah! Don’t know when the video was made. Hope you can access it.
    Best wishes,
    Pat

    http://www.onecaribbeanweather.com/guyana.htlml

    Comment by Pat Hunte-Cusack — February 10, 2011 @ 8:46 pm | Reply

  7. This is one of the coolest things I have ever read. Art Williams is my great grandfather and this is just amazing. I have some of these original photos in black and white and not in the best condition and its great to see a few of these in color. Harry Wendt is my Uncle and live in New Zealand. I have a lot of photos and letters if you want anymore information. My email is matthew4@ufl.edu let me know.

    Comment by Matthew Wayne Williams — March 16, 2011 @ 7:18 am | Reply

    • Hi Matthew! I very well remember your Gt.Grandfather and your Uncle Harry Wendy though I was then 10 years old. We arrived in Georgetown from London and my father Ian James Hosie ( we are Aussies) started flying for BG Airways initially we were posted in Atkinson Field an old American airfield during World War2. I remember Jane and Johnny Wilson as well. He later went back to New Zealand and joined Air New Zealand. Spoke to them many moons later whilst I was in Auckland. Loved flying in the gramman on the Demerara and once or twice to the Rupununi and Letham with my father. Guiana as it was known in those days was an ideal little place for kids and a carefree life. My hubby is a retired 747 Air India pilot. Aviation is such a fascinating subject. Still get a thrill whenever I see aircrafts and love going to air shows whenever the opportunity arrives. Incidentally my father use to fly for Qantas in the early days the flying boats. Great seeing all the itsy bitsy news on the good old days of BG Airways.

      Comment by Dianne Dulat — July 16, 2016 @ 11:20 am | Reply

  8. Hi Matthew – so now I can find out if a childhood memory is accurate! Did your uncle really use that long, strong little fingernail as a screwdriver?! I can see him now on the wooden wharf where the Grumman Goose used to be moored, surrounded by small kids lapping up all his stories. Do hope he is keeping well and avoiding NZ’s quakes. I always wondered where he ended up.
    Pat

    Comment by Pat Hunte-Cusack — March 31, 2011 @ 7:07 pm | Reply

  9. they should write a book about these guys exploits so the younger folks can read about it

    Comment by bobby bovell — July 13, 2011 @ 9:57 pm | Reply

  10. I FEEL LIKE SATCHMO SINGING WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD
    MEMORIES Bill Chow

    Comment by bill chow — July 13, 2011 @ 10:51 pm | Reply

  11. Hi there, My best memories of the Mackenzie Airstrip was before aircraft started reusing the airstrip for ‘flights’. Growing up in Watooka in the 50’s my dad, Laurie Ho, used to take us boys up to the strip on him bantam 125 for rides. I remembering climbing down the sand hill at the top of the strip to the river below. Sometimes motor cycle races were held on the strip but all this stopped in the mid 60’s when flights were restarted.

    Comment by Nigel Ho — July 22, 2011 @ 6:54 pm | Reply

  12. Proud to be Guyanese! Another episode of our rich and dynamic history. How great are our pioneers -our heroes – who risked limb and life, and who possessed the audacity to procure our inheritance, keeping the entire 83000 sq.miles in tact for the benefit of all.

    Are we still capable of protecting our beloved country with the same zest? Can this generation of leadership ‘vow to Thee my country’?

    Comment by Godfrey D. Williams — June 12, 2012 @ 4:56 am | Reply

  13. My dad was born in BG in 1933. He left for university in the US in 1949 and eventualy settled in Nova Scotia, Canada where he taught univeristy chemistry until 1998. I have some pics from a 1951 air trip his parents and a few family friends took to Kaiteur Falls. I was scanning some pics of that trip and wondered what type of plane that was they flew in. That led me to this site. Great Work, wonderful stories, well done. Feel free to email if you want the pic of the Grumman Goose I have. It must be sitting in what you called Homes Landing on the Potaro.

    Dan Bunbury
    North Sydney, NS
    dan.bunbury@ns.sympatico.ca

    Comment by Dan Bunbury — September 17, 2012 @ 12:22 am | Reply

  14. No mention of A P Clavier?

    Comment by Ron. Persaud — February 11, 2013 @ 4:26 am | Reply

  15. Greetings my fellow Native Guyanese – This article has recently (Feb 2013) made its way on E-mails and after initially reading it some 2 plus years ago (under Michael Chan-A-Sue’s name) I raised a question back then that went unanswered.
    Today,after a fresh re-read, I submit that Paragraph 4 (Following independence …..) is partially correct. The author failed to mention that the approved lease granted to British Ex-Pats in the Rupununi was larger than the Island of Barbados.
    In addition, during the last quarter of 1967,a team from the GDF under Lt.Marcus Munroe that included myself successfully cut a trail from the Annai Area in a NNE direction towards Kurupukari,crossing the Essequibo River and heading towards Tacama ( Berbice River). That task was established to move ‘live’ cattle from Rupununi towards the coastland thus eleminating the high cost incurred in transporting beef via C-47 /DC 3 aircrafts.

    Your penultimate paragraph on Roland is incomplete……. As a soldier aboard his aircraft on that early morning of Tuesday,Aug 19,1969, he RIGHTFULLY EARNED the Nation’s highest HONOR – “The Cacique’s Crown of Valour”
    for his exceptional performance and gallantry !
    In addition, since he (Roland) was a GDF officer on 8/19 he along with Lt.Marcus Munroe and Lt.Keith Dyer who were also aboard Roland’s aircraft deserved the Military Service Star (M.S.S. – is the highest award for military service to OFFICERS of the GDF). It should be noted, the M.S.S. was bestowed to Officers who never left the confines of their quarters.

    In parting,I’m curious to learn where were the additional seven (7) prisoners picked up ?

    CAG

    Comment by Clairmonte A (Fito) Griffith — February 28, 2013 @ 7:56 pm | Reply

  16. I have read this story before and wondered about the additional seven prisoners. The one that I know of did not go back to Suriname the following day.

    Donald A. Miggins

    Comment by Donald A Miggins — April 27, 2013 @ 10:53 pm | Reply

  17. I lived in Lethem for a short while in 1968 with James and Tersilla Hiolden. I believe James was the Head Teacher at St Ignatious School, and his wife was from Ishalton (I think).
    I had a great time, but I think never fully appreciated what the Holdens did for me. I would like to make amend on that score. Can anyone put me in touch with either James or his wife, please?

    My email: css@wwuk.co.uk

    Comment by Chris Shirley - Smith — June 28, 2013 @ 12:07 pm | Reply

  18. Hello! I’m currently working on memoirs written by John Wilson, and aviator who joined BWIA after the war and was close with Art Williams and who married his daughter Janie. Both are living in NZ and Johnie, 91 this year, is not in the best health, so I call to anyone that has stories, photos, and/or information they would like to share about these days. Look forward to any replies…

    Comment by Karla Messervy — September 1, 2013 @ 4:59 am | Reply

    • My father was Julian Pieniazek and he flew for Guyana Airways from 1953 to 1968 and was Chief Pilot for many of those years. He trained most of the guys in the above story. I was born in Guyana and over the years have heard a lot of amazing stories of the flying exploits of Art Williams and Harry Wendt.

      Comment by Michael Pieniazek — November 17, 2014 @ 2:20 am | Reply

      • Mr. Pieniazek, your Dad also flew Halifax bombers first in one of the Polish Squadrons in England, and then (in 1943, I think) in The Special Assignment Squadron 138 where he transported supplies and underground fighters to Poland. Finally, he flew airplanes for the Ferry Command in the Transatlantic Bridge. He is often mentioned in books written by his navigator, Boleslaw Pomian-Piatkowski – “To the Brightest Of Stars” (English title) and “Sosny i Palmy” (Polish only). Unfortunately, not much is known of his exploits after the war, I’m glad I run into this article! By the way, Mr. Pieniazek was Polish, not Czech (of course).

        Comment by Piotr — March 3, 2016 @ 10:02 pm

  19. Hi there I`m from Charlestown Georgetown. I was always amazed with the Seaplane, touching down on the Demerara River at Art Williams Ramp so it was called.
    My Dad was a well known and talented Cabinetmaker in Georgetown. I`m not in the Aviation field. Attended Saint Mary`s RC School in Georgetown.
    Migrated in 1969 I`m a HVACR tech. Lots of good memories of former BG.

    Comment by David Patrick Hazell — October 10, 2014 @ 12:31 pm | Reply

    • Dear David Hazell: What you describe as Art Williams ramp was known as The Ruimveldt Ramp since the 1950s by those of us who were born In Charlestown and attended St.Mary’s/Brickdam primary school,and members of the Georgetown Sea Cub/Scouts.
      Although I do not recognize your surname, did your dad (Cabinetmaker) worked with Maurice Thorne,Charles Lewis and Foreman when they had their shop on Cummings Street close to 3rd Street,Alberttown before moving in the early 1960’s to the SW junction of Bent and Louisa Row under Ms. Hunter (Lot 73) botton house ?

      CAG,formerly of Lot 71 Bent Street.

      Comment by Clairmonte Griffith — October 12, 2014 @ 10:41 pm | Reply

  20. Its all so interesting…and then there was the riots of 1960’s and Guyana’s march to being a Republic, can a more younger generation get in here now??? Having been born in the 1960’s please someone fill the gap from the 1940’s to the 1960’s.

    Comment by Bibi Rahaman — October 10, 2014 @ 11:08 pm | Reply

  21. I was just 21 when I arrived in Guyana as it had just become. I was working with the PlayhouseTheatre for a time. I was offered a lift in what I believe to have been the presidential plane up to Lethem piloted by Alex Phliipps ?) I believe.

    He offered me the opportunity to train with GA in exchange for a year of my time, but being young and foolish I opted to continue my adventures round the world. I have very few regrets in this life, but making that wrong decision has haunted me all my days since I love flying and the old DC3s were just so romantic!. Well there you are!

    I was flown back to he coast by one Dick Myers at tree top level quite literally. Apparantly his father had been killed flying into one f the water falls only a few weeks before!

    I too am writing my own memoires, and would be very happy if you could put me in touch with James (Jim) and/ or Teresa Holder
    who very kindly put me up in their home just outside of Lethem. I always wanted to thank them for their hospitality but somehow didn’t. I would like still to do so.

    Kind regards,

    Chris Shirley – Smith

    Comment by Chris Shirley Smith — November 19, 2014 @ 5:17 pm | Reply

  22. Chris,it would be helpful if you include a time period. Alex Phillips entered the Guyana Defense Force (GDF) as a Captain (3 pips) on each epaulet
    circa early 1968 and before the formation of the Air Wing during a period when the only aircraft within the GDF was a single engine Helio Courier with a ‘red nose’ that was referred to by the troops in the hinterland as Rudolph.

    Comment by Clairmonte Griffith — November 20, 2014 @ 9:12 pm | Reply

  23. Great memories and good stuff.The Old days were so excited and adventureous ,love the good old days.
    even though I was not wealthy enough to have experience the trip.I love Guyana

    Comment by Mona — November 22, 2014 @ 2:09 am | Reply

  24. I looked the flight to Lethem with Alex Phillips up in my diary and can trace it to May 20th 1968, so it must hve been one of his early flights in this position! Is he still alive?

    Comment by Chris Shirley Smith — November 22, 2014 @ 11:08 am | Reply

  25. Hi all. While I have learned much detail about Roland D Silva et al in flying in GDF soldiers during the Rupununi uprising, I understand that Albert Isaacs (Zick) who died in Toronto 3 weeks ago, had also put himself at risk by flying in GDF troops to the Rupununi at the request of the Guyana Govt. However, I have seen no mention of this in Mr. Jardim’s comments. Why?? selected memory?? Wilfred Carr

    Comment by Wilfred Carr — March 23, 2015 @ 3:09 am | Reply

  26. Dear Wilfred: First, I’m saddened to learn about the passing of Albert (Junior) Isaacs , a dear family friend and brother of Yvette and Garth whom I’ve known since the 1950’s when they resided on Durban Street,W/Ville between Haley & Cemetry Road before moving to the SE junction of Lime & Hadfield Street, W/Rust . Secondly, your understanding of Junior’s participation in the Rupununi uprising is sound and accurate. Although he flew in the right seat (co-pilot), others who flew in the right seat were mentioned except for Junior and Louis Crawford (Sara’s brother) also of Hadfield Street,W/Ville and about 3 homes east of Louisa Row . Finally, seldom mentioned is my man Conrad ‘Shrimpy’ Meertens, formerly of Albert Street, Queenstown. In summary, Albert (Junior) son of Uncle Sonny was an active aviator during the birth of the GDF. My condolences to the Isaacs’ family.

    Comment by Clairmonte A. Griffith — March 23, 2015 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

  27. Just stumbled on this site which brings back numerous memories. If I remember correctly, the seaplane ramp was located behind the Ruimveldt Police Station. I can remember visiting with a schoolmate whose father, a police officer, was stationed at Ruimveldt. The visits were my opportunity to enjoying a couple hours of swimming in the Demerara River. A typical young teenager, I did not give any thought to the danger. That schoolmate was Fitzroy Marshall. This was around 1957 – 59. Fitzroy’s younger brother became a pilot for Guyana Airways.

    Comment by Kenrick Sifontes — February 22, 2016 @ 1:30 am | Reply

    • Greetings Kenrick:
      You’re partially correct, the seaplane ramp was adjacent and south of the Police Station towards the Russian Bear Rum Bond (remember the bond and the professional coopers that fixed the leaking barrels ?) . BTW,there was a narrow passage way from the Public Road that led one towards the Demerara River. Fitzroy’s younger brother is Lloyd who was in long pants at Tutorial High,5th Street Alberttown when I arrived there in short pants from Maltonees . Brother Ken, are you from Agricola or Middle Road,LaPenitence by the home of Peter D’Freitas,also of Tutorial High ?

      Comment by Clairmonte A.Griffith — February 23, 2016 @ 9:21 pm | Reply

  28. wonderful times they were in BG in 1967/8. See my comments at No 15 or thereabouts

    Comment by Chris Shirley-Smith — February 22, 2016 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

  29. Greetings all. Nice to see more history on aviation and relevant matters pertaining to Old B.G and Guyana and I will add a little. The passage way referred to from the Public Rd Ruimveldt was at the North side of the police station. It was also led to the Demerara Rowing Club of which I was a member in the early 70’s and near to the Club was established a small boat builder Nelson? who took his time but would build steel tugs/boats under contract; the quality of his work was as good as that of Sprostons. Under 22 above, is mentioned an Alex Phillips, as a captain with the GDF and a request for a time period. To my recollection there was only one Alex Phillips who flew in Guyana; he is said to have previously flown bombers for the R.A.F. and transported the top “Brass” during the 2nd World War, and eventually on returning to B.G became the Director of Civil Aviation. Alex must have retired and was helping with the start up of the GDF’s Air Wing as he would not have been a young man by the time the Air Wing GDF was inaugurated. He also had a colleague Hutton Griffith who, was said to have flown fighters also for the R.A.F. during the 2nd World War and Hutton became the Dep. Director of CA.under Alex. of course, while flying in Guyana has its romance, it also has had it’s tragedies as such flying is dangerour and in Canada is known as “bush flying” – out in the boondocks: somewhere along the line, the younger brother of “Skip” Roberts who was a pilot and eventually became Dir of CA, was killed in a crash; I seem to recall near the Timheri Airport(not 100% sure of the crash location). Mecdeci was paralysed while flying an Alouette helicopter for the GDF which crashed in the bushes near to Timheiri. A friend of mine, another officer of the GDF who was on board,subsequently told me of the shock and fear as they lay pinned unable to move and watching the rotors turn until the fuel was exhausted and rescuers cut through the bush to get to them. Henry Fitt and his aircraft with a tourist party including the brother of Kit Nascimento, disappeared and to my knowledge has never been found. There was also another crash where the aircraft was hung up on a cliff and an American rescuers was lowered from a helicopter, took off the watches of the pilot and co-pilot and recommended the bodies be left there due to the instability of the crash location. Very sad in all these cases but such conveys the risks which the pioneers such as Art Williams, Harry Wendt and the others that followed were exposed to then and now.

    Comment by Wilfred Carr — March 4, 2016 @ 5:16 am | Reply

  30. “The passage way referred to from the Public Rd Ruimveldt was at the North side of the police station. It was also led to the Demerara Rowing Club of which I was a member in the early 70’s and near to the Club was established a small boat builder Nelson?”

    Wilfred, if the boat builder was one who when not working was dressed in a ‘bow-tie’, then his name is Mr.Notty White. Regarding the Rowing Club, were you a member during the period their meetings were held at the Mariners Club in Kingston,now home of the largest BENAB (hut) in the land and currently under construction after a fire in early 2015. Wilfred,I’m an old Georgetown Sea-Scout (early 1960’s) under the leadership of Skip Gomes. My pack “Pelicans” rowed frequently on Saturday’s from Kingston to the Atkinson Field Wharf and in a much faster time than you Club Members. Nothing personal Wilfred, I’m just keeping things real and on the up and up. Best Regards,CAG

    Comment by Clairmonte A.Griffith — March 4, 2016 @ 4:59 pm | Reply

  31. I appreciate your comments Clairmonte. The boat builder was of very dark complexion and I never saw him except in working garb, so i cannot say how he dressed socially but I could be wrong about his name – hey, I am 75 going on 76. I was a member of the DRC in the early 70’s at the time Ken Potter was the President and by then meetings were held at Ruimveldt and membership was not strong. As a boy, I was a member of the CYO Scout group and much admired(envied?) you guys of the Sea Scouts as you all had lots of razz-ma-taz, among whom was also Alan Mann & Barney Farnum; both of them later became marine pilots with the Transport & Harbours Dept. Those guys were excellent swimmers and in 1976, I do not recall clearly, dove overboard to rescue Noel Thompson another pilot who got squashed when he jumped from a ship and got caught between the ship and the pilot launch. Unfortunately, Noel died while being transported back to the Georgetown hospital. I have no doubt your group could beat the DRAC members as you were then youths competing against older men who, may even have stopped at the bar prior to the race. I never rowed as far as the Atkinson wharf; however, I learned to respect the flow of that river when the tide was ebbing, as one afternoon going against flow, it took us about 35 minutes to row to the sugar terminal but 5 or 6 minutes only, to get back to the DRC’s ramp . Had the cox been an inexperienced person, and we had initially gone down river instead of upriver, the possibility of being swept out to see was a possibility. Regards to you also and have a nice weekend. Wilfred

    Comment by Wilfred Carr — March 4, 2016 @ 6:23 pm | Reply

    • Greetings Wilfred: I see you are my elder by 8 years having just reached my 68th. From your description, that boat builder is indeed Mr. Notty White, a friend of my father before my arrival into this Wonderful World in 2/1948 . The aviator,Phillips in question was too young in 1967/68 to have served in WW II. Your CYO remarks of Robb Street, Lacytown brought back fond memories, although not a member, I recall my visits there to engage in ping-pong games, and also my playing days on their Football Field off Kelly Dam and before approaching the old Georgetown Golf Club off Camp Road (across from Thomas YMCA). Back then,I was a member of Parochial Hall (Wellington & South Road) and ‘straying’ was a way of life for me. Every Sea-Scout was expected to swim across the Demerara River at high tide under escort by members in our row boat. Although housed on a dilapidated wharf behind the saw mill on Water Street located immediate North of the Molasses Storage tanks, I made my first of several crossings from the Robb Stelling area . Was Barney Farnum the brother of John? John died tragically in the Demerara River on a Saturday afternoon (after his AM work day) when on a fishing trip dove off the boat for a swim and while under the boat, the skipper accidentally started the engine.
      Here’s an early 1960’s quote from Skip Gomes that remained etched in my memory – “Never swim at the Ft. Groyne Jetty during the falling tide.”
      Wilfred, there was a time when I knew the hours of high and low tide and would inform my ‘stray boy’ friends when was the best time to go and play football on the beach directly across the sea-wall at Camp Road and points west pass the Police Band Stand towards the Round House.
      At that time,Luckhoo Pool was under construction and access to the very 1st swimming pool in the land built by the YANKS at Atkinson Field required a 25+ mile bike ride which if I may say, beats rowing. Best regards and keep on keeping on. CAG

      Comment by Clairmonte A.Griffith — March 5, 2016 @ 6:35 pm | Reply

  32. DoB 11/44. My post #27 and the reading of others, have resulted in a number of flashbacks and very pleasant but interesting memories, During my early years I resided at John and Norton Streets opposite Lyken Funeral Home and down the street from the Merriman’s and the Camp Street Jail. Moved to Fifth Street, Alberttown when I was 11 yrs. Attended Smith Church as a pre-teen. PPP (before the schism), Sea Scouts, Tutorial, Queens, PNC, UF were all part of my teenage years. I was a very political teenager and activist. Knew some of the guys who went on to heroically represent Guyana as I was gung-ho on joining the military. But my parents, aware of some of my teen and young adult activities in 1963, 64, and early 65, shipped me out to the USA the first week of September 1965 to attend University. So I missed out on all the subsequent action. Wished I had remained. Believe Keith Dyer’s sister was Desiree.

    Comment by Kenrick Sifontes — March 21, 2016 @ 2:12 am | Reply

  33. I attended Tutorial with Keith’s sister,Denise. They both lived across Punt Trench Dam around Curtis Street.
    During the late 1950’s, my maternal Uncle resided across from both of those funeral homes and he raised guinea hens in his yard.
    He resided on John Street and two house south of Durban street.
    BTW, do you know Goose Dublin of Durban directly across from the the gallows ?

    Comment by Clairmonte A.Griffith — March 21, 2016 @ 2:28 am | Reply

  34. As a kid I knew the Dublins fairly well. My older brother and sister would have been closer to the family. What was the name of your maternal uncle? Do not know why I recall her name as Desiree. However, I do recall she was a smart and pretty young lady.

    Comment by Kenrick Sifontes — March 21, 2016 @ 3:46 am | Reply

    • My maternal Uncle was the only Portuguese man on that block. His name is Herbert (Herbie) Vasconcellos (RIP) !
      Denise is indeed smart and pretty and whom I’ve not seen since school days of July31,1966. Her big brother, Keith (RIP) once threatened me if he caught me talking to his li’l sister but quickly observed that at 6′ 4″ my reach (jabs) would be longer and stinging that his at 6′ 3″. 🙂 Kenrick, whoever said that the good old days weren’t good are crazy man, crazy. Arrivederci Bro.

      Comment by Clairmonte A.Griffith — March 21, 2016 @ 2:10 pm | Reply

  35. See recent BBC1 TV programme for the next month on catchup TV re-early days of David Attenborough and his photographer using Grumman Goose VP-GAD to get around rivers in British Guyana in 1956 for the Zoo Quest children’s TV programme, using colour film, only recently discovered in BBC archives.

    Comment by Ian Anderson — May 20, 2016 @ 1:40 pm | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: