Air Commodore R.N. (Rex) Waite C.B., C.B.E., R.A.F.
Air Commodore R.N. (Rex) Waite had been in charge of disarming the Luftwaffe after
the war. He had been very affected by the conditions in Germany, the plight of German
refugees and disbanded servicemen and women. He stayed on in Germany as Head of
the Air Section for the Combined Services Division, Control Commission Germany based
in Berlin. His comments at that time in a letter to Air Commodore R.G. Gardner (12
09 1947) were as follows:
“This is the most interesting job I have ever had. We are the leaders in all
matters for the western zones and my team of three nations is now firmly consolidated
against the machinations of the Soviet. The latter are constantly making difficulties
so that the western powers shall find it awkward to maintain themselves in Berlin
and just recently they have intensified their campaign.
After the currency reform, when Reichsmarks were supplanted by Deutschmarks in the
Allied Zones of Germany and in the Allied Sectors of Berlin, the Russians made transport
communications more and more exasperating for the Allies. Canals were closed. Eventually
freight trains (18 of these a day had normally supplied the city) and then passenger
trains were stopped. The Berlin Hanover autobahn was also closed so that effectively
the Western Sectors of Berlin were cut off from the Allied Zones. Berlin also had
no electricity or coal which had been supplied from the Russian Zone. West Berlin
did, however, have reserves which would last about three weeks.
In his book ‘Comeback Germany 1945-52’ Anthony Mann describes what happened next.
The idea of mounting an organised operation to supply the essential needs of 2,200,000
West Berliners by air had at this stage not even been examined in detail, because
experts had dismissed it as impossible It was in fact the work of an RAF officer,
Air Commodore R.N. Waite, at that time director, Air Branch of the British Control
Commission in Berlin.
Two days before the total Soviet blockade began, Waite alerted RAF Transport command
to the probability that “some form of air-lift” into Berlin would shortly be required.
On 23rd of June he submitted to Major General Herbert, Commander of the British Sector
of Berlin, a rough plan for an Anglo-American airlift to sustain the city.
Herbert told him it was out of the question.
Waite sat up all night with a slide rule, calculating cargo priorities, theoretical
availabilities of transport aircraft and load factors. Next day he returned to Herbert
with a more detailed plan filled with figures, and persuaded the General to get him
ten minutes with Robertson. The British Military Governor looked the plan over and
said he still thought it impossible, but he agreed to show the proposals to Clay
later that day.
‘Clay read through Waite’s project and was at once full of enthusiasm,’ Robertson
told me three years later. ‘He took a second look and then he said “Okay I’m with
you!” Then he telephoned his Air chap to get busy immediately.’ (General Clay was
the American Military Governor)
Waite described his next job in Berlin where he ran H.Q. “Airlift”
“ Nobody could have a more interesting job than I have at the moment. As soon as
the ‘Airlift’ begun General Robertson appointed the G.O.C. British Troops as the
‘dictator’ of our besieged sector and sent me over to him as a sort of Chief of Staff
with a roving commission, which involves everything from the daily demanding, recording
and forecasting of supplies for the city to co-ordination of the Military Government
Troops and Civil organisations in the complete rearrangement of life for siege conditions.
In the last six months I think I have had to work harder than for the past 28 years
but it has been great fun working with the first rate team we have had in Berlin.”
Waite beavered away implementing his ideas which included getting the flying boats
on to the airlift, arranging for simple kerosene stoves to be supplied to Berliners,
and enough sewing machine needles and thread for them to re make their worn clothes.
Of paramount importance was coal to keep West Berlin industries running. The goods
were back loaded on to the planes returning to the Zones. He worked in tandem with
his U S counterparts and with the Berlin Government to maintain a strict but highly
Air Commodore Reginald Newham Waite C.B. C.B.E. RAF
Air Commodore R N Waite and General Sir Brian Robertson with York aircraft at Gatow airfield Berlin
From front to back, Air Commodore R N Waite, Lord Tedder, and Air Marshall Sanders
A housing development now stands at the end of the runway ( now disused ) at the site of Gatow airfield Berlin. Romilly Waite stands at the street sign, erected in her father’s memory for his efforts in the Berlin Airlift