No. 4 Squadron (IAF): Second World War

No. 4 Squadron (IAF): Second World War

No. 4 Squadron (IAF) during the Second World War

Aircraft - Locations - Group and Duty - Books

No.4 Squadron, IAF, served as a fighter-bomber squadron over Burma between April 1944 and April 1945, before taking part in the Allied occupation of Japan.

No.4 Squadron was the first Indian Air Force squadron formed after the Japanese entry into the war. It was formed on 1 February 1942 as a tactical reconnaissance squadron equipped with the Westland Lysander, receiving some aircraft from No.1 Squadron, IAF, and some new aircraft from Britain. These were used on the North West Frontier before being replaced with Hawker Hurricanes in August 1943.

At the start of 1944 the squadron received operational training in the use of the Hurricane as a fighter-bomber, before in March moving to the Burma front. Fighter-bomber missions began in April, and continued until April 1945. During this period the squadron operated in support of the Allied armies in Burma.

In April 1945 the squadron was withdrawn to convert to the Spitfire. The new aircraft arrived in June 1945, too late for the squadron to return to the front. In March 1946 No.5 Squadron, IAF, moved to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. The squadron, along with Nos.11 and 17 Squadrons RAF, traveled to Japan on the carrier HMS Vengeance, and operations began on 30 April 1946.

The squadron remained in Japan for just over a year. In July 1947 the squadron's personnel departed for India, leaving the Spitfires in Japan. Once back in India the squadron became part of the newly independent Royal Indian Air Force, flying the Hawker Tempest.

Aircraft
February 1942-August 1943: Westland Lysander II
August 1943-August 1946: Hawker Hurricane IIC
June 1945-July 1947: Supermarine Spitfire VIII
January-March 1946: Supermarine Spitfire XIV

Location
February 1942: Peshawar
February 1942-June 1943: Kohat
April-September 1942: Detachment to Miranshah
September 1942-February 1943: Detachment to Hyderabad
June-August 1943: Risalpur
August-September 1943: Phaphamau
September-November 1943: Bairagarh
November-December 1943: Sulur
December 1943-February 1944: Yelahanka
February 1944-March 1945: Ranchi
March-July 1944: Feni
July 1944-January 1945: Cox's Bazaar
January-March 1945: Madhaibun (Madarboniya, NW Burmese coast)
March-April 1945: Kyaukpyu
April 1945-March 1946: Yelahanka
March-May 1946: Iwakuni (Japan)
May 1946-July 1947: Miho (Japan)
July 1947: Return to India

Squadron Codes: sss

Duty
July 1944: No.167 Wing, No.224 Group, Third Tactical Air Force, Eastern Air Command

Books

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No. 4 Squadron (IAF): Second World War - History

The Battle for Imphal that raged from March to July 1944 was essentially a siege operation by the Japanese against the Allied forces concentrating in the Imphal valley. The British and Indian forces situated in the valley were surrounded by three Japaense Army divisions, and their stand to repel the Japanese offensive was bolstered only through the massive supply chain by air maintained by the Commonwealth Air Forces and the United States Air Forces. At the time when the offensive started, the Imphal plain was home to the RAF 221 Group, commanded by Air Vice Marshal S F Vincent, which operated from six Airstrips. Imphal Main (present day Koreingi) was to the north and was the most important. Palel to the south was the second major airstrip that could operate all year round. Additional landing grounds existed at Wangjing, Sapam, Kangla and Tulihal.

Imphal main was the main landing ground for the Air Supply operations. It was also home to two Hurricane Squadrons which operated in a Tac/Recce role. No.1 Squadron , Indian Air Force under Sqn Ldr Ajran Singh and No.28 Squadron, Royal Air Force under Sqn Ldr H G F Larsen. Another two Hurricane Squadrons, Nos 34 and 42 operated in the Bomber role from Palel airfield. Sapam airfield had another two RAF units, No 5 Squadron on Hurricanes and No.136 Squadron on Spitfire VIIIs.

Another six Dakota Squadrons and a Wellington Squadron of the RAF operated the transport component flying into the Valley.

As the siege progressed, more RAF squadrons would take part in the battle, including five additional Spitfire Squadrons (81,136,152,607 and 615) and a Beaufighter unit (No.176 Squadron).

Facing the force of half a dozen Hurricane Squadrons was a Japanese air component of eight ‘Sentais’ (Squadrons). These consisted of four Sentais flying the Nakajima Ki-43 Oscars. (Nos 50 64 87 204), One unit each flying the Kawasaki Ki48 Lily, Mitsubishi Ki21 Sally, Nakajima Ki49 Helen and the Mitshubishi Ki46 Dinah.


Contents

The Indian National Congress, led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Maulana Azad, denounced Nazi Germany but would not fight it or anyone else until India was independent. [15] Congress launched the Quit India Movement in August 1942, refusing to co-operate in any way with the government until independence was granted. The government, not ready for this, immediately arrested over 60,000 national and local Congress leaders, and then moved to suppress the violent reaction of Congress supporters. Key leaders were kept in prison until June 1945, although Gandhi was released in May 1944 because of his health. Congress, with its leaders incommunicado, played little role on the home front. Unlike the predominately Hindu Congress, the Muslim League rejected the Quit India movement and worked closely with the Raj authorities. [16]

Supporters of the British Raj argued that decolonisation was impossible in the middle of a great war. So, in 1939, the British Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow declared India's entry into the War without consulting prominent Indian Congress leaders who were just elected in previous elections. [1]

Subhas Chandra Bose (also called Netaji) had been a top Congress leader. He broke up with the Congress and tried to form a military alliance with Germany or Japan to gain independence. Bose, with the assistance of Germany, formed the Indian Legion from Indian students in Axis occupied Europe and Indian Army prisoners of war. With German reversals in 1942 and 1943, Bose and the Legion's officers were transported by U boat to Japanese territory to continue his plans. Upon arrival, Japan helped him set up the Indian National Army (INA) which fought under Japanese direction, mostly in the Burma Campaign. Bose also headed the Provisional Government of Free India, a government-in-exile based in Singapore. It controlled no Indian territory and was used only to raise troops for Japan. [17]

In 1939 the British Indian Army numbered 205,000 men. It took in volunteers and by 1945 was the largest all-volunteer force in history, rising to over 2.5 million men. [18] These forces included tank, artillery and airborne forces. Indian personnel of the British Indian Army received 4,000 awards for gallantry, including 31 Victoria Crosses. [19]

The Middle East and African theatre Edit

The British government meanwhile sent Indian troops to fight in West Asia and northern Africa against the Axis. India also geared up to produce essential goods such as food and uniforms.

The 4th, 5th and 10th Indian Divisions took part in the North African theatre against Rommel's Afrika Korps. In addition, the 18th Brigade of the 8th Indian Division fought at Alamein. Earlier, the 4th and 5th Indian Divisions took part in the East African campaign against the Italians in Somaliland, Eritrea and Abyssinia capturing the mountain fortress of Keren.

In the Battle of Bir Hacheim, Indian gunners played an important role by using guns in the anti tank role and destroying tanks of Rommel's panzer divisions. Maj PPK Kumaramangalam was the battery commander of 41 Field Regiment which was deployed in the anti tank role. He was awarded the DSO for his act of bravery. Later he became the Chief of Army Staff of India in 1967.

South-East Asian theatre Edit

The British Indian Army was the key British Empire fighting presence in the Burma Campaign. The Royal Indian Air force's first assault mission was carried out against Japanese troops stationed in Burma. The British Indian Army was key to breaking the siege of Imphal when the westward advance of Imperial Japan came to a halt.

The formations included the Indian III Corps, IV Corps, the Indian XXXIII Corps and the Fourteenth Army. As part of the new concept of Long Range Penetration (LRP), Gurkha troops of the Indian Army were trained in the present state of Madhya Pradesh under their commander then krishnasamy (later Major General) Orde Charles Wingate.

These troops, popularly known as Chindits, played a crucial role in halting the Japanese advance into South Asia. [20]

Capture of Indian territory Edit

By 1942, neighbouring Burma was invaded by Japan, which by then had already captured the Indian territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Japan gave nominal control of the islands to the Provisional Government of Free India on 21 October 1943, and in the following March, the Indian National Army with the help of Japan crossed into India and advanced as far as Kohima in Nagaland. This advance on the mainland of South Asia reached its farthest point on India territory, retreating from the Battle of Kohima in June and from that of Imphal on . [ citation needed ]

Recapture of Axis-occupied territory Edit

In 1944–45 Japan was under heavy air bombardment at home and suffered massive naval defeats in the Pacific. As its Imphal offensive failed, harsh weather and disease and withdrawal of air cover (due to more pressing needs in the Pacific) also took its toll on the Japanese and remnants of the INA and the Burma National Army. In spring 1945, a resurgent British army recaptured the occupied lands. [21]

The invasion of Italy Edit


Indian forces played a role in liberating Italy from Nazi control. India contributed the 3rd largest Allied contingent in the Italian campaign after US and British forces. The 4th, 8th and 10th Divisions and 43rd Gurkha Infantry Brigade led the advance, notably at the gruelling Battle of Monte Cassino. They fought on the Gothic Line in 1944 and 1945.

During World War II, the IAF played an instrumental role in halting the advance of the Japanese army in Burma, where the first IAF air strike was executed. The target for this first mission was the Japanese military base in Arakan, after which IAF strike missions continued against the Japanese airbases at Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in northern Thailand.

The IAF was mainly involved in strike, close air support, aerial reconnaissance, bomber escort and pathfinding missions for RAF and USAAF heavy bombers. RAF and IAF pilots would train by flying with their non-native air wings to gain combat experience and communication proficiency. Besides operations in the Burma Theatre IAF pilots participated in air operations in North Africa and Europe. [22]

In addition to the IAF, many native Indians and some 200 Indians resident in Britain volunteered to join the RAF and Women's Auxiliary Air Force. One such volunteer was Sergeant Shailendra Eknath Sukthankar, who served as a navigator with No. 83 Squadron. Sukthankar was commissioned as an officer, and on 14 September 1943, received the DFC. Squadron Leader Sukthankar eventually completed 45 operations, 14 of them on board the RAF Museum’s Avro Lancaster R5868. Another volunteer was Assistant Section Officer Noor Inayat Khan a Muslim pacifist and Indian nationalist who joined the WAAF, in November 1940, to fight against Nazism. Noor Khan served bravely as a secret agent with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in France, but was eventually betrayed and captured. [22] Many of these Indian airmen were seconded or transferred to the expanding IAF such as Squadron Leader Mohinder Singh Pujji DFC who led No. 4 Squadron IAF in Burma.

During the war, the IAF experienced a phase of steady expansion. New aircraft added to the fleet included the US-built Vultee Vengeance, Douglas Dakota, the British Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire, Bristol Blenheim, and Westland Lysander.

In recognition of the valiant service by the IAF, King George VI conferred the prefix "Royal" in 1945. Thereafter the IAF was referred to as the Royal Indian Air Force. In 1950, when India became a republic, the prefix was dropped and it reverted to being the Indian Air Force. [24]

In 1934 the Royal Indian Marine changed its name, with the enactment of the Indian Navy (Discipline) Act of 1934. The Royal Indian Navy was formally inaugurated on 2 October 1934, at Bombay. [26] Its ships carried the prefix HMIS, for His Majesty's Indian Ship. [27]

At the start of the Second World War, the Royal Indian Navy was small, with only eight warships. The onset of the war led to an expansion in vessels and personnel described by one writer as "phenomenal". By 1943 the strength of the RIN had reached twenty thousand. [28] During the War, the Women's Royal Indian Naval Service was established, for the first time giving women a role in the navy, although they did not serve on board its ships. [26]

During the course of the war six anti-aircraft sloops and several fleet minesweepers were built in the United Kingdom for the R.I.N. After commissioning, many of these ships joined various escort groups operating in the northern approaches to the British Isles. HMIS Sutlej and HMIS Jumna, each armed with six-high angle 4" guns, were present during the Clyde "Blitz" of 1941 and assisted the defence of this area by providing anti-aircraft cover. For the next six months these two ships joined the Clyde Escort Force, operating in the Atlantic and later the Irish Sea Escort Force where they acted as the senior ships of the groups. While engaged on these duties, numerous attacks against U-boats were carried out and attacks by hostile aircraft repelled. At the time of action in which the Bismarck was involved, the Sutlej left Scapa Flow, with all despatch as the senior member of a group, to take over a convoy from the destroyers which were finally engaged in the sinking of the Bismarck. [29]

Later HMIS Cauvery, HMIS Kistna, HMIS Narbada, HMIS Godavari, also antiaircraft sloops, completed similar periods in the U.K. waters escorting convoys in the Atlantic and dealing with attacks from hostile U-boats, aircraft and glider bombs. These six ships and the minesweepers all eventually proceeded to India carrying out various duties in the North Atlantic, Mediterranean and Cape stations en route. The fleet minesweepers were HMIS Kathiawar, HMIS Kumaon, HMIS Baluchistan, HMIS Carnatic, HMIS Khyber, HMIS Konkan, HMIS Orissa, HMIS Rajputana, HMIS Rohilkhand. [29]

HMIS Bengal was a part of the Eastern Fleet during World War II, and escorted numerous convoys between 1942-45. [30]

The sloops HMIS Sutlej and HMIS Jumna played a role in Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily by providing air defence and anti-submarine screening to the invasion fleet. [31] [32]

Furthermore, the Royal Indian Navy participated in convoy escort duties in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean and was heavily involved in combat operations as part of the Burma Campaign, carrying out raids, shore bombardment, naval invasion support and other activities culminating in Operation Dracula and the mopping up operations during the final stages of the war. [33]

Royal Indian Naval combat losses Edit

The sloop HMIS Pathan sunk on June 1940 by the Italian Navy Submarine Galvani during the East African Campaign [34] [35] [36] [37]

In the days immediately following the Attack on Pearl Harbor, HMS Glasgow was patrolling the Laccadive Islands in search of a Japanese ships and submarines. At midnight on 9 December 1941, HMS Glasgow sank the RIN patrol vessel HMIS Prabhavati with two lighters in tow en route to Karachi, with 6-inch shells at 6,000 yards (5,500 m). Prabhavati was alongside the lighters and was mistaken for a surfaced Japanese submarine. [38] [39] [40]

HMIS Indus was sunk by Japanese aircraft during Burma Campaign on 6 April 1942. [41]

Royal Indian Naval successes Edit

HMIS Jumna was ordered in 1939, and built by William Denny and Brothers. She was commissioned in 1941, [42] and with World War II underway, was immediately deployed as a convoy escort. Jumna served as an anti-aircraft escort during the Java Sea campaign in early 1942, and was involved in intensive anti-aircraft action against attacking Japanese twin-engined level bombers and dive bombers, claiming five aircraft downed from 24–28 February 1942.

In June 1942 HMIS Bombay was involved in the defence of Sydney Harbour during the Attack on Sydney Harbour.

On 11 November 1942, Bengal was escorting the Dutch tanker Ondina [43] to the southwest of Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean. Two Japanese commerce raiders armed with six-inch guns attacked Ondina. Bengal fired her single four-inch gun and Ondina fired her 102 mm and both scored hits on Hōkoku Maru, which shortly blew up and sank. [43] [44]

On 12 Feb 1944, The Japanese submarine RO-110 was depth charged and sunk east-south-east off Visakhapatnam, India by the Indian sloop HMIS Jumna and the Australian minesweepers HMAS Launceston and HMAS Ipswich (J186). RO-110 had attacked convoy JC-36 (Colombo-Calcutta) and torpedoed and damaged the British merchant Asphalion (6274 GRT). [42] [45]

On 12 August, 1944 the German submarine U-198 was sunk near the Seychelles, in position 03º35'S, 52º49'E, by depth charges from the HMIS Godavari and the British frigate HMS Findhorn. [46] [41]

Several leaders of the radical revolutionary Indian independence movement broke away from the main Congress and went to war against Britain. Subhas Chandra Bose, once a prominent leader of Congress, volunteered to help Germany and Japan he said Britain's opposition to Nazism and Fascism was "hypocrisy" since it was itself violating human rights and denying individual liberties in India. [47] Moreover, he argued that it was not Germany and Japan but the British Raj which was the enemy, since the British were over-exploiting Indian resources for the war. [47] Bose suggested that there was little possibility of India being attacked by any of the Axis powers provided it did not fight the war on Britain's side. [47]

Berlin was encouraging but gave little help. Bose then approached Tokyo which gave him control of Indian forces it had organised. [49]

The Indian National Army (INA), formed first by Mohan Singh Deb, consisted initially of prisoners taken by the Japanese in Malaya and at Singapore who were offered the choice of serving the INA by Japan or remaining in very negative conditions in POW camps. Later, after it was reorganised under Subhas Chandra Bose, it drew civilian volunteers from Malaya and Burma. Ultimately, a force of under 40,000 was formed, although only two divisions ever participated in battle. Intelligence and special services groups from the INA were instrumental in destabilising the British Indian Army in the early stages of the Arakan offensive. It was during this time that the British Military Intelligence began propaganda work to shield the true numbers who joined the INA, and also described stories of Japanese brutalities that indicated INA involvement. Further, the Indian press was prohibited from publishing any accounts whatsoever of the INA.

As the Japanese offensive opened, the INA was sent into battle. Bose hoped to avoid set-piece battles for which it lacked arms, armament as well as man-power. [50] Initially, he sought to obtain arms as well as increase its ranks from British Indian soldiers he hoped would defect to his cause. Once the Japanese forces were able to break the British defences at Imphal, he planned for the INA to cross the hills of North-East India into the Gangetic plain, where it was to work as a guerrilla army and expected to live off the land, garner support, supplies, and ranks from amongst the local populace to ultimately touch off a revolution.

Prem Kumar Sahgal, an officer of the INA once Military secretary to Subhas Bose and later tried in the first Red Fort trials, explained that although the war itself hung in balance and nobody was sure if the Japanese would win, initiating a popular revolution with grass-root support within India would ensure that even if Japan lost the war ultimately, Britain would not be in a position to re-assert its colonial authority, which was ultimately the aim of the INA and Azad Hind.

As Japan opened its offensive towards India, the INA's first division, consisting of four Guerrilla regiments, participated in Arakan offensive in 1944, with one battalion reaching as far as Mowdok in Chittagong. Other units were directed to Imphal and Kohima, as well as to protect Japanese flanks to the south of Arakan, a task it successfully carried out. However, the first division suffered the same fate as did Mutaguchi's Army when the siege of Imphal was broken. With little or no supplies and supply lines deluged by the Monsoon, harassed by Allied air dominance, the INA began withdrawing when the 15th Army and Burma Area Army began withdrawing, and suffered the same terrible fate as wounded, starved and diseased men succumbed during the hasty withdrawal into Burma. Later in the war however, the INA's second division, tasked with the defence of Irrawaddy and the adjoining areas around Nangyu, was instrumental in opposing Messervy's 7th Indian Infantry Division when it attempted to cross the river at Pagan and Nyangyu during the successful Burma Campaign by the Allies the following year. The 2nd division was instrumental in denying the 17th Indian Infantry Division the area around Mount Popa that would have exposed the flank of Kimura's forces attempting to retake Meiktila and Nyangyu. Ultimately however, the division was obliterated. Some of the surviving units of the INA surrendered as Rangoon fell, and helped keep order till the allied forces entered the city. The other remnants began a long march over land and on foot towards Singapore, along with Subhas Chandra Bose. As the Japanese situation became precarious, Bose left for Manchuria to attempt to contact the Russians, and was reported to have died in an air crash near Taiwan.

The only Indian territory that the Azad Hind government controlled was nominally the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. However, they were bases for the Japanese Navy, and the navy never relinquished control. Enraged with the lack of administrative control, the Azad Hind Governor, Lt. Col. Loganathan, later relinquished his authority. After the War, a number of officers of the INA were tried for treason. However, faced with the possibility of a massive civil unrest and a mutiny in the Indian Army, the British officials decided to release the prisoners-of-war in addition, the event became a turning point to expedite the process of transformation of power and independence of India. [51] [ page needed ]

The region of Bengal in India suffered a devastating famine during 1940-43. Some of the key reasons for this famine are:

  1. British export of food and material for the war in Europe
  2. Japanese invasion of Burma which cut off food and other essential supplies to the region
  3. British denial orders destroying essential food transportation throughout the Eastern region
  4. British banned transfer of grain from other provinces, turning down offers of grain from Australia
  5. mismanagement by British Indian regional governments
  6. constructing 900 airfields (2000 acres each) taking that huge amount of land out of agriculture in a time of dire need
  7. price inflation caused by war production
  8. increase in demand partially as a result of refugees from Burma and Bengal.

The British government denied an urgent request from Leopold Amery, the Indian secretary of state, and Archibald Wavell, the Viceroy of India, to stop exports of food from Bengal in order that it might be used for famine relief. Winston Churchill, then prime minister, dismissed these requests in a fashion that Amery regarded as "Hitler-like," by asking why, if the famine was so horrible, Gandhi had not yet died of starvation. [52]

Indian Economist Amartya Sen (1976) challenged this orthodoxy, reviving the claim that there was no shortage of food in Bengal and that the famine was caused by inflation. [53]

During World War II, in 1941, the British presented a captured German Bf109 single-engined fighter to the Nizam of Hyderabad, in return for the funding of 2 RAF fighter squadrons. [54]

There was a campsite for Polish refugees at Valivade, in Kolhapur State, it was the largest settlement of Polish refugees In India during the war. [55] [56] [57] Another such campsite for Polish refugee children was located in Balachadi, it was built by K. S. Digvijaysinhji, Jam Saheb Maharaja of Nawanagar State in 1942, near his summer resort. He gave refuge to hundreds of Polish children rescued from Soviet camps (Gulags). [55] [58] [59] The campsite is now part of the Sainik School. [60]

From 1944 to 1945, Daru Khan Badinzai led an insurgency against the authorities of the Raj. It began in the first half of 1944, when rebels of the Badinzai tribe began interfering with road construction on the British side of the Balochistan border. [61] The insurgency had subsided by March 1945. [62]

In 1944, the Southern and Eastern provinces of Afghanistan entered a state of turmoil, with the Zadran, Safi and Mangal tribes rising up against the Afghan government. [63] Among the leaders of the revolt was the Zadran chieftain, Mazrak Zadran, [64] who opted to invade British-occupied India in late 1944. There he was joined by a Baloch chieftain, Sultan Ahmed. [65] Mazrak was forced to retreat back into Afghanistan due to British aerial bombardment. [66]

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26. Henry Boot and Ray Sturtivant. Gifts of War 27. Brett Holman. The Imperial Aircraft Flotilla - II


Last word

The life of Squadron Leader Dalip Singh looks like a page from a romantic novel. He continued flying till 1980 and then began to concentrate more and more on golf. Dalip Singh is a man who can be ideal for the youth of today. Here is a man who was a fighter pilot and continued flying until the age of 60. He also had a wonderful love marriage and the good lady is still with him.

Right down from the Chief of Air Staff, the Air Force remembers this man. It is a moving sight to watch the squadron leader being felicitated along with his wife Joan. The air force band trumpeter playing happy birthday brings a lump in one&aposs throat. Dalip Singh was born in 1920 and yesterday celebrated his hundredth birthday. I also wish him all the best in the years to come. I must point out that Dalip Singh is extremely fit and I have been told just two days back he had a game of golf.


Contents

Mohinder Singh Pujji was born in Simla, British India, on 14 August 1918, the fourth son of Sardar Sohan Singh Pujji and his wife—Sant Kaur. His father was a senior government official who worked in the department of health and education. [5] He attended the Sir Harcourt Butler High School in Simla, then on his father's retirement to his home state of Punjab attended the Government College and later the Hindu College in Lahore. [1] [6] [7] [8] [9]

He learned to fly in 1936 as a hobby pilot at the Delhi Flying Club, where he fell in love with flying and in April 1937 achieved his "A" certificate of flying competency. [1] His first job was with Himalayan Airways as a line pilot, flying passengers between Haridwar and Badrinath, but soon after was offered a better job with Burmah Shell, where he worked as a refuelling superintendent in 1938. [1] [6] [7]

Pujji married his wife Amrit Kaur in November 1944. Their first daughter Veena was born in March 1946. The couple had two more children Rita and Satinder. [10]

In 1940, news of the unceasing German air attacks besieging Britain and civilian losses was reaching British India, Pujji's sense of duty and daring adventurism instinctively caused him to attend the advertised appeal for pre-qualified "A" licensed pilots at the fourth pilot's course of the Royal Indian Air Force—despite his parents' fears becoming one of the first batch of 24 pre-qualified "A" licensed Indian pilots accepted through this route to receive a Volunteer Reserve commission with the Royal Air Force during the early part of the Second World War. [1] [4] [6] [7] [11]

United Kingdom and Europe Edit

Embarking for the United Kingdom aboard SS Strathallan, arriving in Liverpool on 1 October 1940, Pujji's first posting was on 8 October 1940 to No. 1 RAF Depot in Uxbridge. Within a few days he was posted to No. 12 Elementary Flying Training School RAF at Prestwick in Scotland. From there the first 24 volunteer Indian pilots went on to No. 9 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit RAF at RAF Hullavington. From the first 24 volunteer candidates, 18 including Pujji, successfully completed the course and qualified as Royal Air Force pilots, receiving their RAF wings on 16 April 1941. A few weeks later Pujji and a handful of other pilots from the first 24 went on to the renowned No. 56 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at RAF Sutton Bridge, where they joined British and other foreign-allied pilots for advanced fighter pilot training on the Hawker Hurricane. [1] [6] [7]

Pujji flew active service first with No. 43 Squadron RAF from 2 June 1941, the formidable 'Fighting Cocks' fighter squadron, before being posted later in the same month to No. 258 Squadron RAF. [1] [6] [7] Operating from RAF Kenley, Pujji escorted bomber offensives over occupied France, conducted Rhubarb patrols over Europe, coastal patrols and other operational sorties in defence of Britain. [1] [6] [7] He flew mainly Hurricanes, which he preferred to Spitfires, for their relative ease of flying. [12] He was forced down on several occasions in one instance, his aircraft was disabled over the English Channel by a Messerschmitt Bf 109, but he managed to coax his aircraft to dry land, crashing near the White Cliffs of Dover. He was rescued from the burning wreckage and after a week in hospital returned to duty. [1] [6] [7] [8]

He was treated well in England, experiencing as a volunteer RAF service-member favourable treatment at local cinemas and restaurants, often without payment. [3] He subsequently commented, "I felt very welcome indeed, I never felt different or an outsider and my experiences in this country made me keen to return some time after the War. I was made to feel very much at home by everyone I met" [8] and "I wrote back to my father saying that I did not mind if I was killed because the British people were wonderful and so brave, and I was being so well treated. I could not queue for a movie without being told to move to the front". [1] [6] [7] [9]

As a Sikh, Pujji insisted on retaining his dastar Sikh headwear—even while flying, upon which he had also attached his RAF insignia, even carrying a spare dastar, in case it was needed. The dastar, however, would interfere with use of the pilot flight headgear. On request, he was permitted to use a modified flight headgear, designing a special harness that would permit him to wear the dastar and still use his radio headphone receivers. Pujji's insistence on wearing the dastar inflight meant he could not attach the oxygen mask, it would later cost him an irreparably damaged lung caused by exposure to high-altitude flying. [12] Subsequently, in 1960, he ceased wearing the customary dastar Sikh headwear, "Times changed," he said. [6] [7] [12]

Mediterranean and Middle East Edit

After serving four months of active service in the European theatre of World War II, Pujji was dispatched at the end of September 1941 to Air Headquarters Western Desert in the Mediterranean and Middle East theatre of World War II. [1] [6] [7] In late 1941, during the North African campaign, his aircraft was forced down in the West African desert, but luckily was found and picked up by British rather than German desert troops. [1] [6] [7] [12] Desert living conditions were somewhat challenging, resulting in Pujji suffering from dietary problems, living often only on hardtack biscuits, since he could not eat the British staple issue service food bully beef for religious reasons, but was compensated by allowing him to fly at weekends to Cairo where he could enjoy a decent meal. [1] [6] [7]

South-East Asia Edit

On 16 January 1942, Pujji embarked at Suez for Colombo, British Ceylon in the South-East Asian theatre of World War II. From February 1942 through 1943, on transferring to No. 4 Squadron IAF of the Royal Indian Air Force at Kohat, Pujji would fly both the Hurricane and Westland Lysander over the North-West Frontier Province and other locations in British India. [1] [6] [7]

On 20 December 1943, Pujji was dispatched as flight commander to No. 6 Squadron RAF at Cox's Bazar, this time flying the Hurricane in a tactical role, rather than a fighter role, for the RAF Third Tactical Air Force crucially providing specialist support to the British Fourteenth Army campaign. Pujji served from March 1944 in Burma, where the Japanese posed a threat to British India, moving with the squadron to the Buthidaung region which was the theatre of a major ground offensive. When some 300 US troops were lost without rations, food and radio contact, in the dense Burmese jungle swarming with Japanese soldiers, the US sent out a search party to locate them, however, after the US search party failed after 3-days to locate them, Pujji was personally requested by General William Slim, 1st Viscount Slim of the British Fourteenth Army to find them. [6] [13] Pujji climbed into his plane and in adverse weather flew low over treetops across Japanese occupied territory into the suspected area—and with jubilation for everyone—Pujji found them. [6] [7] [13]

From April 1944, Pujji transferred as flight commander to No. 4 Squadron IAF at Fenny Airfield, carrying out transport escort and merchant shipping escort. [1] [6] [7] In June 1944, No. 4 Squadron IAF transferred to Comilla. With the approaching monsoon season, the role of the squadron was changed from fighter reconnaissance to light bombing, seeing action along the Sangu River during the Third Arakan Offensive. In early 1945, Pujji was transferred on attachment to Command and Staff College in Quetta (then in British India). Pujji had spent almost four years on continuous operational flying duty, considered unusual even by standards of the Second World War. [1] [6] [7]

Distinguished Flying Cross Edit

For his service bravery over Japanese occupied territory, Pujji was awarded the DFC, in recognition of gallantry and devotion to duty in the execution of air operations. [1] [2] [6] [7] Announced in The London Gazette on 17 April 1945, [2] and followed with a personal letter of congratulations from Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park, [14] the DFC citation reads in part:

Acting Flight Lieutenant Mahinder Singh Pujji No. 4 (RIAF) Squadron

"This officer has flown on many reconnaissance sorties over Japanese occupied territory, often in adverse monsoon weather. He has obtained much valuable information on enemy troop movements and dispositions, which enabled an air offensive to be maintained against the Japanese troops throughout the monsoon. Flight Lieutenant Pujji has shown himself to be a skilful and determined pilot who has always displayed outstanding leadership and courage."

In late 1946, after suffering from a long illness of tuberculosis, which nearly cost him his life, caused him to become classified unfit for military service and receive a permanent disability discharge from service in the Indian Air Force. [1] [6] [7] From 1947, Pujji was employed as an Aerodrome Officer at Safdarjung Aerodrome, Delhi, where he also continued to fly in a civilian role. [1] From the 1950s, he went on to aspire as a recreational motor racing champion and holder of gliding records. [1] [3] [11] [15] During his career and life, he had the opportunity to personally give Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru a glider flight tour in 1959, including a glider flight for Edwina Mountbatten, Countess Mountbatten of Burma and US president Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1961, he had the opportunity to personally greet Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to Udaipur and Jackie Kennedy in 1962. [3] [6] [7]

Pujji returned and emigrated to England in 1974, where he worked as an air traffic controller at Heathrow Airport. [11] Some years later, Pujji moved to the United States to work as manager of a pizza retail chain, [3] before returning to England in 1984 and settling in East Ham, and in 1998 retiring to Gravesend, Kent. On 12 October 2000, he was made an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Newham. [3] [6] [7] [9]

In 2005, Pujji protested the British National Party's symbolic usage of a Spitfire aircraft image in their political campaign literature. He was reported as saying,

"The BNP are wrong to use the Spitfire as representative of their party. They forget people from different backgrounds helped in the Second World War. I am proof of this - I was flying a Spitfire. I also met Winston Churchill. Even in those days, there were ethnic minorities fighting for the British. I would recommend the armed forces for young people, regardless of race." [16]

In August 2010, Pujji's autobiography For King And Another Country was released.

Pujji died of a stroke at Darent Valley Hospital, England, on 18 September 2010, aged 92. He is survived by two daughters, one son, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. The local authority Gravesham Borough Council, celebrated his life and heroism with an exhibition. [15]

Despite the high respect that Pujji experienced during the War, he believed that war films presented a "white-only view of the RAF". [12] He campaigned to raise awareness of the Indian contribution to the British war effort, which he, like many veterans, believed had been largely ignored. [4] In 2009, Pujji acknowledged he had received no invitations to any of the many commemorative events in Britain that marked the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, or any other year, he says. He is quoted as saying, "As far as I think, no one in authority remembers that we are here, and we were a part of World War II". [4] [17]

In an effort to redress the balance, the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford opened a permanent exhibition in January 2009 ("Diversity in the Royal Air Force"), intended to "challenge negative perceptions, by celebrating the racial diversity of its history". The museum's curator—Al McLean, is quoted as saying: "Too many of our visitors are white, over 50 and middle class. I want to appeal to more than just those people. This exhibition explains a side of our story that isn't recognised – that the RAF is not just a white public schoolboy occupation". Pujji was the guest of honour at the opening. [12]

Shortly before his death on 18 September 2010 aged 92, Pujji was invited to attend a wreath-laying ceremony by Philip Sidney, 2nd Viscount De L'Isle, at a memorial outside the former RAF Station Gravesend Airport, to commemorate "The Few" on the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. [18]

In 2011 the short film The Volunteers was dedicated to Pujji after he contributed to its making but died before the film's completion.

Statue Edit

A statue of Squadron Leader Pujji, by English sculptor Douglas Jennings, was unveiled by Air Vice-Marshal Edward Stringer in St Andrew's Gardens, Gravesend, on 28 November 2014. It bears the inscription: "To commemorate those from around the world who served alongside Britain in all conflicts 1914-2014". [11] [18] The Gravesend community, which has one of the largest gurdwaras in the UK, raised £70,000 for the statue in a month. [4] [19]


Epilogue

Early in August 1944 I joined the training school at Andheri. The school was just about to be shifted to Hakimpet to be merged with the school established there. On reporting to Andheri I explained that I was coming from the operational area and that I had no leave for a long time. I was granted leave immediately. On return from leave, the school moved to Hakimpet.

This training unit moved in March 1947 to Tambaram. All technical trade training was concentrated in this one unit. I got my promotion as Flight Sergeant and worked in the School Trade Test Board. I still remember very vividly the midnight of Aug 14, 1947, when we all sat around the radio in the SNCO’s Mess and listened to the famous speech of Nehru – “the tryst with destiny.” In 1949 No 3 GTS was formed at Jalahalli for all Signals training. I was then posted to CTTB at Kanpur. Within six months on promotion as Warrant Officer I went back to Tambaram. As a W.O. I was in independent charge of the Signals Section at Tambaram.

I remained there till 1954 when, based on the results of written examinations and the tests at the Selection Board, Dehra Dun, I was selected for commissioning. Accordingly I underwent the Officers Training Course at AFTC, Jalahalli, and stood first in the course. I was commissioned in Feb 1956, with two years ante date.

As a Plt Offr I got a supernumerary posting to Tambaram but within a year was moved to No 3 GTS. Air HQ was pleased to move me again to Tambaram after spending exactly one year at 3 GTS. Here I became a Flt Lt.

In 1960 I was posted to a Signals Unit in Jammu and being the only officer in the unit was the CO of the unit. I got my “last posting before retirement” in 1962 and it was again to Tambaram upon request. As a Flt Lt I sat on the same chair which eight years earlier I left as a W.O. But the Chinese war of 1962 upset so many plans. I was promoted and posted to No 6 GTS Jalahalli — a newly formed training unit for Radar trades. On reaching superannuation, I retired from No 6 GTS in 1966.

Air HQ kindly gave me three years of re-employment of which the first year was at 6 GTS and the last two years at No 3 GTS. Since both units were on the same station, I was in Jalahalli from 1963 to 1969. In July I bid farewell to active service in the Air Force which was my home from Dec 1939 — a period of almost 30 years.Looking back in reminiscence, I am happy to say that I have no regrets and no axe to grind. I loved and enjoyed my work. And in all humility and thankfulness Imust acknowledge that wherever I was in whatever rank, I received respect, love and consideration from all those around me.

XIX Course Passing Out December 1960


Air War Over Kashmir

Pakistan Air Force Squadron Leader Muhammad Alam climbs aboard a North American F-86F at Sargodha air base in 1965.

The 1965 Indo-Pakistani War pitted Sabres and Starfighters against British and French fighters in low-level combat.

All over the world, fighter pilots are the same. They won’t stand for enemy aircraft attacking their nest. In early September 1965, Squadron Leader Muhammad Alam of the Pakistan Air Force dived his North American F-86F Sabre after seven Indian Air Force Hawker F.56 Hunter fighter- bombers raiding Sargodha, a Pakistani air base 80 miles west of the Indian border.

“I took the last man and dived behind him, getting very low in the process,” recounted Alam. He had flown the Hunter in Britain, and knew that it “can out-run the Sabre—it’s only about 50 knots faster, but has a much better acceleration, so it can pull away very rapidly.” But Alam had 1,400 hours in the F-86, some of the highest gunnery scores in the PAF and a pair of heat-seeking missiles under his wings. “Since I was diving, I was going still faster, and as he was out of gun range, I fired the first of my two GAR-8 Sidewinder missiles at him. In this case, we were too low and I saw the missile hit the ground short of its target.”

As the Indian formation broke up, Alam fired his second missile. “I didn’t see it strike,” he said. “The next thing I remember was that I was overshooting one of the Hunters and when I looked behind, the cockpit canopy was missing and there was no pilot in the aircraft.” He went after the rest. “When I was in gun­­fire range they all saw me. They all broke in one direc­tion, climbing and turning steeply to the left, which put them in loose line astern. This, of course, was their big mistake.”

The next 30 seconds have passed into PAF legend. “It all happened very fast,” Alam admitted. “We were all turning very tightly—in excess of 5g or just about on the limits of the Sabre’s very accurate A-4 radar-ranging gunsight. And I think before we had completed about 270 degrees of the turn, at around 12 degrees per second, all four Hunters had been shot down.”


Alam was credited with shooting down five Hawker Hunters on September 7, 1965 (including this one), but the Indian Air Force reported only two pilots killed. (Pakistan Air Force)

To this day, both sides in the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War deny most of each other’s claims, yet the conflict provided a unique test of Western weapons in combat. Pakistan fought with American-made tanks and airplanes. Though flirting with the Soviets, India bought the bulk of its armor and aircraft in Europe. Both air forces were organized in the British colonial tradition. But ever since their mutual independence in 1947, Pakistan considered the northern Indian territory of Kashmir to be on the wrong side of the border. In August it invaded, and on September 1 Indian army units called in air support. The PAF was outnumbered 5-to-1.

The IAF’s twin-boom de Havilland Vampire jets had first flown during World War II. A dozen sent to strafe Pakistani tanks on September 1 proved easy meat for PAF Sabres, which in the conflict’s first dogfight scored three victories for no losses. With war having not yet been declared, Sabre pilot Sqd. Ldr. Sarfaraz Rafiqui scored two before querying his radar ground controller, “Did you mean us to shoot to kill or to frighten?”

“To kill,” was the answer, “and you’ve done it.”

The next day, however, the Indians moved a flight of little Folland F.1 Gnat fighters up to the front. “We want you to shoot down Sabres,” their pilots were briefed. “How you do it is your problem, but the Sabres have to be tackled.”

On the morning of September 3, PAF Sabres scrambled to meet four IAF Dassault MD.454 Mystère IVa fighter-bombers. The Mystères, mere bait, fled. Four Gnats rose in their place. PAF Sqd. Ldr. Yusuf Ali Khan banked his F-86F into the middle of their formation. “Just as I was about to launch my GAR-8,” he said, “I felt a series of thuds on my aircraft.”

IAF Sqd. Ldr. Trevor Keelor closed to 200 yards, firing his Gnat’s twin 30mm cannons. Seeing an explosion on the Sabre’s right wing and the aircraft plunge away, he would claim the IAF’s first air-to-air kill. The PAF reported a cannon shell hit one of Khan’s Sidewinders, causing the explosion, but he managed to return to Sargodha. One Gnat was lost when Sqd. Ldr. Brijpal Singh Sikand, low on fuel and lost, landed on a PAF airfield. The Pakistanis claimed he surrendered to a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter flown by Flt. Lt. Hakimullah Khan Durrani at any rate, Sikand’s Gnat is on display to this day at the PAF museum in Karachi. Much to the derision of the Pakistanis, the Indians nicknamed the Gnat the “Sabre Slayer.”


PAF Flight Lt. Syed Saad Akhtar Hatmi stands beside a Gnat of No. 2 Squadron, IAF, captured at Pasrur on September 3. (Pakistan Air Force)

On the 4th, PAF Flt. Lt. Aftab Alam Khan dived his Star­fighter through four Indian Mystères that were strafing a passenger train. As they scattered low over the deck, he swung back around on their tails to fire a Sidewinder. “The flash of the missile blinded me for a few seconds,” Khan recalled. “The radar controller, who was also monitoring the radio of the Mystères, immediately informed me that one Mystère had been shot down and that another had been damaged …. It was also the first combat kill by any Mach 2 aircraft and the first missile kill for the Pakistan Air Force.” India claimed their aircraft had merely dropped its external fuel tanks, which exploded on impact.

Meanwhile, flying at low level to attack the Indian base at Adampur, Alam’s three-Sabre flight spotted four IAF No. 7 Squadron Hunters crossing their path about 500 feet off the ground. “I never fought at such low altitudes again,” Alam said, “nor often at such low speeds.” The seven jets got into a turning battle, down to 200 knots and treetop level. “In maneuverability, the Sabre was undoubtedly better than the Hunter,” Alam noted. He saw his first target flick over into the ground, “although I’m not certain whether I hit him or not.” IAF Sqd. Ldr. A.K. “Peter” Rawlley was killed. Alam claimed a second Hunter as well, which the Indians did not concede.

Elsewhere, three Sabres led by Sqd. Ldr. Rafiqui jumped two Hunters covering the IAF base at Halwara. Rafiqui shot down the leader, but four more Hunters arrived, two from each side. “My guns have stopped firing,” Rafiqui reported. In a confused ground-level dogfight, the Pakistanis claimed four Hunters, but two Sabres were shot down, including Rafiqui, who ejected too low and was found near his wrecked aircraft. He was posthumously awarded the Crescent of Courage, Pakistan’s second-highest military award.

On September 7, probably the critical day of the air war, the IAF was determined to take the fight to Pakistan. A dawn raid by Mystères took Sargodha by surprise. As the Indians scattered homeward, Flt. Lt. Amjad Hussain Khan pursued two of them in his F-104A. He returned to base later that day via bicycle, horse and helicopter, reporting that he’d shot down both Mystères, the second so close that his Starfighter ingested exploded debris, forcing him to eject. The Indians claimed that Khan fired on the same target twice: Sqd. Ldr. Ajjamada B. Devayya, who heroically shot down the Starfighter before succumbing himself. But witnesses from a Pakistani village told a third version: “…two aircraft approached from the direction of Sargodha and got into a turning fight for several minutes. Then the rear aircraft [the Starfighter] started firing its cannon it was, however, so fast that it collided with the front one.” Both pilots won medals, Devayya posthumously.

A subsequent wave of IAF Hunters was scattered in Alam’s legendary attack. Asked by his ground controller what he was counting, Alam answered, “Don’t you see, I’ve just shot down five Hunters.” His victories, confirmed by his wingman and several other PAF pilots on the scene, are vigorously denied by the Indians, though two Hunters crashed in Pakistani territory. Alam’s kills brought his score to seven, making him the war’s leading ace.

That day both sides took the air war to another level, opening a new front with East Pakistan (modern Bangladesh). From Kalaikunda, a former WWII bomber base west of Calcutta, the IAF launched a dawn raid by two English Electric Canberra bombers, across the Bay of Bengal, against a PAF Sabre base at Chittagong. Wing Commander Peter Wilson’s 1940s-vintage 1,000-pound bombs failed to explode, which hardly mattered, as there were no Sabres on base. On their return approach the Canberras were intercepted by Indian Hunters, whose pilots only at the last second recognized their side-by-side cockpits crews of Pakistan’s American-made Martin B-57 Canberras sat in tandem.

Chittagong’s Sabres had actually taken off from Tejgaon to attack Kalai­kunda. The two Can­berras, refueled and being rearmed, were destroyed where they sat, along with four Vam­pires. All the Sabres returned home unscathed. Wil­­son’s report summed up the morning’s action: “FIASCO!”

The PAF, however, erred in launching a follow-up strike. IAF Flt. Lt. Alfred Cooke and his wingman, waiting in their Hunters, caught four Sabres over the field. Both sides split up, and Cooke got behind the second F-86 pair. He and Flying Officer Afzal Khan, in the trailing Sabre, scissored back and forth at ground level. “I started firing at a range of 600 yards, and I could see that he was below tree-line height,” Cooke recalled. “I did not realize that I was that low and that my wing tip was actually hitting the scrub. I stopped firing to get away from the ground and saw his aircraft explode into a ball of flame, and I could not avoid flying through the fireball and debris.” Khan was killed.

But meanwhile the lead Sabre had come around on Cooke’s tail. “I took violent evasive manoeuvres,” Cooke said, “and during the criss-cross scissors we would cross very close to each other …. I kept on firing and closing in rapidly on him, and I could see pieces of his aircraft disintegrating. I stopped firing, as I was so close (100 yards) that if I did not break away I would collide with him.” Flight Lieu­tenant Tariq Habib Khan escaped back to base, but his Sabre was written off.

“On recovering from this I immediately pulled upward to the right and saw another Sabre behind me,” reported Cooke. “I out-manoeuvred him and got behind as he pulled up in a vertical climb and then winged over to go into a vertical dive with me following and firing at him all the time. In the vertical dive I kept firing at him as he pulled out of the dive …. I pulled back on the joystick with my finger on the trigger and got out of the dive with guns still firing until I had expended my ammunition.”

Cooke spotted the remaining Sabre closing on his wingman, and attacked. “This guy tried to shake me off by doing loops and barrel rolls right over the airfield. I got behind him to firing range and tried to take a shot but there was no ammo …. It was at this stage that I noticed grey puffs of smoke appearing in front of me and all around me and I realised that the AA was firing at me as well.” He chased the Sabre back across the border and, on finally landing, flamed out for lack of fuel several hundred yards short of his parking area, his port wing trailing foliage and his wingtip pitot tube bent upward from snagging brush. The surviving PAF pilots reported being attacked by nine Hunters.

After the 7th, commemorated thereafter in Pakistan as Air Force Day, both sides dialed back the air war. Their NATO suppliers, disconcerted to see client states using their weaponry on each other, had curtailed delivery of replacement aircraft and parts. Fighter pilots turned to ground-attack missions. PAF B-57s flew so many night nuisance raids that Indian base person nel collectively called them “8-Pass Charlie,” on the assumption one pilot was making eight separate attacks every night. They had no night fighter capability, but the Pakistanis did.

On the night of September 20-21, four IAF Canberras bombed Sargodha. As they headed for the border, an F-104 rose up in the darkness behind them. Wing Commander Jamal Ahmed Khan tracked his target on radar, closing to within just over a mile before triggering a Sidewinder. “It was pitch black and I had no visual contact with the Canberra until the flash of the missile strike,” he reported. “…It started spiraling down, and then flames started coming out of it when it had got down to about 15,000 ft. I circled round and watched it until it hit the ground. I felt good, but when the Indian pilot was picked up he said he thought the whole business was ‘very unfair.’” It was worse for the Indian navigator/bombardier, who rode the bomber into the ground.

By this time, the United Nations was pressuring both sides to desist. Before hostilities ended, however, Pakistan’s redoubtable Alam and his wingman drew up a pair of Hunters over Indian territory on September 16. He and the IAF leader, Flying Officer Prakash Pingale, went after each other’s wingmen, shot them both down, then turned on each other. “As we crossed head-on, he opened fire on me,” remembered Pingale. The two jets got into a turn­ing battle, the Sabre’s (and Al­am’s) forte. Pingale reported, “I attempted to close in but lost contact with Sabre No. 1 because I blacked out due to excessive g (around 8-10 as recorded by my g-meter).”

Alam fired both of his Side­winders at Pingale, the second of which “hit on his wing root. As it began to smoke, I saw that…I was well inside Indian territory and getting a bit short of fuel.” He opted to break off. Pingale made it home, but Alam was credited with two kills, bringing his total to nine (hotly disputed by the Indians) and making him Pakistan’s ace of aces.

A ceasefire was declared on September 23. Neutral estimates put aircraft losses at 70-odd Indian (about 10 percent of the country’s strength) and 20 Pakistani (seven percent). The venerable F-86, when flown by skilled pilots, proved still capable. The Starfighter, conceived as a high-level interceptor, was less effective as a low-level, slash-and-run dogfighter. The Western military embargo, however, had the effect of turning both countries toward China and the Soviet Union. Their confrontation con tinues to blow hot and cold, making it one of the world’s longest ongoing crises and arguably among the most likely to go nuclear.

For the Pakistani view of the war, frequent contributor Don Hollway recommends Battle for Pakistan: The Air War of 1965 , by John Fricker for the Indian viewpoint, try India-Pakistan Air War of 1965 , by P.V.S. Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra.

This story was originally published in the May 2017 issue of Aviation History magazine. Subscribe here.


Assam Regiment, Arunachal Scouts sign affiliation with IAF’s SU-30 squadron

NEW DELHI: The Assam Regiment and Arunachal Scouts of the Indian Army signed an affiliation with 106 Air Force Squadron at Tezpur in Assam on Monday for capability building.

The 106 Air Force Squadron is the SU-30 Squadron of the Eastern Air Command of the Indian Air Force.

The affiliation will assist them in development of mutual understanding of joint ethos, capability, limitations and core competencies of other services through common understanding of tactical military doctrines and concepts in the contemporary conflict environment.

“The Guard of Honour was inspected by Major General P.S. Behl, Colonel of the Assam Regiment and Arunachal Scouts. Thereafter the ‘Charter of Affiliation’ was signed by Maj Gen Behl and Gp Capt Varun Slaria, Commanding Officer, 106 Squadron,” the Ministry of Defence said.

The Assam Regiment was raised on June 15, 1941 and stood its ground to turn defeat into victory, winning six battle honours in the Second World War. The contribution of the regiment in the Burma Campaign and in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war in changing the course of the battle is well documented in history.

The 106 Squadron, IAF, was raised on December 11, 1959 and currently operates the air dominance fighter Sukhoi 30 MKI. It is the most decorated squadron of the Indian Air Force with three Mahavir Chakras and seven Vir Chakras. The squadron has been awarded the prestigious President’s Standard.

The contribution of the IAF squadron and the Assam Regiment in the 1971 war and the combined war waging efforts of the regiment and Eastern Air Command in the Burma Campaign speaks volumes of their martial ardour, resoluteness and dauntless courage.

Maj Gen Behl talked about the importance of affiliation and its far reaching impact in the present day. He highlighted that the idea behind the affiliation was aimed at greater understanding of each other’s operational ethos, building camaraderie and ‘espirit-de-corps’.

This enhanced synergy and understanding of each other’s strengths will act as a force multiplier within our armed forces, he said.

Later, Maj Gen Behl flew a familiarisation sortie on a Sukhoi 30 MKI to acquaint himself with its capabilities. The ceremony was also marked by an aerobatics display by the formidable warplane.


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The rank originated in the British Royal Air Force and was adopted by several other air forces which use, or used, the RAF rank system.

On 1 April 1918, the newly created RAF adopted its officer rank titles from the British Army, with Royal Naval Air Service lieutenant commanders and Royal Flying Corps majors becoming majors in the RAF. In response to the proposal that the RAF should use its own rank titles, it was suggested that the RAF might use the Royal Navy's officer ranks, with the word "air" inserted before the naval rank title. For example, the rank that later became squadron leader would have been air lieutenant commander. However, the Admiralty objected to this modification of their rank titles. The rank title squadron leader was chosen as squadrons were typically led by RAF majors and the term squadron commander had been used in the Royal Naval Air Service. The rank of squadron leader has been used continuously since 1 August 1919.


Military units similar to or like No. 17 Squadron RAF

Squadron of the Royal Air Force based at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire. Currently responsible for training all RAF crews assigned to the Sentry AEW1, Sentinel R1, Shadow R1, RC-135W Rivet Joint and Poseidon MRA1. Wikipedia

Flying squadron of the Royal Air Force providing Elementary Flying Training with the Grob Tutor T.1 from RAF Wittering. Disbanded in 1919 with the end of the First World War. Wikipedia

One of the oldest and most successful squadrons of the Royal Air Force, with battle honours from many of the significant air campaigns of both the First and Second World Wars. During the First World War, the squadron had many aces amongst its ranks such as James McCudden, Albert Ball, Reginald Hoidge and Arthur Rhys-Davids, developing a fierce reputation for the unit. Wikipedia


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