Indian Air Force in WWII

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Geoffrey Sinclair

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May 11, 2017, 10:36:59 AM5/11/17
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>From post war listing, with then current place names.

The Indian Air Force was officially constituted on 10 October 1932.

Number 1 squadron was officially formed at Drigh Road, Karachi
on 1 April 1933, but in reality it was a squadron headquarters
plus a flight with 4 Wapati aircraft. On 1 April 1936 B flight was
formed, with a single Wapati and in mid June 1938 C flight was
officially formed but with few personnel and no aircraft.

Frontier operations in North Waziristan occurred September to
November 1937. Further operations in the North West Frontier
were undertaken June to November 1938 and March to June
1939, using the airfield at Miranshah on the Afghan border,
around 100 miles from Kabul. In mid 1939 the squadron was
based at Ambala, north of Delhi.

In June-July 1939 the squadron cast off the obsolete Wapati
and started flying Hawker Hart. On 28 August 1939 it moved
to Drigh Road as the local air defence of Karachi. The usual
summer operations on the North West Frontier meant the
squadron was split, A flight at Drigh Road, C flight to Sandeman,
about 180 miles due south of Kabul in June 1940, while B
flight was at Miranshah July to September 1940.

North West Frontier operations again occupied the summer
of 1941, then in August the squadron was at Drigh Road to
convert to Lysanders. At the end of December 1941 the
squadron went to Burma, remaining there until the fall of
Rangoon on 7 March 1942. It looks like at some time in
the 1942/43 period C flight was disbanded.

In June 1942 it began equipping with Hurricanes while
based at Risalpur, around 130 miles east of Kabul and
continued the usual frontier air operations for the rest of
1942 and 1943, basing a flight at a time at Miranshah
and using other airfields like Kohat, 120 miles ESE of
Kabul.

On 3 February 1944 the squadron was transferred to
Imphal and remained on the Burma front until April 1945
when it returned to frontier operations at Kohat.

Number 2 squadron formed on 1 April 1941 at Peshawar,
the last airfield on the Indian side on the road/rail through
the Khyber pass, equipped with Wapati. A two flight
squadron, it spent the summer of 1941 on the usual
frontier operations, rotating through the usual airfields.
These duties continued until 7 October 1944 when it was
moved to Burma, remaining there until 17 May 1945 when
it returned to the North West Frontier.

It converted to Hawker Audax in June 1941, Westland Lysander
in December 1941 and Hawker Hurricane in December 1942.

Number 3 squadron formed at Peshawar on 1 October 1941,
with Hawker Audax, and again was used over the North West
Frontier until January 1945. Hurricane fighter bombers replaced
the Audax in November 1943. The tour in Burma lasted until the
middle of April 1945 after which the squadron returned to the North
West Frontier.

Number 4 squadron formed at Peshawar on 1 February 1942
with Lysanders, Hurricanes arriving from June 1943. North West
Frontier operations continued until February 1944 when the
squadron went to Burma, initially at Feni. On 19 April 1945 the
squadron moved to Yalahanka, Bangalore for conversion to
Spitfires.

Number 5 squadron not formed as RAF number 5 squadron
was in India.

Number 6 squadron formed at Trichinopoly near Madras on 1
March 1943 with Hurricanes. The squadron flew operations
over Burma from 30 November 1943 to early June 1944 after
which it went to the North West Frontier, Miranshah.

Number 7 squadron formed at Vizagaptam near Madras on
8 March 1943 with Vultee Vengeance. On 10 March 1944 it
moved to Kumbhirgram to conduct operations over Burma.
it returned to India in mid June 1944 and in November began
converting to Hurricanes.

A second tour of Burma was undertaken from March to 22
May 1945 after which the squadron moved from Magwe to
Kohat on the North West Frontier.

Number 8 squadron was formed at Trichinopoly on 21 June
1943 with Vultee Vengeance. In mid December 1943 the
squadron moved to Double Moorings, 3 miles from Chittagong,
for operations that continued until 7 July 1944 after which it
withdrew to India to convert to Spitfire VIII.

On 28 December 1944 the squadron returned to an airfield
near Cox's Bazaar, then to Akyab until 23 February 1945
when the squadron was moved to the defence of Calcutta.
On 1 August 1945 the squadron commenced operations
from Mingaloon, Rangoon.

Number 9 squadron was formed at Lahore on 16 December
1943 with Hurricanes, it moved to Kulaura on 29 March 1944
for operations, which continued to April 1945 after which it
was withdrawn to Ranchi for conversion to Spitfire VIII.

Number 10 squadron was formed at Lahore on 29 February
1944 with Hurricanes. In early December it moved to Ramu
in Arakan for operations, which continued until 18 April 1945
when it was withdrawn for conversion to Spitfires.

8, 9 and 10 squadrons were part of the post war air force
in Burma until early 1946.

There were also 5 Volunteer Reserve Coastal Defence Flights,
formed at the end of 1940, 2 at Bombay (1 moved to Cochin),
1 each at Karachi, Calcutta and Madras, formed out of the
existing flying clubs. They disbanded towards the end of 1942,
with 3 and 4 flights seeing action in Burma, 3 flight from January
to March 1942 and 4 flight from December 1941 to January 1942.

Geoffrey Sinclair
Remove the nb for email.

Stephen Graham

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May 11, 2017, 2:24:17 PM5/11/17
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On 5/11/2017 7:36 AM, Geoffrey Sinclair wrote:

> In June 1942 it began equipping with Hurricanes while
> based at Risalpur

If I recall correctly, these were almost all hand-me-downs from RAF
squadrons re-equipping. Is this correct for all the IAF squadrons? Also,
they were primarily Hurricane IIs? And also normally serving as part of
RAF Wings and Groups?

> Number 8 squadron
> On 1 August 1945 the squadron commenced operations
> from Mingaloon, Rangoon.

I suspect there was a mis-transcription at some point. It's usually
transliterated as Mingaladon. Pretty much anything I've seen from the
20th century uses that.


> There were also 5 Volunteer Reserve Coastal Defence Flights,

I would expect that these were largely British and Anglo-Indian personnel.

Rich Rostrom

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May 11, 2017, 11:14:35 PM5/11/17
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"Geoffrey Sinclair" <gsinc...@froggy.com.au> wrote:

> Number 1 squadron was officially formed... 1 April
> 1933, but in reality it was a squadron headquarters
> plus a flight with 4 Wapati aircraft.

ITYM "Wapiti" a/c; the Westland Wapiti, named after
the native American name for the elk.
--
The real Velvet Revolution - and the would-be hijacker.

http://originalvelvetrevolution.com

Geoffrey Sinclair

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May 12, 2017, 10:26:39 AM5/12/17
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"Stephen Graham" <gra...@speakeasy.net> wrote in message
news:enjoi2...@mid.individual.net...
> On 5/11/2017 7:36 AM, Geoffrey Sinclair wrote:
>
>> In June 1942 it began equipping with Hurricanes while
>> based at Risalpur
>
> If I recall correctly, these were almost all hand-me-downs from RAF
> squadrons re-equipping. Is this correct for all the IAF squadrons? Also,
> they were primarily Hurricane IIs? And also normally serving as part of
> RAF Wings and Groups?

Most aircraft present in theatre could be described as hand me
downs at times, the forgotten army had a forgotten air force. The
Hurricanes that arrived in 1942 would have been front line and
somewhat scarce for a while. It is also true the RAF moved from
Spitfire VIII to XIV in 1944/45. Hurricane I were trainers in 1942,
and out of combat unit service.

1 Squadron IAF would probably be, in mid 1942, one of the more
experienced units in the area, with a high number of pre war regular
pilots. More so than an RAF that had been cutting training times
and expanding to gain numbers in 1940/41.

3 squadron IAF explicitly mentions its Hurricane II were the first
IAF fighter bombers.

According to John Foreman the RAF had 23 Hurricane
squadrons active in South East Asia in mid/late 1943, after
converting the Blenheim squadrons but with 3 squadrons
converting to Spitfires by the end of the year.

By the end of 1944 the RAF was down to 8 Hurricane squadrons
as Spitfires and Thunderbolts arrived, by the end of the war against
Japan there were 2 RAF Hurricane squadrons left in theatre, of
which 1 had begun converting to Spitfires.

I have no direct evidence the Indian units were treated any
differently than RAF units if fighting the Japanese. I can easily
see the command allocating older aircraft to North West Frontier
operations etc.

It does look like the Indian units were definitely not in the front
of the queue for new aircraft, but not quite always at the back.

As far as I am aware all Indian Air Force squadrons were treated
as part of the RAF.

I was curious where they were when not in Burma.

>> Number 8 squadron On 1 August 1945 the squadron commenced operations
>> from Mingaloon, Rangoon.
>
> I suspect there was a mis-transcription at some point. It's usually
> transliterated as Mingaladon. Pretty much anything I've seen from the 20th
> century uses that.

Correct, but in fact my typo, probably aided by the spell checker.

>> There were also 5 Volunteer Reserve Coastal Defence Flights,
>
> I would expect that these were largely British and Anglo-Indian personnel.

Could be, you had to have a certain amount of wealth to fly, then
more again to own an aircraft. I have no idea on whether the
clubs the reserve flights came from were open to all or restricted.

Number 1 squadron was using Indian pilots in the 1930's, judging
from

http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/IAF/Units/Squadrons/1-Squadron.html

Stephen Graham

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May 12, 2017, 12:04:20 PM5/12/17
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On 5/12/2017 7:26 AM, Geoffrey Sinclair wrote:
> "Stephen Graham" <gra...@speakeasy.net> wrote in message
> news:enjoi2...@mid.individual.net...

> 1 Squadron IAF would probably be, in mid 1942, one of the more
> experienced units in the area, with a high number of pre war regular
> pilots. More so than an RAF that had been cutting training times
> and expanding to gain numbers in 1940/41.

That's my understanding as well. There's some discussion of this in
Pradeep Barua's Gentlemen of the Raj: The Indian Army Officers Corps,
1817-1949. The work mostly focuses on Indianization of the officer
corps, both pre-war and during World War II. Not directly in your line
of interest these days but interesting reading.

> I have no direct evidence the Indian units were treated any
> differently than RAF units if fighting the Japanese. I can easily
> see the command allocating older aircraft to North West Frontier
> operations etc.

Once the decision was made to Indianize, the units themselves were
treated pretty much as any Commonwealth units, as I understand it.

That reminds me that University of Washington Libraries holds copies of
the Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War.
I guess I'll go ahead and request the volume on the Air Force. <click>.


> I was curious where they were when not in Burma.

And, of course, the same place the Indian Army sent divisions for
advanced training.

Geoffrey Sinclair

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May 14, 2017, 1:12:40 PM5/14/17
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"Stephen Graham" <gra...@speakeasy.net> wrote in message
news:enm4nn...@mid.individual.net...
> On 5/12/2017 7:26 AM, Geoffrey Sinclair wrote:
>> "Stephen Graham" <gra...@speakeasy.net> wrote in message
>> news:enjoi2...@mid.individual.net...
>
>> 1 Squadron IAF would probably be, in mid 1942, one of the more
>> experienced units in the area, with a high number of pre war regular
>> pilots. More so than an RAF that had been cutting training times
>> and expanding to gain numbers in 1940/41.
>
> That's my understanding as well. There's some discussion of this in
> Pradeep Barua's Gentlemen of the Raj: The Indian Army Officers Corps,
> 1817-1949. The work mostly focuses on Indianization of the officer corps,
> both pre-war and during World War II. Not directly in your line of
> interest these days but interesting reading.

I have had access to some of the Indian army histories, but they
are not exactly common items, it seems some of them are now
available on line but not the air force one. India has a complicated
relationship with WWII given the Bose forces.

Currently I am more working though some of the supplements to
the London Gazette, the official after action reports, things like
River Plate, evaluation of the Dunkirk evacuation and so on.
Nice maps.

The map of the sea routes to Dunkirk shows you had to run
parallel to the coast from around Calais, that was the shortest
route at 39 sea miles. The other two routes went north along
the English coast inside the Goodwin sands, then one crossed
some of the banks about mid way between Dunkirk and
Gravelines then along the coast, total 55 miles. The longest
route at 87 miles steered near due east from Ramsgate to
a point north west of Ostend, then running between the banks
on a course is SSE.

If you do want to invade the Pas de Calais it is at Calais all
the banks start. A direct course from Ramsgate to Dunkirk
has the final third over the various banks in the channel.
Ramsgate to Ostend nearly the last half of the journey. Then
comes how many suitable beaches there are.

(snip)

> That reminds me that University of Washington Libraries holds copies of
> the Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War. I
> guess I'll go ahead and request the volume on the Air Force. <click>.

Show off. The book report is due by the end of next month.

The Indian air force should be like the Australian or New Zealand
histories. much more detailed given the relatively small numbers
involved.

>> I was curious where they were when not in Burma.
>
> And, of course, the same place the Indian Army sent divisions for advanced
> training.

The North Wet Frontier fighting season is an annual event even
world wars cannot stop. Let alone superpowers. And cost the
inhabitants a great deal.
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