Sunday, January 18, 2015

Where is Warbirds of India?

Warbirds of India | Promote Your Page Too
If you have landed up at this page and wondering what the heck is this, its probably because you typed in "" and ended up here. For those looking for that site - please use the short URL  Warbirds.IN and it will take you to that site.

The original came under a  DDoS attack  a few days ago and the host had suspended the account. the url now points to this blog - temporarily i hope while I look around for solutions.

In the mean time you can get to warbirds by typing the short url or by clicking on the facebook badge on the top and following any of the links to the site.

Sorry for this detour!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

An aircraft "type" history of my own - The Westland Wapiti

Books categorized as Aircraft Type Histories are nothing new.  These are books devoted to a single aircraft type, and in cases to even a single mark or variant, that chronicles the technological overview, history, fates and status of these aircraft in great detail.  Look for Spitfire on Amazon and you will find in excess of a thousand titles, spread over a multitude of categories - Aviation History, History, Military History, Transportation etc.  P-51 Mustang retrieves a few thousands! . Even the Hawker Hurricane brings up a respectable 450+ titles.

In this field of surplus titles, I could find only one aircraft type that was addressed by a single title. The Vultee Vengeance by Peter Smith is an example. No Author since or then has ever tried to write a history of this forgotten dive bomber.  There could be others, but searching on obscure types like the Bachem Natter, the Do 335 Pfiel still retrieved two to three titles per type.

Which brings me to the latest book - this is MY aircraft type history - the history of the Westland Wapiti in the Indian Air Force Servicer. The Wapiti was the first aircraft on which the IAF was raised on in April 1933. It went on to serve with two Squadrons, five Coastal Defence Flights, two Army Co-operation Flights/Units and a few training schools.  100s of Indian pilots trained and flew on this type.  The aircraft was so prevalent in the early 30s that half the RAF was on this type. Yet not one book exists on this aircraft other than a couple of small booklet features (Profile Publications for example). Most of the Wapiti litterature exists in terms of articles and sort of keeps repeating the same information again and again.

My book is surprisingly the first and the only full sized book published on this aircraft. Granted it covers only the IAF service, ignoring the RAF's service (in UK and in India and in Iraq) and the Canadian  / Australian service, but this is the only one written that include unpublished technical drawings, colour profiles and 100s of photographs.

Writing this book was an adventure - discovering never before published records and photographs, making sense of them and using them. The final product is a 224 page softbound book published by the Center for Armed Forces Historical Research of the United Services Institute of India.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Testing Google Charts

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The fate of Squadron Leader Vinod Sehgal (R.I.P.1962) now resolved

62-VKSehgal.jpg (6767 bytes)

Squadron Leader Vinod Sehgal is the only Indian Air Force casualty of the 1962 war. He is believed killed and there has always been some mystery about his actual fate. especially as photograph of his helicopter had surfaced that showed it intact and being examined by the Chinese. The photo is reproduced in Air Marshal Bharat Kumars book on the 62 war. (and in the below post)

It was believed  that Sqn Ldr Sehgal and his passenger Major Ram Singh were either killed on landing or were taken POW and later killed.

Even the 62 war book ("Unknown and Unsung") remains ambiguous about what actually happened. 

The answer may have been right under our noses.    This document is a first person account by then 2nd Lt A S Behl (later Brigadier).  This was published in 2008 and linked from the Report My Signal Blog  ( )

He writes

"We saw a helicopter approaching the helipad. By that time small arm fire had also started from the black rock area and shelling was also going on.There was no sign of the helicopter taking-off again. I sent a patrol of two men to see what had happened. They came back and told me that that the helicopter was there, and two persons; one pilot and another person in a redturban were lying dead near the helicopter. Next day, when we buried them as prisoners of war (POWs) I could identify one as Sqn Ldr Sehgal and theother as Maj Ram Singh of Signals."

And there it is - an account by an Indian Army Officer as to what the actual fate of Sqn Ldr Sehgal is. I cannot recollect if Tsangdhar is actually in Indian territory or not, but perhaps an effort can be made to commemorate the graves .

Reproduced below is the photograph and the original caption speculating about the fate

BZ543.jpg (112622 bytes)
ABOVE: In this rare screen capture from a Chinese News Film, Sqn Ldr Vinod Sehgal's helicopter is shown at the Tsangdhar Helipad in Chinese Hands. The close up shot shows the serial as BZ-543. Sqn Ldr Sehgal (right) was presumably killed after he made the landing. The Helicopter was not returned by the Chinese after the war.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The best Westland Wapiti Indian scale model ever! PERIOD!..... BUT....

A couple of years ago, my friend Phil Camp posted photographs of a scratch built 1/48 scale Westland Wapiti IIa in 1930s Indian Air Force Colors. The model was built (by an unknown modeller) and displayed at the IPMS UK's Scale Model World event in 2011.  Its no wonder that this model won the Best Aircraft Award for that year.

The aircraft is an excellent example of attention to detail and ingenuity. The modeller displayed the aircraft with panels removed and with internal components visible.

The aircraft was displayed in the colors of No.1 Squadron, Indian Air Force. The Wapiti bore the serial K1263 and the Dark Blue/Light Blue chequer board markings on the fuselage and on the top of the wings. It featured the painted fin flash and the serial number. Two photographs exist of this Wapiti K1263 showing it being prepared for an operational sortie.  The accompanying plaque purports it to be of a Wapiti that served with the squadron at Drigh Road in the year 1934.

The model had photographs showing the various stage of scratch build process as well as the approach .

While there is no doubt that this is the best ever representaton of a Wapiti , and of one in Indian Air Force colours, and at that time I was totally in awe of the effort, I do in the interest of 'History' point out to a few inconsistencies. In the two years since this model appeared, I had attempted to write a history of the Westland Wapiti in Indian Air Force Service. After studying the records and archives available, and poring over more than a hundred photographs of Indian Air Force Wapitis, tracking the career of each individual aircraft over a decade, I found myself with a better understanding on the aircraft and the markings of the Indian units of that era. Without much ado, the inconsistencies are:

  1. Wapiti K1263 did not serve at Drigh Road in 1934, but rather at Peshawar starting late 1936 and into 1937. At that time No.1 Squadron had 'A' Flight detached to No.20 Squadron RAF for operations in the NorthWest Frontier.  K1263 infact has the distinction of flying the first operational sortie when Flt Lt Awan flew a Pamphlet dropping mission in early 1937.
  2. Though the aircraft features a 3 x 3 Checkerboard Square, Wapitis of that time had a 'wraparound' checker board marking that looks like a square from a distance but actually isn't. The following photograph shows the obvious difference where a small segment of a top row is visible.
    Photograph of K1263, of 'A' Flight, No.1 Squadron  (The Eagle Strikes)
  3. As is visible in the photograph - the aircraft also featured a small "AC" superscript to the serial . This superscript is not on all the aircraft - and K1263 happened to be one such rare example.
As a fellow historian pointed out, the modeller may have been misled by the fact the aircraft had a fin flash painted.  RAF aircraft markings changed sometime in 1934 when the finflash was not painted on the aircraft - they featured plain tails. However many aircraft appeared to have continued in service with the fin flash painted on and K1263 retained its scheme well into 1937.

Ofcourse all this doesnt take away from the model - this post is only to highlight that new information surfaces all the time. What was not available in 2011 will now be on the record in 2013.  Future modellers will have this information to get the next ultimate variant of the Wapiti right!.

All photos of the model are courtesy of Phil Camp

Thursday, August 15, 2013

An evaluation of the Indian National Army by the C.I.A


The above are an evaluation of Subash Chandra Bose's Indian National Army (INA) by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the percussor to the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) . I am not an expert but there isnt much new in this - other than standard fare as given out by British Intelligence.

This document is in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Makhan Lal Chakraborty - REDUX

Years ago I had written about the medals of M L Chakraborty that I had procured. 

I knew little about him. 

Enrolled: 14 Jan 1942
Made a JCO on : 24 Dec. 1944 in JCOs EME, Workshop Branch, Cadre of Craftsmen. 

Now thanks to the Gazette of India website I can add a bit more.

Gazette of India  May 18, 1963

No. 1128, dated 3rd May 1963.-The President is pleased •lo make the following promotions :

To be Subs. Subedar {Arml Art ir Artz eligible categories)
PA Subdr Makhan Lal CHAKRABORTY (52968-JC),

Gazette of India , JUNE 1, 1963, Page 183
He was a Subedar in 1961 and made it into the Special List as a Lt in 1963

The undermentioned J.C.Os. are; granted permt, regular Commission in the Special List as an Electrical and Mechanical Assistant Engineers w.e.f. 15Lh Mar, 1963 in the rank of Lt«. under AJ. 24/59.
Sub. Makhan Lal CHAKRABORTY (JC-52968 now SL-791).  E.M.E. with seniority irotn 15th Mar. 1961 for purposes of pay only under A.I. 222/48.

And ofcourse he was on strength in 1965 - due to the presence of the 1965 Raksha Medal.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Bangladesh Gallantry Medals - Numbers Awarded

Researching the India Pakistan Air War over Bangladesh in 1971 comes up with all kinds of information - part of it has to deal with the gallantry awards set up by Bangladesh.  The Bangla forces set up a four tier award system.. the fourth being something equivalent to a M-in-D.. 

Numbers awarded for the 1971 War 

Bir Sreshto - 7 (4 Army, 1 AF, 1 Navy, 1 Ex-EPR)
Bir Uttom - 68 
Bir Bikrom - 175
Bir Protik - 426

Besides the Army, AF and Navy, awards were also given to "Gono Bahini" (People's Force)

Apparently the list was published in the Bangladesh Gazette Extraordinary Dated December 15, 1973

I extracted this out of the Newspapers of that time.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Kawasaki Bajaj KB100 RTZ Manual

Found the service manual for a KB100 RTZ while doign some cleaning up. I see that there are no manuals available online so I will scan the whole thing as a PDF one day. Till then this should suffice.

I must clarify this is not my bike manual, I bought this from the used books market . I used to have  a later 'de-badged' Bajaj RTZ and its manual was very skimpy in its coverage. The older KB manuals were pretty good.
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Monday, January 16, 2012