Thursday, December 17, 2009

An Old Prisoner from 1947-48 revisited.

The photo on the left shows an old frontier tribesman, who formed part of the marauding forces in the Invasion of Kashmir, captured after Indian troops routed the tribals at the Battle of Shelatang. It was said that this old man was captured after Baramula town was taken - around November 8th, 1947.

This old man was the star of many news . I remember seeing him in quite a few places. Now another newsclip has surfaced on the British Pathe Website - titled "Nehru In Kashmir", it shows the visit of PM Nehru and various other delegates to Kashmir sometime in November 47.

One still from the clip shows the same Prisoner - being examined by Group Captain Arjan Singh DFC (later Air Chief and Marshal of the AF). I do not remember where Arjan Singh was - probably with Air HQ or something, but he is seen in the clip very curious about the tribesman's coat buttons - My guess, the buttons have some kind of an embossed crest that sparked Arjan's interest.

I do wonder who this old POW was - if he got repatriated, if he went back to his village with tales of his stay in India and all.. etc etc.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The one that got away (on eBay) (RAF Album)

On the outside it looked like a regular old family photo album. The pages inside reflected a tour of duty of some Royal Air Force airman in the hostile and dusty North West Frontier Province area of Undivided India. I stumbled onto the Album in an auction on eBay.

The contents of the album were mostly the sights of the NWFP - places like Peshawar, Kohat, Lower Topa find mention. Some are Aerial shots, others are on the ground. Of people, of cattle and the sights. These were interspersed with the odd RAF aircraft photographs. This was what caught my interest.

The Upper Left photo shows a pranged Westland Wapiti with the caption "An Error of Judgement" - The Wapiti K1294 appears to belong to No.5 Squadron RAF - as indcated by the white fuselage band around the rear part of the aircraft. Other photographs in the series also showed a colour print of "HMT Dunera", "S O P Farnborough 1934" and a photograph titled "Lower Topa". HMT Dunera apparently began its career in 1937 and this sort of gives us a timeframe for the Album. The name of the ship sounded familiar - later I realised that it was the same ship in which Fg Offr Balan Dandapani, a WW2 Veteran that I interviewed in 2007, travelled as part of the British Commonwealth Occupational Foces in Japan.

It was the next series of photographs that made me stand up. In the lower right, was the picture of a Westland Wapiti in flight. What sets this one apart was the chequerboard fuselage marking - a marking sported only by the aircraft of No.1 Squadron, Indian Air Force. I do not ever recall seeing this particular picture - and is probably one of the very rare few of an IAF Wapiti in Flight.

The next page had a very interesting color drawing - the official crest of Aircraft Depot Karachi. Again, most certainly a post 1937 development. This figures in with above as the IAF unit was initially based at Drigh Road, where the Aircraft Depot was. Other shots include aerial views of Karachi and Manora, Kohat, Peshawar, Lahore etc.

The Auction was ultimately won by an anonymous bidder. I never had the deep pockets to even mount a credible counter bid. It did however open up my eyes about the gems that you can find on Ebay. Infact an year later, There was similar album on sale. Again, I lost the bid. But fortunately the winner was gracious enough to share his spoils for which I am always grateful. The results are there on the BR Site.

Ofcourse the question still unanswered - where is this album now? If you are the owner and you are reading this, why not drop in a comment ?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kh-29 on an Indian MiG-27ML

Recently, I stumbled onto SPs Aviation Magazine website. SP's Aviation is a magazine published out of Delhi . They have made their archives available online in PDF format on their website

After downloading two years worth of issues and going through them, some interesting nuggets turned up. Being in Delhi they have access to all the Air Force events and have several photographs from the Parades. One of the is as follows:

This is the first time I am seeing a Kh-29 Air to Surface Missile mated onto a MiG-27ML of the Indian Air Force. While MiG-23s and 27s were known to carry this munition, it has never before been seen mounted on an Indian MiG-27 in public before. While the missile itself is on display in the Museum and had been showcased in photographs or republic day parades as a seperate entity, this is certainly the first time it is shown mounted on a MiG-27, and that too a plain vanilla non-upgraded MiG-27.

Yes, the missile does look like an inert example. It had never been shown being fired in any of the IAF's FPD, and any that were acquired in the 80s are probably time expired by now, but hey - lets savour the moment - an ASM on the good old Bahadur - never seen in twenty years but now out in the public!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Border Security Force - Roll of Honour

Detailed lists of the BSF Killed in Action. A very commendable effort by the BSF to put the information online. Each year has a PDF file with photo, personal details etc.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Royal Indian Air Force at War : An account of Air Operations in South-East Asia

This has to be the most expensive book that I ever bought, atleast in terms of Rupees per Cubic cm of volume!. But well worth it. Published in 1946 by the Directorate of Public Relations, the book is a pinbound volume with about 120 pages of text and photos. Colour plates showcase water color paintings by Henry Sheldon.

Among my collector friends (some of them with very deep pockets) , no one has a copy. So I solemnly declare that this is the only copy known to be in the wild. Even USI is said to have only a photocopy.

I am listing the copies with other Libraries here. Let me know if you run into any stashed away anywhere.

Oh btw. I owe you one - eBay!

Catalogue Searches: (Zero, Zilch, Nada) : Not Listed , : 0 , : Not Listed , Abebooks : 0 , Bookfinder : 0 , : 0

Known Copies:

1. Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA
2. British Library, UK Link
3. Imperial War Museum Collection, UK Link

Let me know if you find more

30 November 2013 Update : Roughly four years after i made the above post, I am glad to mention that a SECOND copy of the above book has been spotted in the wild - in the hands of another Indian Aviation Enthusiast. Vinayak Dutt Shukla has one copy in his collection too - and he sends proof!  Its actually in better condition than my copy..

Congratualations on the great acquisition - Now guard it with your life VDS!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blast Pens in Sargodha Air Field

Yep - 87 of em - I counted ! (couple of them might be open ones)
Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 12, 2009

Flight of the Falcon

Flight of the Falcon is the autobiography of Air Commodore S Sajad Haider, PAF. The copy I bought was delivered today. Wow what a book! - long overdue and something that definitely needed to be written from the Pakistani side for decades. The book's 65 air war chapter quotes extensively from our own air war book on 65, and it is almost inevitable for me that I have to read it side by side with IPAW65 (and an excuse for my tattered copy to form the background in this photo).

The book offers the first critical look at the PAF's role in 65 and offers a honest and dispassionate look at the PAF planning and claims. There are some great stories about 71 too. It would take too long for me to write all about it.. but in short.. go out and buy this book - its money well spent.

Monday, June 08, 2009

No.221 Squadron HIstory

Valiant to the last - the history of No.221 Squadron "The Valiants". While the book may be good at other aspects - I have read a chapter about the 90s which was quite good. It was quite disappointing as far as the 71 War History was concerned. There wasnt much - most of it borrowed from Air Chief Marshal Lal's book.

At the risk of being accused of blowing my own trumpet, my forthcoming book on the Bangladesh Air War will have more information on the Squadron ops than the Squadron;s official history.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Indian Aviation Library (Updated)

Not the whole collection - There are a few more books to be bought and procured. This is from last year. The earlier post which is similar is two years old. Will update a photo from this year shortly as I got yet another half a dozen new books including the elusive "Touching the Sky" Coffee table book.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book Review: PAF Bomber Operations in the 1965 and 1971 Wars

This book has been described elsewhere as "a Lively first person account of B-57 operations by a PAF officer" and I tend to agree with that statement.

First about the scope of this book - Contrary to the title, which tends to raise expectations among history buffs like me, the book is about the personal experiences of Air Cmde Rais Rafi (Retd-PAF). who has been in the thick of action in both wars flying missions in B-57 bombers. Rais Rafi was one of the two Squadron Commanders from the 65 war, the other being Air Commodore Najib Khan. Being the Squadron CO, Rafi is in a good position to give a blow by blow account of the operations that he was involved in.

Expectedly, the book provides a very in-depth minute by minute coverage of the missions flown by him and his compatriots. While most of the major events are covered, a few of the events from the perspective of his compatriots are missed out. Since Rafi was based at Mauripur at the start of the 65 war, the focus is on ops from Mauripur which are well covered. there is not enough info on the initial and later ops of the B-57s from Peshawar. Especially the effective raids on Adampur on the evening of Sept 6th.

The coverage of the war improves towards the latter days. The narration is interspersed with profiles of notable B-57 pilots in the PAF, along with their photographs and the details of the actions. There are several snippets of information related to the B-57 tactics that one finds useful. In no particular order

1. The B-57s used their RB1A all weather radar to map the terrain. key features like bridges clearly showed up on the radar screen . This explains their relative effectiveness as compared to the Indian Canberras in 65.

2. The B-57s used skip bombing techniques at Ambala during 65, one of which resulted in the bomb bouncing off and hitting the Cathedral near the airfield.

3. The ac used the wing mounted guns liberally.. i.e use them to strafe airfields once in a while - not just drop bombs.

4. bomb dropping is done by 'punching a clock' - reference to some bombing computer? on most occasions it appears the pilot would release the bombs manually, but the calculations are done by this onboard computer.

5. Nice insight is given into the B-57 shot down over Adampur on Sept 14 . It appears that the crew (Altaf Sheikh and Bashir Choudhary) pushed their luck by making multiple attacks on the airfield on the same sortie - the guns finding their mark on the fourth pass. Though nothing is mentioned about the travails of both the airmen on the ground - they were nearly lynched by the Punjab farmers - a very nice anecdote is given on their repatriation and the stark contrast on how they were received in Pakistan versus the reception Indian POWs got on their repatriation in India.

The three PAF POWs look on as the Indian POWs get a grand reception in Delhi on their repatriation

The book draft was probably finalised in 1989, but it could have benefited from some updating. For example, the author believes that the B-57 lost at Jamnagar crashed into the Sea due to disorientation of the pilot - Rafi was exiting out of the Jamnagar flying area when the ill-fated B-57 was coming in. This information of it crashing in sea could easily have been corrected as enough evidence existed even in 65 that it crashed on land. Several artifacts were salvaged from the crash site by the Indian government - most notably a page from the diary of the pilot.

The B-57 force was somewhat reduced by the time of the 71 war and it now comprised only one Squadron (No.8 PAF). They operated initially out of Mauripur and later moved up north. As with the 65 War narration, the coverage of Rafi's personal sorties are covered in great depth. He describes in good detail the launch of attacks on Ambala and Agra on the first day. Amritsar on the second day etc. However the details of many other important B-57 missions are missing - including the mission details on which B57 losses have occurred. Most get only a cursory mention - eg ' a B-57 was lost in the south today'. It is slightly disappointing to note that after describing the 65 losses in great detail, he is unable to do the same about 71.

Rafi's last Sorties were done on 8 Dec so not much is written about other operations till the rest of the war. Absolutely very little info exist on the operations in the southern sector. Details of Mauripur's B57 force do not get any space here - but that is expected because this is a personal account.

Other interesting facts that come out of the book -

-Rafi confirms the presence of atleast one B-57 at Rafiqui on the morning of Dec 4th. This was a mystery before as Air Marshal VK "Jimmy" Bhatia's article mentions seeing a B-57 at Rafiqui, while the Pakistani contention was always that B-57s were not based at Rafiqui. The book gives in details the a B57 ended up at Rafqiui on that day. and says it was flown out the next morning. - A nice description of the aftermath of the "Steel Tripod" attack done by Wg Cdr Gautam of No.16 Squadron on Mianwali. The raid was a surprise to the Pakistanis - it created no damage but was of some nuisance. The date however appears to be wrong (Night of Dec 3/4 instead of Dec 4/5)

-Rafi talks about the destruction of a B-57 on the ground at Mianwali - and attributes it to a Hunter attack. Previously the PAF had mentioned that this aircraft was lost on the ground during a servicing accident in which it caught fire. This is a revelation. Rafi also claims that the Hunter that attacked the airfield and caused the damage was shot down by Flt Lt Qazi Ahmed Javed. however this claim is not present for this date in the PAF list but is actually on Dec 4. Did he mix up some dates and places? This definitely needs further research. And having seen the number of things that Rafi actually got wrong, I wouldnt pin much hopes of him being correct on this front either.

With the scale down of operations after 8th December and the subsequent 'march to surrender' - Rafi writes considerably about the anguish felt by him and his fellow pilots. Till the very last moment they felt they could make a difference - perhaps 'secure a ceasefire on more honoroble terms'. But as we know they never got that opportunity to try.

The copy I have seems to have the quality of a good photocopy. In fact it looks like a "second edition" that was made up of binding photocopies. The book has no ISBN, which would mean its market is limited - major stores many not carry it. I got my copy via seller ehjaz786 on . He just might have more copies with him. If your focus is air wars of the subcontinent, your library should have this interesting addition!

Post Script: This review was done months ago - based on one of my posts at ACIG/Warbirds Forum, but posted only now. The Author Air Cmde Rafi passed away early this year in Pakistan.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A spanking new Sukhoi-7 BMK

A pretty rare colour photograph of a Sukhoi-7BMK in IAF Markings, in natural metal finish without an ounce of camoflage paint on it!

Six and a half squadrons flew this aircraft during the 1971 War, and more than a Squadron's worth were lost in the operations - Aerial Combat, Ground Fire, Accidents.

What is unusual in this photograph is the lack of tail number on the aircraft. The roundel on the front fuselage confirms that this is not an early model but probably one of the batch that was delivered after 1969.

I dont know the source of this colour photograph other than that it appeared in one of the Air Enthusiast series of magazines. It is also on the cover of Puspindar Singh's "Aircraft of the Indian Air Force 1933-73" - thus one can safely assume that this photo predates that book. Air to Air Colour photographs from the 60s are almost non-existant and the origin of this photo is a mystery to say the least.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Brewster Buffalo and the Indian Air Force

Years ago,I read suggestions that Brewster Buffalos may have served with the IAF (Dan Ford's Warbird Forum) and one example was transferred to the IAF (Joe Baugher) etc. I used to laugh at that suggestion. I was pretty damn sure that the Buffalo never served with the Indian Air Force. But if you ask me today, I am not laughing! The reason, I was emailed some a couple of scans of late Squadron Leader Jehangir Merwan Engineer's logbook last year from his daughter - Mrs Farida Engineer. The logbook discloses that between May and July 43, He served with No.22 Anti Aircraft Cooperation Unit ( a composite RAF/IAF Unit ). (No.22AACU Was formed as an RAF unit out of IAF Anti Aircraft Coop Flights - It was later transferred to the Indian Air Force and became the No.22 AACU, IAF.) .

Right among the list of types he flew during his stint were two Brewster Buffalos! The first ever record that established Indian pilots flew Buffalos with what was later an IAF unit. The Buffalos in question are W8243 and W8245 (Profiles and Pictures above). I note from elsewhere on Dan Ford's Board that these are two of the six Buffalos that were flown back by 67 RAF sqn from the Burma Retreat. it appears these two aircraft were transferred to No.22 Anti Aircraft Cooperation Unit's A flight in Karachi Drigh Road at beginning of 1943 and were flown by Indian pilots later on. I also noticed that the fate of these two aircraft was marked as unknown in the production list available on other sites and books. if anyone is updating their lists, they can add No.22 AACU andthe period May -July 43 for these two aircraft.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Books I should have reviewed but didnt

I always appreciate a book that I enjoyed reading . And after every good book I read, I promise myself that I will write a few words or even review it on my website - but usually never ever came around to doing so.

I wrote some basic reviews on Amazon for a few - including Mansoor Shah's Gold Bird, Peter Smith's Vultee Vengeance, Roopinder Singh's Arjan Singh, but there are still a lot more great books that I have read over time that I didnt write about. (Yes I have written about YEAGER! - but that was more of a rant than a review!)

Without further ado - the books that I should review in detail .. at the earliest! (In no particular order)
  1. The Incredible War - Air Marshal Bharat Kumar
  2. Himalayan Eagles - Pushpindar Singh
  3. Battle for Pakistan - John Fricker
  4. The India-Pakistan Air War of 1965 - Yours truly and Samir Chopra

The first two are fairly recent. Frickers book is now three decades old, but still a great read if you know what you are looking for. the last one is my own book - its been five years since its final draft, and with loads of research work in between, there are lot of criticisms that I have about it. well.. some day!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

That Canberra sure looks different!

The above photo was taken from Defence Journal Magazine from Pakistan. The original article dealt with the 1959 incident where an IAF Canberra was shot down on a recce mission into Pakistan. It took a letter or two before some reader wrote in saying that the photo doesnt look like a Canberra. Infact it looks quite suspiciously like a Bristol Brigand , a type which the PAF had a lone example of. The Brigand crashed on a ferry flight from UK - I believe outside Basra.

Anyways - Would this turn out to be a picture of the said Brigand? Did DJ actually uncover a hidden gem unknowingly? What do you think?
Posted by Picasa