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 ?