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No. 4 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

No. 4 Squadron (RAF): Second World War


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

No. 4 Squadron began the Second World War as an army-co-operation squadron, equipped with the Westland Lysander. As such it moved to France with the BEF in September 1940. In May 1940 it moved forward into Belgium, where it suffered very heavy loses - between 10 and 23 May 11 aircraft were lost in a period where the Lysander suffered very heavily.

In the aftermath of the collapse of France, No. 4 Squadron retained its Lysanders until June 1942. During this period the squadron performed coastal patrol and air-sea rescue duties. In April 1942 it began to receive more advanced aircraft -American Tomahawks and Mustangs.

In October 1942 the squadron received Mustangs, and began three years of tactical reconnaissance. During that time it operated Mustangs, Mosquitoes, Typhoons and Spitfires. In August 1943 it joined the Second Tactical Air Force, in preparation for the invasion of Europe. On 16 August 1944 the squadron returned to French soil. By the end of the war, it had reached Twente, in the Netherlands, soon moving from there to Celle, in Germany.

Aircraft
May 1937-January 1939: Hawker Hector I
January 1939-September 1940: Lysander I, II
September 1940-June 1942: Lysander III, IIIA
April 1942-October 1942: Tomahawk IIA
April 1942-January 1944: Mustang I
January 1944-June 1944: Mosquito XVI
January 1944-August 1945: Spitfire XI
October 1944-February 1945: Typhoon IB

Squadron Codes:

Group and Duty
September 1939-May 1940: Army co-operation in France
May 1940-October 1942: Coastal patrols with some air-sea rescue duties
October 1942-August 1945: Tactical reconnaissance
August 1943: To Second Tactical Air Force

Location
16 February 1937-24 September 1939: Odiham
24 September-3 October 1939: Mons-en-Chaussée
3 October-16 May 1940: Monchy-Lagache
16-21 May 1940:Lille/ Ronchin
21-24 May 1940: Clairmarais
22-25 May 1940: Detachment to Detling
24-25 May 1940: Hawkinge
24 May-8 June 1940: Ringway
8 June 1940-27 August 1941: Linton-on-Ouse
27 August 1941-1 March 1943: Clifton
1-5 March 1943: Barford St. John
5-8 March 1943: Cranfield
8-12 March 1943: Duxford
12-20 March 1943: Clifton
20 March-16 July 1943:Bottisham
16 July-7 August 1943: Gravesend
7 August-15 September 1943: Odiham
15 September-6 October 1943: Funtington
6 October-15 November 1943: Odiham
15-30 November 1943: North Weald
30 November 1443-3 January 1944: Sawbridgworth
3 January-3 March 1944: Aston Down
3 March-4 April 1944: Sawbridgworth
4 April-27 June 1944: Gatwick
27 June-16 August 1944: Odiham
16 August-2 September 1944: B.4 Beny-sur-Mer (France)
2-5 September 1944: B.27 Boisney
5-11 September 1944: B.31 Fresney Folney
11-27 September 1944: B.43: Fort Rouge
27 September-11 October 1944: B.61 St. Denis Westrem
11 October-23 November 1944: B.70 Deurne
23 November-9 March 1945: B.77 Gilze-Rijen
9 March 1945-17 April 1945: B.89 Mill
17 April 1945-30 May 1945: B.106 Twente
30 May-31 August 1945: B.118 Celle

Known Raids/ Significant dates
14 October 1942: First operation with Mustang
20 May 1944: Last Mosquito sortie
31 August 1945: Disbanded in Germany, later reformed from No. 605


Contents

Formation in the First World War Edit

No. 4 Group was originally formed in October 1918 at the Seaplane Experimental Station, Felixstowe just before the end of the First World War and disbanded a year later in 1919. In its first incarnation, No. 4 Group was created by augmenting the former Royal Naval Air Service group at RNAS Great Yarmouth which had been responsible for anti-submarine and anti-Zeppelin operations over the North Sea. The former RNAS group was designated as No. 73 Wing within the new No. 4 Group. The commanding officer of No. 4 Group was Colonel C R Samson. [1] With the 1918–1919 postwar demobilization of the RAF, No. 4 Group was disbanded on 24 March 1919.

Reformation in the Second World War Edit

With the buildup of the RAF prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, No. 4 Group was reformed on 1 April 1937 as part of RAF Bomber Command based at RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk under A/Cdre Arthur Harris (later Air Vice-Marshal "Bomber" Harris). On 29 June 1937 the headquarters were relocated at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire when 4 Group took over a number of stations and squadrons from No. 3 Group RAF. 4 Group was primarily based in Yorkshire for the duration of the war. Its airfields became further concentrated south and east of York when 6 Group was formed (1 March 1943) using airfields north of the city. [2] The flying units of those were these, mainly flying with the Handley Page Heyford biplane bomber:

Order of battle for no. 4 Group RAF, 29 June 1937, data from [3] [4]
Base Squadron Aircraft Version
RAF Dishforth No. 10 Squadron RAF

The group's first operation was on the night of 3 September 1939 when ten Whitley Mk.IIIs of Nos. 51 and 58 Squadrons took off to drop leaflets in the Ruhr and over Hamburg and Bremen. By this time the group had shrunk to six squadrons and the equipment had been standardised to the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley. RAF Finningley had gone over to No. 5 Group RAF and RAF Leconfield was "Under care and Maintenance" by No. 4 Group.

Order of battle for no. 4 Group RAF, 26 September 1939, data from [3] [4] [5]
Base Squadron Aircraft Version
RAF Dishforth No. 10 Squadron RAF
No. 78 Squadron RAF
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
Mks.I, IV
Mks.I, IV
RAF Driffield No. 77 Squadron RAF
No. 102 Squadron RAF
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
Mks.III, V
Mk.III
RAF Linton-on-Ouse No. 51 Squadron RAF
No. 58 Squadron RAF
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
Mks.II, III
Mks.I, II, III

The first land bombing mission was by 26 out of 30 Whitleys from Nos. 10, 102, 77 and 51 Squadrons detailed to attack the seaplane base at Hornum on 20 March 1940. In April 1940 the group moved its headquarters to Heslington Hall, near York. In August/September 1940 No. 4 Group took part in eight attacks on Berlin, oil targets and ports. On 1 April 1941 104 Squadron was formed at RAF Driffield as part of No. 4 Group, equipped with the Vickers Wellington and carried out night bombing operations from May 1941 until February 1942.

On 24 July 1941, 4 Group dropped 2,000 lb bombs on the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and helped to keep these battle-cruisers locked in Brest until 12 February 1942. By January 1942 the Group had grown considerably and was made out of the following flying units, which were in full conversion from the Whitley to the Vickers Wellington medium and Handley Page Halifax heavy bomber:

Order of battle for no. 4 Group RAF, 9 January 1942, data from [6]
Base Squadron Aircraft Version
RAF Dishforth No. 51 Squadron RAF Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk.V
RAF Driffield No. 104 Squadron RAF Vickers Wellington Mk.II
RAF Leeming No. 10 Squadron RAF
No. 77 Squadron RAF
Handley Page Halifax
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
Mk.II
Mk.V
RAF Leconfield No. 98 Squadron RAF Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk.V (non-operational)
RAF Linton-on-Ouse No. 35 Squadron RAF
No. 58 Squadron RAF
Handley Page Halifax
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
Mks.I, II
Mk.V
RAF Middleton St. George No. 76 Squadron RAF
No. 78 Squadron RAF
Handley Page Halifax
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
Mks.I, II
Mk.V
RAF Pocklington No. 405 Squadron RCAF Vickers Wellington Mk.II
RAF Stradishall No. 138 Squadron RAF Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk.V
RAF Topcliffe No. 102 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
Mk.II
Mk.V (operational on Whitleys)

On 30/31 May 1942 No. 4 Group played its part in the 1000 bomber raid on Cologne, providing 154 aircraft and the follow-up raid on Essen, providing 142 aircraft. In early 1943 No. 4 Group made a substantial contribution in the Battle of the Ruhr, which lasted until July. Losses were heavy but the results worthwhile. By March 1943 the group was made out of these flying units, conversion to the Halifax and Wellington was almost finished (some squadrons having still one or two Whitleys at hand):

Order of battle for no. 4 Group RAF, 4 March 1943, data from [7]
Base Squadron Aircraft Version
RAF Burn No. 431 Squadron RCAF Vickers Wellington Mk.X
RAF East Moor No. 429 Squadron RCAF Vickers Wellington Mks.III, X
RAF Elvington No. 77 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax Mks.II, V
RAF Leconfield No. 196 Squadron RAF
No. 466 Squadron RAAF
Vickers Wellington
Vickers Wellington
Mk.X
Mk.X
RAF Linton-on-Ouse No. 76 Squadron RAF
No. 78 Squadron RAF
Handley Page Halifax
Handley Page Halifax
Mks.II, V
Mk.II
RAF Melbourne No. 10 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax Mk.II
RAF Pocklington No. 102 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax Mk.II
RAF Rufforth No. 158 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax Mk.II
RAF Snaith No. 51 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax Mk.II

In May/June 1944, 4 Group welcomed two French heavy-bomber squadrons - Nos. 346 and 347 Squadrons - to RAF Elvington. On that station a gradual changeover from RAF to French Air Force personnel was effected, so that by September 1944, the station was almost exclusively French and commanded by an officer of the French Air Force. In July 1944 the group looked like this, having pretty much standardised on the Halifax B.Mk.III:

Order of battle for no. 4 Group RAF, July 1944, data from [8] [ verification needed ]
Base Squadron Aircraft Version
RAF Breighton No. 78 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax Mk.III
RAF Burn No. 578 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax Mk.III
RAF Driffield No. 466 Squadron RAAF Handley Page Halifax Mk.III
RAF Elvington No. 346 Squadron RAF
No. 347 Squadron RAF
Handley Page Halifax
Handley Page Halifax
Mk.III
Mks.III, V
RAF Full Sutton No. 77 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax Mk.III
RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor No. 76 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax Mk.III
RAF Leconfield No. 640 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax Mk.III
RAF Lissett No. 158 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax Mk.III
RAF Melbourne No. 10 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax Mk.III
RAF Pocklington No. 102 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax Mks.III, IIIa
RAF Snaith No. 51 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax Mk.III

Prior to the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 intense attacks began on French marshalling yards and gun emplacements on the French coast, troop concentrations and V-weapon sites, reaching a peak in August when 3,629 sorties were flown. In addition No. 4 Group undertook urgent transport work and in little more than one week ferried 432,840 gallons of petrol to the British Second Army during Operation Market Garden.

In 1945, 4 Group attacked targets at Hanover, Magdeburg, Stuttgart, Cologne, Munster and Osnabrück plus the Sterkrade, Wanne-Eickel, Bottrop and many other synthetic-oil centres, bombing by day and night. Its attention later transferred to bombing railway centres in preparation for the crossing of the Rhine.

During the war 61,577 operational sorties were flown, the group trained many Bomber Command crews and helped to create two other bomber groups. On 7 May 1945 No. 4 Group was transferred to Transport Command, and by July 1945 the group consisted of the following flying units:


The Wartime Memories Project is the original WW1 and WW2 commemoration website.

  • The Wartime Memories Project has been running for 21 years. If you would like to support us, a donation, no matter how small, would be much appreciated, annually we need to raise enough funds to pay for our web hosting and admin or this site will vanish from the web.
  • Looking for help with Family History Research? Please read our Family History FAQ's
  • The Wartime Memories Project is run by volunteers and this website is funded by donations from our visitors. If the information here has been helpful or you have enjoyed reaching the stories please conside making a donation, no matter how small, would be much appreciated, annually we need to raise enough funds to pay for our web hosting or this site will vanish from the web.

If you enjoy this site

please consider making a donation.

16th June 2021 - Please note we currently have a large backlog of submitted material, our volunteers are working through this as quickly as possible and all names, stories and photos will be added to the site. If you have already submitted a story to the site and your UID reference number is higher than 255865 your information is still in the queue, please do not resubmit without contacting us first.

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If you have a general question please post it on our Facebook page.


Announcements

  • The Wartime Memories Project has been running for 21 years. If you would like to support us, a donation, no matter how small, would be much appreciated, annually we need to raise enough funds to pay for our web hosting and admin or this site will vanish from the web.
  • Looking for help with Family History Research? Please read our Family History FAQ's
  • The Wartime Memories Project is run by volunteers and this website is funded by donations from our visitors. If the information here has been helpful or you have enjoyed reaching the stories please conside making a donation, no matter how small, would be much appreciated, annually we need to raise enough funds to pay for our web hosting or this site will vanish from the web.

If you enjoy this site

please consider making a donation.

16th June 2021 - Please note we currently have a large backlog of submitted material, our volunteers are working through this as quickly as possible and all names, stories and photos will be added to the site. If you have already submitted a story to the site and your UID reference number is higher than 255865 your information is still in the queue, please do not resubmit without contacting us first.

We are now on Facebook. Like this page to receive our updates.

If you have a general question please post it on our Facebook page.


The Wartime Memories Project is the original WW1 and WW2 commemoration website.

  • The Wartime Memories Project has been running for 21 years. If you would like to support us, a donation, no matter how small, would be much appreciated, annually we need to raise enough funds to pay for our web hosting and admin or this site will vanish from the web.
  • Looking for help with Family History Research? Please read our Family History FAQ's
  • The Wartime Memories Project is run by volunteers and this website is funded by donations from our visitors. If the information here has been helpful or you have enjoyed reaching the stories please conside making a donation, no matter how small, would be much appreciated, annually we need to raise enough funds to pay for our web hosting or this site will vanish from the web.

If you enjoy this site

please consider making a donation.

16th June 2021 - Please note we currently have a large backlog of submitted material, our volunteers are working through this as quickly as possible and all names, stories and photos will be added to the site. If you have already submitted a story to the site and your UID reference number is higher than 255865 your information is still in the queue, please do not resubmit without contacting us first.

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If you have a general question please post it on our Facebook page.


6. Rescue at sea

Not all aircrew made it home. If an aircraft flying over the sea was damaged or out of fuel, the crew would have to make an emergency landing on the water, known as ditching, which was always hazardous. If a good landing was made, the crew could escape into rubber dinghies. Men in the water did not stay alive for long. If survivors were spotted, or their radio distress signals were heard, rescue could come in the form of warship, fishing boat, seaplane or RAF Air Sea Rescue craft.


RAF Honington Commemorates Czechoslovak WWII Squadron

311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron was formed at the Suffolk base in 1940 and suffered the heaviest losses of any Czech formation in the RAF.

A ceremony has taken place at RAF Honington to commemorate the 80th anniversary of 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron.

The squadron was formed at the Suffolk base on 29 July 1940 during the Second World War and served as part of Bomber Command and Coastal Command, flying thousands of sorties.

It suffered the heaviest losses of any Czech formation in the Royal Air Force and was the only Czechoslovak-manned bomber squadron of the RAF during the conflict.

Battle Of Britain: Was It The Most Vital One For The UK In WWII?

The squadron flew Wellington bombers and the Consolidated Liberator heavy bomber, scoring the highest success rate of any Coastal Command squadron.

The ceremony, held on Wednesday at RAF Honington's memorial garden, was attended by Czech Air Force personnel, as well as families of Czechoslovak veterans.

Group Captain Matt Radnall, Station Commander of RAF Honington, said: "During the Second World War over 500 Czechoslovaks serving in Allied air forces were killed. Of these, 273 died while serving with 311 Squadron.

"Today it is fitting that we mark the Squadron’s formation with a simple ceremony in our Memorial Garden to ensure that their sacrifice will always be remembered.

"There is added significance as we also mark the 80th anniversary year of the Battle of Britain, during which Czechoslovaks played a critical and courageous role."

Defence Minister Hopeful VJ Day Commemorations Will Take Place 'Properly'

During the war, 2,500 Czechoslovaks served in the RAF - more than half as aircrew.

The Deputy Ambassador of the Czech Republic to London, Ales Opatrny, also attended the commemoration as well as Defence Attachés from the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic.

"During the summer months of 1940, a total of 932 members of the Czechoslovak Air Force arrived in Great Britain from France and gradually 4 Czechoslovak Squadrons were formed," said Mr Opatrny at the ceremony.

"Today we commemorate 80 years since these events and more than ever we are aware of the close relations between our nations: British, Czech, and Slovak."

Wreaths were also laid at the Czechoslovak War Graves in the churchyards of Honington and East Wretham.

311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron was disbanded in February 1946.

It will also be remembered in the Czech Republic on 1 October 2020, with a ceremony in Brno.

Cover image: The ceremony at RAF Honington was held on Wednesday (Picture: MOD).


Recollections

My name is Tom McCulloch and I attended (for brain washing, Ha ha) RAF Wilmslow in August/September 1957.

Our group was led by a Cpl. Deakin with assistance of Sgt. Haslam and P.O. Cheeham.

There were 19 in our group namely: McNaughton, E. Jones, Knowles, Kemp, W. Jones, McMurray, MacDonald, R. Lambert, Lomas, MacKenzie, D. Jones, Johnson, D. Lambert, Lenthall, McNeill, Lodwick, Lewis, and myself.

I have a memory of 3 or 4 of us going to Old Trafford to see Matt Busby's team of Man. U. play. I am not sure who joined me on the trip, and I do not recall if the team was known as "Busby's Babes" at that time. I am interested to hear if anyone else remembers going on the trip. I do believe P.O. Cheeham was at the game.

I too was a POM, but in true British manner was told that if my only source of income was my National Service pay then It was unlikely that I could afford the Mess fees. Ha ha.

I enjoyed reading some of the stories told on your site, but was surprised that some referred to the cold weather, whilst I remember standing on the parade square and airmen collapsing with the heat.

I was sent to RAF Goch in Germany where I completed my National Service.

Gerry Fergusson writes: I was in C Flight, Wilmslow in June/July 1946 and remember well the grenade throwing (just one try) and firing both the SMLE Lee Enfield on the short range in camp and out in the country. Never did get used to the ring and bead sight. We had an older rifle, probably from 14/18 for square bashing and bull.

I am fairly certain that we fired on the Bollin range so it must have been near the river. I certainly remember marching there and back on a sweltering hot day. I watched the sweat spreading from under the webbing of the man in front as we marched and no doubt mine was the same. We were all soaked and shattered when we got back.

On the whole I have happy memories of Wilmslow although perhaps time has softened the view. I do not recall any of the hostility in Wilmsow that has been mentioned but perhaps the locals had encountered some of the Bevin boys who had spent some of their national service down the mines. They were no longer needed after the demob programme started but still had to complete their two years. They were as I remember, a tough lot who knew more about life than most of us.

I thorougly enjoyed serving in the RAF and came to wish that I has signed on as a regular when my two years had ended.

Gracjanna Kaminska was at the camp during the war, in 1944. Her son Stefan has written. Click here to read more.

Les Downes sent in formal and informal group photos click here to view them.

Malcolm Flack ex 3151816 SAC - admires all the numerous group photos taken at Wilmslow but has not seen many around the time he was there. He has looked at those that are shown on the website (and others) without success. He arrived there for square bashing just after Easter April 1957 and was in &ldquoC&rdquo Flight and Hut 323 seems to ring a bell. His records show him as passing out around the first week in June 1957. He then went on to RAF Weeton for MT driver training and subsequently to RAF Changi on the Troopship &ldquoDunera&rdquo for the rest of his National Service.

He assumes that everyone was photographed within a group, however he cannot ever remember having one taken whilst there. Any photos about this time would be appreciated by e-mail to: [email protected]

John Davan arrived in November 1950 and has sent in a picture and recollections click here to view them.

Jim Renwick was on the permanent staff from 1949 to 1950 and says "I was of delighted to see pictures of camp. It brought back a lot of happy memories. I was a Cook at both 2 and 3 wing this was the one used mainly by WRAF. 2 Wing was new built by Macalpines, it server airman recruits.

Group Captain Young was CO, discipline was of a very high standard all permanent staff were either on Colour Hoisting Parades or PT, depending what shift we were on. On daily Monday to Friday. My bosses were F/O Loyd, W/O Durrbridge, F/S Roe, F/S Ward, CPL Scott.

Among my friends were Dave Aitken, George Mitchell, Pat MCourt, Willie Orr we were all Scots. Brian Manning, Lofty Goodfellow, John Vernon were other cooks, I have never met any of them since I was demobbed in July 1950."

Alan Holmes did his National Service square bashing in 1956 and sent in a photo along with the names and locations of all the conscripts pictured. Click here to view it.

Alan Pearson was ". just in the process of writing my family history and the subject of Wilmslow camp cropped up. I like thousands of others did my square bashing there in about October of 1948. It was a great posting because I lived in Altrincham. I was quite handy at woodwork and had made a plyood box to square up my pack. One of the NCO's spotted this and asked me if I would make some more for his squad and I agreed. It seemed that he had a good supply of plywood which I later found had come from old unwanted (or so he said) wardrobes in the furniture stores. This little enterprise got me off a lot of squarebashing, made a few bob and I hope was of help to some of my fellow recruits."

Philip Preece found himself at a state funeral during his basic training at RAF Wilmslow: "My stay at RAF Wilmslow began circa 15th of December 1955. I reported to RAF Cardington and spent approximately ten days there. When our Flight of 48 had assembled, we relocated to the "WAFF depot" to become D1 and D2 flights of No 1 Squadron. I was in D2 Flight. NCO's were CPL Delaney and Sgt Stevenson, the Officer being P/O Mc Ardle. After about a week the English went home on Christmas Grant, on return the Scots went on New Year Grant. Thus the 8 week Square Bashing Course drew to a close in February.

But there was to be no Passing out Parade for us because of the death of Viscount Trenchard on February 7th. There was a State Funeral for the Marshal of the Royal Air Force in London. So together with contingents from Hednesford, Padgate, West Kirby and Bridgenorth, any Airman 5ft 9ins or over who did not need spectacles found themselves at RAF Uxbridge. At Uxbridge we had extra Drill Rest on your arms reverse and Route lining Procedure, in preparation for the funeral Parade. After a week at Uxbridge we returned to Wilmslow to complete Basic Training.

On completion I went next to RAF Hereford at Credenhill then for the remainder of my two years to RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall."

Derek Thrower found he wasn't welcome at RAF Wilmslow or in Wilmslow itself: "In the summer of 1946 I was posted to RAF Wilmslow as a partly trained new recruit from RAF Sudbury in Suffolk which closed. The drill NCO's were not happy to have us as they liked to train raw recruits to their particular ways, and we were given a most unpleasant time there. One Saturday afternoon we were allowed into town and were dismayed to find that the dislike continued there. Ice Cream ran out when we got to the top of the queue but continued when we left as did drinks in pubs and items in shops.

I have often wondered why this hostile attitude existed at that time. I certainly had no wish to be there! Any explaination would be of great interest as this was the most unhappy part of all my RAF service."

John Baylis was rather too young to be in the RAF during the war, but has some interesting child&rsquos-eye memories of wartime Wilmslow.

Rodney Senior was at RAF Wilmslow from 1954 to 1956 and remembers how cold it was.

Alan Holt has nostalgic recollections of doing guard duty at the main gates shown in the picture above. Click here for more.

Alec was an Airman on the permament staff at RAF Wilmslow for 18 months in 1955 and 1956 and sent some notes, a photo and a map. Click here to view them.

Colin Edwards saw the above picture of the entrance to RAF Wilmslow: "It revived memories of over 60 years ago when I arrived there from Padgate. The long lighter coloured building with 8 windows and an entrance facing down the road towards the gate was the camp HQ. In the photo I can make out the sentry boxes either side of the door the right hand one is where, during the bitterly cold winter of 1947, I used to stand on sentry-go for 2 hours at a time with an occaisional 15 paces to the left, about turn and back again, otherwise the soles of my boots would become frozen to the path, occcaisionally a "jankers wallah" had the job of scattering sand about my feet and along the path lest I should slip on the ice and skewer someone with my bayonet." Click here for more.

Jack Finegan was a young boy when the station opened: "I remember the R.A.F. stations being built during the war. I was a pupil at Cheadle Etchells School in East Avenue, Heald Green, and we were allowed out of school to help the local farmer, John Price, of Finney Lane, gather his potato and turnip crops. The Ministry of Defence had given him three weeks to clear his fields before they confiscated some of his land to build the R.A.F. stations. What was Price's farm is now a housing estate.

Another depot was built in Handforth, 61 M.U. if I remember correctly. This was a stores depot and my mother worked there as a civilian clerk.

62 M.U. was built in the Stanneylands Road area and my father was employed there as a maintenance electrician and later travelling around crashed aircraft, usually German, which had been shot down during the air raids on Manchester & districts, stripping them of the electrical instrumentation. At the same time my wife's father, Ernie Wareing, was employed on the stations as a lorry driver.

One day, early on in the development of the two stations, two R.A.F. lorries drove into West Avenue where I lived, loaded with WAAFs and the Sergeant in Charge went from house to house begging people to provide billets for them. We ended up with two and my brother & I had to bunk in together to make room for them. Although it was war time we had some happy times with them and quite often we would have for or five of them visiting for the evening, playing cards or just chatting."

Guy Jefferson served at RAF Wilmslow & writes: "R.A.F Station Wilmslow was chiefly the home of No.4 Recruit Training Centre that originated in 1939 and was still acting as such until 1950 at least.(I very much regret I do not have the exact dates). A certain percentage of the recruits were WAAF's, which were trained here until transferring to Hawkinge in 1949.

It was also a depot for dispatching units and personnel to Africa during 1941/42. A lodger was No. 75 M.U, present from December 1940 to August 1945, chiefly engaged in the recovery/salvage of crashed aircraft from the West Pennines area.

From May to July 1946 it was the H.Q of No.63 Group, Reserve Command. I have a record of it being involved with sophisticated Blue Steel bomb training from September 1956 to October 1961 although the practical side of this was done at the Avro works at Woodford.

I have a large scale map of the camp site dated 1955 but whether the camp was still open at that time I know not.

I did my 'square bashing' at Wilmslow in 1945/46. I did rifle firing, and tossing of live hand-grenades on a picturesque range about 5 miles from the camp. It could have been Alderey Edge but I just do not know. I have been trying to find the location of this range ever since but have had no success. If you ever come in contact with any other ex airmen that were at Wilmslow around the same time I would like to know of them." [If you know where the rifle range was then please get in touch with this website]. Guy has written more about the camp - click here to read Guy Jefferson's History of RAF Wilmslow.

Jon Bleasdale wrote: "Here's a photo of my . dad's hut/squadron at "RAF Station Wilmslow" May 1957 as part of his Nat. Service. . (my dad is second from right on the middle row)."

Alan Grose wrote: "I was at RAF Wilmslow October November December of 1950, for basic training. RAF Wilmslow was later known as Number four School of Recruit Training. Was able to equip and train four thousand airmen a year.What many people thought were Hangers were Drill Sheds (with no doors)The Spitfire was not in flying condition and was used as a Gate Gardian. The Sick Quarters included a large Infectius Disease Section.There was a large fire at the new NAAFI in 1950 and it was rebuit.Just inside the main gate was a Canteen run by the Salvation Army(no beer)The Station was about sixty percent WAAF and forty percent RAF.I was there in 1950 and 1951."

Peter Ward wrote: "My wife and I were both at RAF Wilmslow, which was a Recruit Training Station in Tech Training Command and also an RAF Hospital. The Maintenance Unit was at Handforth, and was known as RAF MU Handforth. It was not part of RAF Wilmslow, though it relied on Wilmslow for medical services (as did RAF Ringway). I was a National Service Medical Officer, and my wife was an RAF Nursing Sister." Click here for more.

Douglas Adams wrote: "I was at RAF Wilmslow as a National Service recruit during the winter of 1957/58. I have no photographs unfortunately - there was no time really as it was a simple matter of survival. Life then was harsh. Up early and drilling etc. in icy winds and rain. At one stage around 80 per cent of the recruits went down with serious flu. Several in fact died and there were quite a few who went AWOL. All I remember about the camp was the rows of huts and the parade ground."

Gerald Harris remembers RAF Wilmslow as a "sausage factory": "I picked up your website while surfing old memories. I was at RAF Wilmslow in the summer of 1957. I joined up for three years on the 28 May and after three days in RAF Cardington getting processed I was sent to Wilmslow where I spent ten weeks. I was in E1 Flight. We had two D.I.'s the one I remember was called Cpl. Bentley. I remember him because we were his last intake before his demob and he cut us rather more slack than he might otherwise have done. The other one was a Wilmslow lad and the Scoutmaster of a troop in the town. HE was a lot harder, although I guess with the benefit of experience they were probably using Mutt and Jeff psychology to get that bit extra out of us. I was P.O.M. (potential officer material) because of my GCE's and got singled out for the odd dose of special 'treatment', but on the whole I took some pride in the training.

It was all a bit of a blur drill, PE, fatigues and indoctrination. They knew how to wring you out. I remember the White Swan public house (known as the Dirty Duck) and getting drunk for the first time on a pre passing out ceremony celebration in Stockport, at that time still a Lowriesque mill town with damp cobbled streets and canal bridges. It is only as I write this that I realise how little there is to remember about basic training. It was a sausage factory of unremitting grind, day after day, until you fell of the end of the production line ready for the next stage in the process. In my case that was No3 School of Wireless Training at RAF Compton Bassett, but that has no place on this website."

Charles Marshall (now in Canada) wrote: "I did my basic training there from 24th July to 29th Sept 1959 so the base was still in full swing then.I notice in John Bleasdales picture the drill instructor was Corporal Orange. the same DI I had. he was an extremely firm but very fair man. To the best of my knowledge he eventually took his commision and was a Squadron Leader on retirement.I,m sure the base was still there in operation until the early 60's.

I read mention of aircraft hangers. these were indeed open fronted buildings and were used for wet weather square bashing and pay parade was conducted in them. For any readers who were also there I was in Hut 449 Flight #H1. Squadron #1 NCO drill instructor Cpl Orange (Jaffa) and Sgt Willocks. A scary time for a lad from the highlands of Scotland but looking back it really was an unforgetable experiance which molded us for our future RAF career.

Janet Roberts wrote: "I was having a surf as one does when memories start to jog. I have often wondered what became of RAF Wilmslow. I was there as a recruit to the WRAF in the Spring of 1958. After 8 weeks induction training I went on to RAF Hawkinge, then into the WRAF Police HQ at RAF Netheravon, then RAF Debden before undertaking my service at RAF Spitalgate (HQ No 2 Police District). I left the service at the end of the 3 years in 1961, met my husband who had been a National Service man in RAF signals in Aden. We were married in 1963 and still going strong. My memories of Wilmslow are the wooden huts with a coke stove, how we didn't suffocate ourselves I will never know, 6.30 am parades for breakfast, and passing out with the salute taken by the Queen Mum!"

Derek (Bill) Bailey was at the camp from March to April 1958 "doing my 'square bashing'" and sent some photos. Click here for more.

Brian Balshaw managed to set fire to his boots & get away with it: "Like Douglas Adams, I was at RAF Wilmslow for my National Service basic training, better known as 'square bashing', in Nov./Dec. 1957 and I also remember how cold it was and how glad we were for the thick uniform and heavy greatcoat. I think we were actually rather pleased that it was not the middle of summer when the exertion of drilling in hot weather might have been an equally nasty experience. I wish there were photos of the camp but all I can remember is that the old wooden billet had holes at the bottom of the walls where the wind howled in! We did have the benefit of the pot-bellied coke stove in the middle of the room and we made sure it was well stoked, so much so that it could be made to glow red. Not wise to get too close, but I can remember being very scared when I put my new boots adjacent to the stove to get them dry and found the next morning they were 'burned to a crisp'. Click here for more.

Percy Welton wrote: "I was posted to RAF Wilmslow, after kitting out at Padgate in the late Autumn of 1945. I had spent two years on deferred service, awaiting traning as Aircrew (I was classified as 'PNB1 i.e. Pilot, Navigator, Bomb Aimer - I never knew what the '1' meant) but as the war had ended I had to remuster to a ground trade. There were four Wings, three for RAFand one for WAAF at Wilmslow and I recall firing a Sten gun on the Camp short range I also used a rifle (Lee Enfield 303?) on a longer range in (I think) Styal Woods, on the left at the bottom of the road which passes the Stanneylands Hotel. Much later I served at 61 MU --convenient for me as I could cycle home to my Mother's house at Alderley Edge!" Below is Percy Welton in 1945 (2nd from left) and today.

Percy also wrote: "after 'working' that comfortable Handforth posting I next received a Records Office posting to Vienna, firstly to the ex-Luftwaffe aerodrome Schwechat but then to the city itself, at Schoenbrunn Palace (AHQ Middle East Command). Vienna was then in its 'Harry Lime' period, under joint British/French/American/Russian control but within the Russian Sector of Austria, which gave rise to some interesting moments."

Gordon Stringer wrote: I did my Basic Training at Wilmslow from March to June 1958. I was called up and kitted out at Cardington and we were trained up to Wilmslow from a Station that was located on the Cardington Camp, now long gone.

Apart from being incredibly homesick at first, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Square Bashing. Our Drill Corporal was a Cpl Worrall and the Drill Sergeant was Sgt Mclusky who brought fear and terror to everyone, but he had a compendium of sarcastic comments which he fired at the the guys with two left feet and who did'nt know right from left that used to have me in tears of laughter. Click here for more.

George Harrington: "I did my National Service basic training there during February/March 1957. I certainly recall the cinema mentioned by a previous contributor. I initially reported to RAF Cardington and after being issed with kit we were taken by train from Cardington to Wilmslow station. I seem to remember a large parage square,possible two squares where we seem to have been drilled for hours. Also we seem to have spend a great deal of time doing 'fatigues'. I do have a photgraph of the intake prior to our being posted to other stations."

George is the 2nd one on the left in the back row.

Colin Burgess arrived in 1951: "In 1951 I was kitted out at RAF Padgate and then sent over to RAF Wilmslow for training. It was very strict and was commanded by Group Captain Crump. After training I was sent on a course to RAF Kirkham and then posted back to Wilmslow again. So I was there from 1951 to 1953. I had a great time and sometimes wished I had stayed in the RAF. Click here for more.

Frank Arnall's daughter sent in some information and great photos, including the one at the top of this page. Click here for more.

Dave Welch was at RAF Wilmslow in 1956: "I forget which squadron or flight we were in but we were in hut 246. Our DIs were Corporals Jackson and Boulton. Jackson's favourite party trick was to stand on one leg with his beret on the heel of his boot. He would then kick it upwards and catch it on his head. Naturally we thought they were a pair of prize bastards when we first arrived (as was the intention of course) but we got to like both of them and even had whip round for them when we left. Click here for more.

Ron Kelsey's brother wrote in enclosing a photo. Click here for more.


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


"Dragons"

Sada Satark - Always Alert

by K Sree Kumar

No 6 Squadron is one of the ten senior squadrons of the Indian Air Force, raised before Independence. Of those pioneering ten, it is probably the one that has had the most varied history, and has assumed the widest range of roles. These have included air-sea rescue, counter-air, fighter-reconnaissance, maritime reconnaissance, maritime strike, target towing and transport. In its time, it has flown single-engined, twin-engined and four-engined propellor-driven aircraft, and twin-engined jet aircraft of two very different generations.

The squadron formed at Trichinopoly (now Tiruchirapally) on 1st December 1942 under the command of the redoubtable Squadron Leader (later Air Commodore) Mehar Singh. The pilots were mainly Indian Air Force Volunteer Reserve (IAFVR) personnel from Nos 1 and 2 Coast Defence Flights.

The squadron was designated a fighter-reconnaissance unit, and equipped with Hawker Hurricane FR.IIb aircraft. On completion of equipping at Bhopal in March 1943, the squadron began an intensive period of training and working-up. It participated in the Indian Air Force&rsquos tenth anniversary review at Ambala, and received an award for &ldquothe best looking aircraft&rdquo. The squadron continued working-up, until November that year.

Operations in Burma:

In November 1943, No 6 Squadron IAF moved to Cox&rsquos Bazar, for its first operational deployment. It took over from 28 Squadron RAF the fighter-reconnaissance role in 224 Group, part of Third Tactical Air Force, for the Second Arakan Campaign.

During this campaign, No 6 Squadron was the only specialist reconnaissance unit available to support XV Corps, and indeed Fourteenth Army, on this front. XV Corps included 5 and 7 Indian Divisions advancing down the Mayu peninsula, and 81 (West African) Division in the Kaladan Valley. No 6 Squadron provided photo mosaics for, and carried out tactical reconnaissance (Tac/R) ahead of, these three bodies of troops, which were advancing over areas that were virtually unmapped till then. For their unstinting support, they earned the name, &ldquoThe Eyes of the Fourteenth Army&rdquo. Flying in the approved Tac/R pairing of Leader and Weaver, they were also known as &ldquothe Arakan Twins&rdquo.

In mid-January 1944, General Sir William (later Field Marshal Lord) Slim, GOC Fourteenth Army, spent several days visiting the Arakan Front. In his memoirs he makes a point of saying how impressed he was with an IAF reconnaissance squadron. His comments are generally assumed to refer to No 6 Squadron.

As XV Corps continued its advance, most of 224 Group&rsquos squadrons moved forward from Cox&rsquos Bazar, to fair weather airstrips from where they could continue supporting XV Corps at shorter range. No 6 Squadron was moved to Ratnap Strip, at the head of the Naf Peninsula.

The Allied advance was temporarily checked in February, when the Japanese launched their first counter-attack of the season towards India. At this stage, the Allies did not have air superiority over the Arakan, and the reconnaissance Hurricanes were particularly vulnerable. In any case standing instructions on Tac/R and PR missions were to avoid air combat, as it was considered more important to bring back films or tactical information than to get into aircombat with enemy aircraft. On many ocassions, the Hurricanes were intercepted by Japanese Oscar fighters and were shot down. But this did not deter the Squadron from its task. Even so, during one particularly cruel fortnight in February 1944, the Squadron lost five Hurricanes and five pilots missing.

Nevertheless, on 15 February 1944, Flying Officer (Later Air Commodore) JC Verma of No 6 Squadron shot down a Japanese Ki-43 Oscar during a low-level dogfight, his victory being confirmed later by Army observers. Fg Off Verma became the first Indian pilot since the First World War with a confirmed victory in air combat while flying for the Indian Air Force, and was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross (He was to command the squadron some years later).

The members of No.6 Squadron meet for a 'chai' break after a sortie during Jan 1944. From L to R: M S Pujji DFC, H K Patel, Unk, 'Doctor', Mehar Singh DSO, Bhattacharjea , E D Masillamani, L R D Blunt, J D Acquino,Aziz Khan.

During this crucial period No 6 Squadron worked under extreme pressure, delivering PR prints in record numbers, some individual pilots flying six or more sorties in a day. In March the CO, Sqn Ldr Mehar Singh, received the Distinguished Service Order. He remains the only IAF officer to have received this decoration, generally regarded as recognising effective leadership rather than personal bravery.

No 6 Squadron continued flying until XV Corps withdrew from Buthidaung, to &lsquosit out&rsquo the monsoon period. It flew its last operational sorties of the season on 31 May 1944, and withdrew on 6 June. It was relieved by No 4 Squadron, Indian Air Force.

During its first operational tour, No 6 Squadron had delivered a sterling performance. The squadron&rsquos photographic section turned out enormous numbers of prints, averaging 16,000 a month. The squadron received numerous messages of gratitude and congratulation, including from Lieutenant-General FW Messervy, GOC IV Corps, and Major-General Lomax, GOC 26th Indian Division.

For services during the squadron&rsquos tour of operations, Flight-Lieutenant Rawal Singh was awarded the MBE, and Sergeant BM Kothari, the head of the photographic section, received the British Empire Medal. In addition, Flying Officer (later Air Commodore) JD Aquino and Pilot Officer (later Wing Commander) LRD Blunt were commended by the AOC.

Return to the Frontier and Post War Standdown

After being withdrawn from operations on the Burma front, the squadron moved to Risalpur, and later to Kohat, with a detachment at Miranshah. It remained based at Kohat for the rest of the War, on &lsquoAir Control&rsquo duties on the North-West Frontier.

Still at Kohat, No 6 Squadron began converting to Spitfires in November 1945. By early 1946, the squadron was equipped with the FR.XIVe variant for fighter-reconnaissance, and the PR.XI for photo reconnaissance.

Through 1946 and early 1947 the Squadron worked up with its Spitfires. However, in April 1947, the squadron was moved from Ranchi to Karachi to re-equip with Douglas C-47 Dakota and assume a new role, that of tactical transport support.

On Independence the RIAF&rsquos assets and units were divided between India and Pakistan. Most of No 6 Squadron&rsquos Dakotas, its infrastructure and other assets went to Pakistan, effectively raising No 6 Squadron RPAF. The personnel who chose to remain with India were merged with those of No 12 Squadron, the IAF&rsquos lead transport unit, for the time being. After distinguished service in its first five years, No 6 Squadron RIAF was temporarily number-plated.

Independence and the first two decades

Three years later, in January 1951, No 6 Squadron IAF re-formed at Poona (now Pune) under the command of Squadron Leader HSK Gohel, with Maritime Reconnaissance (MR) and Air-Sea Rescue (ASR) as its new role. It remains based at Pune to this day, though it has undergone numerous changes of role and equipment in the last 51 years, and frequently deploys elsewhere for exercises and operations.

On reforming the squadron was initially equipped with Consolidated B-24 Liberators, reconditioned and restored to flying condition from Lend-Lease RAF aircraft wrecked and abandoned in India at the end of World War Two. The reconditioned Liberators were to serve No 6 Squadron for eighteen years. Some were fitted with basic ASV 15A radar in the belly, to help with their MR role.

Flying patrols or search patterns on a regular basis at 500 feet over the sea, for sorties lasting eight hours or more each, the squadron pioneered airborne maritime reconnaissance practices in the Indian armed forces. In recognition of the special navigation challenges of this role, No 6 Squadron became one of the first in the IAF to appoint a navigator to one of its Flight Commander positions. The squadron exercised several times a year with the Indian Navy. It also participated in the annual Monsoon Exercise, later the Joint Exercises Trincomalee, based at Trincomalee in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), at which the navies of Australia, Canada, Ceylon, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and the United Kingdom exercised together, during the 1950s and early 1960s.

The squadron also kept one crew on ASR duty, week in and week out, every day of the year. No 6 Squadron also helped establish the service which became known as &ldquothe CarNic courier&rdquo. This was a regular milk-run out to Car Nicobar and back, which greatly improved communications with that remote corner of Indian territory at a time when there were no regular civil flights there and very few visits by ship.

It was probably during this period that the squadron received its current crest, depicting a dragon with both flippers and wings, representing its association with both the sea and the air, and its motto, Sada Satark (Always Alert). A squadron veteran interested in heraldic matters informs us that the crest as originally designed violated accepted rules of heraldry, in having the dragon facing from left to right. (This is because when flown on a flag, crest designs conventionally show the flagstaff on the left, which would have resulted in the dragon moving backwards when the flag was marched.) The error was only noticed after the President had consented to the design, and was therefore never officially corrected. However, when carried on the squadron&rsquos aircraft, the dragon is always shown facing in the direction of the aircraft&rsquos travel.

In October 1961 the squadron received nine former Air India Lockheed L1049 Super Constellations. Some of these were modified for the MR role with the installation of ASV 21 radars in a retractable &lsquodustbin&rsquo radome beneath the belly others were left in their original configuration and used as freighters or troop-carriers, for transport support. For several years, No 6 Squadron operated both Liberators and Super Constellations in different Flights.

The squadron participated in Operation VIJAY, the liberation of Goa, in December 1961, carrying out off-shore maritime patrols, and sanitising the sea approaches to Goa. Its operations included flare-dropping at night, to assist in identifying coastal traffic, and dropping leaflets bearing call-to-surrender messages to the Portuguese garrison and messages of support to the civil population of Goa.

The squadron also participated in the border conflict with China in 1962, providing transport support.

In 1965, both during the Kutch incursions in April and May, as well as the full-scale war in September that year, the squadron was tasked with maritime reconnaissance over the Arabian Sea. It carried out this role in conjunction with the Breguet Alizes of No 310 Squadron, Indian Navy. However, the age and limitations of its aircraft were beginning to be felt by this time. In support of the Navy, the Liberators and the Super Constellations flew 24 sorties amounting to 188 Hours, some of the sorties having been mounted in search of the submarine Ghazi of the Pakistan Navy.

The long-serving Liberators finally retired from IAF service at the end of 1968, some individual airframes having accumulated nearly 40,000 hours&rsquo flying time in IAF service. Their last operational sortie for the IAF was a mercy mission on, appropriately enough, Christmas Eve that year.

By the time its Liberators retired, No 6 Squadron, Indian Air Force, was the last remaining operator of this vintage aircraft type anywhere in the world. Over the late 1960s and the early 1970s, several of its Liberators were donated or sold to museums and warbird operators in Canada, the UK and the USA..The last Liberator Flight Commander of the squadron, Squadron Leader YS Marwah (later to command the squadron), provided conversion training to USAF and Canadian Forces&rsquo crews, before the aircraft were handed over.

1971 Bangladesh War

During the 1971 war No 6 Squadron's maritime reconnaissance capabilities were put to a significantly sterner test. Commanded at the time by Wing Commander KD Kanagat, the squadron came under the primary control of No 1 Maritime Air Ops Centre in Bombay (now Mumbai), which had responsibility for maritime air operations in the Arabian Sea north of Goa. Some squadron assets were also used to respond to the needs of No 3 Maritime Air Ops Centre in Cochin (now Kochi), responsible for the southern Arabian Sea. The squadron's first wartime sortie, by a Super Constellation, was airborne by 2345 hrs on 3rd December itself, the very night that hostilities commenced with the PAF's attempted pre-emptive dusk strike on Indian airbases.

During that first night, several contacts were made, but none proved significant. Over the next two days also, several contacts were made, and two were positively identified as Pakistani merchant ships, but the unarmed MR aircraft were unable to act against them. An Indian Navy frigate did mount a pursuit of one.

The Navy and Air Force were both aware of the potential threat posed by Pakistani submarines, and No 6 Squadron's ASV 21 radars were exercised to their limits while on patrol. But for the first few days of the war, no MR missions were flown in the direction of Saurashtra, to avoid drawing Pakistani attention to Indian Navy task forces in that area. As is now known, the Indian Navy attacked Karachi, to devastating effect, on the nights of both 4th/5th and 8th/9th December before withdrawing from the area. Unfortunately, INS Kukhri was torpedoed on station the following night.

As soon as INS Kukhri's fate became known, a Super Constellation of No 6 Squadron, already airborne at the time on MR duty in a different area, was diverted to begin searching the area. Relays of aircraft, many from No 6 Squadron, continued the search all that night and through the following four days. Possible enemy contacts were made in the course of the day on 10 December, and three Indian Navy frigates directed to the contacts. In addition, the Super Constellations helped to locate dinghies with survivors from the Kukhri, and guided friendly ships towards them. The search for the Kukhri's attacker continued, by both sea and air, and was not called off till 13th December.

On 13th December itself, a search by the squadron's Super Constellations, further south in the Arabian Sea, located an aircraft-carrier, with supporting ships. The aircraft-carrier was identified as HMS Albion, a Royal Navy fleet carrier now converted to commando carrier configuration (Prior to her conversion, HMS Albion had been a sister ship to HMS Hermes, which was later to become INS Viraat.). HMS Albion had participated in the Suez intervention in 1956 &ndash her intentions in 1971 have never been explained.

From 14 December onwards, in the understated words of the Official History, "MR activity was on a reduced scale as Pak warships, having been engaged off Karachi by IN missile boats, were not likely to venture near the Indian coast . But patrols off Saurashtra continued."

By the end of the war, No.6 Squadron had flown 39 sorties in support of Maritime Operations, totalling 391 hours! For their services during this conflict, four of the squadron's personnel, including the CO, Wg Cdr Kanagat, were decorated with Vayu Sena Medals, and three with Vishisht Seva Medals.

Post 1971 - Farewell to the Connies.

In the mid-1970s, after some debate, the Maritime Reconnaissance role passed to the Indian Navy. In August 1976, eight IN pilots and six observers assembled in Poona to receive conversion training on the Super Constellation from No 6 Squadron. In November that year, Indian Naval Air Squadron 312 was formed, to take over No 6 Squadron&rsquos MR role. The squadron&rsquos MR-configured Super Constellations were transferred to the Navy, and personnel of No 6 Squadron were deputed to the Navy for some months, to strengthen the new unit and provide continuation training. No 6 Squadron and the IAF retained two freighter-configured Super Constellations. INAS 312 still discharges the long-range MR role today, now re-equipped with Tupolev Tu-142s, the Super Constellations having been phased out in the mid-1980s.

Throughout the period that it operated Liberators and Super Constellations, the squadron was called upon frequently during civil emergencies. It rendered aid to civil authorities in flood relief and troop movement operations, in air-sea searches, and the rescue of seamen in distress. Like other transport and multi-engine units of the Indian Air Force, it delivered invaluable services, on a continuing basis in peace as much as in war, with little fanfare.

Jet Era - Canberras and Jaguars

Even after handing over the MR role to the Navy, No 6 Squadron has continued its long association with maritime air operations. In January 1972 the squadron acquired a batch of Canberras, primarily the B12 variant but including two T13 trainers. These were previously RNZAF aircraft (including NZ6109 and NZ6151, the last two Canberra airframes ever built, which became F1188 and Q1191 in IAF service), refurbished and re-equipped for the IAF. With these aircraft the squadron assumed the role of maritime strike.

In July 1979 the squadron assumed the additional task of target towing, for which role it received Canberras of the TT418 version. This version was unique to the Indian Air Force, an Indian modification of the T4 trainer with some features of the British TT18 variant, and flew in eye-catching high-visibility colour schemes.

No 6 Squadron received the President&rsquos Standard in recognition of its outstanding services and history, from the then president, Shri Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, on 20 December 1980.

In June 1987 the squadron moved on to a new generation of aircraft and equipment, when it received the HAL-built Sepecat Jaguar IM maritime version. No 6 Squadron was the last IAF unit to equip with Jaguars, and received a unique variant, the IM maritime version. This variant is distinguishable from other IAF Jaguars by its nose profile, which differs from others by the housing for the Agave radar. The ASTE had, over the preceding two years, carried out a programme of trials and integration for the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile, giving the Jaguar IM a potent strike capability against maritime targets by both day and night. The Jaguar IMs initially re-equipped one flight of the squadron, while the other retained Canberras.

The Canberras continued to be used for target towing, and also for type training, for a few years longer. However in June 1992, the second flight of the squadron was also re-equipped with Jaguar Internationals. The squadron then assumed the additional role of counter-air operations.

With its maritime strike role, No 6 Squadron is regarded as a something of a specialist among the Jaguar units. Says a serving Jaguar pilot, of No 6 Squadron&rsquos role, &ldquo &hellip Sea flying is tricky. You have to be good in instrument navigation, especially at night. Good accurate and mature flying required there, can&rsquot fool around.&rdquo The same pilot adds, demonstrating the professional respect that No 6 enjoys from its peers, &ldquoThat squadron has more experienced guys, they always do good. In all exercises and gunnery meets. Always.&rdquo

The squadron continues to fly today, operating two different variants of the Jaguar, for its two continuing roles of maritime strike and counter-air. And behind the crew-cut young men who today ride their powerful 15-ton twin-jet Jaguars into the skies, and service them when they return, there stand the smiling shades of nearly sixty years of predecessors. Those predecessors flew very different aircraft, ranging from 3.5-ton Hurricanes to 65-ton Super Constellations, and a variety of other sizes and types in between. But a few things have stayed the same. From the Liberator period onwards, their aircraft all carried that same Flying Dragon badge painted on the fuselage. Across the generations, they would all recognise the &ldquoCrossed Coast&rdquo signal that the aircraft of this squadron routinely transmitted, as they headed out over the seas that wash India&rsquos shores. And wherever they are, they share a common stamp, in their log-books and in other senses, which came with their common membership, of No 6 Squadron, Indian Air Force.


Watch the video: Royal Air Force in Burma; RCAF: Stock Shots: Roffman Footage 1942 (July 2022).


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