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Boulton-Paul Defiant TT.I & TT.III
An Artist's impression of a Defiant TT Mk1 in SEAC Colors. This particular aircraft AA591 served with No.22 Anti Aircraft Co-Operation Unit, possibly with one of the flights near Tezgaon. Typical of the aircraft in the SEAC, the aircraft is clearly distinguished from its European counterparts by the large chin mounted Air Filter . This drawing is taken from the excellent monograph on the aircraft from the Warpaint Series . Drawing Courtesy : Richard J Caruana / www.warpaint-books.com
Aircraft Name: Defiant
The Boulton-Paul Defiant was the outcome of the Turret-Fighter concept put forward by the RAF in the 30s. Based on the success of performance of the Hurricane and Spitfire monoplane fighters, the Air Ministry called for a fighter of clean design to be equipped with a power operated turret in the rear, where all the armament would be concentrated in. Despite the weight limitations of the turret, the fighter will have comparable performance characteristics of the latest monoplane fighters.
The accepted fighter in this specification was the Boulton-Paul Defiant. The Boulton and Paul Aircraft Company designed and flew the first prototype K8310 on 11th Aug 1937. The first production Aircraft, the Mk1 powered by the 1,030hp Rolls Royce Merlin III engine, entered RAF AEE trials in 1939.
Squadron induction followed and the type saw action during the Dunkirk evacuation and the Battle of Britain. It was not a successful day fighter and its role was soon relegated to that of a Night fighter in the latter days of 1940. In this role it carried the Airborne Interception radar AI Mk IV, which had a maximum detection range of four miles. The Defiant Mk.II followed after installation of a new 1,260hp Merlin XX engine, which gave it more power and better top speed performance.
After Beaufighters took over the role of Airborne Interception, the Defiant II got a new lease of life as a High Speed Gunnery Trainer. The Turret was removed and the rear fuselage modified with a Target stowage box fitted underneath and the fixing of the target towing equipment. A wind driven winch was placed on the starboard side, and a simple canopy now covered the winch operator, who sat in the place of the earlier air gunner.
This Mk.II based aircraft was re-designated the TT.Mk I (TT.1), and about a 140 of these were built. A number of the older Merlin III powered Mk1s were converted to Target Tug configuration and were redesignated as TT. Mk III aircraft. The last of the TT.Is were delivered in March 43.
The Indian Air Force Connection
Many sources mention that the Defiant flew with the Indian Air Force during the Second World War, primarily with some of the Anti Aircraft Training Units. Pushpindar Singh's "Aircraft of the Indian Air Force 1933-1973" mentions that the Anti-Aircraft units at Karachi received a small number of the Target Tug Defiants in 1944. Surprisingly , there are no photographs that have appeared till date in any of the Indian Air Force publications. Nor are there any details on Indian pilots who flew them, or have any experiences of such pilots been recorded.
Out of this paucity of information, a common myth that has been developed over the years is that the IAF operated the turret equipped Defiant. Not helped by a painting made on the Golden Jubilee Anniversary of a Defiant in the IAF, sporting the post 1947 roundels, and with the serial number K8310 (which belonged to the prototype!). And ofcourse, the Defiant pictured in the painting is the fighter version Mk.1, with a rear airgunners turret in place.
The actual truth is that certain pilots of the Indian Air Force probably flew the Defiant Target Tug Mk.I or the Mk.III. Two of the units that operated the aircraft in India were No.1 Air Gunners School (India) (AGS) in Bhopal and No. 22 Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit (AACU) which had one flight in Karachi, both part of the Indian Air Force. No.22 AACU was was formed on 3 Dec 42 by merging 1, 2 and 3 AACUs that belonged to the IAF. Till its disbandment on 1 April 47, it was the largest unit in the IAF.
It can be said with certainty that these two units are the only known units to have operated the Boulton Paul Defiant in the Indian Subcontinent.
No.1 Air Gunners School, Bairagarh.
The No.1 Air Gunners School at Bairagarh, Bhopal undertook training for Wireless Operator / Air Gunners of the IAF. The WOp/AGs were required to equip the Vultee Vengeance Units being operated by the IAF at that time. According to Air Britain's The Defiant File, No.1 AGS received ten Defiant TT.Is . All, but two of them did not survive beyond November 44. Two of the aircraft appeared to be struck off charge on 1 January 1947, indicating that they were still being used in 1946. The Defiants that served with No.1 AGS are :
No.22 Anti-Aircraft Cooperation Unit, Drigh Road, Karachi.
The second unit to fly the Defiant Target Tugs was No.22 AACU with one flight in Karachi. It was involved in training the various Anti-Aircraft Batteries around the subcontinent. No.22 AACU had operated Lysanders and Wapitis in its earlier days, and also had Hurricanes and Vultee Vengeances at one point of time. It was a very large unit and consisted of many flights that were spread out around the Indian Sub-Continent. No.22 AACU was actually part of the Indian Air Force right from the time of its raising in 1942. Till about late 1943, the bulk of the pilots with the unit were Indian Air Force Pilots. Starting 1944, most of the pilots were seconded from the RAF, But almost all of the ground crew and winch operators were airmen from the Indian Air Force. Even then the unit always had a few IAF pilots on its strength, and the technical officers were also from the IAF.
No.22 AACU had received as many as 55 Defiant TT.1s in 1943/44. Once again, about four or five of the Defiants seem to have a struck-off date of January 1947. A few Indian pilots were posted to No.22 AACU during the war, and some of them did fly the aircraft. Fg Offr R S Shipurkar being one of them.
The serial numbers of the aircraft and the dates they were struck off are given below.
There is quite a bit of information on No.22 AACU's operation of the Defiant that needs to be collated. It is known that the unit lost atleast two Defiants in accidents in 1945. The first one on 30th June, when Defiant AA398 was wrecked at Ambala during a take off accident. The second accident, is the last ever recorded Defiant accident in history - happened on 30th November at Visakahapatnam - when Defiant AA408 had to be belly landed due to hydraulic failure that prevented the undercarriage from being lowered. No 22 AACU disbanded on the 1 April 47, though its Operations Record Book goes on until 20 June 1947.
Another issue of note is that there are hardly any photographic records of Defiants in the far east. One photo is from the collection of Mr. Andrew Thomas which is reproduced here, showing DS155 of No.22 AACU in Karachi, that shows the CO Sqn Ldr Young flying an example. Another photograph of Defiant AA591 based at Tezgaon also exists and was published in Aeroplane Monthly - October 2008 issue.
From the Indian Point of View, there are no first person accounts of Indian Pilots flying this aircraft. Nor any photographs. Perhaps some day photos of these aircraft will come to light chronicling its service with the IAF.
The Defiant File - Alex Brew , Air-Britain Historians, London, 1996.
Profile Publications No.117 Boulton-Paul Defiant - Michael JF Bowyer, Profile Publications Ltd, London, 1966.
Warpaint #42 Boulton-Paul Defiant - Alan W Hall, http://www.warpaint-books.com/
Boulton Paul Defiant - Mushroom Model Publications Yellow Series - 6117 - Mark Ansell, Artur Juszczak. MMP2006.
History of the Indian Air Force 1933-1945 - Ed by SC Gupta, Combined Historical Section, India and Pakistan
The Eagle Strikes - Royal Indian Air Force 1933-1950 - Sqn Ldr R T S Chhina, Center for Armed Forces History, USI
Operational Record Book - No.22 Anti Aircraft Cooperation Unit, Indian Air Force
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